One of the limitations when buying a guitar, especially an inexpensive model, is the lack of color choices. If you want a particular color or just want to try changing the color of an old guitar or a cheap guitar, you can repaint it yourself. It's not much more difficult than re-finishing any other wooden object, like a piece of furniture, but know that it takes effort and very careful work to achieve a perfectly smooth surface. Be prepared to take time. It can take weeks to properly paint and varnish your guitar. Take your time. If you want to finish quickly so you can play, you'd better buy a ready-made guitar that you don't need to repaint. If you decide to paint it, make an effort to do it right. If you hurry, it will show at the end.
Part 1 of 3: disassemble the guitar
Step 1. Remove the strings
You can cut them with the pliers you usually use to cut your guitar strings. Unfortunately, it is not possible to repaint a guitar with the strings. You will probably need to adjust the tension bar when you reassemble the instrument.
Step 2. Remove the handle
Screw-in-place sleeves are relatively easy to remove. Simply unscrew the bolts on the back of the handle and wiggle the handle to loosen it. You can't remove the glued sleeves, but anyway, most of these are painted the same color as the guitar and you have to leave them for repainting.
Step 3. Remove the other items
Typically, the jack, mics, bridge, control knobs, strap knobs, and pickguard can be detached using a screwdriver or Allen wrench. On some models, the jack and buttons are connected to the microphones with wires that pass through holes between the cavities. In this case, it will be necessary to cut the threads to remove each part. Take a good look at how they are connected so that you can connect them correctly during reassembly.
Step 4. Remove the pegs from the easel
Some guitars don't and you can just unscrew the bridge from the body. It can be difficult to remove the pegs because they are stuck in the wood. You can heat them with a soldering iron to expand. They will contract as they cool and will be easier to remove. You can remove them with flat pliers, but this can scratch the finish and spoil the appearance of the instrument.
Step 5. Set the pieces aside
Label all the items you removed and set them aside. It can take weeks or even months to repaint a guitar, and you don't want to forget where each component goes when you put it back together.
Part 2 of 3: sand the current surface
Step 1. Choose a method
You have two options. You can completely remove the current finish from the guitar or just give it a rough enough surface for a coat of paint to adhere to. If you want to apply wood stain or paint that is translucent or a much lighter color than the original, you must completely remove the existing paint. If you are using opaque and dark paint, surface sanding will be sufficient. Be aware, however, that most luthiers find that a thick coat of paint has a bad impact on the sound of the instrument.
Step 2. Use an eccentric sander
It will allow you to remove most of the finish. Provide the apparatus with coarse-grained sandpaper and run it over the entire body of the guitar in regular circular motions. This process should remove virtually all lacquer and paint. If you're tempted to use paint stripper, be aware that it is both messy and toxic, and most paint strippers cannot remove the harsh polyurethane used by most modern luthiers.
Step 3. Use sandpaper
Remove any remaining finish with sandpaper or a sanding sponge. Wrap sandpaper around a large wooden stick or use a small sanding sponge to scrub the areas you couldn't reach with the orbital sander. A coarse grain is the most effective in removing paint and lacquer.
Step 4. Smooth the wood
After removing the finish with coarse-grit sandpaper, smooth the surface of the wood with increasingly fine-grit sandpaper. Sand the entire body with medium grit sandpaper (like 120) then iron with a fine grit (like 200).
Step 5. Eliminate the dust
Use a vacuum cleaner with a thin nozzle to vacuum up dust formed by sanding. Remove any remaining with a spray can of compressed air or wipe it off with a damp or greasy cloth.
Step 6. Apply wood filler
Unless you want a slightly uneven texture, you should fill in the grain of the wood with wood filler or wood filler. Choose a water-based or oil-based product that will go with the paint you are going to apply.
Step 7. Remove the oil
Wipe the surface of the guitar with mineral oil to remove all oils. Do not touch it afterwards, as your fingers will leave greasy marks which will spoil the finish.
Part 3 of 3: apply the new finish
Step 1. Work in a good location
You should paint the guitar in a place where there is no dust. Outside there is a lot of dust in the air, even on a sunny day, and it will spoil the finish of the guitar. There are also insects that can be attracted to the smell of products.
Step 2. Protect yourself
If you work indoors, wear a good quality dust mask. Always wear safety glasses.
Step 3. Pay attention to the furniture
Do not work anywhere where paint may fall on furniture or a floor that you do not want to get dirty. Work in a covered place such as a garage or workshop.
Step 4. Protect other objects
In order to protect the objects in the room, it is advisable to put the guitar in a large box placed on a mobile work surface (such as a TV tray) to reduce the amount of paint that will be sprayed elsewhere. The opening of the box should be on the side so that you can slide the guitar out and put it back on. Place newspaper in the box to form a work surface that you can easily replace.
Step 5. Choose the product
To obtain a solid color, use resistant paint such as nitrocellulose or polyurethane paint. Nitrocellulose paint is the strongest and you can buy it online or at an automotive supply store, but it dries extremely slowly. If you just want to stain the wood, use water-based wood stain, followed by nitrocellulose or polyurethane clear varnish, or oil-based wood stain and an oil finish. If you apply the finish with an aerosol spray, there will be no brush marks.
Step 6. Apply primer
Use a waterproofing primer that is appropriate for the type of paint you are using. Apply two or three thin coats rather than one thick coat, as this will help the product to dry properly and keep it from running.
Step 7. Paint the guitar
If painting it a solid color, apply two thin coats of paint, allowing the first to dry for the time specified in the directions before applying the second. Then wait a week for the paint to dry completely before varnishing the guitar.
Step 8. Apply the tint
If you are using wood stain, first dampen the guitar body to ease application and prevent it from looking uneven. Apply the product according to the directions for use. Put on as many layers as you need to get the look you want.
Step 9. Varnish the guitar
It is advisable to use a nitrocellulose varnish. Make the coats as thin as possible to form a transparent protective finish on the paint. It may take up to twelve coats to achieve a professional quality finish. Apply them in sets of three thin coats. Wait a few hours between each coat and a week between each set. The first three coats should be extremely thin. Then they can be slightly thicker, but be careful that the varnish does not run.
Step 10. Wait
If you applied polyurethane or nitrocellulose varnish, let it set for 3 to 4 weeks. If you used an oil finish, you only need to wait a few days.
Step 11. Polish the guitar
Sand the water cured finish using 400 grit sandpaper, then 600, 800, 1000, 1200, 1500 and finally 2000. Do not skip any steps, otherwise there will be tiny scratches and irregularities in the finish that cannot be eliminated. Be careful not to cross the clear coat with the sandpaper, especially at the edges where the varnish may be thinner. This is why it takes so many coats of varnish. For a satin surface, stop when you are done sanding. If you want a very shiny surface, polish the guitar body with a polishing disc and polishing liquid. You can also use Micro-Mesh microabrasive sponges, which are 1500, 1800, 2400, 3200, 3600, 4000, 6000, 8000 and 12000 grit sanding sponges. get a high gloss surface without having to purchase an expensive polishing tool.
Step 12. Reassemble the guitar
Screw the various elements back in place. If you had to cut any wires for disassembly, re-solder them. Take the opportunity to replace inexpensive components, especially potentiometers, with good quality ones. You can even buy a new pickguard or make a custom one. Once you have reassembled the guitar, clean it and polish it with your usual polishing liquid. Put the strings back on, tune the instrument, and play.
- If the neck is removable, you can attach a long stick to the body where the neck should be attached so you can move the guitar easily without touching the fresh paint.
- Never cut ropes directly to remove them. Relax them with the mechanics to release the tension of the handle gradually.
- You can remove latex finishes with soapy water, making it easier to clean the countertop.
- To further personalize the instrument, you can apply water-based self-adhesive transfers under the clear varnish.
- For an ultra smooth finish, fill in the grain of the wood with wood filler after removing the original finish. This product smooths the surface of wood with open pores so that the paint and varnish have a smoother surface.
- If you are using paint stripper to remove old paint, be extra careful. Use a good quality gas mask and work outdoors. The stripper is toxic and carcinogenic.
- Always wear a dust mask and safety glasses, and work in a well-ventilated area when sanding.
- Wear a gas or dust mask when spraying the paint on the guitar.