Acoustic guitars are usually made of wood. Among the various different varieties, the most popular woods used for making acoustic guitars are spruce, cedar, and mahogany.
While you can use any type of paint on your acoustic guitar, acrylic paint is especially a good choice for guitarists because it’s less expensive and is relatively easy to find.
It also dries quickly and will not require any special solvents or thinners.
However, with acrylics, you must have a thorough knowledge of this paint, particularly how to prepare the acrylic paint properly in order to get the most from it.
If you don’t work with the paint correctly, it will not only easily chip away from the guitar’s surface but also negatively affect the sound and overall value of your instrument.
So, if you are really keen on painting your acoustic guitar with acrylics, here is everything you need to know along with a detailed step-by-step guide.
Painting Acoustic Guitar with Acrylic
Acrylic paints are synthetic water-based paints. They were first created in the 1930s and have since become very popular among artists because of their versatility and ease of use.
Acrylics are versatile which means that they can be used on a wide variety of surfaces, including wood, metal, glass, fabric, and even plastic.
And when it comes to painting acoustic guitars, acrylic paint is an excellent choice due to a number of reasons.
When shopping for acrylic paint for your guitar, look for high-quality paint that is specifically designed for use on wood. These paints are usually labeled as “acrylic enamel.”
Once you have the right kind of paint at hand, here are the steps you will need to follow for painting your wood guitar…
1- Prepare the Guitar for Painting
This is a crucial step because if your guitar is not appropriately prepared, the paint will not adhere to the surface correctly and will easily chip off.
To prepare the guitar, begin by removing all of the strings, electronics, knobs, and neck (if your acoustic neck is detachable).
You may remove the pickups completely and reattach them after everything has dried. Also, keep all of the hardware in one box or any places where the guitar parts will not mix together or go missing.
2- Sand the Surface of the Guitar
Next, sand down the wood surface with fine-grit sandpaper to create a smooth surface for the paint to adhere to.
The wood of an acoustic guitar is often made very thin – roughly, it’s not more than 1/10-inch thick.
And since resonance (and therefore sound) is influenced significantly by it, you must be more cautious when sanding the body.
Be extra careful and do not rush through this step as you don’t want to sand down too much and damage the wood.
Just sand enough to create a smooth surface for the primer and paint to get attached.
3- Apply a Primer
After sanding, apply a thin layer of wood primer to the guitar.
Primer acts as a glue that will help the paint to better adhere to the wood and will also provide it a nicer looking, even base for the paint.
While you can use regular latex primers by Kilz or any other brand, I highly recommend using a Gesso white (by Liquitex, Handy Art, or any other).
This product is specifically designed to use with acrylic paints and will help you achieve better results.
4- Let the Primer Dry and Sand Once Again
Once the primer is applied, let it dry for at least 24 hours before you move ahead.
After the primer on the wood has dried, sand the surface again with an extra fine-grit sandpaper. This will help to create an even smoother surface for the paint.
If required, apply a thin coat of primer and sand once more before proceeding to the next step.
5- Draw the Design on the Guitar
Now it’s time to get some creative and draw the design you want on the guitar.
This step is completely optional, but I think it can be helpful, especially if you are not confident with your painting skills.
Use a sharp carbide pencil or a pen to sketch the design on the guitar. If you want, you can choose to print out the design and use it as a template.
Designs such as flowers, vines, geometric patterns, or anything else that you think of will work great.
Just make sure that the design is not too complex or detailed, as that will make it difficult to paint.
6- Paint the Guitar Carefully
Once you have the design ready, start painting the guitar carefully.
For best results, use high-quality artists’ brushes and thin layers of acrylic paint. Don’t try to apply too much paint at once, as that will result in an uneven and sloppy finish.
Take your time and be patient while guitar painting. But worry not. If you still make any mistakes, you can always fix them later – it will only require extra time.
For the choice of acrylic paint, there are two types to use:
- Heavy body: This type of paint is thick and covers the surface well. However, it can be difficult to work with and can result in an uneven finish.
- Fluid: This type of paint is thinner and easier to work with. It provides a more even finish but doesn’t cover the surface as well.
I recommend using heavy body paint for the first coat and then switching to fluid paint for the second coat.
This will help to even out any imperfections on the guitar body and give a more professional finish.
Brands like Liquitex, Grumbacher, and others have great options for both types of paint, and you can buy them online or at any art supply store.
7- Let the Paint Dry and Apply the Finish
Once you are done painting, let the paint dry completely. This can take anywhere from 24 to 48 hours, depending on the type of paint and the thickness of the layer.
After the paint is dry, apply the finish of your choice. This can be either a clear lacquer, shellac, or even a Polyurethane finish.
I personally like a Minwax Polycrylic clear sealer to seal the acrylic paint on wood projects since it’s easy to use and provides a great finish.
If you want, you can even apply multiple coats of the finish to further protect the paint job and make it more durable.
No matter what sealer you use, just make sure that you use a product that is compatible with acrylic paint and follow the instructions carefully.
Let the finish dry completely before using or playing the guitar.
And that’s it!
Will Paint Affect the Tone of My Guitar?
This is the first and most important question that comes to mind when considering painting an acoustic guitar.
The short answer is- it depends.
It is true that paint can affect the tone of your hollow-body acoustic guitar to some extent.
However, the effect is usually very minimal and almost unnoticeable unless you are a professional musician playing in front of a large audience.
That being said, if you are concerned about the tone of your expensive Martin or a Taylor acoustic guitar being affected, you can always choose to paint the inside of the body instead of the outside.
This way, the paint will be in contact with the wood only on the inside and will not come in direct contact with the soundboard, which is responsible for most of the sound produced by the guitar.
What Type of Paint Finish is Best to Use On Acoustic Guitars?
Acrylics are available in two different finishes: glossy and matte.
Because acrylics have a glossy sheen to them, to begin, adding a matte medium to your paints may significantly improve the final appearance of your work.
Ideally, it’s best to look at the type of paint finish you already have on your guitar and try to match it as closely as possible.
For example, if your guitar has a natural wood finish, you can use acrylic paint with matte that is also designed for use on natural wood.
If your guitar has a glossy finish, look for glossy acrylic paint that is specifically designed for use on glossy surfaces.
But keep in mind that if your guitar is already painted with other paints, such as enamel paint, it’s good to use enamel paints over it.
Alternatively, if you want to put acrylic, you should first remove the old layer of paint and put in newer paint of your liking.
The last thing you want is for the paint to not adhere to the surface properly or for it to crack and peel off soon after you’ve applied it.
Can you paint electric guitars?
You can paint electric guitars. However, it’s not recommended for beginners since the paint can affect the sound quality – if you use the wrong type of paint or painting process.
If you’re set on painting your electric guitar, be sure to use high-quality paint designed for musical instruments and follow the right process.
What kind of paint is good to use on an electric guitar?
Unlike acoustic hollow-body guitars paint, electric guitars are made of a thick solid body.
And since it gets its sound from pickups and amplifiers (and not from its body), the type of paint you use shouldn’t make much of a difference in the sound.
But in general, lacquer paints made from polyester, polyurethane, and nitrocellulose lacquer are most commonly used for electric guitars.
They give your guitar that classic, glossy look. Plus, they are highly durable but can take a long to dry.
The bottom line
If you’re looking to change the look of your acoustic guitar, then painting it is an option.
You can technically use any paint on your acoustic guitar, including acrylic.
But to ensure that the paint adheres well to the surface and doesn’t affect the sound quality, it’s best to use high-quality, instrument-specific paint.
And remember, if you’re not sure about painting your acoustic guitar yourself, take it to a professional for a flawless finish.
Jack Luis is a semi-retired painter who loved painting his clients’ ideas on their walls.
He had worked as a painter for more than a decade to serve the customers in areas such as Charleston, Mount Pleasant, Beaufort, Georgetown, SC (South Carolina). Today in his free time, he likes to read and write about the newer techniques that are being implemented in his profession. You may read more about him here or get in touch with him here.
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