How To Custom Paint Your Electric Guitar

Display of electric guitars
Personalizing an instrument can make it truly your own. But when it comes to how to custom paint your electric guitar, there is a lot to know. With such an expensive instrument, you'd hate to get a custom paint job wrong. But with a little bit of patience and a creative idea, it is possible to turn your electric guitar into a masterpiece. Follow these steps to custom painting your electric guitar.

Step 1

Find a good place to work. You'll need to find a workspace that has good ventilation. And it will need to stand up to quite a mess too. A garage, basement, or workshop is an ideal place to work when you custom paint your electric guitar.

Step 2

Remove all of the hardware from your guitar. Before you can custom paint your electric guitar, you have to prepare it for painting. Do this by removing all of the parts you don't want painted. Unwind your machine heads (tuning pegs) so that you can take the strings off. You may need to snap the strings in order to detach them. (A soldering iron will be necessary to reattach them later). You may want to label things as you remove them to make reassembly easier. Remove the pickups, the tuning knobs and the selector switch. Before you can custom paint your electric guitar, you need to take off the bridge and the back plates too. If you plan on custom painting the headstock, then you'll need to remove the machine heads as well. You may also want to remove your strap attachment and your cord input, if possible. If the pick guard comes off, remove that too. You want to strip down your guitar to the bare body, leaving only the piece(s) that you want painted. Store all of your parts in a safe, dry place so that no paint or dust gets on them.

Step 3

Sand your guitar down to its base. Depending on your preference and the tools available, decide how you will sand your guitar. You need to remove any acrylic or paint from the guitar. This will take considerable effort by hand, so a belt sander and a hand sander are suggested. Make sure you clamp your guitar down before using a sander. This will keep it stable and also ensure a flat surface when you're done. If you come across imperfections in the paint job that can't be easily removed with a flat sand, don't angle your sander or excessively sand the same spot. You'll be left with a bumpy surface. Instead, leave nicks and dents for hand sanding. The less time you spend sanding with an electric sander, the better it is for your electric guitar. You might also consider using a heat gun to remove the paint from your electric guitar. Just be careful not to leave scrape marks in the surface of your guitar. The final step before you can actually begin to custom paint your electric guitar is to hand sand the surface, starting with 50 grit sandpaper, then moving up to 100 or 120 grit and then 150 or 170 grit. Complete the sand job by dusting off the guitar base with a dry cloth. Wet down the highest grit of sandpaper you have (at least 220) and run it over the surface for a smooth finish. At this point, there should be no paint or acrylic visible, and all contours of the guitar should look ‘true'. It should have the exact shape you want it to have when it is painted.

Step 4

Custom paint your electric guitar. Decide which paint you will need for your custom paint design on your guitar. Be sure to read the instructions to see if you need to use a wood primer first. If you do, choose one that specifically doesn't show brush marks when it dries. Ideally, you can rig up a hanging apparatus that allow your guitar to hang freely. If not, you will need to complete the primer and paint process in two steps, allowing each side to dry. Then just use masking tape to cover any areas that shouldn't receive paint. To prime your electric guitar, use a clean brush and apply primer or paint in the direction of the wood grain. Otherwise, a spray can primer may work too, but test out your spray can skills before aiming it at your guitar. Allow the guitar to dry between coats, and gently run fine grit sandpaper over the surface to remove any surface bumps. You shouldn't feel any bumps if you've done this process correctly. Next you can finally begin to custom paint your electric guitar. Ensure that you have not mixed brands or types of paint, as this may cause your custom paint job to peel. Follow directions closely! You can get as creative with this process as you want. But to simplify the instructions, apply 2-3 coats of paint or spray paint, followed by 2-3 coats of lacquer. Again, be sure to sand down any bumps between coats. If at any point you mess up as you custom paint your guitar, simply sand the guitar body back down to its base and start again. Allow your guitar to dry overnight and then reassemble your electric guitar. Now you can proudly show off your handiwork.


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