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Best DIY Guitar Paint To Restore or Update Your Guitar

There’s nothing like a factory finish on a brand new ax. Not a singular scratch or scuff, paint glistening in the light. Over time, the wear and tear of shredding solos will start to show. Thus, an interest in fixing your guitar’s paint emerges. Most likely your guitar is something intimate to you, thus repainting it yourself can evoke fear of damaging your gear. Maybe you are shopping for an arts project, soon to be inflicted onto a beater Epiphone

Quicklook – Top 5 DIY Guitar Paints

Regardless of the impetus of the project, you have decided that you want to paint your guitar. Painting your guitar allows you to completely change the design of your instrument. You are no longer limited to just the stock colors offered by manufacturers. Now, any design can be achieved with the right knowledge and talent. Additionally, small damages can be painted over and sealed, making it less likely that moisture & other negative environmental factors impact the life of your instrument. 

5 Checks To Determine If You’re Ready To Paint Your Own Guitar 

When approaching a DIY project, every hour of preparation can save you a day of headaches and repairs. This rule of thumb especially holds with painting your guitar, likely one of the most personal items in your life. A good guitar can last forever, but its longevity derives from the level of ability of its producers.

A Made in America Stratocaster can survive decades of touring because of the level of care that went into designing and producing it. To tie this point back into painting your guitar, keep in mind that you are likely not as talented as professional guitar craftsmen and will not do a job that is 100% substitutable.

This is not to say that you cannot create a stunning design on your body or refinish your paint job so well it looks brand new. This is to say that if you want those results, heed the following 5 points below before you begin your journey. 

How To Prep Your Guitar For Paint 

The first step of a journey is always the hardest; painting your guitar is no exception. To start, one must strip everything from the body of the guitar. After, use a wax remover to clean the body thoroughly, leaving it out for a few days after to dry. Next, you’ll have to wet sand the whole body with 320 or 400 grit paper.

Once finished, you’ll have a full view of any low spots on the body of your guitar (not the wrong time to break out the Bondo and fill in those holes). Lastly, dry-sand the body with 320 or 400 grit paper until smooth. Spray the newly sanded body with 2-3 coats of primer, and you’re ready to roll! 

Consider If You Will Need A Primer 

Different woods and types of paint will demand different approaches to how much primer/lacquer is necessary to protect the paint’s color. Outside of that, personal aesthetic preferences are essential as well- a primer will make it much easier to see flaws in the wood before a color coat is applied but will generally foster a more consistent paint color than non-primed wood. 

Does The Paint Require Specialized Equipment?

Almost all guitar paintings will require a clear coat (maybe 3) after applying the desired paint color. However, some situations require specific attention to be paid, such as in the case of using aerosol paints. All of the recommended guitar paints are aerosols (besides the bucket one), thus requiring an outdoor painting environment. Exceptions exist, but for those who live in apartments, you’ll definitely want to purchase a breathing mask and only use said paints in well-ventilated areas. 

Is This A Color That You Are Satisfied With? 

This consideration is more intrinsic- is the color that you chose a color that you can see yourself loving for years to come? It’s an important point to think through, predominantly due to the labor intensity of painting the guitar for the first time. If you choose a color that you eventually dislike, you can remove it and try again. Keep in mind, though, that the more abuse (chemicals, physical friction) that you expose the wood of the body to, the shorter its lifespan will be. 

Am I Willing To Risk Damaging My Guitar? 

There’s the elephant in the room for any DIY project- namely, will I be able to complete this successfully? Painting your guitar is no exception. While the physical process is easily understandable, there are small risks whenever you strip your guitar.

The possibility of accidentally trapping humidity under your paint is a real risk worth considering if you have not worked with wood before. Additionally, not all woods will react the same way to the same paint or finisher. If your guitar is made of softwood, oil-based or water-based paints are ideal due to their rapid absorption into the wood’s pores.

For harder woods like mahogany, additional care must be taken to make sure moisture is not trapped in your guitar’s body. Allow these to dry for multiple days, but avoid extreme heat or sun exposure (both can warp and discolor painted wood). 

The 5 Best Guitar Paint Options

1. Dupli-Color Paint Shop

Price: $26 a bucket
Our Color Pick: Midnight Blue

Dupli-Color’s Paint Shop Automatic Finish System is well-known in the automotive industry, with it’s high-quality 3 in 1 (primer, color, clear coat) system providing unmatched durability.

Note: While Paint Shop was intended for automotive applications, its performance has earned both the adoption and admiration of the DIY guitar community. 

Out of all of the paints in this article, no other system is as ready to go as Paint Shop. It requires no mixing or reducing and colors strong enough to only need one coat (though 2-3 are advised). Since the paint functions as both a primer and a clear coat, any missed spots or future chips can be fixed in a single reapplication. 

2. Rust-Oleum Enamel Spray Paint

Price: $5 a can
Our Color Pick: Tuscan Sun

Rust-Oleum Stops Rust Protective Enamel Spray Paints are well known for their durable and weather-resistant qualities. The rust-preventative formula offers plenty of other benefits, including excellent resistance to abrasion, fading, chipping and dulling.

Rust-Oleum Enamel spray paint comes in an easy-to-use “comfort-spray” aerosol bottle and dries within two to four hours, on average. A single can is sufficient to spray 3-4 layers of paint on a Schecter Guitar’s body, but painting two guitars would require an additional bottle. The finish when dry is gorgeous, with a glossy, shimmering surface and deep hues of orange. 

3. Liquitex Professional Spray Paint

Price: $10-$11 a can 
Our Color Pick: Turquoise

Liquitex Professional Spray Paint offers color depth and durability without any of the traditional odors/fumes associated with spray paints.  Liquitex Professional Spray Paint is adaptable enough for use in most mediums, including canvas, wood, masonry, and even glass — but the wood usage is what’s relevant here. 

When using the pro spray on its own, it functions both as a base paint as well as a finisher, protecting the layers beneath it. The paint is also suitable for working wet-on-wet, which is perfect for creating your own PRS style color gradients. 

The best feature of this paint is its ease of cleaning- when wet, only a splash of water is needed to cleanse a guitar. When dry, it hardens into a tough, permanent finish that does not need an additional clear coat. 

4. Montana Black Spray Paints

Price: $9 for two cans
Our Color Pick: Revolt Green

For those looking for speed, the Montana Black Spray Paints delivers perfect control and handling with unmatched efficiency. There are a variety of colors offered — including our pick Revolt Green, but matte black is my personal favorite. It’s about as close to VantaBlack as you can get. The manufacturer Montana Black also assures high coverage with no dripping, demonstrating their confidence in the paint’s precision.

Every matte finish color comes in a 400 ml (14 oz), high-pressure can, and 14 choice colors in a 600 ml (20 oz) “Extended” cans are additionally for sale. 

The profoundly pigmented paint is easily sprayed onto any wood — for best results, apply the layers slowly and frequently. When using Montana Black, you can need up to 6-8 coats with 4-6 hours of dry time in between. Its non-scented as well, saving you from the noxious gases of other sprays  

5. Molotow Urban Fine-Art Artist Acrylic Spray Paint

Price: $16 a can
Our Color Pick: Garance Red

Molotow Urban Fine-Art Artist Acrylic Spray Paint holds the record of being the first creative artist-grade pigments spray range. Permanent, lightfast, and UV-resistant, Molotow Fine-Art Artist spray comes in a plethora of color options- 63 to be precise.

This paint is part of the interwoven Molotow Urban Fine-Art system; this includes chalk sprays, oil markers, and a range of supplementary products, including primer and varnishes. Through this system, one is able to create specific designs and patterns that would otherwise be impossible.  

Colors correspond across the rainbow, and all products from the same line are able to be mixed together. The “Flowmaster Vari-Valve” design allows for precise and even layers of paint, even for inexperienced users.

Finishing Strokes

As a musician, your guitar is an item that’s unique to just you. All of the scratches and dings endured throughout every practice and performance show that you’ve put the time in on playing. However, those blemishes may be unwelcome. If that is the case and you choose to paint your guitar, I feel confident in the usage of any of these 5 brands of paint. Get started, do it right, and get back to shredding.