Giving a Guitar a New Look

My boyfriend has a hand-me-down Lauren guitar and last week we decided it’d be cool if I put a design on it. (I’d like to put a design on mine, too, but mine’s still only a couple years old and I’m too afraid of screwing up on it.)

We decided on a design with grapes and grapevine. First, I sketched it out on the guitar in pen. The nice thing was that, because of the finish on the guitar, I could actually use a pencil eraser if I wanted to remove a line.

I traced the design with a wood burning tool and shaded it with the various tips that came with the tool. Then I sketched out the rest of the grapevine, and after checking with my boyfriend to make sure it wasn’t too girly, I burned the rest of the design in, too. When I finished burning everything in, I sanded down the whole front of the guitar body with  220 grit sandpaper and then with 400 grit.

I took the guitar downstairs to show my dad my progress and he had an idea, he just wasn’t sure how to execute it. He thought it would be cool if I could add a sort of faint color wash to the design, just to make it pop a little. I agreed and decided to try markers.

It turned out really cool. I didn’t color everything in, just parts. With the grapes I just colored the outlines and did a little shading with some purples. The grapevines I traced in green. I used the same green to shade the leaves, but only around the veins. To make sure the marker was colorfast and wouldn’t just wipe away when I swiped on the sealant, I sealed just the design first with a finer paintbrush. (I used a semi-gloss sealant, but you could choose a glossy or satin finish, too.)

I waited the 3-4 hours between coats that the directions on the back of the can recommended. While I waited for it to dry, I decided to de-string the guitar and repaint the neck with black acrylic (water-based) paint. I also sanded down the brand name at the top of the head. I burned in my boyfriend’s initials.


I finished by sealing the entire guitar with 2 coats of sealant (sanding it down with a 400 grit and a wipe-down between coats) with a 2-inch foam brush. After 24 hours, it was ready for “light use,” according to the can. And it would have been, if it had strings again. Here’s the complete project!

TimeSeveral hours, not including final drying time, depending on the intricacy of your design.

Difficulty♦ ♦    It’s not that this project is extremely hard to do, it’s just complicated and there are several stages. You need to be slow, precise and thorough. Think everything out before you do it–it’s really difficult to correct your mistakes with this project and you don’t want to run the risk of ruining your guitar.

Cost:-to- It depends on what you have in the house. If you’ve already got sealant and sandpaper hanging around and you already work with a wood burning tool, this project will cost you little to nothing. If you have to buy all three of those things, it may cost you around $30. Of course, if you don’t have a guitar already, you don’t even want to know how much this project will cost.


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