What kind of paint do I use on my electric guitar?

Written by matt mckay
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What kind of paint do I use on my electric guitar?
Electric guitar paint. (Image by Fotolia.com, courtesy of Cindy Haggerty)

Paint types for electric guitar paints are chosen for a number of reasons. Aside from aesthetics, price, and ease of application, paint affects wood resonance and helps protect against moisture, skin oils and dirt.

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Bare wood requires environmental and surface protection, but paint also enhances the guitar's beauty. Guitarists can choose from transparent, translucent and opaque paint colours.

Nitrocellulose Lacquer

Nitrocellulose lacquer a popular high-quality paint. Applied in many thin coats, it is the type used on current higher-priced guitars and many vintage instruments. Nitro-lacquer is the paint preferred by many experienced hobbyists and luthiers for its "transparent" sound.


Urethane is another high-quality electric guitar paint. Manufacturers use urethane for replacement bodies and necks, and it is used for most mid- to semi-high priced production electrics. Urethane is almost as transparent sounding as nitro-lacquer.

Polyester Resin

Polyester resin is very durable and inexpensive. Widely used on low- to mid-priced electric guitars, it provides lasting protection and good looks. Poly-resin paint does dampen wood resonance more than other common paints, but this is not always a major issue with inexpensive guitars.


Painting a wooden musical instrument requires experience and the proper equipment for best results.

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