As the proud owner of an acoustic or electric guitar, one of your top priorities is probably keeping the guitar looking brilliant and new. Unfortunately, accidents can happen, and it's common for the paint of older instruments to flake and chip over time. With some simple techniques and the proper care, you can restore your guitar to its original glory and keep it looking new.
Inspect your guitar for chips and nicks. Often, if you've scratched or chipped your guitar finish, the damage will only reach as deep as the clear coat. Perspiration, dust or hand grime have probably collected in the chipped area. Clean the affected area with rubbing alcohol or naptha, and allow the area to thoroughly dry.
Apply a drop of lacquer to the chip, and spread it evenly with a toothpick or small brush. Allow the repair to dry over night, and inspect the chip again. You'll probably need to repeat this process a few times. The lacquer should eventually form a raised bump above the surface of the guitar. Sand this bump out with fine sandpaper, and even finer sandpaper. Polish the repair with rubbing compound. For chips extending beyond the clear coat, see the next step.
Choose paint slightly lighter in colour than the shade of your guitar. Simply add a drop of this paint to the chip, and allow it to dry. If the colour does not match, add an additional drop of paint that is one shade darker. Once you get a good match, continue with the rest of Step 2 to add a clear coat and polish.
Determine the appropriate colour more precisely when taking on a larger repair. Calling a guitar manufacturer will generally yield some information regarding the exact type of finish that was used on a particular model. However, it's important to remember that ageing and environmental factors will gradually change a guitar's finish over time. Polish the undamaged portion of the guitar before matching to get a better idea of its original colour.
Consider refinishing the entire guitar if the chipped area is very large, or if the chip has removed paint from a difficult area, such as the sunburst pattern of a guitar. Be sure to wear safety goggles and gloves when working with stripping solvents. The benefit of this method is that you're able to choose an entirely new finish for you guitar as you see fit.
Be patient when repairing a paint chip. It's entirely possible to make the guitar look worse, or to damage the guitar's hardware, if you're careless.
Don't use any cleaning solvents stronger than basic rubbing alcohol, as doing so could exacerbate the problem.