How to Paint a Guitar Headstock

Written by lauren corona
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How to Paint a Guitar Headstock
Paint your headstock to match your guitar. (electric guitar image by .shock from

Although many models of guitar will have a plain varnished headstock, you can paint yours to match the body of your guitar. Or, if you've built your own guitar, you may just want to finish up the paint job. The process and materials used are much the same as when painting the body of a guitar, on a smaller scale.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Flat head screwdriver
  • Sandpaper, 320 and 600 grit
  • Aerosol lacquer paint
  • Aerosol clear guitar varnish
  • Newspaper
  • Masking tape
  • Fine polishing compound
  • Cloth

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  1. 1

    Remove the strings from your guitar by unwinding them with the tuning pegs and then pulling them out from the guitar.

  2. 2

    Unscrew the tuning pegs and machine heads from the headstock with the screwdriver and remove them.

  3. 3

    Wrap the guitar's neck with newspaper and secure it with masking tape at the base of the headstock. Tape up the sides of the headstock with masking tape to make sure you don't get paint on them.

  4. 4

    Sand the headstock with 320 grit sandpaper to remove the current finish. Skip to the next step if you have a brand new, unfinished headstock.

  5. 5

    Spray on two coats of the lacquer paint, in your colour of choice. Hold the can 12 inches from the headstock. Sand gently, when dry, with 320 grit sandpaper to smooth down any uneven parts.

  6. 6

    Remove the masking tape from the edge of the headstock. If lacquer has got onto the masked area, sand it off with the 320 grit sandpaper.

  7. 7

    Apply two or three coats of the clear guitar varnish, allowing the layers to dry in between applications. When the final layer is dry, sand with the 600 grit sandpaper.

  8. 8

    Buff with the fine polishing compound using a cloth to complete the finish.

Tips and warnings

  • If you want to apply a vinyl decal or logo, add it after you have sanded down the coloured lacquer paint.
  • Spray the paint and varnish in a well ventilated area.

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