I am building a guitar and I don't want it to be natural wood because all homemade instruments are like that. At the same time, I would really like to have some wood in it, because, as we know, nice wood looks nice.

The solution I came up with is to paint some details, like flowers or some sort of "tattoo", leaving a lot of wood in the background.

So, how do I finish to get a perfect flat surface, and no "steps" from the paint edges to the wood beneath?

  • 1
    Paint, thinly. Varnish, multiple layers. Polish varnish flush; it will be thinner in. The painted areas, thicker oil n unpainted areas.... Or something like that; applying finish to an instrument without affecting is sound in uncontrolled ways is it's own art.
    – keshlam
    Commented Jun 22, 2016 at 4:07

1 Answer 1


So, how do I finish to get a perfect flat surface, and no "steps" where the paint begins and starts?

Build up a sufficient number of layers of finish that they go over the paint thickly enough, so that once you wet-sand to flatten off the surface you don't 'break through' the clear coating and begin to remove any paint.

This would typically require at least three full-strength coats but you'll need to experiment to establish how many you need to apply over the painting you've done. As the Comment above from keshlam has already indicated, painting as thinly as possible would be a very good starting point. The flatter you can make the painted decorations the fewer coats of clear finish you'll need to apply, if there is some raised texture in the brushstrokes in the paint it may require something like 5-7 coats.

Some related Q&As from here:
Leveling a finish/finishing the finish
How do I achieve a "piano black" high gloss finish on wood?

One thing to do some research on, I believe that as thin a layer of finish as needed to get the right colour or surface finish is the goal for most luthiers. From what I understand this is because it has been established that the more finish you add the duller an instrument sounds so a thick coating may be something you would want to try to avoid.

  • Of course if this is entirely an electric instrument, the resonance of the body may be irrelevant. Hence the wild shapes and finishes of some electric guitars.
    – keshlam
    Commented Jun 22, 2016 at 14:16
  • @keshlam, I naturally assumed from the OP not wanting it to be natural wood "because all homemade instruments are like that" that it ruled out an axe :-)
    – Graphus
    Commented Jun 22, 2016 at 17:32
  • Perfectly reasonable, I was just pointing out the difference.
    – keshlam
    Commented Jun 22, 2016 at 18:21

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