Wood primer for guitar painting?
October 11, 2010 12:22 PM   Subscribe

I"m about to paint a electric guitar body. It's completely stripped of hardware and paint, and has been sanded. I'm going to use acrylics or enamels. Should I put down a primer before starting on the colors? Or something else to seal the raw wood ,like a clear varnish? If so, what kind of primer would be good for wood? I know that I"ll need to do a few layers of varnish/lacquer after the paints have dried , but I'm wondering about the undercoating primer. And if someone has a recommendation for paints, please tell me. I'm painting a multiple color "scene" not just a flat overall body color. Thanks.
posted by Liquidwolf to Media & Arts (5 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Project Guitar is your place.
posted by artdrectr at 1:00 PM on October 11, 2010

Speaking from a pure woodworking standpoint, you can just start with the bare wood and build up from there. Sealing the wood is possible, usually with dewaxed shellac, but this has two problems: first, you're toning the wood color towards amber, and second, some paints (esp. water-based ones) don't stick as well to shellac. Don't poly the thing whatever you do - the paint won't stick, and poly won't stick to the paint.

You can undercoat the entire thing in your base color or a thinned version of it, and then very lightly sand with 320 grit to remove the raised grain. Obviously don't do this if you're planning on any of the raw wood showing through.

As for durability: the main difference between the two paints is that acrylics are going to form a plastic layer, which remains soft even after drying, while the enamels are more durable but harder. For my work I use oil-based stains followed by an oil-based enamel.

If you're nervous about the possible results, I would trace out the body onto heavy paper and try the paint design on that first, to get a feel out it works out. You might also consider sourcing the same type of wood as the body, and practice on that before you commit.

Also, are you air-brushing or free-handing the work?
posted by Old'n'Busted at 1:09 PM on October 11, 2010

Guitar Reranch has spray nitrocellulose laquers specifically for painting guitars. You might want to grab a can of their sealer and maybe white primer and hit your guitar body with a few coats of that before you start with the acrylics etc.
posted by norbulator at 4:16 PM on October 11, 2010

Also, are you air-brushing or free-handing the work?

I'm free handing it. Thanks.
posted by Liquidwolf at 4:23 PM on October 11, 2010

As a professional painter, I'm going to recommend that you oil prime this thing before you paint it. Any time you're ever painting wood, you need to seal it with an oil based primer before applying any paint. Don't listen to those morons at Home Depot. Latex primer does not work. It's a fact. Anyone that does this kind of work for a living knows it...

To go off on a tangent, the reason that everyone is pushing latex primers these days, and saying "oh yeah, they're just as good as oil..." is because a few years back the government (rightly) pushed laws through restricting the amount of VOCs (volatile organic compounds) in all paint products. Most oil based products no longer met the requirements, and so paint companies had to quickly adapt their latex products to make them as efficient as oil. So far they haven't succeeded. They're still trying to tell us all that they've got it figured out, but the proof is in the pudding.

Long story short, an oil product penetrates the surface of the wood and seals it down deep. A latex product simply floats over the surface of the wood. If you seal it with an oil, you can then paint over it with a latex (acrylic) product, with no problems whatsoever! This works on houses and furniture, and it'll work on guitars too.

I recommend that you spray the primer. In fact, you should probably spray the base coat and clear coat too...
posted by Glendale at 6:46 PM on October 11, 2010

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