When you are painting your guitar it’s only natural to wonder if you can paint the headstock too. This is definitely something that you can do yourself, and it basically just boils down to sanding off that initial clearcoat and then applying your new color and varnish to seal that in.
Today I’ll answer a few common questions about this process, such as why it’s okay to paint and refinish the headstock, what kinds of paint you can use, and how much is actually affects your tone.
Please note, this is just a basic overview and you’ll definitely want to watch a videos before trying this yourself. That said, let’s talk painting a guitar headstock!
Can you paint guitar headstock?
While you can, you’ll want to be very careful, especially with an acoustic. When you have an additional layer of paint, the wood is going to vibrate less, and this can definitely impact its tone. The effect is less pronounced with electric guitars, but you still want to be very careful.
When you are disassembling the guitar so that you can sand it and give it that new color, I’d also recommend that you take pictures of the process if you’ve never done it before. Basically, it is going to boil down to unwinding the strings, unscrewing your tuning pegs and machine pegs, and you’ll want to be sure to tape up the sides of your headstock that you won’t get any paint on them.
A number of videos are available online that can show the process in detail and as long as you watch it being a done a few times before trying it yourself, painting your headstock should be just fine.
What kind of paint do you use on a guitar headstock?
I’d recommend going with a lacquer paint, applied by spray can. This way you can get the color that you like quite easily without overdoing it. Just be sure to use quick, measured sprays provided that you’ve already sanded and taped off your guitar.
After 2 coats of lacquer then you can seal in your color with 2 or 3 coats of clear guitar varnish, just be sure to allow for each coat to dry before applying the next. When you get to the last coat, lightly sand it with a little 600 grit paper and then you can buff and repolish your newly repainted guitar headstock.
Does the headstock affect the tone?
While the headstock shape does have some tonal effect, it is actually quite minimal in comparison to other factors in your guitar such as pickups and your tonewoods. Your headstock does provide the layout for dead spots on your fretboard (those areas where you notice less sustain on the neck) but changing the mass of it by painting should only result in a small shift of these spots.
So, painting and refinishing it is definitely something that you do, but I really recommend that you watch a number of videos on the process to ensure that you do it right. Painting a guitar looks easy, but it’s definitely something that you’ll learn over time so you’ll need to be very patient with yourself.
Keep your first tries simple, with the lacquer and varnish recommendations from today, and don’t skimp on the sanding. That will ensure that the color goes on properly and that the coats should definitely not affect your overall sound.
Some closing words on painting your headstock
Today we’ve taken a look at the basics of painting your guitar headstock. As you can see, it’s much like the regular process of painting your guitar, you’ll just want to break down and tape everything carefully and be sure to stick to 2 coats of lacquer and 2 or 3 of your varnish.
While we’re on the subject of repainting, there is a great 3rd party tutorial here for sanding down an electric guitar neck. A glossy neck can really improve the look and feel of your guitar when playing, so be sure to take a look when you have a moment.
Until next time, I wish you the best on your painting project!