Custom Paint Job

I’m starting from scratch and I’m looking for everything I would need to know. What kind of paint to use? What to watch out for? What can go wrong?


Huh?? Whatcha got cookin’ up there in Kennesaw @eric.kiser??? The suspense is killing me!

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So you workin a DIY kit? Custom kit? Refinishing a prebuilt?

I know at some point I will build one of my own either with a DIY kit or a collection of parts. I know one thing I’ve always had in the back of my mind, when it comes to the paint/finish. Was to see what a custom paint car shop would charge to paint a body. I’ve always felt that color change iridescent blue/green/purple color would look sick on a guitar. As well as that semi-iridescent white sparkle they put on the Escalade. Based on a quick google search, it might be possible to do the same with an air brush?


I’m going to be getting an MiM Fender Jazz Bass in April and I want some custom paint on it just to make it mine.

@ChrisThomason Yes, I’ve been wondering the same thing about car paint. My daughter has a three layer paint job on her car, similar to what the Escalade has. Very nice. My oldest brother has a paint guy that he trusts and I was wondering whether I should try that route or just do it myself.

Also, I thought this topic was specific enough that it could use it’s own thread and if I can get others to tell their stories then maybe I can learn something.


Maybe not quite fully on topic @eric.kiser, but an auto-body guy I used to know took his wooden kitchen cabinet doors into the shop and spray painted them there. They looked awesome, so I know it can be done! . . . :wink:

Anyway, are you looking to do a custom color, or are you considering some sort of design on your bass?


You might wanna check out someplace like Southern Cycle in Buford @eric.kiser. They specialize in custom motorcycle’s and custom paint jobs. I figure if they can custom paint motorcycle tanks and “Fenders”, they should be able to do something to that new “Fender” Jazz!! If not, they could possibly point you in the right direction.


I was going to mention something similar. We do some furniture restoration/upcycling and know a few folk who use a body shop for their painting when they need a high gloss finish that’s simply not possible with rattle cans (without a lot of care, practice and patience). I’ve got a couple of large metal projects that I need to speak to our local shop about, but it’s certainly possible, and I don’t think they find it that unusual to work on. Even better is if you aren’t too fussy about the colour and ask them to use the leftovers from a job. You could at least pick the basic colour, or possibly get something a bit unusual that they’re working with anyway: Ferrari Red or British Racing Green, anyone? How about Big Taxi Yellow?



Dingwall does Ducati White, Laguna Seca Blue, Ferrari Yellow and Ferrari Red now :slight_smile:


I absolutely hate anything like that. Sorry. It’s a sore point based around how people get when flags are brought into an issue.

Besides, it’s the Union “Flag”. The Union “Jack” only applies to a flag flown on a Royal Navy vessel.

I’m gonna go play with my new toy now before I turn into a full-blown grumpasaurous.


@Jazzbass19 No special design. I just want to do a custom colour.


I keep hoping @terb will come by and tell us about his experiences doing custom paint. Has anyone else on BassBuzz ever tried this before?

yeah sorry I though I’ve always told everything on other threads ? how can I help ?

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I checked the other threads and didn’t find any specifics.
What kind of paint did you use?
How many coats?
What problems did you run into?
What do I need to watch out for?
I know nothing about this. Anything you can offer up will help.

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I used various spray can paint. in fact those can are a varnish with an opaque tint, they don’t always need a separate varnish.

I like polyurethane paint (like on my yellow Telecaster). Greenie is painted with acrylic paint but it’s way more fragile ; I think it could be OK with clear varnish coats after the paint but that’s not what I did and this bass is pretty much “relic” for this reason.

Also you have nitrocellulose paint, that’s what I bought for the Jim Harley Precision Bass I’m working on currently but I did not paint it for now so I can’t tell about this paint.

usually 2 coats with maybe 2 hours between the coats. the goal is to paint the 2nd coat when the first one is just a little bit dry : this way the two coats will merge together.

I’d say :

  • don’t do a thick coat, or you will very probably make some nasty paint drips. those things are a pain in the *ss, you have to wait a long time to be sure that the paint is dry in all its thickness, then sand the drips, then repaint everyting. thin coats are better !
  • the paint is really really thin, and it won’t hide any hint or scratch on the body. the surface you paint must be very well prepared, which means sanded really really thin. Also the surface must be clean (no dirt, no dust) and degreased, otherwise the paint won’t stick.
  • if the body is already painted and you just want to change the color, I recommend you don’t sand to the wood. you just have to depolish (is it a word ? I mean : remove the gloss / make it mate) the existing paint to make a sticky surface for the new paint ; then a very thin steel wool is enough, you even don’t need sand paper.
  • after the body is painted, you have to wait a LONG time because the paint takes weeks/months to get really dry. I usually wait at least one month.
  • if you want a gloss finish, you will probably have to polish the paint/varnish. I do this with a car polish. this step is a bit dangerous as you can easily remove too much paint, especially on the angles.

I think that’s pretty much it ! but I’m not a paint expert :grin:


@terb Thanks!
Have you ever had any problems with removing everything from the body and then the screws not holding things tight enough when you put everything back? Neck, bridge, etc.?

no, never had this problem

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Sorry, I didn’t have the time/patience to write as much as @terb, but he’s hit the nail pretty square on the head.

Just a couple of comments to add based on my experience using ‘rattle can’ paints on small furniture projects (so a mix of base materials and paints).

Absolutely correct and so important that I wanted to reiterate this point. However, I would add that the less you put on and the more coats you use, the better the finish will be. The first couple of coats are the trickiest because you probably won’t completely cover the base colour and you’ll be tempted to add more paint: et Voila! drips. The upside of expecting to do more thinner coats is that they dry quickly and you can generally build the layers sooner - less time waiting between coats, and the paint will still be a little bit sticky without you having to guess - or worse, touch it to check.

I don’t know how many times I still find bad spots when I think I’ve been super careful (actually my wife is worse for this and I end up trying to fix it). For a super smooth finish you should sand after each coat (or after the first couple at least) with a high grit paper. Wet & dry or emery are best for this.

If you are taking it back to wood, then once you think you have the wood perfectly smooth, spray a mist of water all over and let it dry and sand it once more. The wood expands when wet and little ‘splinters’ lift up and need sanding back. This is probably most important if you want a wood finish, but it could make the difference to a solid paint finish.

For a solid colour finish I’d agree with this. Unless you are taking out damage or have made modifications to the body, stripping it all the way back is probably overkill and more likely to make the job longer & harder than it needs to be. The exception would be if you’ve had to fill dings/scratches, changed the layout of the pots/pups etc. If you go back to the wood only in patches, make sure you sand a larger area over & around it so that the blend-in is very subtle and smooth.

I suspect that if I’d sanded back to the wood I’d want to make that my final colouring and I’d be working on sealing the wood. I’m a sucker for natural finishes.

Depending on the paint used and environment it’s kept in. When I do furniture with a flat top surface that will have items placed on it, we specify to the customer that they don’t cover it at all for at least 2 weeks, and don’t place anything heavy on it for at least 4 weeks. This is normal for a varnish top coat, and paint as a final layer can be less. Car painters will usually ‘bake’ the paint for several hours which hardens the final layer, but even then they say that ideally the car would be left for another week, and certainly be protected from scuffs for that long. If/when I do a bass, I would expect to leave it hanging in my study for a week or two: my room is low humidity and a fairly even temperature in the 15-20degC range.

Me neither. My recommendation for a really good paint job would be to take it to a body shop once you’ve done the prep: they can do a much better job with their kit than we can with a spray can, but the downside is that you wouldn’t have the fun or pleasure of doing it yourself - and it’d cost more (thought probably not as much as you’d think).

[EDIT] I ended up writing MORE than @terb. So much for just adding a little to what he said. Sorry my friend, I didn’t mean to hijack your excellent advice and insights.


Have you had a body shop paint a guitar for you before? How much did it cost ya?

Has anyone ever tried using an airbrush? I don’t own one but when I get to the time I’m ready to do the build. I could see myself investing in one as it would also be useful for my hobby gaming.


Nope. I haven’t used one for any of my non-guitar projects either, but I know people who have used them (no prices or details - they’re folk I only know online or see 1-2 times a year at shows, and not for over a year now).

I think you need to have a bit of a rapport with them, otherwise unless they do this often they may not be inclined to do a small job. The way I was going to approach the guys near me was to have a chat and sound them out, then suggest it’s at their convenience rather than booked in (potentially bumping ‘proper’ jobs by a day or two). I mentioned earlier about colour; and if you can settle on a fairly common colour used for cars, or something they have left over from a job, then the cost of the paint tumbles and it comes down to their time. If they’re fitting in a small job that doesn’t require them to prep it then you might find very little cash buys you a nice paint job.

Of course, this all depends on the size of the outfit, how busy they are, and how amiable they are. Living in a rural area means that we don’t have mega workshops and everybody tends to be much more helpful.

***Side note: we bought a HVLP (high volume/low pressure) machine for our furniture projects but found it harder to get set up correctly than we’d anticipated, and resorted to brushes or cans (depending on the job), and recognised that a professional would give a far superior finish than we could manage without hours of practice.