How to Paint a Ukulele

Are you bored with the way your favorite ukulele looks just like everybody else’s? Do you think that the plain wooden ukulele doesn’t match your sense of style? Are you looking to buy someone their first ukulele as a present and want to make it even more special? If so, painting your ukulele is a great way to give a personalized touch to the instrument.

Now don’t be intimidated. Painting a ukulele might sound very complicated, at first. Trust us, it isn’t. You can very easily paint any design at home if you follow this step by step guideline. 

What you will need:

  • Sandpaper 
  • Paint (acrylic, mixed media, or oil)
  • Primer
  • Clear varnish or clear spray paint 
  • Different sized paint brushes 
  • A washcloth
  • Disinfectant
  • Paper towels
  • Sharpies
  • A reference picture/stencils.

Step 1: Disassemble the Ukulele

Depending on whether or not you know how to reassemble your ukulele, you should take on this first step.
If you do know how to, then take it apart. This will also allow you to paint on the entire ukulele. To loosen the strings of the ukulele, turn the tuning pegs and then detach them. Remove the saddle on the bridge of the ukulele The saddle is the part made of plastic. 

If you do not know how to reassemble your ukulele, it can be very difficult to put it back together, and you might not be able to play it if it isn’t done properly.  So, it is best if you choose a design that does not require you to take the strings off. You could also just paint the back and leave the front as it is.

Step 2: Clean the Ukulele

Take a clean washcloth, soak it in water and wring the excess out so that it’s moist but not wet. On the surface of the ukulele, spray some disinfectant and give it a good wipe to remove any dust or dirt that might be on the surface. Wait 10-15 minutes to allow the surface to dry completely when you’re done wiping it.

Also Check: Best Cases for Ukulele

Step 3: Sand the Ukulele

Before you can apply the paint, you need to sand your ukulele if it has a glossy coat on the top. Using fine-grit sandpaper, such as 320-grit, and gently rub the surface to clean off the varnish in circular motions. Sand the instrument wherever you want to paint it. Dust off the ukulele with a brush, then wipe it down with a damp paper towel or washcloth.
You can skip this step if your ukulele does not have a glossy finish.

Step 4: Prime the Ukulele

Take a clean paintbrush and apply the entire surface of the ukulele with a single, even layer of primer, including the neck, back, and anywhere else you plan to paint. If you are painting the front and back of the ukulele, apply the primer to one side, let it dry, then apply it to the other.

Step 5: Set the Ukulele

Place the ukulele on a table or a desk, essentially on a flat surface. This will help you make sure that when you paint it, it is balanced and won’t wobble. If you have a ukulele cradle, which is a device that holds the instrument in its case, wrap it around the neck of the ukulele. This will ensure that when you lay it on a flat surface, it prevents it from wiggling.

Step 6: Sketch an Outline 

This step is very important if you want to paint a very intricate design on your ukulele. Plan out the concept beforehand, so you have a clear vision of exactly what you want to paint on your instrument. To sketch out the pattern on top of the dried primer, you can use a pencil. If you want, take help from a stencil or a template. This will ensure that you have guidelines that you can fill in later with paint.
However, if you are planning on painting an abstract design, or just want to see where your creativity takes you, you can totally skip this step.

Step 7: Paint the Base Layer 

Take a big, clean paintbrush and dip it lightly into the paint. Using a circular motion to cover it uniformly, spread a thin coat of paint across the surface of the ukulele. Paint around the stencil or pattern that you have already drawn.  You can use different colors to fill them in.
Make sure that the color is also spread uniformly over the textured surface of the neck of the ukulele. Take a small paintbrush and use it to apply paint to the instrument’s hard-to-reach corners and crevices.
You only need one layer for the base paint, so you should do it lightly.

Step 8: Fill in the Outlines

Wait a couple of minutes to let the first coat of paint dry completely. Use another clean brush to add different colors to your ukulele, dip it in different paint colors, and apply a thin layer to the unpainted area.
You should also fill in any patterns you’ve sketched on the surface of the ukulele using your smaller paintbrushes.

Step 9: Apply a layer of Varnish

Once you are satisfied with the paint job, it is time to put a varnish on top. Take a can of clear spray paint and spray a thin layer over the newly painted surface of the ukulele. Let the clearcoat dry completely.
This will work to protect the paint from chipping, and add a shiny glow to your finished instrument. 

Step 10: Reassemble the Ukulele

If you have skipped Step 1, then this instruction is not for you.

If you have taken it apart, reassemble the ukulele. Once the clear varnish is completely dry, replace the saddle, strings, and tuning knobs. To tighten the strings so they are firmly held, turn the tuning knobs. Make sure that all the pieces are correctly put together before you attempt to play the instrument.

Also Read: Best Ukulele under $200


With these easy to follow steps, painting your ukulele should be a piece of cake. So go ahead, and paint that ukulele. What are you waiting for?

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