How to Stain a Guitar

There are a lot of ways to stain your guitar. You also have to take care of a lot of things before you stain your guitar. Not knowing the proper methods of staining may damage your guitar. It also causes it to have a bad finish which is not at all what you want.

We made a comprehensive guide for how to stain a guitar to get the best possible results.

Preparations before Staining your Guitar

Staining a guitar isn’t really a hard thing to do but there are some precautions you need to take care of before you start doing it. As with most things, to get the best results from your staining, following some specific steps will yield a better result.

Also, make sure you’ve detached all the strings and extra equipment from the guitar which isn’t the part of the actual wood. It is important because it helps you to stain it properly and get the edges of the guitar where it would have been difficult otherwise.

Stain for Guitars

The first thing which comes to mind when you think of staining is what type of stain your should get. There are a lot of options in the market and it can be overwhelming and confusing as to which one you should get.

When people think of staining their guitar, they think it requires some special type of paint that is specifically made for this purpose. While some options are recommended for staining guitar, it has typically no issue if you use any store-bought stain which looks good quality.

You can find Stain in any home depot or amazon. If you still aren’t sure what you should be looking for, brands like Varathane and Ready Seal have good stains.

But the main thing you need to look out for while buying Stain is their color and the finish they provide. There are a ton, and I mean a ton of colors to choose from. According to the wood type your guitar uses, it’s best to look at other people’s recommendations as to which you should get for that type of wood.

Equipment you will need

There is some equipment that you need to be able to Stain your Guitar correctly and to also keep yourself safe from the paints. There are also some things you need like sandpaper, a foam brush, and a piece of cloth. These are essential for the Staining.

Except for these, it is also recommended that you wear gloves when you do the staining because you probably don’t want stains on your hands and they are quite hard to get rid of if they dry up. So, make sure you have a glove with you so that you don’t have to face any inconveniences.

Apart from stain, sandpaper, the equipment required to apply them, you’ll also need a grain filler. A grain filler is used to recover any minor damage or inconsistency on the surface of the guitar. It helps to fill them up and prep the surface for the coating of stain.

Staining your Guitar the right way

There are some steps you’ll need to follow accordingly to yield the best possible results from your staining. Following the step accordingly is very important and skipping any of them can result in a bad finish of your guitar. The steps are:

  • Sanding your Guitar
  • Coating it with a layer of grain filler
  • Staining with your desired color of Stain
  • Drying process
  • Clear-Coat for a shiny finish
  • Using Car polish

Now that you have an idea of what steps you need to go through, let’s see how you can do them just the way it is meant to be done.

Sanding your Guitar

how to stain a guitar

Sanding is an important part of staining as it helps clear out any bumps and inconsistency of the wood and make it smooth to the touch. If you’re planning on Re-Staining your old guitar, then this step is especially needed as, without it, you won’t be able to get the previous coating out. 

If you start coating on top of the previous coating, you won’t get any good results and it’ll only lead to you making a mess on your guitar. So, it is necessary to sand your guitar. Also if you’re building a guitar by yourself and had the guitar made by someone, it’s not required to sand them as most of them come pre-sanded.

When you’ll sanding the wood of the guitar, try and feel food any inconsistency or sharp edges of the guitar. And make sure you sand them correctly or there’s no point in sanding them. Also, be gentle when you sand the guitar.

After all, you don’t want the guitar to get damaged because you sanded them too much. Also, it is important to sand the wood of the guitar towards its grain or line-markings. If you don’t do that, it’ll ruin the wood’s natural tone and finish.

Coating with a layer of Grain Filler

Grain Filler is used to coating any inconsistent layer of wood in the guitar. Coating them makes the surface smooth and it also helps prepare the wood for Stain. Before you apply grain filler, make sure that you dust off any remaining wood dust from the guitar from the sanding session.

If there is some dust still left on the guitar, it can mix with the grain filler and make a total mess.

You also need to apply tapes to the cavity of the guitar where there doesn’t need any grain filler. The main part where the grain filler will go is the surface of the guitar where the guitar will be visible. Any other parts where there doesn’t need any grain filler.

To apply the grain filler, you can use anything like a brush or a piece of cloth. Just lightly pour some grain filler and spread it around the whole surface. Make sure you get the entire surface and not leave any gaps. After you’re done with that, you need to dry them to make sure the filler is placed on the surface correctly.

Staining with your desired color of Stain

how to stain a guitar

Now comes the most important part of staining the guitar. And to be honest, staining it is probably the easiest part of the whole process of staining it.

First, pick a piece of cloth or foam brush. Then lightly soak it in the Stain and smother it over the surface of the guitar. Then gently rub it on the whole surface of the guitar. Make sure you don’t put too much Stain or it’ll clog up on the surface.

After you’ve rubbed in the stain, take a piece of cloth and gently soak away the excess stain that is on the guitar. You don’t want an uneven coating of stain on the guitar because it’ll create inconsistency of color and finish on the guitar.

Drying process

Drying the stain is an important part of this whole process. By drying, it ensures the longevity of the stain and helps it to have a good finish and the wood of the guitar to soak in the color nicely.

Make sure you put them in a dry place with no humidity, will be better if kept in a closed room or under the sun for a little bit to boost the drying process.

You can also put multiple layers of stain coating if you wish to make the guitar darker but you have to dry them with every layer or the wood won’t have time to soak the stain.

Clear-Coat for a Shiny Finish

Now that you’ve done the main part of the process, it is time to make it look new and polished. For that, you’ll be using a clear coat like Oil or Wax which you can find in any home depot or hardware store near you pretty easily.

This process is pretty simple too. Just like how you applied stain on the guitar, you need to follow the same process for this as well. Just take your preferred oil or wax and simply coat the whole surface of the guitar with it using a brush. Don’t put in too much oil or it won’t dry up well enough.

Using Car polish

Now for the final step, you’ll need to polish the surface for a clean and clear look on your guitar. This helps in making it look good and also to retain the color and shininess of the stain and clear coat.

It is recommended to use an automotive polish solution as it just works well with the wood finish of the guitar. Just as how polishing a car works, you will use the same method in polishing the guitar too.

Just simple apply some polish with a rag and then spread it all over the guitar. Then with another clean rag, remove the excess polish and let it sit for a while to dry and settle into the wood of the guitar.


Making your guitar look new and shiny is always a joy. But you have to make sure you’re not ruining your guitar in the process and using the proper methods.

We hope this little guide helped you to get through your staining process and helped you to achieve an excellent result afterward.

You Can Also Read: How to Strum a Ukulele

Leave a Comment