Do it yourself: Guitar decals

By | April 7, 2021

Design the decal

This first step can be the most difficult — deciding what to put on your guitar and where. Once you have an image in mind, whether a ribbon logo, signature, modified image or original text, design it in a graphics editor such as Photoshop, Paint Pro or Gimp. If you decide to place your image on transparency film rather than a vinyl decal sticker, keep in mind that you may need to invert the image so that it appears correctly applied once to your guitar.

Print different sizes on plain paper to see what they look like on your guitar. If you place the decal on the instrument’s body, you decide if there is room for others so that you can create a complete and more convincing image.

Print the final design on a waterproof decal, preferably with a laser jet printer for a sharper image, although an inkjet printer also works. Spray the guitar decal with three or four lacquers to make it water and dirt protected. Start with a thin coat and then apply thicker layers.

Cut out the decal, leaving a ‘# xBC;’ border all the way around the image. This will keep the paint from working under the decal and destroy the end of the guitar when the decal is attached.

Apply the decal

Soak your water protection decal in warm water. This makes it easier to apply on guitar because you can slide it to exactly the place you want. It also gives the decal a longer life through stronger adhesion. Apply the decal carefully, rubbing or sucking out wrinkles, bubbles and other imperfections. If you use transparency film, use a syringe to hold it in place.

Add another varnish, carefully avoiding your instrument. This will give your guitar decal a polished, finished look. If excess varnish gets on your guitar, wipe it off immediately.


Guitar decals are not good for older and some custom guitars because the guitars usually contain a lacquer finish that can be damaged by the vinyl in modern stickers. Contemporary instruments use polyurethane or polyester paints that can withstand today’s vinyl guitar decals.

If your artwork has a commercial appeal or is the band’s logo, make copies of your sticker to market on tape equipment, cars, cabinets and the like. Replace waterproof decal paper with self-adhesive acetate paper and apply. Guitar decals are an elegant way to market your band while giving you and your instrument a pronounced look. Decals reinforce an image and / or make a statement about your beliefs. Traditionally used by guitar manufacturers such as Fender and Gibson, today they only adapt one instrument. The body, neck or head can dress up in as little as 30 minutes.