Learning how to paint a guitar pedal is one of the things that often spark the curiosity of axemen. Whether guitar players need to repaint their old effects pedal to make them look brand new, or wish to foray further into the exciting world of custom-made DIY pedals, it is important to grasp the basic concepts first before diving into this procedure.
Painting guitar effects pedals may seem like a daunting task for most guitarists, but if you are equipped with the knowledge, along with the right tools, the process should be an enjoyable one.
Why you should paint a guitar pedal
Finishing new pedals
In recent years, boutique and customized pedals have become more popular among guitar players who are searching for more unique gears that reflect their personalities and musical preferences.
A growing number of guitarists have been taking matters into their own hands by assembling their own pedals, with varying degrees of success. The aesthetics is one factor that has benefitted largely from this level of artistic freedom, as DIY-heads can now choose whatever color combinations they want.
Some creative minds have even taken things further by putting in some caricatures, patterns or tiny murals on their effects pedals. The marriage of art and music has surely taken a different approach in a distinctive medium that hasn’t been normally explored in the past.
Repainting old pedals
No matter how effective the finishing job was, the forces of nature will eventually weaken the adhesion of paint, resulting in chipping and fading.
While some prefer reliced-looking gadgets to go with their vintage guitars, it is also important to note that paint is your pedal’s first layer of protection against heat, humidity and other harsh elements. Without paint, the steel parts of your pedals will rust more quickly until such time when replacement is the only option.
Repainting old pedals is one way to make your pedals look brand new, while providing an extra coat of armor to protect them against accidental scratches. For some guitar players, a change in guitars, musical style and taste, or even a general shift in their outlook in life, can spark a sudden desire to change pedal colors, even when their gadgets are relatively new.
How to paint/repaint a guitar pedal
Drill holes first (for new pedals)
If you are into building DIY pedals, make sure that the holes for your knobs and other controls have already been drilled. Some aluminum enclosures can be purchased pre-drilled, saving you the hassle and the hazard of drilling holes on your own.
Remove all knobs and other parts (for old pedals)
Before painting an old guitar pedal, it is a very important first step to remove all parts including knobs, faders and screws before proceeding to the sanding process.
Assuming you will be using aluminum enclosures, sanding will be the most crucial part of the entire process. Whether you are repainting an old effects pedal or finishing your latest custom build, this step should never be omitted or the outcome will not be of optimal quality.
The procedure and requirements will be the same for painting and repainting, although removing paint or even gloss finish on old pedals will take more time and effort. In some cases wherein the pedal has plastic enclosures (just like those Behringer pedals), sanding won’t be necessary since it can also be detrimental to plastic.
You will need some fine grit sandpaper (1500 grit for enclosures with gloss finish) for the sanding stage. For old pedals, this will require some patience since you will be sanding until all of the paint or gloss finish has been completely eliminated. New pedals on the other hand, will take less time to sand before you can move on to the process of priming.
After sanding, you will need to remove all of the dirt and oil that are now all over your aluminum enclosure. You can use a rag with a little citrus paint brush cleaner to wipe the surface until they are thoroughly cleaned. Soap and water can be used as a last resort, just make sure that you dry the enclosure immediately after washing it.
Because the surface of aluminum is non-porous, paint will not stick to it well, making the metal oxidize, chip and peel in a shorter span of time. Using primers such as the Rust-Oleum Professional Aluminum Primer can create a much tighter bond between the top coat and the enclosure’s surface.
Professional pedal enclosures are usually powder coated with the help of a spray gun. Powder coat is also the type of paint that is used for cars and they look good on pedals too.
Powder coating requires a much bigger work space, as well as some expensive equipment such as a high temperature oven that will be used to “bake” the enclosure after painting on it. If you are serious about painting pedals and other metal objects, investing on the needed tools is a necessity.
However, for DIY pedal hobbyists or guitar players who just wanted to change the color of their pedals, there are other cheaper options that can also yield some good results.
Acrylic Paint for Metal
Acrylic paint that is formulated for metal surfaces is your best option as they are a lot cheaper than powder coating, since you will need less expensive tools to apply acrylic effectively. Just keep in mind that acrylic dries up very fast. In about an hour or so, your pedal’s enclosure will be completely dry and ready for assembly.
Using spray paint should be avoided at all costs since they are hazardous for your health and the quality is not as good as powder coat or acrylic. But if you have no other options, make sure that you do it outdoors and wear a mask to protect your lungs from the fumes.
Spray paint very thin layers three times, with short breaks in between to let the paint dry before putting on the succeeding layers. Apply varnish to protect the paint and to improve its appearance.
Painting art onto your pedal
Now that you know how to paint a guitar pedal, you might want to step your game up in the creativity department by transferring your imagination to your gears.
Here are some tools that you can help you in your guitar pedal art endeavors:
- Posca Pens
What’s amazing about Posca pens is that they look and function just like markers but contain acrylic paint, making them a better option if you want to doodle on your pedals.
If you have more advanced visual art skills and have the control over paint brushes, using them to create mini paintings on your effects pedals can yield some interesting aesthetics. Imagine recreating Van Gogh’s “Starry Night” on your chorus pedal, that would be a masterpiece worthy of being displayed in an art gallery.
You can create decals of your band logo either by hand or with the help of programs such as Photoshop. With the help of decals, you can paint over your guitar pedals with a uniform set of ready-made designs that you may use on other gears later on.