View Full Version : Ukulele Painting Tips

08-27-2010, 04:29 PM
I know the Ukulele Painting will affect the sound quality, but that's okay, as the Ukulele I will be painting will be hung up for display purposes only. That being said, I need some tips on painting a Mahalo U50 G Soprano.

I plan on sanding all areas until the wood is very thin (as the Ukulele should resonate more better with a thin wood under thin layers of paint), including the Mahogany fretboard (which I will touch up later). I will apply an even coat of thin spray on black, maybe two coats, and then I will paint the main design going there later, smoothly, all sides painted step by step, air drying. The theme I am going for is a Lunar Moon and Wave design.

What type of paint is better for this? I plan on using Acrylic paint. What kind of wood finish should I use - matte or gloss? (I plan on using matte). Are there any other tips for painting the Ukulele? What type of grit should I use? Thanks in advanced.

This guide seems to help a lot, though it's for an acoustic guitar, the sanding bits and finishing should be good for a Ukulele process. http://www.instructables.com/answers/How-do-I-paint-an-acoustic-guitar/

08-27-2010, 05:51 PM
search "frankenstein" because somebody described painting a dolphin and gave tips in that thread.

I do my with no theme just add colors and put some effect to it and keep the texture. I think I will use a matte finish over a gloss because its all I have and I want to start playing soon

I painted on a solid body Eleuke so I don't have to worry about the sound (or do I?? Haha)

mm stan
08-27-2010, 11:22 PM
Have you ever tried an airbrush....very different and cool....plus it's thinner coat...
MM Stan...

08-28-2010, 02:31 AM
I have painted 2 Ukuleles, the first I have a thread on here called the " Who Kulele " the second I am still working on. I used enamels on the Whokulele this paint is very very hardwearing, self levelling and goes on nice and thin. Of course there is the smell the clean up and it can be a little difficult blending. The other major problem with the enamel paint is that you cannot spray over it with a finishing lacquer as the enamels will bubble and craze.I used a brush on polyurethane tough coat varnish for the enamel based uke and have to say the colours came to life. And boy this thing is tough coat, with enamel paint and a good hard varnish it allows you to limit the layers and therefore retain the instruments tonality. The second Uke I am painting I am using Acrylics, this is far less messy for clean up and easy to blend and can be coated with a gloss or matte finish BUT the acrylic must be given time to dry and harden and cure fully before attempting a spray with an acrylic based finish I would recommend at least 72 hours for thin coats and at least a week for anything thicker, then test an area first. When final coating is applied you should always look for a non yellowuing formula. ( This did not matter with the first Uke as any yellowing will not afffect the chosen colours ) Using acrylics has another issue in that they are not a self levelling paint so you will tend to see brush strokes more in the finished item. Another problem with acrylics is that they do dry very quickly when using them, you can add a little glycerin or propylene glycol to the colour you are using to retard the drying time when you are working with and blending the paints, again do not overdo the retardent as too much will prevent the paint from drying at all. For the second Uke which has a Love & Peace hippy theme, I have painted the tuners with enamel then given them about 8 to ten coats of clear nail polish. Good luck with the project.

08-28-2010, 05:29 AM
You painted the Doctor Who uke yourself? My daughter saw the pictures and went crazy; she wants one of her own!

08-28-2010, 05:31 AM
Those are indeed awesome! I love the enamel tips too...

08-28-2010, 05:46 AM
Fuzzy , funnily enough it was my daughter who decided that we should do a Doctor Who Uke....She did the drawing and I painted it, team effort. I actually prefer painting with the enamels, the coverage and even layering, plus the strength of the paint make it a good medium. Glad you like the Uke, it's only a Makala Dolphin but it's unique. I have added some extra pics to show the headstock and symbols on the sides.

08-28-2010, 05:47 AM
Thanks for all your help, and those are amazing :) So I have it settled. I'm going to remove strings, tuners, etc. I'm going to sand the wood down until all is smooth and somewhat thinner. I'll apply two layers of primer. Then I'll apply a layer or two of black acrylic using air brush (or a weak, not to drippy spray can), putting tape over all areas that don't need painting (and protecting the sand hole). Then I'll wait for the entire Ukulele to be all black and dry, then paint on the design. Then I can apply a matte or gloss finish. Any other tips? I'm still deciding which finish is better. This is the 2nd Draft of my Plan. I also plan for the safety precautions, wearing my glasses and goggles, my dust mast (with a filter) and do it outside in a well lit, non-flammable area.

EDIT: I making sure to do what the below user says :) Thanks tube.

08-28-2010, 05:55 AM
The grain of the second layer of plywood has an other direction than the first. Donīt sand it down too much...

08-29-2010, 01:09 AM

I like those tuning pegs.

For those that are squeemish to paint ukes, just understand that I have access to $20 ukuleles and some are just $15 ukes.

My wife started in on a $15 uke after she saw me paint my Eleuke. Here is the current status.


You can tell we don't do themes. We just freeflow, make mistakes, and cover them up again.

08-29-2010, 01:14 AM
Loving the textured look it will be an easy grip Uke. I have almost finished the Love and peace Uke now, Have a couple of gaps to fill on the front ( top right corner in the pic and round the sound hole ) I have found a great symbol for the headstock.

08-29-2010, 01:20 AM
I like that peace sign Deep. Its psychedelic.

08-29-2010, 02:58 AM
I couldn't emphasize enough, how awesome a reggae ukulele would look. :)

08-29-2010, 03:03 AM
Hmmm I might bear that one in mind for my next project.

08-29-2010, 07:08 AM
I couldn't emphasize enough, how awesome a reggae ukulele would look. :)


HOw about this for a start? Any suggestions to the side and the back or just keep it simple with the yellow base?

Hey yellow and black on the back with the red/yellow/green all around the side with some trim?

08-29-2010, 01:24 PM
That's the front of the uke finished, now the headstock, touch in the areas where paint has shrunk as it dried ( another acrylic specifiic issue. ) give the whole thing a gloss coat, stick some decent strings on it, then it's off to ebay.

08-29-2010, 02:27 PM
That's the front of the uke finished, now the headstock, touch in the areas where paint has shrunk as it dried ( another acrylic specifiic issue. ) give the whole thing a gloss coat, stick some decent strings on it, then it's off to ebay.

haha. I took the tape off after 40 minutes on the first coats. I got some seepage or "Bleeding" of the red paint under the tape. Live and learn.

I think the yellow is too mustardy so I need to find a brighter yellow to fill and feather. I'm gonna do something with the soundhole too because the label doesn't go with the theme.

I have never sold anything on e-bay. I think I'd like to play this for awhile to see how it sounds and to be inspired on the reggae strum

08-29-2010, 04:30 PM
Current Status



The good thing about not having a specific theme is just the freedom to change on the fly. I never know what a finished piece will look like.

08-29-2010, 04:34 PM
It kindof looks more like mix of a Mexican flag, an italian flag, and an ongoing game of Pacman.

08-30-2010, 04:31 PM
Captured, tried and convicted: Intent to Make Folk Music


08-30-2010, 04:35 PM
Application of Spray on Gloss after only 1 day of drying. I wanted to see if DeePeePee's "crazing" happened on this application.


This second photo shows an interesting effect. The gloss spray ate at the color of the stickers white and yellow colors but left the black color. Interesting effect.


08-30-2010, 04:38 PM
sides . I think this shows you what kind of "designs can be put over a background base. I didn't try to get fancy. I just am seeing who this uke coating takes this acrylic. I didn't sand any part of the uke before putting the acrylic on.



08-30-2010, 06:57 PM
The Back


08-31-2010, 07:17 PM
I put some strings on this little project. I'll wait a day so the strings stretch out; but, my first strums seemed very acceptable as far as tone goes.


I learned a number of things on this paint job.

For one thing, it feels still sticky after glossing. What can I do to smooth it out and not feel sticky?

I am excited to play it and to hopefully develop a good reggae sound. It feels fun, like child's play and I hope the kids like it.

08-31-2010, 10:46 PM
The gloss will take a while to cure properly, I once made a silver topped cane for a show I was in, used a piece of thick dowell sprayed black then gloss coated it. It was Plasti-Kote I used for that little job. I made it about 3 months before the show and it felt slighthly sticky right up to show week. Although to be fair it was a very thick layer of gloss. It was nott wet and I made no finger marks on the cane it just felt tacky.

08-31-2010, 10:48 PM
Loving the reggae uke, the string decoration is a very nice touch. I love a bit of colour

mm stan
08-31-2010, 11:33 PM
I put some strings on this little project. I'll wait a day so the strings stretch out; but, my first strums seemed very acceptable as far as tone goes.


I learned a number of things on this paint job.

For one thing, it feels still sticky after glossing. What can I do to smooth it out and not feel sticky?

I am excited to play it and to hopefully develop a good reggae sound. It feels fun, like child's play and I hope the kids like it.

Like DeePeePee said, it takes time for the gloss to cure depending on how many coats.....three weeks-month jus gotta be patient...
I had one uke, I bought jus refinished....four months for the tackyness(is that a word?)to cure....it was a martin..sold it!!didn't sound right....but looked nice..
Just how many Mahalo's did you buy??HMMM For just beginning ukulele, you sure have a severe case of UAS..wonder how much you really have....

09-01-2010, 04:50 PM
Anybody want me to transform that Blue Maholo into a Tim Tebow Rookie Year Ukulele? haha.

Yes, I am a Broncos fan.

09-01-2010, 10:53 PM
It looks better with the hole cover. Before the yellow was lacking; but, this hole cover which is a earring makes up for the unbrightness in the yellow that existed before. I also put some bling and added to the dreads on the headstock.


09-05-2010, 03:17 AM
Well, the Love and Peace Uke is now finished ( well the painting aspect ) I have used a gloss extra tough varnish on this one, which has now been drying for two days, I will leave it another couple of weeks then rub the whole thing down to as smooth a surface as I can get with acrylic base paint. I have put the tuners back on and have a set of Aquilas to string it when ready. I have tried to space the writing on the headstock to allow me to paint the " button / rings " that go over the tuners as easily as possible.

09-05-2010, 05:38 AM
Looking good Deep. What do you use to rub for the smooth surface? How long is the rubbing?

I kept tinkering with mine and I'm trying to finish the back.

It wild how if one part of the job looks halfway decent, then it drives me to better all the other aspects of the job.

I found a store that sells decent air brush supplies. Maybe my upcoming work. I might try that instead of my texture acrylic.

09-05-2010, 07:35 AM
Thanks V much. I use a very fine grade sandpaper intially but only for any major lumps and bumps. Then I use a car paint rubbing compound, then T cut and finally car wax which is very slightly abrasive for a final shine. I fancy trying some airbrushing too but that is for another day.

09-05-2010, 11:36 AM
I have an unusual problem now. We cannot find "cheapie" ukuleles in town right now. We found a real Cheapies cheapies, one that is just purely painted already and no playability; but, I won't buy it now if it doesn't play. THere are some midrange ukes in town $100-$200 but that's too expensive to paint and they are not that good enough to buy.

Wife wants me to go to the temple vocational school and see if we can setup a process for making ukes there. I'll go take a look but .... ...

09-05-2010, 10:19 PM
I think I'm done with the reggae uke. My wife told me its "more beatiful than before". I think that means "knock it off, you will only mess it up from here". I don't know. I think I need to straighten out the red in front to be more balanced with the green.


I like how this back turned out.





09-06-2010, 04:28 PM
This Mr. Hobby clear coat on the left is magic!! It dries smooth and shiny in about an hour. An hour!!! Probably less; but its great stuff. I've put about 2 - 3 coats on each side and felt it and its smooth and not sticky.

I had paper stick to one side, so I scratched the paper off (no problem lifting the coat or the paint), then recoated. In my enthusiasm, I sprayed a lot on with the second coat. It got cold and put a foggy haze on the paint job. Most of that foggy haze disappeared but I think very little stayed. Basically, put a small coating on for each coating.

This masking tape. I'd read lots of good reviews on this particular brand of hobby masking tape. Good for sealing on flat surfaces and not lifting paint underneath - great with stencils.


09-08-2010, 10:59 PM
My wife redid my Eleuke. She redid her flower design uke. Both of these she did in only one day. SHe is learning art at a Buddhist temple school.

About 1-1/2 months ago, I could not get her to paint. Her first attempt was miserably funny. Horrendous. One day, her son dropped a fresh painting on the floor. We picked it up and turned it over (because it landed on the paint side) and it looked really good. Somethin clicked in her and she became unafraid to try her hand at painting.

Both of these works will be redone to some extent before coating



Yes, the acrylic came off of both works.

Yes, my wife did not sand in the same direction on her red uke.

yes, my wife seems to think there are 3-4 sources of light. haha

But is she having fun and learning and doing. Yes.

I need to link the koi fish thread in here as well as the frankenstein thread and if anybody knows more threads on uke painting techniques, put a link in here.

09-08-2010, 11:23 PM
Looking good. I love the colours of both pieces, really warm.

11-09-2012, 07:17 AM
Where do you find cheat ukuleles like that? I am interested in painting ukuleles too.