The Best Method For Painting Guitar Pickups!

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Have you ever thought of painting guitar pickups as one aspect of making your guitar unique to you, and perfectly suited to your preferred aesthetic? A lot of people who play the guitar want to make sure that their guitars look great as well as sound great, but obviously the sound is the most important part, and as the pickups are critical to the sound, you might be wondering whether it is okay to paint these, or whether something might go wrong if you try to do this. It’s important to check before you begin!

Painting guitar pickups is possible, but you need to know what you are doing and it’s a fairly challenging process that requires you to know exactly what you are doing. If you paint the pickups badly, the paint will peel and flake off, and it won’t look great – which means you’ll have wasted your paint and time. Do some thorough research before you consider painting your pickups, and consider alternative options, such as purchasing covers for the pickups instead.

These are reasonably cheap and easy to get hold of, but they are limited, so you may decide that you want to paint the pickups instead. Depending on what sort of pickups your guitar has, you might only be able to get chrome, black, or similar colors. If you are going to paint your guitar instead, make sure you use a suitable paint.

How To Paint Guitar Pickups

If you are going to paint a pickup, you should try to find out what it is made of and determine what kind of paint is suitable for using first; different materials will be used for different pickups, and may interact with the paints in a variety of ways. Once you have figured out a safe paint, you should sand the cover and then wipe it clean with rubbing alcohol, using first a 320 grit sandpaper, and then a 600 grit sandpaper. Once you have done this, lightly spray the pickups with a thin coat of paint and leave them to dry.

You can do this several times until you have 3 to 4 thin coats of paint on the pickups, creating a smooth layer of strong color. You may also want to add a clear layer on top of the paint, like a varnish, but make sure that you are keeping all of these layers very thin so that the paint is not at too much risk of peeling off the metal.

This is the easiest way to paint guitar pickups, and it should work in most situations. If it doesn’t seem to be working, you may be using the wrong kind of paint for the metal involved, so make sure you have checked this before you start.

Can You Paint Active Pickups?

Pickups play an important role on a guitar and you might be wondering whether the paint could affect how well your guitar works – which is the most important aspect to consider when you weigh up painting. However, as long as the paint that you use is not either lead-based or oil-based, you should find that it does not affect the functioning of the guitar even if you paint active pickups. Even these paints may not cause problems, but it’s best to avoid them just in case.

On the whole, you won’t affect the functioning of your pickups whether you add paint, covers, or vinyl to them to change their appearance, so it’s fine to do these things, and you may see many professional places that decorate their pickups without any issue. Some people even put things like laptop stickers over their active pickups and do not notice any difference.

Painting active pickups should therefore be fine, and you can go ahead and do this if you choose to. However, be aware that the paint may peel if you don’t get thin enough layers or if you hit the paint with the pick or your fingers too many times. You may have to reapply the paint at times in order to keep your guitar looking great, but it’s fine to paint an active pickup.

Does Painting Guitar Pickups Effect The Sound Quality?

Painting guitar pickups should not make any difference to the sound quality that you get, and a lot of people discuss having done this – or otherwise changed the appearance of their pickups with things like vinyls – without any issue at all. You could always test this by painting one pickup if you are concerned, and then checking whether you can detect any sound difference before painting the others.

Overall, however, it’s unlikely that painting or covering the pickups will have any effect on the sound quality that you enjoy from your guitar – so you can go ahead and decorate them as you choose. Some EMG pickups are even covered with wood, and this doesn’t seem to cause issues with the sound, so you can probably add paint with a reasonable amount of confidence.

It is worth noting that a really thick layer of paint on other parts of the guitar could slightly change the sound of the guitar, and it isn’t recommended that you paint an acoustic guitar for this reason. However, it should be fine to paint an electric guitar and its pickups, and you are unlikely to notice any change in the sound quality.


Painting guitar pickups is a tricky business to get right because there is a risk of the paint flaking off the pickups as you use the guitar – but it’s very tempting if you want to change the look of your guitar and make the pickups stand out or blend in more than they currently do. Make sure you choose the right kind of paint for the metal that your pickups are made of, and sand the metal lightly before adding paint, or the paint will not adhere properly to the pickup. Painting the pickup shouldn’t affect how your guitar sounds or behaves, but it may be a good idea to avoid metallic paints or oil-based paints just in case.