We’ve all seen guitars covered in stickers. This is a phenomenon that seems to be dominated mostly by beginners and younger players. After all, a well-placed sticker can add a degree of personalization to a guitar.
It certainly doesn’t make things easier when free stickers are regularly handed out. If you’ve been considering putting stickers on your guitar, be sure to read the information in this article beforehand.
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Do Stickers Ruin Your Guitar?
Generally, placing stickers on your guitar will not ruin your guitar. You can freely place stickers nearly anywhere on your guitar without having to worry about damage.
Many guitar players place stickers on their guitars. Some famous guitarists have been known to have stickers on their instruments, including:
- Stevie Ray Vaughan
- Jerry Garcia (of The Grateful Dead)
- Billie Joe Armstrong (of Green Day)
- Tom Morello (of Rage Against The Machine)
Using the aforementioned guitarists as an example, you can clearly see how stickers add personalization to the instrument. It is a simple and effective way to make a guitar your “signature” model.
With stickers, you have no rules when it comes to what you want your guitar to display. Your guitar could become a tool of free speech, purveying a simple message or statement.
With that being said, you might face a dilemma if you decide that you don’t like the stickers on your guitar. This is where placing stickers on a guitar can become a bit tricky. Have no fears though, because we will cover this topic as well within the scope of this article.
Do Stickers Affect Guitar Sound?
For the most part, the effect that stickers have on a guitar’s tone is going to be hard to notice. The major exception to this is if the sticker is placed on a part of the guitar that vibrates.
Stickers on the back of the guitar are likely to be the safest in regard to tone preservation. The top of an acoustic is particularly vital to projecting the sound of the guitar. Even then, stickers placed on the top are likely going to be fairly negligible in regards to the overall tone.
The bridge of an acoustic is likely going to be the most impactful with regards to sticker placement. This is where the strings meet the body of the guitar, with the body projecting its vibrations. It’s likely best to avoid this area if you can.
Can I Put Stickers On My Fretboard?
Believe it or not, you can place stickers on your fretboard. Many people actually opt to do this for several different reasons.
One reason for this is that it can be an inexpensive solution to giving a guitar fretboard inlays. There are high-grade stickers made specifically for this purpose.
Why would you want to do this? Some people do not care for the traditional dot inlays that come on guitars. In fact, some guitars do not have much in the way of inlays at all.
These stickers can give your guitar a new aesthetic look without much effort required. Quite often, it is hard to even tell that these inlays are stickers without looking at them up close.
Your options for fretboard inlay stickers are nearly endless. Some examples I have seen in the past include the iconic trapezoidal inlays (as seen on Gibson instruments), and doves.
Some people also like to place stickers on their fretboard for learning purposes. This type of application will tend to have individual note names for each string at each fret. Of course, this can become tacky-looking (and there are easier ways to memorize this information), but to each their own.
Will Others Be Able To Tell I Have Fretboard Stickers?
Aside from the obvious note-indicator stickers placed for learning, you may be able to tell if stickers are used. Depending on the sticker, a closer inspection of the neck will tend to show bubbling under the sticker. From far away, this might not be as readily noticeable to the untrained eye.
Some fretboard inlay stickers do an excellent job to camouflage themselves. These will tend to have a sort of wood-grain or pearly design embedded into the overall design of the sticker.
The edges of your stickers might also give away the fact that you’ve placed them on your fretboard. If hiding this fact isn’t a big deal, then you have nothing to worry about regarding this vanity issue. It could, however, pose an issue with playability.
Do Fretboard Stickers Affect Playability?
Fretboard stickers can affect the overall playability of your guitar. Much of this depends on a number of different factors including:
- If the sticker is placed on an acoustic or electric guitar fretboard
- The size of the fretboard sticker itself
As acoustic guitars and electric guitars are played differently, you are likely to experience more issues with electric guitars. This is due to the fact that you are likely to be doing more note bends and slides. You will likely feel the sticker underneath your fingers, which can be a bit uncomfortable or annoying.
Again, if the sticker edges happen to peel away from the fretboard, this is going to get in the way. Nobody wants to deal with a sticker coming apart in the mid-bend of a note during an epic solo.
You might notice a dampening in the resonant tone of your notes should you happen to bend into the sticker. This is obviously not an ideal situation for any playing scenario.
Acoustic guitars tend to not have much of an issue with fretboard stickers. Though, if you play your acoustic similarly to your electric, you might have some of the same problems.
For electric guitars (or acoustics that get played just as intensively), it is recommended to use smaller-sized stickers. This will minimize the chances that you have to encounter sticker rub in a playing situation.
What Do I Need To Remove The Stickers From My Guitar?
If you’re wondering how you might go about getting the stickers off of your guitar, you’re in luck. The process isn’t too terribly difficult and can be achieved with a little patience and elbow grease.
You will need to acquire a chemical agent and a stash of cloths to help you remove the stickers. There tends to be a mixed opinion on the type of chemical you should use for this process. Because of this, I will highlight some of the more recommended methods.
Before you begin this process, please do your due diligence in researching whether these chemicals are safe for your finish. The last thing you want to deal with is accidentally removing the finish from your guitar.
One of the more commonly used and recommended chemical agents for removing stickers from guitars is Naphtha. This is a petroleum-based chemical, which is widely known as lighter-fluid. This might seem odd to put a highly flammable chemical on your guitar, but this method has years of success.
In fact, chances are highly likely that your local professional would use this same method. Naphtha has also proven to be useful in cleaning rust off of metallic components. Out of all the agents listed, this is the most effective at removing stickers and fortunately isn’t very expensive.
Naphtha has a fast evaporation time, so when using this product, timing is of importance. Just be sure to use it in a well-ventilated area away from any flames.
Believe it or not, WD-40 may be helpful in removing stickers from guitars. Traditionally used as a lubricant, this chemical compound continually proves its utility in seemingly endless types of uses, guitar included.
Regarding the results, people have more success (and an easier time) using Naphtha. However, WD-40 is a common household item, so if it's convenient, it's worth a try.
Acetone, also known as fingernail polish remover, is another widely used compound for removing stickers. Like Naphtha, this is a highly flammable and fast-evaporating compound, so do take precautions when using it.
Regarding its safety with guitars, some people have experienced slight finish damage (which has been fairly negligible) when using acetone. Do your due diligence to make sure this method is compatible with your guitar’s finish.
Guitar Body Polish
People have had mixed results using guitar polish to aid in removing stickers. Regardless, this is an item that is especially important in any guitar maintenance regimen. It is recommended to have this on hand for the final steps of the sticker removal process.
How Do I Remove The Stickers From My Guitar?
First, you will need to grab your cloth (paper towels can work) and apply your chemical agent. We use a cloth to control the amount of chemical agent being applied to the guitar, minimizing any potential damage.
Take the soaked cloth and put it over the sticker, allowing the sticker to absorb the chemical. This should loosen the adhesive of the glue, allowing you to remove it. If you have any issues removing it, reapply the cloth to further soften the adhesive.
Something that can help with paper stickers is to use the edge of a guitar pick or old credit card. This will give you an edge to scrape up the sticker without necessarily scraping your finish.
If you are removing a vinyl sticker, the process is much the same. The biggest exception is that the chemical agent will not soak through the sticker, rather, along its edges. Because of this, it’s important to focus on the edges of the sticker.
When removing the sticker, applying a small amount of chemical during the peeling process can help speed up the process. Go slow and take care not to peel off your finish.
Once you have successfully removed the stickers, it is highly recommended to wipe any excess remaining compound from the guitar. After the guitar has been dried, it might be a good idea to apply guitar polish to the body itself.
How Do I Get Sticker Residue Off My Guitar?
If you’ve already attempted to remove the stickers, but have excessive sticker residue or partially papered stickers, do not fret. The process for removing this residue is pretty much exactly the same as the aforementioned steps listed for sticker removal.
Simply apply your chemical agent to a cloth and put the cloth on the affected area. This will loosen the adhesive and allow you to wipe away the adhesive. After you’ve removed the residue, it’s a good practice of guitar maintenance to apply polish to your finish.
Does Removing Stickers Damage A Guitar?
While applying stickers to your guitar doesn’t necessarily ruin your guitar, you may have some issues after removal. This mostly depends on the amount of time that the sticker was on the guitar. The amount of sun exposure that the guitar has had is another factor.
What could potentially happen is that you may have different colored tints of finish. For example, if you have a white guitar, the stickered area may be brighter than the rest of your guitar. This is because the area underneath the sticker did not receive the same amount of sun exposure as the unstickered area.
Again, fast removal of vinyl stickers especially poses a risk of accidentally pulling up the guitar’s finish. If you take your time and go slow, while applying plenty of chemical agents, you likely won’t have this issue.
How Do I Remove Stickers From The Fretboard?
The process of removing fretboard stickers is much easier than removing stickers from the body of the guitar. First, you will need to expose the neck by removing the strings or slackening and moving them.
After you’ve exposed the neck, take a guitar pick and gently scrape at the edges of the sticker. The keyword here is “gently,” as we do not want to scratch into the surface of the fretboard. Rather, the goal here is to carefully peel the sticker away from the fretboard.
Once you’ve removed the sticker(s), it is good practice to clean the fretboard. If you have a lacquered Maple fretboard, some guitar polish will likely be suitable.
For those with Rosewood, Ebony, or unlacquered materials, you’ll need some fretboard conditioner. This is another staple in the guitar maintenance tool kit. Simply apply it as you normally would. By applying this, you’ll remove any excess oils and grime and restore the fretboard to its optimum condition.
When Should I Leave Sticker Removal To A Professional?
There are a few scenarios in which you absolutely should not attempt sticker removal on your own. In these cases, having a certified professional perform the removal is going to be in your best interest. Professionals can be found at well-reputed music stores, but do ask around, as many have a home-based shop.
If you are just unsure about the process as a whole and are doubting yourself, take it to a professional. This will remove any self-inflicted stress and pressure from the equation. You’ll also prevent any accidental damage in the event that you did not do something correctly.
If you have a vintage instrument, by all means, take it to a skilled luthier or certified professional. The same goes if you have a valuable guitar that is worth a fair amount of cash. This method gives you the highest probability of successfully preserving the guitar and its value.
Is It Safe To Put Stickers On Guitar? Final Thoughts
Stickers can be a great, inexpensive way to creatively make a guitar your own. As the guitar is all about self-expression, it makes sense that a guitarist might wish to personalize their instrument.
Fortunately, there aren’t too many detrimental side effects of applying stickers to your guitar. Should you happen to change your mind, the process can be easily reversed with a little bit of effort.
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