How To Refinish a Guitar Using Photoshop!

Neal Beedie August 18, 2011 1

Being familiar with Adobe Photoshop is just a great skill to have in general, and as a guitar player I use this software frequently when editing images of new toys.  So today I present to you a rough and ready beginner’s guide to using selections on your guitar photos.

Last night I had a brainstorming session to try and figure out what color I wanted to paint my new project guitar, and I used Photoshop to help me make my decision.  I did this through the use of simple selections using the built in marquee tool.  This tutorial will show you a simple method which you can use to refinish a guitar without actually physically painting it.  Make sure you will be happy with the end result without spending a ton of money on materials!

If you don’t have a copy of Photoshop take a look at some of these free alternatives.  As long as whatever you pick has a selection/marquee tool you’re pretty much golden!

Select The Polygonal Lasso ToolOnce you’ve opened your photo in Photoshop you want to first select the “Polygonal Lasso Tool” (see image on left).  There are various different ways of selecting what you need, but for the sake of fool-proof simplicity we will use the polygonal lasso tool in this tutorial.

With the correct tool selected we will first start by tracing a line around the body of the guitar.  Click on your starting point and then continue clicking around the body until you get back to your start point.  You don’t have to be super precise here, but obviously more accuracy will give a cleaner result.

Stroking the Left Handed Guitar

Left Handed Guitar Selection CompleteYou can zoom in and out on your photo to make it a little easier to follow the shape correctly.  On PC the shortcuts for zooming are ‘CTRL & -‘ or ‘CTRL & +’.  When zoomed in you can press the spacebar whilst dragging to move your image around on the screen.

When you reach your start point again, double click and your selection is complete.  You should have something similar to the image on the right.  The selection line will flash when done correctly to show you that it is active.

Photoshop Subtract From Selection on our left handed guitarWe only want to change the color of the wood so the next step is to remove the pickguard and tremolo from our selection.  This process is exactly the same as making the selection except that we want to choose the option to “Subtract From Selection”. Now all we need to do is trace around the pickguard and tremolo to remove them from our selection.  Simple!  Select the “Add To Selection” option and trace around the headstock if you want to change its color as well.  You should now have something similar to the image below, which is now ready to recolor!

Left Handed Guitar Photoshop Selection

A top tip is to save your selection shape so that it can easily be called up later.  To do this go ‘Select>Save Selection and give it a name.  You can now load it at any time by going ‘Select>Load Selection.

There are a million and one different methods for changing the color in Photoshop, but an easy and straightforward option is simply to change the hue of the image.  To do this open ‘Image>Adjustments>Hue/Saturation’ or use shortcut ‘CTRL & U’. Now drag the sliders to change the color of the selected areas.  Easy!

Left Handed Guitar Photoshop Hue

Experiment with all of the sliders to come up with some unique ideas.  Results will vary depending on how light or dark the guitar you are refinishing is.

Left Handed Guitar Colors

If at any point you make a mistake you can simply undo your actions by using the shortcut ‘CTRL & ALT & Z‘.  Press this key combination as many times as you need in order to take steps backward in your creation and try again.

I hope you will find this tutorial useful.  I recently used this technique myself when trying to decide on a color for my new custom Mensinger guitar, very handy!  This also meant I was able to send Mensinger an image of exactly what I wanted in order to avoid any confusion – perfect!  Although I’ve kept this simple and only shown you how to use solid colors, once you get to grips with the software you will easily be able to try more advanced finishes such as bursts, swirls, or even adding flamed tops and custom graphics.  Have fun! :)

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