As a guitar player, you may be curious about stickers on guitars and whether they are a good idea.
For some guitarists, a guitar’s finish or the shape of a guitar body is not enough of an indication of their personality and style.
That’s why they don’t just settle for a fun color for their instrument. They need some eye-catching stickers for their guitars too!
Think of guitar heroes like Stevie Ray Vaughan, and Tom Morello, or pop-punk luminaries like Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day and Tom Delonge of Blink 182.
Their guitars became highly personalized and even iconic thanks to the addition of vinyl stickers, guitar decals, and other sorts of embellishments.
(If you want your own Stevie Ray Vaughn-inspired guitar sticker, check out this one:)
Why Guitarists Add Stickers to Their Guitars
Stickers can add a personal touch to guitars and bass guitars.
They’re an often inexpensive means of customizing an instrument and they don’t require much expertise to add.
But guitar stickers can serve a variety of purposes.
Some stickers are purely decorative.
They add aesthetic value to the instrument according to the owner’s taste.
These stickers could be figures like geometric shapes and such patterns.
Others illustrate objects like flowers, vines, birds, snakes, skulls, flames, musical notes, etc.
Meanwhile, stickers featuring the logos or names of bands and other artists tell people what you listen to or identify with.
These show a glimpse of your influences and which artists you admire.
These guitar stickers are also a way to pay tribute to your heroes.
Some stickers express philosophy and other beliefs.
This is especially true with those featuring slogans and symbols used by or associated with interest groups.
Of course, adding any type of sticker to a guitar can be done tongue-in-cheek.
You may be serious with your sticker, or you could just be playing around.
And finally, another reason guitarists apply stickers on their guitars is utility.
Some of those in the early stages of learning the instrument might find it handy to stick signs to their fretboard.
You can use stickers (like ones linked below) as a cheat sheet to show you which notes you are playing.
Additionally, children learning guitar might need something colorful or playful on their fretboard to keep them interested in the learning process.
By and large, stickers on guitars are a lot like tattoos in function.
They can be personal, decorative, utilitarian, or humorous.
In short, they could mean something or nothing at all.
Are Guitar Stickers for You?
If you’ve been thinking of adding stickers to your guitar, read on to find out if it affects your instrument.
You will also learn which parts of your guitar are the best spots to put stickers on.
Finally, this article includes instructions on removing stickers if you no longer want them on your guitar.
Is It Safe to Put Stickers on a Guitar?
If you’ve thought of putting stickers on your acoustic or electric, you’ve probably wondered if the instrument’s resonance will suffer.
This a relevant question especially if you’re thinking of adding a sticker to the top of an acoustic guitar since this is the instrument’s soundboard.
But will applying stickers to the top of an acoustic guitar reduce the vibrations of the wood?
Will it decrease its volume or sustain?
There are several theories on whether or not stickers affect an instrument’s sound.
Let’s find out which ones hold true.
Stickers on an Acoustic Guitar
According to Fender, wood has a “great deal” to do with the sound of an acoustic guitar.
So what happens if you slap stickers on the tonewood?
Fender acoustic product specialist Rodrigo Ibieta says that if there’s any difference at all, it’s “negligible.”
According to the company, anything that can diminish the vibrations through a tonewood can have a negative effect on the sound of the guitar.
However, stickers on an acoustic guitar won’t make a discernible difference.
“Unless you’re layering the guitar in stickers, 99.9% of people won’t notice much of a change in sound,” Ibieta says.
This is the case no matter where you put your stickers: the top, sides, back, or fretboard.
But what if your acoustic guitar has a pickup and you want to embellish it with stickers?
Undersaddle pickups (like the one linked below) might be able to register alteration to the sound of your guitar due to stickers, says Fender.
The good news is that even then, the difference will still generally be indiscernible.
“If you amplify a guitar 10 times you may be able to better hear any slight differences in tone, but I still think we’re in the realm of probably not,” Fender’s Ibieta says.
And you have even less to worry about if your pickups are magnetic.
Any change caused by the addition of stickers will not be transmitted by your acoustic guitar’s magnetic pickups.
Just keep in mind not to cover it with layers upon layers of stickers.
Because then, the transfer of energy from the soundboard will be obstructed by the stickers.
And this could result in a muffled sound.
But we’re talking about layers and layers of stickers which most people aren’t interested in adding.
Stickers on an Electric Guitar
The sound of an electric guitar comes from the vibrations on its strings through the magnetic field from its pickups.
Given this, you can expect an electric guitar’s pickups to have a significant impact on the sound of an electric guitar.
In other words, a guitar can have a totally different sound if you replace its pickups with a different set.
In other words, stickers on the body of an electric guitar are even less likely to alter its sound than those on an acoustic guitar.
You can expect your electric guitar to sound the exact same with stickers on it.
Putting stickers on electric guitar pickups will not likely interfere with the production of sound either.
To illustrate, humbucker pickups can be with or without plastic covers, and not many people can tell the difference in sound.
Can You Put Stickers on a Fretboard?
Whether as decorative inlay-like graphics or visual learning aids, applying stickers (like the ones linked below) to guitar necks and fretboards is a fairly common practice.
Stickers can be a cheap alternative to fretboard inlays and don’t require as much mastery to install.
These stickers are usually of high quality and artistically designed.
Stickers used as inlay alternatives include doves, vines, and trapezoidal designs like those on Gibson guitars.
Some fretboard stickers are so beautifully designed that you may not be able to tell them from actual inlays.
If you place them correctly without causing any bubbles to appear, they can be an excellent addition to your fretboard.
Vinyl stickers can also work as fretboard markers to help with learning the instrument.
They can help you memorize chords and tell you which notes are on which frets or where a new octave begins.
Can Stickers Affect a Guitar’s Playability?
When we talk about a guitar’s playability, we often refer to how good the neck feels and how conducive the fretboard is to playing.
It’s easy to imagine that stickers on a fretboard or elsewhere on the neck could impede your fretting hand’s movement if misapplied.
Layered stickers, in particular, could be too thick, or the edges might inconvenience your fingers while you work your way across the fretboard.
And if a sticker’s texture is particularly uncomfortable to the touch, it might discourage you from playing.
They might also affect your ability to bend strings.
The feeling that something is in the way just doesn’t make for a proper bend.
In short, if you’re looking to put stickers on your fretboard, make sure they won’t make your playing awkward or clumsy.
To that end, try to choose stickers that are not too big and don’t overlap them.
This will reduce the chance of them interfering with your playing.
Also, see to it that the sticker glue won’t be exposed.
Having adhesive residue on your fingers is annoying.
And having sticker adhesive exposed might be hard to avoid when the sticker begins to peel away from the fretboard.
That’s why you really want to make sure that you properly apply the stickers and that the stickers you use are high-quality.
Where to Place Stickers on a Guitar
You can put stickers on most spots of your acoustic or electric guitar.
You can stick them to the top or back of the body, the headstock, or the fretboard.
The most discreet place to attach a sticker is obviously its back.
This way, your sticker is like a hidden tattoo.
Choose this spot if you want to personalize your guitar without attracting any attention.
Meanwhile, the most conspicuous place for stickers on a guitar would have to be its top since it’s the biggest outwardly visible spot.
Statement stickers and band logos are best placed in this area for maximum impact.
Another popular spot for placing stickers is the headstock because it can be modest enough due to its size.
The fretboard is another ideal area to decorate with stickers because of its visibility.
When you’re playing, the fretboard gets a lot of attention.
You can beautify it with custom stickers that could replace the usual dot markers.
They’re a fairly inexpensive alternative to the usual fretboard inlays.
Or if you’re just starting out on guitar, you can use stickers to show the positions of notes on your fretboard.
These will help you familiarize yourself with your guitar’s fretboard.
Removing Stickers from Your Guitar
You put stickers on your guitar to make it more of an extension of yourself.
But there may come a time when the stickers do not resonate with you anymore.
Or maybe a previous owner put stickers on your instrument you don’t want anymore.
Regardless, there may come a time when you want to remove a sticker from your instrument.
In some instances, you can remove a sticker easily and it leaves no residue.
In other instances, removing stickers from a guitar could damage its finish or, worse, the wood if done improperly, the sticker happens to be very low-quality, or the sticker has been on the instrument for a very long time.
For this reason, you probably want to use guitar sticker removal best practices (yes, they exist).
Using the right tools is equally important.
Not only do they make the job easier, but also ensure that the process is without any issues.
How to Safely Remove Guitar Stickers
Removing a sticker requires your chemical agent of choice (more on that below) and a slightly damp towel.
First, soak the cloth with the liquid and press it against the sticker.
When the sticker has absorbed the liquid, the sticker glue will gradually soften.
Once the glue has loosened, you can then remove the sticker gently with your fingernail.
Start from a corner of the sticker and work your way toward the center.
Many stickers will leave a residue on the surface even after you use this method.
But you should be able to get rid of the sticker residue by gently rubbing the cloth soaked in your adhesive removal of choice on the residue until it’s gone.
You can also use a guitar pick to scrape off the residue.
Naphtha, in particular, is a trusted chemical agent for guitar sticker removal.
I’ll take about it more in the following section.
Chemical Agents to Help Remove Guitar Stickers
There are a few different chemicals known for helping remove stickers and sticker residue on an instrument. I’ll list some of the most popular below.
Naphtha is one of the most popular substances to help you peel stickers off guitars.
It has been known to yield good results when it comes to sticker removal.
As a lighter fluid, it is highly flammable.
Not to worry, though, because this substance has been used to remove stickers for a long time.
You can actually also use naphtha to remove rust from the metal parts of your guitar.
Just make sure that you’re not near any open flames when working to keep safe.
Naphtha evaporates quickly, so work accordingly for best results.
If you don’t have naphtha, you may have some WD-40 lying around as it is a common household item.
Although typically used as a lubricant, this chemical compound is also popular for getting rid of sticker residue.
It’s not known for being as effective as naphtha, but if you already have it, you might as well try to remove the sticker with it first.
People have had success with acetone in removing stickers from their guitars.
However, some have reported that it could cause minimal damage to the finish.
Use this if you don’t mind taking a gamble.
Otherwise, use a different adhesive remover.
Like naphtha, acetone is highly flammable and quick to evaporate.
Will removing stickers damage a guitar?
Following best practices in guitar sticker removal and using suitable materials reduce the odds of damage to your instrument.
But there are aspects of sticker removal that may be out of your control and lead to instrument damage like:
- instrument quality (low-quality instruments with low-quality finishes are more prone to problems)
- sticker quality (very old or low-quality stickers can have adhesives that are more likely to cause damage)
- How long the sticker has been on the instrument (the longer it has been on, the more likely there could be problems with its removal)
- how the instrument has been stored (if an instrument has been in direct sunlight for a long time with its sticker in that sunlight, damage or discoloration is more likely).
That said, plenty of stickers come off guitars with no damage at all!
And if you have a problem removing your sticker, feel free to leave a message in the comments below and we’ll see if the community can help!
Conclusion: Is It Okay to Use Guitar Stickers?
Guitar stickers are just another way to personalize your guitar.
They are a fairly inexpensive customization tool and are easy to apply.
They can also help you familiarize yourself with the fretboard if used as markers.
And when you no longer want or need your guitar stickers, you can usually get rid of them safely as if they were never there.
In short, it’s definitely ok to use guitar stickers!
And if you have any other questions about this subject, let me know in the comments below!