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Top 5 guitar finishes companies always get right or always get wrong

What makes or breaks wanting a guitar or not for many is the finish. Now bear in mind "finish" does not mean the same as "paint". For example a "natural finish" obviously isn't a paint. It could be clearcoat to bring out the guitar wood's natural color, or maybe a stain to slightly darken a wood's natural color. So when I say "finish", I'm referring to paints, clearcoats, stains, semi-stains, "burst" style and so on.

Finish #1: Sunburst


Guitar makers always get this RIGHT.

There are probably at least 1,000 different sunburst finishes for guitars. Some are dark, some are light, some use traditional wood color + black while others use silver + blue and a whole host of other combinations.

To the best of my memory, I have never seen a badly-done sunburst finish even on the cheapest of electric guitars. Guitar makers seem to always get this right no matter who the guitar maker is. Even on the Squier Bullet Strat, which is a guitar that sells new for under $125, the sunburst color option is for all intents and purposes a perfect finish.

Finish #2: Green


Guitar makers always get this WRONG.

Okay, well, not wrong 100% of the time. The Epiphone Wilshire "Aged Pelham" finish option is actually a good green, but that's a rare case of where the green actually works.

Green is a very, very difficult color to make look good on an electric. And when I say green and mean a real green like a Stratocaster in Candy Green, seen above. A green guitar is seen to most players as a disgustingly ugly thing because very few guitar makers actually get it right. It doesn't matter if the green is solid, flamed, sparkled, bursted or what-have-you, because most players think it's freakin' ugly.

There are very few greens that players consider to look good. Two examples of good-looking greens are Fender's Surf Green and Gretsch's Cadillac Green.

Just about all other greens suck.

3. Gloss Black


Guitar makers always get this RIGHT.

There is absolutely no way to screw up gloss black. Even with the crappiest quality control when building a guitar, gloss black finishes just about always come out looking right for the simple reason that any missed spot will stick out like a sore thumb because it will be very obvious.

While a gloss black guitar may be a bit on the boring side (unless it's something on the fancier side like the Squier Black and Chrome Strat), you can be rest assured that most of the time the paint will be absolutely correct. In fact, usually the only thing people ever find wrong with gloss black finishes are coating scratches - but never the actual paint itself.

Why do I say gloss black in particular? Because flat black, flamed black and other blacks can be messed up pretty badly - but not gloss black.

4. Blue


Guitar makers always get this WRONG.

Every guitar player at some point makes the mistake of buying a blue guitar. And yes, I've done it too.

There is only one kind of blue for an electric that doesn't suck, and that's a pastel-like blue such as Fender's Daphne Blue. And the only reason Fender (and Squier) can get away with that color is because Fender electric guitar shapes kind of have those curvy car shapes from the 1950s. Yes, I am saying the shape of Fender guitars is what allows Daphne Blue and the similar Sonic Blue to work. Can you seriously imagine a Les Paul in Daphne Blue?

The blue hues that I'm referring to are the darker kind as seen in the photo above. As I said a moment ago, every guitar player at some point makes the mistake of buying a blue electric guitar. The reason for buying the blue axe is always the same in that the player is "trying to be different". Well, different you will be, but the problem is that blue makes a guitar look really cheap no matter how ritzy the electric may be.

Can you name any guitar player off the top of your head that plays a blue guitar? I can't.

Well, there is one good thing about blue. If you ever become a famous guitar player, you can "claim" that color as yours. 🙂

5. Yellow


Guitar makers always get this RIGHT.

The funny thing about yellow electrics is that they suit all genres of music. Metal guys, country guys, blues guys, jazz guys... pretty much all of them play yellow guitars.

And you know what else? Yellow works on any electric. Fender Strats look awesome in yellow. Gibson Les Pauls, while I don't care for them, look awesome in gold (also a yellow). Yellow simply works on any electric. It doesn't matter if it's a bright yellow, a "burnt" yellow, a "faded" yellow (like the Arctic White on my Squier Bullet Strat) or whatever-yellow-it-is because players really dig that color, and so do I.

As for why so many players love the yellow, I couldn't tell you because I don't know. But I do know this: If you've never owned a yellow guitar before, yes it does take a set of balls to buy one because you're not exactly sure if you'll like it or not. Something in your head says "yeah, do it" while another says, "hmm... I don't know what others will think if they see me with that yellow thing".

This is what I can say about yellow guitars from a personal perspective. Finish color matters on a guitar no matter what anyone says otherwise. When playing a yellow guitar, my brain gets "sent" the message to feel relaxed, so I feel more relaxed when playing a guitar with a yellow or yellow-ish finish. With a sunburst finish I get a similar message "sent" to me by the color, but the yellow is always the clear winner as far as what makes me feel the most comfortable when playing.

Yeah, I know, that's weird, but true.

But it's not so weird when you consider the vast majority of acoustic guitars are natural-finish, which of course is a shade of yellow. 🙂

Whether a natural or painted, every guitar player should own at least one yellow-finish electric. Who knows? That yellow guitar might be your absolute favorite once you get one.

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