This is a quick instructable on how I sticker bombed a guitar.
I had an old explorer style guitar that I got from a pawn shop. The previous owner had started a refinish on the neck but never finished so the neck needed to be refinished. Since the guitar body was just boring black I spent years trying to decide how I should refinish it. I tried some experiments masking areas to spray different patterns but never had it work out. I'd previously done a pickguard and control covers with collages from comic books so I decided to give a whole guitar collage a try.
Using stickers is a really easy way to refinish a guitar, you don't have to worry about wrinkles or pictures desticking as you would with a regular collage. the clear coating process is also more forgiving since there are a lot of images and lines, scratches or brush strokes don't appear as obviously.
I also made a quick gif of how I put the stickers on the guitar, included in step 3!
Step 1: Gather Materials
The first step is always to gather up your materials and tools.
I had an old guitar sitting around I used. you could use this method on anything you wanted. it's especially good on something where the finish is already damaged since the stickers can cover up some amount of damage.
2) lots of stickers.
I gathered lots of stickers to use but ended up mostly using ones from a book I bought called "sticker bomb" by studio rarekwai. It kept the theme constant across the guitar which helped it look consistent and there was more than enough stickers of various sizes to do the whole guitar easily
3) Clear coat
you need something to protect the stickers once they're all stuck down. clear coat will make sure the edges of the stickers don't lift up and help make them all appear level with one another. the project will look much much better with clear coat than without. I used brush on polyurethane.
knife/scissors - to cut the stickers around the tuner holes, neck pocket, control cavities etc.
sandpaper - fine grits to level the clear coat between coats
brushes/sprayer - to apply the clear coat, I just used a brush. you'll have to do a bit more sanding with a brush than sprayed, but it didn't take very much work to get it looking good.
Step 2: Prepare Guitar
The next step is to get your guitar or other object ready for stickers. if it's a guitar remove all the parts so you just have a bare neck and body. I had sanded the neck of my guitar to bare wood since the previous owner had a half clear coated/ half unfinished paint finish job on the neck. I also gave the body a light sanding just to ensure the stickers would adhere well but I don't think it's necessary. make sure whatever you're going to sticker bomb is dust free before you start.
Step 3: Sticker Bomb!
next up is the fun part! sticker bombing!
I started with larger stickers than filled up the space between them with smaller ones. have fun with it!
to make your life easier for leveling the clear coat try not to make the layers of stickers very different from one region to another. try to avoid having regions where there's 5+ layers if there's other spots where there's only 1. I'm sure it will be fine if there are areas with a lot of stickers and others where there's less, but you might have to do more layers of clear coat to make it look even after the fact.
I sticker bombed the body of the guitar and the headstock. I left the back of the neck without stickers since I thought any roughness there would be irritating when you played the guitar.
once you're happy with how it looks you can take your knife or scissors and cut the stickers so you can put all the parts back on when you're done. for this guitar there was a bridge hole, two humbucker spots, the tremolo cavity and control cavity on the back and the neck pocket. on the headstock I sticker bombed it ignoring the tuner holes then used an x-acto knife to cut the stickers out from the holes after I was done.
Step 4: Clear Coat!
once the stickers are on and cut away from the holes you can move to clear coating.
I would strongly advocate to test the clear coat on some stickers not on the guitar first to make sure they don't dissolve, smear or react with the clear. I put a couple on a steel water bottle first then gave it some clear to make sure it didn't react.
I used an old wire hangar to hang up the guitar in my garage and just brushed on some clear coat then let it dry. once it was dry I gave it a light sanding with some fine grit paper to get the brush strokes out then gave it another coat of clear coat. I did this about 5 times until I was happy with how it looked.
try not to get clearcoat in the neck pocket or on the neck where it touches the neck pocket or it will make reassembly more difficult. it's not the end of the world if you do, but it might mess up the angle the neck attaches to the body, and you'll have to do more work to get the guitar set up properly
you also probably don't want to get clearcoat on the fretboard if you're doing this to a guitar that was already finished.
Step 5: Re-assemble Guitar
once the clear coat is all dry you can reattach the neck and put all the parts back on the guitar.
In my case I had to wire in new pickups too. soldering guitar electronics is pretty simple, there are lots of instructables that describe how to do it quite well. If you're just putting the parts back in that you took off it should still be set up pretty well, I had to do a bunch of work to get it playing nicely since I was using a new bridge and nut but it was pretty easy.
once you're all tuned up you can give it a play! you're done!