Buying a guitar is an exciting time, especially if you’re just starting out on your musical journey. If you’re a beginner, you’re probably going for something basic, like a student edition. Or maybe you’ve done enough practice, and know what you want and need, so you feel justified in splashing out a bit more on a high-end instrument.
Whatever your situation, once all the technical aspects are decided, there’s one major question that leaves almost everyone scratching their head: Which color should I pick?!
There are so many different options to choose from, the choice can feel overwhelming at first. Now, of course, this is largely a personal choice. If you know you want a hot pink axe, get one! If you’re undecided but know you like muted, classic colors, then perhaps a black and white or sunburst is for you.
Let me try and make this easier for you. Here’s a quick rundown of the most popular guitar colors of all time, with a few less common ‘wildcard’ styles thrown in for good measure!
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The good thing about the classic guitar colorways is that they’re instantly recognizable, effortlessly cool, and suitable to just about any band or genre of music you play.
There are many reasons to opt for a classic paint job on your new guitar. They didn’t become classics for nothing – these styles are enduring, timeless, and stylish.
Sunburst is probably the most well-known paint job for a guitar. It’s what comes to my mind when I imagine a guitar, and it’s what many people opt for when it comes to the look of their instrument.
Sunburst can be described as a gradient or gradual fade of two or three colors, with the lightest and most transparent color in the middle, usually to reveal the natural grain pattern of the wood. Towards the outer edges of the guitar, the colors will get darker, usually finishing in dark brown or black around the front edge of the body and back of the guitar.
The different color combinations have different names:
- Vintage Sunburst – this is usually a golden yellow in the middle, fading to black around the edges.
- Cherry Sunburst – this is also golden yellow in the center but fades to a deep cherry red toward the outside.
- Tobacco Sunburst – another golden yellow, this time fading to dark brown for the edges.
- Three-Color Sunburst – golden yellow in the center, which fades through a layer of red, then finishes black around the edge.
Of course, the scratchplate color can vary as well, adding another layer of style to contrast and complement the varieties of sunburst.
All-Black & Black and White
Another favorite, most likely due to its simplicity, and the fact that black goes with everything. There are not many styles of music that don’t suit being played on a classic, all-black guitar.
If you think all black isn’t the look for you, you can always opt for a white scratchplate, and go for the classic black-and-white look.
The great thing about scratchplates (also known as pickguards) is that they are easy to remove and replace with one of a different color, so there is always that option available for customization.
All-White & White Variations
The inverse of the all-black, all-white guitars have maintained their classic status mainly because the colorway is so versatile.
Again, it suits most genres of music, and wouldn’t look out of place among many bands, apart from maybe death metal!
White guitar with a white scratchplate is a clean, sophisticated look. Again, the colorway can be customized via the scratchplate. You can invert the black body and white pickguard, which presents a visually striking style. Alternatively, you can choose a pickguard of any color, as almost anything looks good against a white background.
Red and White
Red and white is a well-loved combo for a guitar color. Most people associate it with the Stratocaster, as played by Hank Marvin.
Most manufacturers have their own unique shades, so it’s worth checking out all the different options available when it comes to a bright, bold color, to make sure it’s definitely what you want.
Other Popular Colors
Aside from the classics listed above, there are literally thousands of other options available when it comes to buying a guitar. Different manufacturers offer their own unique colorways, and some brands have their own custom shops where you can design your entire guitar, right down to the color of the finish.
And if you change your mind, you can always respray the guitar yourself or take it to a spray shop, which will have an even larger range of colors. So the possibilities are nearly endless, and you shouldn’t panic too much about which color is the ‘best’ or ‘right’ for you.
All that matters is that you like it. It’s your guitar after all!
So with that being said, let’s take a look at some other popular colors, so you can get an idea of the range that’s out there.
Of course, there is always the option to have no colored finish applied at all, and choose a guitar in a natural finish. This means that only a clear lacquer finish, either polyurethane or nitrocellulose, is applied to the wood, which highlights the natural shape and color of the grain and textures of the wood.
These things vary massively between pieces of wood, and it means your guitar will be a little bit more special to you.
This can give a sleek, mature, and dignified look to a guitar, and that might be why it’s still such a popular finish.
There is a wide variety of green shades available, and some of them really stand out as a unique and unusual color for a guitar.
Seafoam green is less-common but a very cool color. Bright, eye-catching, and sure to turn a few heads toward the stage. Looks great paired with any color scratchplate, but white gives a clean, cool look.
Similar to seafoam but much lighter and more subtle, surf green suggests more subtlety and style, but still looks cool. Looks great paired with a dark scratchplate, like this tortoiseshell one.
Lake Placid blue sparkles, but at the same time remains dark and sleek. It exudes a mysterious, smoky vibe, and wouldn’t look out of place in a jazz club. Normally paired with white scratchplates, but looks stunning in gold.
Actually fairly similar in hue to surf green, but still just blue enough to call it blue. Cool, slick, and clean. Can be paired with light or dark-colored scratchplates and works well with both.
At the end of the day, whatever guitar you buy, you will end up loving no matter the color. And you’ll soon learn that it has nothing to do with how the guitar itself actually sounds. But it is still important, especially before you buy.
So take your time to pick a color that really suits you, and reflects your playing style and sound. Listen to your heart, and good luck!