How to make a custom logo in one-million, well, 5 easy steps

By Bill Jehle, edited by Dragon

What you'll need:
Printable Transparency film (Available from Office Depot. The kind used for making overhead projections for presentations)
A computer with a laser printer (ink Jet or Dot Matrix will not work well)
Matte finish Mod Podge (a water based glue and sealer) - Available at all art or craft stores. It looks like elmers glue and dries clear.,
Photomount (spray adhesive) - Optional,
Waterproof metallic markers or paint pens,
Naphtha (Zippo lighter fluid),
Lacquer.


Getting Started: Getting creative with your custom logo

I suppose the absolute first thing to do is decide on what you want your logo to look like. I decided to make a logo similar to my favorite Fender Stratocaster™. As for how I did that, I actually took a picture of the headstock of that guitar, copied it to my computer, and used CorelDraw to draw Bezier curves around the Fender logo. Once I had that, I just edited the shape to spell out my name. Adding the extra touches of a serial number and the JELLYCASTER name (based on the most common mispronunciation of my last name) where really done by looking at the headstock and matching the look with some stock fonts. Certain things are in italics, others bold. Here, you can see how my logo evolved. You can make your own logo, but it must be reversed and printed on the transparency so that it is backwards. When attached to the wood, ink side down, it will be correct.


Once you have your design finished, you'll need to print it out reversed as mentioned before, as a mirror image. I printed mine out on paper the first few times just to check the size and to make sure that it fit the headstock well. Paper is cheap compared to the transparencies. Individual transparency sheets are available at most office supply stores behind the copy counter.

Putting Ink on Plastic: Working with mixed media

Step 1: Print out design on transparency

When everything looks good, and everything is spelled correctly (unless you just want a STARTocaster with a CEREAL Number), print out your design reversed on the transparency. I was able to get 16 logos onto one sheet. Note that I used a laserprinter here. I've tried both bubble jet and photocopies onto transparencies with poor results. The inks are prone to dissolve in the following steps or scratch off too easily.



Step 2: Color in logo with paint pens if required.

Okay, time to get the paint pens. Here, I'm using a waterproof metallic marker (by Sanford). It's important to go slowly here. I filled in the letters using a series of small dots. It gives me a little more control and I tend to stay in the lines this way. Once you have the letters colored in, and the ink is dry, you are ready to move on to the next step. Of course, you can use logos that require no fill in.



Step 3: Use Mod Podge as a protective layer.

Now, the problem with the metallic paint and also the laser ink if exposed to any solvent or laquer, is that it dissolves in most lacquers and in photomount adhesives. It also doesn't react well with the gloss finish of Mod Podge. Oddly enough the matte finish Mod Podge does just fine. So, using a small brush or q-tip, I add a layer of matte finish Mod Podge over the metallic paint. If you go over the lines a little, don't worry. It's invisible in the following steps. Once the Mod Podge is dry, the decal remains flexible and is ready for the next step.


Step 4: Attaching the logo to the headstock.

I carefully cut out the logo leaving as much as 1/4" of transparency beyond the design. The transparency serves two purposes. First it's something to print your design on, and second, it keeps things like lacquer from dissolving all of your hard work. So, just to be safe, I leave a little extra around the edge in case some lacquer creeps under. Call me paranoid. Your finish coat of heavy laquer will hide the edge of the decal anyway. I test fit the logo on the headstock next to see if I need to do any more trimming. It's looking good.


To attach the logo to the headstock you can use a very light coat of spray adhesive. I'm using a photomount spray by 3M. I have attached them directly without the adhesive, but the direct coat of laquer without the spray adhesive will tend to make it slide around until dry.

An important note, this stuff is really sticky. Overspray will remain sticky forever and collect dust, small furry animal dander, and potentially unattended children. Well, it's not that bad, but find a suitable place out of the house to spray this stuff. Use a mask around the logo to keep excessive overspray to a minimum.

Another important note, you will need to apply the decal in the early stage of finishing. I had to sand off the existing finish on this neck before applying the decal. Why? This adhesive (surprise surprise) does not stick to an already lacquered neck. I know this now because had to abort my first decal and use another one.

So, using the photomount, I spray both the decal and the headstock. Within 15 seconds, I place the decal on the headstock and press them together. I roll my finger across the top to squeeze out any air bubbles and to get a good bond. It's really easy to accidentally slide the decal before the adhesive sets (about 5 minutes). When the adhesive has set, I clean up the overspray with a little naphtha (Zippo lighter fluid). Don't get over zealous with the stuff. You don't want to remove the decal, just clean up any excess goo.



Step 5: Finishing up

At this point you are ready to finish the guitar as normal. Build up the lacquer slowly at first to avoid softening the adhesive. Again, call me paranoid but I don't want to mess it up now. As the layers of lacquer build up, the line from the edge of the transparency will eventually disappear. And there you have it, a totally custom decal for a one of a kind instrument.


Cool!

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Replies to This Discussion

Nice tutorial. Does the overhead material stay on the head of the guitar, or is it peeled off?

Thanks.

Wade
It stays. You coat right over it. It is actually the base material of the decal. You cant see it, and although it is kind of thick, about the thickness of a sheet of paper, and a few heavy coats of laquer hides it completely. I wish I could find thinner transparency material. I wouldn't need alot of laquer, but I usually put 10 to 15 coats on my headstock and neck so it doesn't matter. I use Minwax spray laquer from Home Depot. Nice shine, dries very fast and mistake proof... You can see one of my logos using this exact method below..

Very cool Ted! Of course, you are 'THE Master!"
I like what the finished process looks like, of course there are probably other ways to do this. I'm gonna try Ted's way. It seems faster...
I have been looking for a way to label my guitar heads for so long. I considered a branding iron, but refused to pay the high cost. This solution is great, Bill. Now I can give my heads the finished, professional look I've wanted. Thank you much for posting it!
Rick,

Take a look at my pictures page at http://www.mojohandguitars.com, and you can see how great this process looks!
John
Wow, Thanks for adding this:)
Bob
Question: if the laser printer is color, couldn't one simply print a reversed image in color and do away with the paint pens?

Thanks for the great Idea. I've been printing labels (Cigar Bands) and lacquering over them. This would be a lot cleaner.

That ends up looking pretty nice. I appreciate the detailed, multi-step process, but have you tried water transfer decal laser paper? Like this: http://www.decalpaper.com/category-s/3.htm

It seems like it might save a couple of steps. I just got some, but haven't tried it yet. I'm planning on basic black line art design that I'll apply after a couple coats of tung oil, followed by a few more coats of tung oil--for the head stock. For paper covered boxes, I was thinking of adding a curved register mark for tone and volume knobs. Then I'd spray with a couple coats of matte lacquer, to protect the decal and the paper covering the box.
That is awesome John! I think I will try it after we get the printer hooked up!

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