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

By Bill Jehle

What you'll need:
Transparency film (and a computer with a laser printer),
Matte finish Mod Podge (a water based glue and sealer),
Photomount (spray adhesive),
Waterproof metallic markers/paint pens,
Naphtha (Zippo lighter fluid),

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.

Once you have your design finished, you'll need to print it out reversed, 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.

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.

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.


Step 3: Use Mod Podge as a protective layer.

Now, the problem with the metallic paint is that it dissolves in lacquer and in photomount adhesive. 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, 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. 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 use a spray adhesive. I'm using a photomount spray by 3M.

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.

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 gold decal and use another one which happens to be silver. Ah well, still learning as I go.

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.






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