Written by Bobby
In this roundup we're pulling together acoustic guitars with designs from a variety of brands and series. For special or custom models, or sometimes as part of a larger brand trend, certain guitar builders will make acoustic guitars with a unique, artistic design.
Since they're often a bit hard to find, I've pulled them all together in one place for easy browsing.
If you know of one that I missed, please feel free to drop it in the comments section and I'll consider adding it to the list.
In the mean time, let's talk a little more about what constitutes an acoustic guitar design.
Read more: Best acoustic guitars
What constitutes a design?
How are we defining an acoustic guitar design?
To a certain degree this is up to interpretation. Personally, I would argue that a design includes any of the following:
- Design on the pickguard
- Extensive fretboard design
- Design on the body
And what form do these usually take? They can be anything from fancy inlays, to wood-burning or painting.
- Permanent stickers
Note that most fretboard designs in acoustic guitars are fairly small, which means I don't include all fancy or creative inlay designs. The designs that sort of "take over" the neck are the ones I'm most interested in.
Guitar Brands that Typically have Designs
What about brands and larger scale production of acoustic guitars with designs?
By far, Luna is the most active acoustic guitar manufacturer when it comes to producing guitars with designs on them.
Gibson, Taylor, and Epiphone also have a few acoustics out, but they aren't nearly as committed to this as the Luna series. For those wanting an acoustic guitar with a design on it, Luna should be your first stop.
If there are boutique acoustic guitar brands that I don't know of that produce acoustic guitars with designs, feel free to drop those in the comments section as well.
This list is not meant to be any kind of ranking or review.
I've simply listed the acoustic guitars I've been able to find that have some kind of design on them, regardless of other features present.
However, I also didn't see anything particularly low in quality or reputation. These guitars are from brands I know and trust, so it's likely safe for you to make a decision based primarily on the design you like and the aesthetic appeal.
Epiphone Hummingbird Pro
Gibson Acoustic 1960 Hummingbird
Epiphone Dove Studio
Gibson Acoustic Orianthi SJ-200
Washburn Bella Tono Allure SC56S
Taylor TS BT Taylor Swift Signature
Taylor K22ce 12-fret V-Class
Luna Henna Paradise
Martin 00L Fly Fishing
Luna Henna Dragon
Takamine Kenny Chesney
Luna Henna Oasis
Martin 00L Earth Acoustic Guitar
Luna Flora Rose
Luna Vista Wolf
Gibson Acoustic Doves
Luna Safari Starry Night Travel Guitar
Luna Safari Peace Travel Guitar
Luna Safari Bamboo Travel Guitar
Luna Vista Deer
Martin DX Woodstock 50th Anniversary
DIY Acoustic Guitar Design Ideas
If you don't buy an acoustic guitar with a design already on it, there are some DIY options for putting your own artistic spin on an "ordinary" acoustic guitar.
I wouldn't recommend this for a guitar that you're particularly attached to, or that is extremely nice, expensive, or well made. However, it can make for a fun project if you have an acoustic guitar that is cheaper, doesn't get a lot of use, or is otherwise expendable.
Here are a few things you can try.
Wood Burning Kit
A lot of designs in acoustic guitars are made with a wood burning kit, which is sort of like a tattoo for wooden products.
The kits usually have a number of attachments and stencils included, and look something like this:
You need to be sure of your design because you can't undo marks made by a wood burner. Once you commit, it's there to stay. There might also be some difference in the reaction to the wood burner depending on the type of finish you have on your acoustic guitar.
Consider sanding your guitar down first, then doing the wood burning before re-finishing the wood.
Again, I wouldn't recommend doing this to an expensive acoustic.
Try it on something cheap that you don't mind messing up.
One of the less permanent methods of styling your acoustic guitar is stickers, which have long been a popular option for pros and amateurs alike. Personally, I don't like putting stickers on my guitar, but if you want to add some of your own creativity, it's a safe and less permanent way to do so.
Keep in mind, sticker residue can stick to an acoustic guitar, even after you've tried to remove it.
It's also not technically a "design" in the strictest sense of the word, because it's not something you draw or create on your own. But it's a low-risk and low-cost investment in the aesthetics of your acoustic guitar.
Does the finish matter?
For stickers, the finish on a guitar shouldn't have a lot of impact one way or another. I would not recommend sanding before doing stickers, because the stickers will probably work better on a glossy surface instead of the bare wood grain.
Your last option is to paint your acoustic guitar, which might be the trickiest of the three options. The problem is that painting a guitar that has already been sealed with lacquer isn't going to paint the wood grain but will instead just cover over the lacquer or finish of the acoustic guitar.
In order to properly paint any kind of guitar, it's best to sand it down first, which can be a fairly significant undertaking.
This article covers it in a fair amount of detail.
If you decide to go the painting route, I'd recommend doing a decent amount of research first and work on getting your guitar's body sanded. You'll need to refinish the body and paint your design, which is beyond the scope of this article.
Just make sure you take your time, do your research, and get it right.
What kind of tonewood is best for painting?
Lighter tonewood, with a less dense grain tends to work better for painting. Though laminate is also a good painting candidate. You can also look at doing your own stain, which is also better in lighter wood with less density.
Difference between Designs and Custom Acoustic Guitars
While researching acoustic guitars with designs, I ran into a lot of sites that used the term "custom acoustic guitars" alongside "design". While I don't think the intent is to use the terms interchangeably, it was a bit confusing.
To make a clear distinction, custom acoustic guitars usually means that they are custom built.
This may or may not have anything to do with an aesthetic design.
I would define "designs" as any kind of artistic pattern or image on the body, pickguard, or - on occasion - the guitar's neck.
Otherwise, I'd understand "custom" as referring to an aspect of the guitar's construction.
If you know of an acoustic guitar model that comes with a body design, feel free to drop it in the comments section below. I'm sure there are some boutique brands that I've missed, outside of Luna Guitars and Gibson. Since design-specific guitars aren't often advertised, it's a bit hard to spot them or know where to look.
With community help, hopefully we can continue to add to this list, expand it, and make it more comprehensive.
Other questions and comments about the guitar's we've listed are welcome there as well.