What kind of dye do you mix with Nitrocellulose lacquer in order to achieve a colored or opaque finish? I have been looking into the Guitar Reranch aerosols, but I live in Canada so Reranch color aerosols can't be shipped to me.

Does anyone have any suggestions? I have access to nitro but I am not sure what kind of dye i can mix with it or where to purchase dye in Canada.



Tags: Nitro

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Replies to This Discussion is a good place to start for a comprehensive, accessible and simple approach to finishing supplies and basic techniques.  Rusty.

Stewmac and i would recommend Dan Erilwines book about guitar finishing.

Ian Supplee

If I am wanting an opaque finish I will find a color I like and take a sample of it to Home dep. and have them make a quart of minwax water bace stain of that color put that on let dry over night and lacquer over it. Just my way of doing it . I didn't find Dan's book that helpfull .  I read it once and put it away. I guess i just like to try my own thing. Bill.............

Thanks William, do you simply paint the color on bare wood? You dont mix it with your laquer?

For one of a kind, I use white pigment solvent based paste and mix it with my usual trans dyes.

Hi Pierre-Antoine and members,

Just for the knowledge base - I have a paint chemist for the firm that supplies my nitrocellulose mix my colors and also advise me and supply me with pigment tints etc. Contact me if you need the Australian contact for this firm.  Pierre uses a white pigment tint base which is exactly what I use for white nitro. I use a lot of white nitro and to save having to have separate large drums I just mix the pigment into the clear when required.  

When I need creme I mix a separate yellow pigment (dyes are too bright for a good vintage/smooth creme) into this base and thin accordingly.   I have a range of pigments for variations on this theme.  For solid colors, in particular the Fender colors I send up a color tab from my local paint store or a indicative color cut from the Fender catalogs  (which are mainly old Dulux and similar automotive nitro colors anyway and are still on file) and have them pigment matched and mixed.  Anyway, these are some of the disparate things I have picked up along the way and some other random stuff that may be useful -  

To make black pigmented nitro really jet black (otherwize it appears greyish) mix in some black MEK dye with the paint and shoot the initial finish clears with some black dye tint.   To make basic colors darker or more intense/vibrant mix in some appropriate MEK type dye with the initial clear finish coats and then transition to clear for the scrub and buff coats - this gives depth and shimmer to the finish.

Similarly, to give depth to a painted (pigmented) finish, transition the paint by mixing and shooting  50% clear nitro and then 75% clear (ballpark - do whatever you feel gives the look you want) with the existing paint mix and blend out to full clear for the final scrub coats - gives real depth to the finish and avoids the dull "painted surface" look.   Love colors, especially the vintage Fender stuff - time spent with learning to shoot these is rewarded.  Just some stuff to think about.  Rusty.

Thank you Russell, When you go to your paint store, what type of paint do they make you. If you could tell me a product name or the type of product (acrylic, oil...etc.) that you get made at you paint store that would me much appreciated! Do you mix this color with your lacquer or spray it on by itself after your sealer?   

Im sure you probably had to learn the hard way so your help and the input from everyone here is sincerely appreciated!

Hi Tim, 

The firm that supplies our nitro also supplies the pigments and does the color matching mixing and tinting for us as well.  We use nitrocellulose lacquer and standard nitro compatible pigments for color mixes.   We use a nitro sealer beneath this (which is basically a nitro with some filler in it) but any compatible sealer is probably OK.  We generally use premium thinners (thinners are different - you get what you pay for) and spray a skinny mix (50% thinners 50% lacquer) with high conventional gun pressures in moderate temperatures.....that sort of thing seems to work everytime.

Yes,and we mix these pigments with our nitrocellulose before we spray on the 'solid' color coats and as detailed earlier we also dilute and  mix our color coats with clear nitro to give the finish some depth and durability.

Stewmac basic info and books and their "flow charts" are useful in preventing basic mistakes - learning the hard way sucks - follow the basic instructions and you will get half way to a decent finish - after that its a process of asking the right questions to the right people.  I talk to the people who make the product and pay attention to what they say.  Rusty.

You speak gold Rusty :

talk to the people who make the product and pay attention to what they say

Also, thanks for the solid color to clearcoats tip. I used it on black, but never on other solid colors. I will give it a try!

Hi Russell my name is Peter Walcott I build guitars on the Gold coast in Australia and would love to now a good supplier of pigments in OZ  .

Cheers Pete ( Walcott Guitars )

Try this outfit, I'm pretty sure that StewMac get's some of their stuff here. Including spray cans.

i have a supply of nitro lacquer including the base colors, tint colors, clear, and metallic clear in factory sealed containers if anyone is interested in a purchase of all of it. you can match any existing color or make your own custom color. can be seen at or contact me at


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