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How to paint on harp?

  • judy
    judy wong

    Hello harpists, i just bought a second hand Salvi Sinfornietta, and want to paint on the soundboard. Do you have any idea what kind of paint should i use? Anything i need to pay attention to? Thank you very much.

    replies to "How to paint on harp?"
    • Cheryl
      Cheryl Z.

      Hi Judy, 

      The first thing that you would want to do is contact Salvi and find out exactly what kind of finish is on the harp.  This is very important, because you don't want whatever paint you use to slide or peel off of the surface, which it can do if the surface has a slick finish.  Ask if oils or acrylics are ok to use to paint your design on the harp.  Whatever paint you use, see if there is a medium that can be used with the paint, to help it adhere properly or better to the harp surface. 

      Personally, I would NOT sand or remove in any way, the original finish on the harp.  If you use acrylic paint, you will be using water with your paint.  If you use oils, you will be using turp, linseed oil, etc.  The original finish is your best protection from too much water, turp, etc., being absorded into the wood of the harp.  You do not want to get any moisture inside the holes where the strings come out of the harp either. 

      Test everthing you use on scrapwood if you can.  If possible, finish the scrapwood in the same kind of finish as the harp.  Some colors like reds and blues, could stain the finish on your harp, especially if you sand off the original finish.  Once the wood or finish is stained, it is almost impossible to remove.  It is always best to test colors first.  I would not use heat set oil paints either. 

      Do all of your designing on tracing paper.  That way you can really do a mirror image of the design on both sides of the soundboard, if that's what you want to do.  You can use a waxless transfer paper (such as Saral Transfer Paper), to transfer your design from the tracing paper to the harp surface.  Any transfer lines can be removed with a Q-Tip and a little water when using the Saral.  DO NOT use regular carbon paper as a transfer paper. 

      Decide if you want to seal your painting with a varnish or other protective finish.  There are now rub-on protective finishes.  Use what works best with the type of paints you painted your design with.  Depending on what type of paint you used, you may not want to put a finish on the design.  Personally, I would put some kind of protective coat over the finished painting.  1) A proper finish will protect the work you spent all that time painting.  2) A proper finish will bring out the life of the colors, especially if you paint your design with acrylic paints.  Acrylic paints tend to dry dull looking, but when you put a nice finish over the paint, the colors pop back. 

      I can't stress enough to try and work on a sample piece of wood first, if possible. Even if you just do part of a sample design from the first step to the last step, you may save yourself a lot of grief by testing everything first, before you try it on the harp. 

      After you have painted your design, post a picture for all of us to see.  I would love to see your finished design.

    • judy
      judy wong

      Thank you very much!!! Your suggestions are tremedously useful! I will post my harp later after finished. Thank you.

    • Cheryl
      Cheryl Z.

      Your welcome.  Will look forward to seeing your painted harp. 

    • Frank
      Frank Pianki

      Does anyone know where I can purchase some good quality Celtic design decals...I don't have the skills or talent to paint!

    • Kay
      Kay Lister


      Go to harpdecals.com - they have some that are VERY nice looking.