There’s nothing quite like a genuine “nitro” finish—for looks, for feel, for tone. Although many other respected manufacturers have moved to easier and more affordable finishing processes over the years, Gibson has always used nitrocellulose lacquer on all of our American-made guitars. Nitro entails a more time-consuming and labor-intensive finishing process, and it costs more as a result, but we feel it simply yields a better finish. You can get a very good finish with other compounds and other processes, but we want a great finish every time. It’s as simple as that.

Part of the mystique surrounding nitrocellulose lacquer is that this was the finish used by Gibson, and many other classic makers, in the heyday of the electric guitar, the 1950s and early ’60s. That’s true, but we’ve maintained the practice ever since, not only because it’s historically accurate, but because the results yield a superior look, feel, and tone by any standards—historic or contemporary.

Today, however, Gibson Custom is nailing all facets of historic and contemporary finishes by using a range of nitrocellulose processes to suit different requirements, with outstanding results in all cases. The result of this, taken as a whole, is that you are much better able to find a Gibson Custom instrument that perfectly fits your needs as a player or collector. Whether it’s the superbly accurate gloss or aged-gloss finishes on our True Historic models (which are more vintage-correct than ever before), the evocative VOS process used on Standard Historic and other vintage-inspired models, or the gleaming high-gloss nitro applied to Modern Era guitars and as another option on Standard Historic models, you’ll find a finish that’s superbly in tune with the look, feel, and ethos of every Gibson Custom that comes out of the factory.

High Gloss Nitrocellulose Lacquer

This is what most guitarists are likely to recognize as a contemporary “nitro finish,” and it represents high-quality workmanship on some of our most popular models. Several thin coats of lacquer are hand-sprayed onto the guitar, allowing ample drying time in between, then laboriously buffed to a hard, high-sheen finish. The results not only look gloriously elegant, but they allow the wood of the guitar to “breathe” and resonate freely, and they also age naturally and beautifully with time and use. This is the finish you’ll find on from our Modern Era and Limited Run collections and others—anything from a Les Paul Axcess Standard, to a Flying V Custom, to the Joe Bonamassa Bonabyrd. Also, for those who prefer reissue-style guitars with a like-new gloss finish, High Gloss is also available as an option on our Standard Historic models.

Gibson finishes

Gibson finishes

VOS (Vintage Original Spec) Finish

Our acclaimed VOS finish is also uses genuine nitrocellulose lacquer, and it starts with several thin hand-sprayed layers to build up a hard, breathable “coat”. Rather than complete the effort with the same buffing as our High Gloss finish, however, Gibson Custom uses a unique proprietary process to give the VOS a glowing, gently-aged patina that you’d swear you can almost feel as well as see. The result is a guitar that looks and feels like an instrument from the golden era—one that has been lovingly cared for, while naturally exposed to the gentle mellowing that time brings, without actually being distressed or physically hand-aged. This is the finish that was used for many years on Gibson Custom’s Reissue models, and which now comes as a popular option our Standard Historic guitars, and some others.

True Historic Vintage Gloss Finish

The process used on our True Historic models represents the most accurate “as we did it in the ’50s” finish that Gibson has applied to guitars since, well, the ’50s. It begins with the most historically accurate formulation for nitrocellulose lacquer that we can acquire, applied in several extremely thin layers that are allowed to dry fully, before being strenuously wet-sanded by hand to a thin, hard gloss. After this, the process is repeated, and repeated again, until the final result yields a superbly thin, high-sheen finish that enhances every subtle vibration of the guitar in use, while ageing in an extremely appealing way.

Gibson finishes

True Historic Aged Finish

An option on all of our True Historic guitars, the Aged Finish is first completed exactly as the True Historic Gloss Finish, above, before being gently and carefully hand aged to represent various states of natural and realistic playing wear.

Gibson finishes

These guitars are not “dinged up” or “dragged around”, but are artfully antiqued by trained craftsmen at Gibson Custom, with levels of aging applied to accurately represent existing vintage Gibson guitars that have been lovingly used for 50 to 60 years, but never abused. Similar techniques are used on our esteemed Collector’s Choice™ and artist replica guitars, but in these cases we apply hand aging to carefully match the wear levels and characteristics exhibited by the original collectors’ and artists’ guitars that are represented.

Gibson finishes

In the end, the selection of finishing process used by Gibson Custom to complete any of our guitars represents our ultimate effort to render that instrument in the style that we feel its eventual owner will most appreciate. All of these finishes will age naturally and beautifully with time and playing, too, so your great Gibson Custom will become more and more “yours” as you use it. Get your hands on any of these models at your nearest Gibson Custom dealer, and see, feel, and hear exactly what any of our several select nitrocellulose finishes can do for you and your music.

Gibson finishes