Sunburst is a term used by guitar manufacturers for a style of finishing which involves several different colours of paint or stain layered in such a way as to 'burst' from the centre of the guitar to the edge.

A traditional sunburst starts with a yellow/orange/amber tone in the middle and fades to a dark brown or black at the edges of the guitar. Sometimes a red tone is used in between the two, in which case it is known as a 'three tone burst' or a 'triple burst'. Technically speaking these are the only true sunburst finish colours, although similar effects are sometimes used with other colours, in which case the finish is usually referred to as some other kind of 'burst'. Examples include:

  • Tobacco Burst - light brown -> darker brown
  • Silver Burst - silver -> black
  • Blue Burst - turquoise -> dark blue
  • Wine Burst - burgundy -> dark brown

Sunburst stains usually look especially good on guitars with figured maple tops, as it tends to bring the flame/quilt pattern out nicely.

To see a sunburst shimmering in action, check out Gibson Les Pauls (the model that made the sunburst famous) and Fender Stratocasters (with the aforementioned triple burst in some cases).

A sunburst is the pictorial representation of sunlight eminating from a sun, in the form of straight lines radiating out. They are used in simple illustrations, such as children's drawings and paintings, cartoons and
flags from countries like Macedonia and Tibet. Japan's naval ensign and the symbol of the Australian Army also have sunbursts.

Sun"burst` (?), n.

A burst of sunlight.

 

© Webster 1913.

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