Vintage Gretsch Guitars

Color Codes for “Smoke Green”?


Hello folks,

New here, with a question. I have always loved Gretsch's smoke green color scheme as used on the Anniversary guitars.

I am attempting to have a gentleman paint a guitar for me in this scheme - can anyone provide color codes for the two tones of green used by Gretsch?

Thanks for any help you can offer.

Regards, DeWayne


My first post here years ago concerned this very topic. I ended up mixing the colors myself, but some ideas were bandied about. I seem to recall a '58 Plymouth or Pontiac being mentioned, but it wasn't clear that both colors came from the same two-tone car.

Unfortunately, there was a server crash here and all of that was lost. But since then, ace Gretsch repair man Curt Wilson has come on board. His background is in automotive finishes, and I would not be surprised if he can give you an answer. It's more likely that he'll give you a range of answers; both colors appear to have a lot of variation over time. I think the codes themselves were never found, so his only source of information may be actual guitars that he's seen in his shop.

It would be easy to do a spectroscopic analysis of a current production Gretsch, but no one seems to think the current colors are super-accurate. The darker back and side color seems much too light to me. I don't think spectrometry does a very good job at detecting the size and density of metallic particles in a finish, either. These are conspicuous in the darker green color in some vintage examples but entirely absent in others, the theory being that they had a tendency to settle in the paint containers at the factory.


If you really want to raise a ruckus, ask about Cadillac Green!


Curt can definitely help you here - I speak with experience...


As I recall, weren't the finishes just regular duco colors of the day? I know for a fact fender was. Seems to me if you can just get the name of the corresponding auto paint color a recipe will be available.


I have the formula, I’ll check tomorrow to see if I altered it or not.


Tremendous, thanks all - and thanks, Curt, I will stay tuned!



Actually, I forgot that I had a local paint store mix me a can of the light green in acrylic lacquer. The code I used is DDL42210, but I think it's a little off -- too much white and not enough yellow. I still have some. I think I based it on the speculation about car colors in my old thread. Curious to see what Curt has and where he got the info.


Am I correct in saying that there's no primer on any of the old Annies, Curt?


Judging from the worn spot on the back of this '58 Double Anniversary, looks like no primer beneath the paint, as you said.



Am I correct in saying that there's no primer on any of the old Annies, Curt?

– seadevil

Yeah they didn’t use any primer, nitrocellulose lacquer adheres well to maple and so does stain on the gents and others.


Vintage Fender guitars switched to Lucite when acrylic lacquer was proven to be more durable. As far as my Gretsch color hunting goes, they never used actual car color formulas. Dupont sold small agitating machines so shops could mix their own paint in house. I believe that Gretsch wanted colors that couldn't be duplicated easily so the found something close to what they wanted and then started adding tints documenting the additions and came up with their own colors. The mixing process for automotive paint isn't anything like house paint. Here's one of the small machines.


Here are the Annie formulas that I matched to a 58.


The word used is on there because I mixed several different colors and found these to be the best match.


Wow, what a treasure of information! Thanks so much, Curt! That's one for the archives, or a sticky or something.

Regards, DeWayne


I know I sound like a broken record referring to color names. Garnet Red has over 80 completely different colors attached to its name. Color names are like street names, every town in America has a Dubois Ave and I'm not opening up the pronunciation worm can.

Color codes people, that's the standard. Code 36 on a 78 GM has three different names, all the same color but different names. It's like going to 36 Dubois ave. in the wrong town, it doesn't mean you're in the right place.


There was one store that would mix lacquer here in Brooklyn, and they stopped. That paint's from 2011; is that store still open and mixing lacquer? If not, who is?


ha, that was my store. That's a product called ChromaPremier which has the same characteristics as lacquer and isn't cheap, those are wholesale prices 10oz = $50.00. Two coat color coverage with extremely minimal film build, air flash not chemical. Then I follow that with nitrocellulose lacquer clear.

The store in Brooklyn was probably mixing acrylic lacquer which I was still mixing until 2005. The problem with Duco and Lucite was its lead content and when that was removed the product lost its durability.


I've long suspected that lead was the biggest difference between old lacquers and new ones. Thanks for confirming that.


But keep in mind the new basecoat products are better than either lacquer ever was with less film build, weight and durability.

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