Whether you need an emergency pick, want to personalize your collection, or just wish to save some money, we have seven easy, fun ways of how to make a guitar pick. From projects that require absolutely no effort to those that are free, we have ideas for everyone!
1. Get a Pick Punch
Effort Level: Almost no effort required
Hole punchers are a commonplace tool for many households and offices. If you have ever enjoyed craft projects, you’ll know that numerous stores also sell hole punchers that cut fun, creative designs like a heart, dog, or star out of paper.
Now, take that same idea, but imagine using a hole puncher to cut out a perfectly sized guitar pick. Yup, it can be that easy!
A pick punch is a small tool that easily cuts through thick material so you can create guitar picks out of almost anything. You can try on some of the heaviest cardstock, old library cards, or even your expired credit cards.
The only monetary investment you need to make is a one-time purchase on the pick punch; you’ll probably be able to find the materials to use around your house or in your old wallet.
2. Cut up Some Cards
Effort Level: Some effort
Cost: No cost
One of the best things to use with the pick punch is an old credit card (or any card that is relatively thick and durable). However, if you are looking for the cheapest way of how to make a pick – or if you can’t find a pick punch near you – there is another way to make a pick out of those old gift cards you never used.
Get a pair of scissors, a marker, sandpaper if you have it, some masking tape, and – of course – the cards.
When choosing what cards to turn into a pick, get a bit creative! Which ones have interesting colors? Do any have a captivating image that would look cool on a pick? Also, don’t forget to consider the flexibility of the card. If you like a firmer pick, look for a thicker option, like a credit card.
Now, gather the cards you’d like to use and get started!
Take one of your old picks and lay it on top of the card where you would like your new one to be. Use the marker to trace an outline around the pick. Then, simply cut along the line.
Since the plastic can be a bit sharp when cut, rub the edges of the new pick along the sandpaper to smooth any rough parts. This part is especially vital because you don’t want to damage your guitar strings.
If you are lucky enough to have some cards with rounded edges, make sure the point of the pick is on one of the edges, so you don’t have to sand it down as much.
The final step is optional. If you need more traction on the pick so it doesn’t slip out of your fingers, put a small piece of tape on the top where you hold the guitar pick. If you don’t want to compromise your pick’s look, you can leave the tape off.
While this process involves a bit more work than just using a pick punch, it is simple enough that you don’t need to buy anything.
3. Repurpose Things Around Your House
Effort Level: Low to no effort
Cost: No cost
We’ve already looked at how to repurpose those old credit cards you don’t use anymore, but that’s not the only thing you can use to make a guitar pick. More than likely, you have numerous items around the house that can serve as a pick.
First of all, open up that wallet again. This time we’re not going to use the credit cards, but the coins. Pick out a quarter or nickel that fits well in your fingers, and that’s it! You’re ready to play!
Keep in mind, though, that you shouldn’t use coins as guitar picks all the time since they can be hard on your strings and cause you to need to clean the strings often. Still, if you’re in a bind and need a pick, a coin can do the trick!
Another option is an old sim card. If you don’t have an old one lying around or in the infamous junk drawer, don’t worry about taking the sim card out of your phone. However, if you happen to have one you’re not using, it could make a great pick.
If you don’t want to use items that may be too hard for your strings, consider cutting a pick out of some plastic objects. This way, you can choose the firmness. For example, a Pringles can lid could make the ideal pick for those who like a softer option. Likewise, you can cut a stiffer pick out of a plastic container or a bottle top.
When you cut a pick out of plastic, follow the same process we discussed for the credit card picks. Always make sure to smooth out the edges – for the sake of your fingers and your strings.
If you don’t have any of the above objects, take a look around you and look for something that you can turn into a pick. If you’re desperate for a pick, you can use virtually anything – just make sure the firmness is the right fit for you!
4. Stylize an Old Circuit Board
Effort Level: Some effort
Cost: No cost
If you’d like to make an incredibly unique and beautiful guitar pick, this option is perfect for you. Since circuit boards are colorful with interesting-looking paths running across them, they can make an appealing – and effective – guitar pick.
To get started, you’ll need an old circuit board. If you tinker with computers, you may have one lying around. However, if you do not, you can ask around or look for scrap parts online at a low price. If you can find a thin piece, it will be easier for you to cut it.
Once you’ve located a circuit board, gather a pencil, an old pick, snips or scissors, and a file. Place the pick on the circuit board where you would like to cut your new one, and use the pencil to outline it. Next, take your snips or scissors and cut the pick out.
Since a circuit board is quite durable, your new pick will likely be an awkward shape with sharp edges at first. So, get out your file and start reshaping it. Smooth down the edges until it is the correct shape and will not harm your guitar strings.
Once you have a beautiful pick, you can add one more step to give it a stunning finish. Take some sandpaper, preferably not too rough, and rub it over the surface until the copper shines through, adding the perfect finishing touch.
5. Reuse Those Old CDs
Effort Level: Some effort
Cost: No cost
If you’re not sure where to get old circuit boards but think making a guitar pick out of repurposed electronics is awesome, pull out those old CDs you have stored in the back of your closet.
Whether they’re blank or covered in the image of your favorite band’s album, the final result can be quite attractive. Plus, CDs are the perfect middle ground between too firm and too flimsy, so they make durable picks with a touch of flexibility.
To cut out your pick, follow the same steps listed above for the other materials. Try and make the edge of the CD one of the pick’s edges, so it is smooth and rounded.
Also, be extremely careful when cutting because the CD can easily snap and hurt you with sharp edges.
Once you have cut your pick out and sanded down the edges, you can add a personal touch with a marker. Draw a cool design on the pick if it is a blank CD, or decorate the back if one side already has a design.
6. Get Crafty with Some Wood
Effort Level: Significant effort
Cost: Low cost if you have the tools available
While this project may not be the easiest, the result is stunning, so we had to include it. Plus, if you enjoy working with wood and have some tools in your garage, this project could be a blast for you.
The general process is the same as our previous options, but you will need a few different tools. Before you get started, make sure you have a saw, chisels, sanding blocks, and a wood finish.
The best option would be small pieces from a fruit tree for the wood due to their durability. Before you go and buy wood at your local hardware store, ask your neighbors or your local tree trimmer for any scraps they may have.
The first step is to cut the wood into thin pieces, measuring 1/16 to 1/8 of an inch. Base the thickness on the flexibility of the wood and your preferred pick flexibility. If you cut your wood to a ⅛ of an inch slab and feel it is too thick or too firm, reduce the thickness.
Next, outline the pick on a piece of wood. If the section has any grain patterns, choose where to draw the outline based on what would look the nicest.
Use your chisel to remove the excess wood slowly. Work carefully so you can closely follow the outline without splitting the wood. Ideally, you’d use various sizes of chisels – the biggest for the initial cuts and the smallest to cut around the curves.
You won’t be able to get the sides completely smooth with chisels, so the next step is to get out your sanding blocks or sandpaper. Start with a low grain and work your way up to softer sandpaper.
Once you have a beautifully smooth pick, soak it in water to bring out the grain patterns even more. Leave it to dry, and then apply your chosen finish. Give it ample time, so the oil truly absorbs into the wood, then wipe the pick clean.
Voila! You have a beautiful hand-made guitar pick!
7. Personalize Your Picks
Effort Level: Significant effort
Cost: Some low costs
Even though you can make some unique pick designs with a credit card, circuit board, or CD, they might not be exactly what you’re looking for. As such, here are a few ways to personalize your pick and make them entirely your own.
One way to give a pick a personal touch is by putting a picture on the pick. You can make one with an image of your family, your dog, or even your favorite musician in just a few short steps.
First, cut out a pick using one of the methods above. It doesn’t matter if you use a pick punch or cut one out of your credit card by hand – just make sure it is the right size and shape.
Next, choose and print your photo. It may be difficult to predict what size of the picture will fit perfectly on the pick, so print out a few options. If possible, print your images out at your local photo center to ensure they are high-quality and on durable paper.
Cut out a few and try placing them on your pick to see how they fit. Once you pick the right size, trace the pick one the image, and cut out the section you will use. Add some mod podge to the pick, place the image in the correct spot, then apply mod podge on top. Then, add some diamond glaze over the image to give it a professional look.
Add Some Color
If you would like an outlet for your creative side, you can also personalize your pick by decorating the surface. Whether you cut the pick from a CD or library card, you can still make it 100% your own.
Take some paint or nail polish and start covering the surface with your desired color and design. Try one solid color, a swirl, or even a checkered pattern. At the end of the day, this is your pick – so give it a design that represents you!
Use Unique Papers
Another option is to pull that mod podge back out and cover the entire pick with paper. Take bits of newspaper, sheet music, or even pages from your favorite book and apply them to the pick. Make sure to add the finish so that the paper won’t chip or peel as you play the guitar.
Customize it With Writing
A final idea for personalization is to add words to your pick. Yes, a pick is extremely small. But if you have a steady hand, you can add a name, initials, or an inspirational phrase. Before doing so, make sure the pick is completely smooth. If you used a credit card or plastic, you might want to paint over the material for a clean look. Then, add the words with a marker that won’t bleed (do a test beforehand).
For those of you that don’t have the best writing, you can find a phrase in the newspaper or a book. Cut out the portion you would like to use, and then mod podge it to the pick.
Things to Consider When Making a Pick
There are a few things you should consider when learning how to make a guitar pick.
- Perhaps the most crucial factor is the feel and flexibility of the material. Since these picks don’t have a predetermined firmness rating, you will need to test the pick and see how it feels. For example, before cutting into a credit card, try bending it or playing a few chords with it to see how it works for you.
- You may not want to use these DIY picks all the time. While some options may be almost like the real thing, they could change your playing or even harm the strings. If you’re looking for a long-term pick, make sure to choose a durable material and sand the sides down enough.
- Make several picks! Don’t just cut one out of a credit card – use the whole thing. That way, you have back-up picks in case you lose one.
- Experiment to see what works for you and your guitar-playing style. While some people may love playing with a coin, that may be too stiff for others. Try various materials and explore which ones enhance your playing.
- If worse comes to worst, your fingers can make a great pick! This is called fingerpicking your guitar. You don’t always need to scramble to find an emergency option.
As the Head Editor at Music Grotto, Liam edits content produced from over 30 professional music/media journalists and contributing writers. He works closely with journalists and other staff to format and publish music content for the Music Grotto website. Liam is also the founding member of Music Grotto and is passionate in disseminating editorial content to its readers.