How To … Paint Your Case (Part 1)

11/19/2012 9:07:41 AM

Painting your case is a fantastic way to make it stand out. Antony Leather shows how to achieve the perfect finish, and even add custom details

Even if you've never used a spray can before, painting your case isn't as daunting as it seems. With a little practice and planning, you'll be able to paint your case any colour you like. The end result can be spectacular, but it's also very easy to end up with a case that looks far worse than when you started. If you want to avoid this, then our start-to-finish guide looks at all the steps you should be taking.

Whatever your case's size, you can achieve a great paintjob as long as you have enough space. We'll also discuss the best ways to spray specific case parts, and what to do if you prefer to have someone else do this job. Whether you're looking to add some pizzazz, or want your case to have a specific colour scheme, this guide will show you how to do it.

1.    Choose your colours

Description: Description: Description: Choose your colours

It’s worth experimenting with your chosen colour first using small spray cans before investing in full-sized cans. You’ll also need some spare test material to see how the colour will look when it dries. Alternatively, you can use Google SketchUp (http://sketchup.google.com) to render your case and apply different colours - check http://scc.jezmckean.com to see if your case has already been rendered.

2.    Prepare your work area

Description: Description: Description: Prepare your work area

You won’t be popular if overspray ends up on someone’s plant pots, so if you’re spraying outside, use a dust sheet with room on either side to catch stray paint-it also helps to tape the sheet against a wall and secure it to the ground. Your spraying area’s location is key to obtaining a good finish too; avoid grassy areas, as these harbor insects and loose particles that can become trapped in the paint work. Good ventilation is also important, as is a face mask.

3.    Make a spray booth

Description: Description: Description: Make a spray booth

If you’re limited for space, you could buy or even make your own spray booth. Cardboard makes an excellent booth material, and a booth can be constructed using old boxes and duct tape. This could even be equipped with an extractor fan to remove fumes and excess paint if you have no option but to spray indoors. A booth is a great way of dealing with over spray, while also protecting your items from dust and insects.

4.    Select your paints

Description: Description: Description: Select your paints

You’ll need three types of spray paint. Primer acts as an undercoat – using a white primer will make lighter colours such as red or yellow appear punchier, while a darker primer is better for dark blues and blacks. Use gloss paint for a shiny finish, or satin or matt paint for a muted shine. Finally, the lacquer adds a layer of protection to your paint and enhances the shine. You should apply all the coloured coats before the lacquer.

5.    Dismantle your case

Description: Description: Description: Dismantle your case

If you don’t want to paint some parts, such as grilles and buttons, remove these prior to painting. You could mask them, but it’s far easier to remove them, as you’ll end up with much easier surfaces to spray. Power and reset buttons, as well as ports and switches, can be tricky to mask properly, but they’re usually removable. You may need to detach your case’s front fascia first, however.

6.    Remove the rivets

Description: Description: Description: Remove the rivets

If you plan to spray your case’s insides then dismantle it completely, as it’s otherwise tricky to avoid the paint running in the corners. You’ll need to drill out the rivets that hold the various sections together, enabling you to lay them out for easy spraying. You’ll then need to purchase a rivet gun and new rivets to put the case back together. Look out for a full guide on how to do this next month.

7.    Wash the case

Description: Description: Description: Wash the case

You’ll need to wash your case before you start, especially if it isn’t new. Anything that’s stuck to it – tea or coffee stains, dust or unseen grime – can have a negative effect on your paint work, and even sanding it might not get rid of all the dirt. First, remove any electronic equipment, such as PCBs, and then use a sponge and washing-up liquid with plenty of water to clean every part of the case that needs to be painted.

8.    Sand the case

Description: Description: Description: Sand the case

Sanding your case before painting provides a smooth base for the paint, and removes grease or silicon left behind from the manufacturing process or cleaning products. These can cause horrible finishes, as the paint won’t settle properly. You’ll need fine- grit wet and dry sand paper, and lots of water. The higher the grit number, the less coarse the paper; you’ll need between 1,000 and 1,600-grit for a smooth finish.

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