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Hey everyone! So in this little tutorial I'm going to show you how to add a little colour to your phone, and make it a device that's really personalised for you. It only requires a couple of materials which you probably already have, and can change how your phone looks forever (or until you decide to change things up and paint it again!)

Step 1: A Little Bit of Background..

So I originally made this project for the Seeed Phone contest, although it has been an idea that's been in my head for quite some time. In terms of exterior design, modern day phones seem to be getting a little boring and a little too similar.. If I could #rethinkphone , I would design something with a little more user customisability, (ie. plenty of options for colours, textures and materials for using on each part of the phone). That way, everybody's phone (that plays such an important role in their everyday life) could be really personalised and tailored for their liking, which in turn would make them appreciate their phone a little more.

However, since no phones seem to offer the level of customisability, I've come up with a little fix for this issue so you can pimp your phone out!

Step 2: Figuring Out What to Paint

So before you start anything the first thing to figure out is what to paint. This factor really depends on the phone. But most phones share a few things in common that are paintable: Buttons, Back Panel/Cover and Screen Bezel.

Most modern day Android phones are constructed out of 3 different exterior parts: The Glass Display, The Screen Bezel, The Side Bezel, and the Back Cover. Some phones don't have a side bezel, some do. See the photos above for reference.

  • When it comes to painting the phone, in almost all cases the back cover is the easiest to paint. Some phones have easily removable back covers, and some phones have back covers that are screwed in.
  • Buttons can also be quite easily painted. Often times the buttons are stuck on to the back cover, and can easily be taken out to be painted.
  • Some devices also have a side bezel that wraps around the phone. If this is the case with your phone, you may have to take apart a bit more of your phone to get to it. But it shouldn't be too difficult.
  • The screen bezel can also be painted. But I wouldn't recommend doing so for 2 reasons: No.1, in order to remove the screen bezel, you will often times have to separate the screen glass (inc. digitizer and LCD display), which is held to the bezel usually with glue, which can be quite difficult to separate. No.2, If you scratch the bezel at a later stage, the paint might scratch off, and expose the colour underneath.

In this Instructable we're just going to focus on the back cover, because its a fun and simple way to liven up your phone! :)

Step 3: Materials and Tools:

Materials:

  • Spray Paint:Multiple colours is ideal for cool effects. Carefully choose your colours to make sure they match. There's more suggestions and ideas for colours later on!
  • Clear Coat Spray: It's a good idea to spray a clear coat over the painted parts once everything is done.
  • Markers: (Optional). More info on this later on!
  • Super Glue (Optional)

Tools:

  • Sand Paper (optional)
  • Very small screw driver
  • Plectrum, Business Cards, Cocktail sticks (for disassembling the phone (if needed))

Step 4: Phone Disassembly

So we're actually going to disassemble 2 phones. This phone has a removable cover so its easy to work with. The second phone doesn't, so we will do that phone afterwards so I can guide you through it.

First up we're just going to unclip the cover. This bit is as simple as it sounds, and I'm pretty certain that you've already done this stage to add or remove sim cards.

Some covers have the buttons built into them, and some just have holes for buttons, and the buttons are attached to the rest of the body of the phone. If you're phone has buttons built into the cover, they're pretty simple to remove. Most buttons attached to the cover are either: Glued in, or friction fitted in. Glued in buttons are simple to remove, you just need to get something sharp like a screwdriver and pry off the buttons. The glue used will usually stay sticky so you can just stick it back into place after the phone process is finished.

If your speaker is on the back cover, you will also have to remove the fine speaker cloth on the cover. You can just peel this off.

Step 5: Preparing the Cover for Painting

Now that everything is removed from the cover, we're almost ready for painting! Make sure there's no dust or dirt on the cover. If your cover is a glossy smooth plastic, its a good idea to sand it a little bit so the paint has something good to grab onto. Coarse sandpaper can be good, but be careful not to make deep scratches into the cover, these may be still noticeable after its painted!

Once its all sanded, give it a quick clean down using a cloth

Step 6: Time to Paint!

It's time to paint!

Find a clean well ventilated area where you can lay down some cardboard or cloth to protect the area's surfaces. I would highly recommend painting on a warm dry day, as the paint will dry much much faster.

Place the phone cover on top of an object so that it is completely lifted from the ground. It's important to do so so you can spray it from all angles and cover all the surfaces.

Start by spraying on several coats of just one colour. I would recommend using a colour that's completely different to the original colour of your cover. That way, you'll be able to easily see if you've missed any spots.

Waiting time between coats really depends on what paint you use. You should wait for it to dry to the stage where it's no longer sticky. Waiting in between coats is essential as it makes the paint stronger and reduces risk of chipping at a later stage. I use Montana Gold spray paint. Since its a paint usually used for street art, drying times are fast. I only had to wait about 5 minutes in between coats. Thin light coats are essential for a smooth and even finish.

If you're new to using spray paints, it's important to keep the can moving when spraying. If you keep it one spot, you will end up saturating it with too much paint and it will spoil the overall finish. Fast strokes with the can approximately 15-20cm (6-8 inches) away from the subject is ideal. There are tons of tutorials online for spray painting, but here's a very quick demonstration.

Step 7: Adding the Extra Colours

Now that our base colour is on, it's time to add some extra colours! It's very easy to drain out the previous colours with your new layers, so be very careful not to apply too much paint. Another very important thing to look out for is to make sure that the colour on the sides of the cover match up with the colour of the top of the cover.

If you're not happy with how the colour turned out, you can always layer over it, provided that the paint has dried.

Step 8: Adding Some Extra Splash Effects

Another neat little thing that you can do is add some paint splatter effects. This adds an extra little punch to the colours in my opinion. You can do this by very lightly pressing down on the can's nozzle so that the paint doesn't escape very well. Doing so makes little paint droplets. A little practice is needed for this bit. Here's a very quick demo:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jjzr0HBkQGE

Step 9: Adding the Clear Coat

To finish things off, we're going to spray on a clear coat. Spray it on exactly the same way as you sprayed on the paint. Spray 3-4 thin coats. There are many different sprays that can be used. Some can give a glossy effect and some can give a matte effect. Both look equally good in my opinion, so it's really all about personal preference.

Step 10: Putting Everything Back Together

So before we put it back together, let it dry for at least 6 hours an in warm, dry area.

Once dry, its time to stick it all together again and see how it looks! Stick in your buttons and speaker cloth again. You may need to use a tiny dab of super glue if you think that they may not hold in place. Only use the tiniest amount possible however, as the smallest bit can go a very long way. Once it's complete, leave it again for a few hours to 100% make sure it's completely dry.

Step 11: What If Your Cover Isn't Removable..?

Some of the slimmer phones nowadays don't have removable covers. But fear not, this project can be carried out just as easily on them! If your cover isn't removable, there are usually screws which can be removed to open up the phone. They will usually be located underneath the flaps for sim cards and micro SD slots.

Warning: If it comes to the stage where you have to remove screws to open up your phone, you are most likely going to void the phone's warranty by doing so. Only attempt this if your phone is past its warranty or you are confident in what you're doing.

If you have a relatively popular brand of phone, you are likely to find tutorials on YouTube for taking apart your phone. Just search up '[name of phone here] teardown(/disassembly)]'. If you have quite an uncommon phone like me (Alcatel One Touch Scribe HD), you should still be able to get by just by using common sense. It's really not too difficult once you get the hang of it :)

Step 12: Disassembly + Preparation

First of all we'll unscrew the screws holding the cover on. Mine phone had 2 screws, but some have more and some same fewer. Once the screws were out I took a plectrum and wedged it in between the screen bezel and the phone cover, and slowly worked my way around the phone, unclipping all the clips that held it in place. You can unclip the cover either using: a plectrums, credit cards, business cards etc. It really depends on your phone and your preference.

Once the back is off, its time to remove the buttons, speaker mesh and any other parts that were stuck to the cover. My phone had a speaker and plastic pieces of the LED and camera stuck on as well, so I took them off by just pushing them off. Once they're all off, go through the same steps for preparing the phone as we did in the previous phone.

Step 13: Painting the Back Cover + Reassembly

If your phone has speakers on the phone cover in the form of small holes, make sure you clean out any dirt build-up before spraying it. Most paints won't cover up the speaker holes unless you add excessive amounts of paint, so it shouldn't be an issue.

Go through the same steps as before with painting the back cover. If your phone cover has quite sharp edges the curve upwards to form the side body of the phone, make sure the paint colours on the sides also match the top (see photo 4 for example).

Reassembling the phone again should be quite easy. Some parts might be a tight fit, so make sure that the paint is completely dry and has been left to rest for a day, just in case the paint chips off when putting it back together.

Step 14: Evaluation

Overall I'm quite happy with the outcome. I think the smaller phone (Xperia X10 Mini) turned out excellently. I'm not quite as happy with the larger phone though (Alcatel Scribe HD). I think that the back looks quite boring. With the smaller phone, there were plenty of features to liven it up, but with the bigger phone, it looks a bit too bland on the back. One thing that I may do next is respray the phone, and then before adding the clear coat, I may draw some sort of pattern on the back. One great thing about Montana Gold spray paint is that you can easily draw on top of it using permanent markers. I could add a cool detailed pattern to it, and then finish it up with the clear coat. My younger sister drew a pattern on her water bottle using the same technique.

I made this tutorial using only 3 spray paints that I had lying around. The overall finish of the cover depends greatly on the colours you use. In the next few steps I'll include a couple of colour schemes that I just thought up of..

Step 15: New Colour Scheme for Each Season

New Colour Scheme for each season of the year? Might be a cool idea. Raises awareness of changing seasons :3

Step 16: Some More Ideas..

1st Image: How about some sort of image of space? You could easily make stars using the paint splattering technique.

2nd Image: Love Ken Block? Copy his car colours!

3rd Image: Mad into Ikea? Copy their colours!

Go crazy! There are so many different possibilities (and much better ones than I came up with from the top of my head!) There's plenty of colour schemes here on Google Images! There's plenty of colour Schemes here on Google Images!

Step 17: Final Words

Overall I'm very happy with the finish. Other people seem to love it too! If there was one thing I could change, it would probably be the colours that I used. But that's no problem! I can just take the back cover off and paint it again!

Special thanks to Seeed for putting together this awesome competition! If you would like to see more great ways to customise your phone, check out the other #rethinkphone contest entries over here!

Also, if you'd like to see what else I design, you could follow my Facebook design page over here: https://www.facebook.com/BL.car.design.and.renderi...

If you decide to paint your phone, I'd love to see it! If you have any questions, post them below and I'd be happy to answer them. Thanks a lot for viewing my Instructable, and I'll hopefully see you again soon!! :)

<p>That's awesome and all, but couldn't you just paint your old case? Or is this before the case? ;)</p>
<p>Thanks for the nice idea.</p>
<p>Great instructable, love it! Gathering spray paint cans at the moment</p>
<p>You can check out some cool spray paint cans here.</p><p>http://www.cosmoscolour.com</p>
<p>Awesome! I'd love to see how it turns out! :)</p>
<p>Well it turned out. The most i can say is i have a very unique taste of colors.</p>
Looks great! Thanks for the share! :)
Love the idea! Now I want to buy a separate phone case and paint it like so. (So I don't have to worry about ruining the original phone)
<p>Good luck! Do post photos if you try it out! :)</p>
I probably won't be allowed :(
<p>Wow thats great love that splash color.</p>
Thanks! :)
<p>That looks surreal! It reminded me of the trippy Galileo's glasses on the Intel Galileo box cover.</p>
<p>Thanks! Haven't seen them.. Picture? :)</p>
<p>Here you go. The famous Intel IoT board box cover.</p>
<p>Oooh.. Looks great! Some sort of solar system paint scheme would look excellent for this project me thinks :)</p>
<p>This is totally groovy!</p>
<p>Thanks! :)</p>
<p>I love how they turned out! I am not sure I want to do this to my phone yet, but I like how it looks so much, I will apply it to other projects! </p>
<p>Thanks! And yea, it works really well for any electronics devices. You can simply take off one panel and paint it. Thinking of trying it out on my camera too. Do let me know if you come up with anything cool in the future! :)</p>
Great Idea! I think I will take my camera apart and do the same! I will post pictures when I am done, and of the other things I will apply this to! Be careful when taking cameras apart... there is a capacitor used to charge the flash (do not touch it... I found that out the hard way)!
<p>Cool, do show me the result, would love to see it! And yea haha, I heard that those capacitors for the flash carry some crazy voltages! </p>
great idea. definatly on my to do list. did you tried moto maker? it gives the user somewhat of customizability and dbrand skins are also a choice. but neither of these look as great as yours
<p>I hadn't actually seen moto maker before, it looks brilliant! Motorola are certainly on the right track! Hopefully more phone makers will go the same route. Thanks for the kind words :)</p>
This looks very beautiful! I was wondering, is there any way of doing this for an iPhone?
Thanks! Hmm.. I'm really not too sure. I'd say the best thing to do is look for a disassembly video online and see how the phone comes apart. I'm sure it would be doable, but it could be a little tricky. Best off experimenting with an old phone first :)
<p>was just wondering the same thing</p>

About This Instructable

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Bio: Hey everyone! I'm Barry, an aspiring product designer from Dublin, Ireland. I'm passionate about aesthetic, yet functional/smart design. You can take a ... More »
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