Introduction: Create a Sweet Looking Xbox Controller Paint Job

Picture of Create a Sweet Looking Xbox Controller Paint Job

I will demonstrate how to create a feathered paint job. This is where one color becomes another color, I used red black and silver on an Xbox controller.

Materials Needed:
Paint - I used Krylon plastic bonding paint in red black and silver.
(I would advise looking up "vinyl dye" in google as an alternative to paint for plastics)
Masking Tape - 3M blue painters tape
Sandpaper - I prefer 220 grit
Paint Thinner - Optional
Spackle or Carpenters Putty - These work well to cover up logos and dents or scratches
(vinyl dye will not work well over spackle/putty, but spray paint will)
Clear Coat

Since I am making this after an attempt to create a tribal design (which didn't turn out all that great) I will show pictures from both of these, I took no pictures from the second one so I will attempt to recreate some steps for your understanding. Feel free to tell me how to improve it.

Step 1: Painting Prep

Picture of Painting Prep

Before anything happens you must first take apart the controller, if this concept scares you, turn back now. I found that the people at have detailed instructions for both the disassembly and assembly for the wired and wireless controllers.

Once the controllers are disassembled, we will need to sand down the gloss on some of the surfaces of the controller. Since the Xbox controller has few of these this is a simple step. The parts that I had to sand down were: the RT and LT, RB and RT, D-Pad, Start and Select buttons, and parts of the battery. The sanding on these parts should be minimal and just enough to take off the shine of these pieces. Before you start painting read the instructions on the spray paint as some of the different types of paint suggest steps for better paint application. My paint suggested I rub it down with some paint thinner to get rid of loose particles and debris. Don't forget to shake the spray paint for 2 or 3 minutes.

Step 2: Layer One: the Base

Picture of Layer One: the Base

Before you start to do anything painting wise, decide on a base coat, I chose the silver color. Paint the whole controller this color with even paint strokes to ensure that you don't get paint drips and puddles. Some advice when doing this is DO NOT RUSH IT. The first time painting this controller (yes there was a first time) I painted it too fast with too thick of coats so when I masked it off the next morning the masking tape pulled up layers of paint because even after 24 hours the paint wasn't fully dry. Also when painting, paint the light colors first then the dark colors unless you know the light color can go over the dark without it showing up underneath the lighter color. Because of these two mistakes I spent hours sanding down the old paint and because I was sanding, I used spackle to cover up logos such as the Microsoft and also the Start, Select, 1, 2, 3, and 4 in the middle of the controller for a smoother design.

Step 3: Layer Two and Three: the Feathering

Picture of Layer Two and Three: the Feathering

I do not know if "feathering" is an actual painting term, but hey, lingo doesn't matter when you have a sweet paint job. Unless you are trying to describe it to a painter. First things first, decide where you want the least amount of top coats (mine are red and black). For this I chose the middle of both the front and back of the controller.

To keep this area from getting too much paint, take a strip of newspaper and use masking tape to tape it in place, but not to the front of the controller, I wrapped my paper around the front onto the back and taped it there so that there would be no crisp line where no paint goes. Then I make sure that the black is on the same side of the controller for the front and back. I do not have any pictures of this process but I'll try to be as exact as possible.

To begin the first side make sure to shake the can well before painting and continue to shake after a few coats. For the first side, (mine was black) make full sweeps on the newspaper and work your way onto the controller making sure not to spray too far, maybe one sweep onto the controller then let it dry for 10-30 seconds before the next go at it. For this next spray, start on the paper as before, then work up 2 or 3 strokes onto the controller and wait 10-30 seconds and continue to do this for as far as you wish. I only went to 3 or 4 strokes and to get more dusting farther up do not lightly hold the nozzle down to keep the paint from coming out of the tip fast, hold it farther from the target and blast it from that height or else the paint will come out as large droplets.

Do the same with the red as you did before with the black (If you use more than one color) except with the red cover up the black like how we prepared the middle of the controller with newspaper, but since the black is fresh let it dry for 3 -5 minutes before covering it, and do not put the tape on the paint, wrap the newspaper around the controller and tape it off on the underside of the controller (the part which houses the electronics. and begin the red coat just like the black part. After both the red and black are painted let it dry for 3-5 minutes then remove the newspaper and let it dry fully (I'm letting it dry for 7 whole days to avoid what happened on my first attempt).

Step 4: Finishing the Painting

Picture of Finishing the Painting

After the paint is fully dried (I waited a full 7 days before proceeding) I applied thin layers of clear coat to avoid running, bubbles, and puddles. After it is fully painted, dried, and clear coated. Feel free to put it back together and show it off to friends and family. Some of you may notice that the D-pad and other parts of the controller look different than the body. To achieve the speckled look, first make a base coat of one color (I did black) and spray a single blast from far back so that it has specks of red on black. It almost looks like a Gears of War controller.

I have been doing some research on painting plastic for a possible upcoming project, and so far the best paint for plastics is actually a dye. It's called vinyl dye, it works by being absorbed into the pores of the plastic, and dying the plastic the color. It will not cover up any mistakes, and I have read that you should avoid trying to spray the dye over filler, or already painted plastics. The dye will not adhere to the plastic if it has already been painted over, and the dye can not soak into the fillers so that it will look bad if you attempt to do so. I just thought you guys should know, since the vinyl is VERY durable, since it changes the color of the plastic rather than paint over it, you can be rough to your controller and it will maintain its color.


Dr.Paj (author)2011-02-11

Ok, I have done some research pertaining to painting plastic. I have concluded that the best option for painting your controller, or any other plastic, is something called "vinyl dye". I have updated the instructible with some information about this. If you are planning on painting a gaming console controller, or any other plastic material, I would advise you to take a look at vinyl dye before committing to painting whatever it is you were going to paint.

prince link (author)2012-12-26

I know this is way late but you can also use acetone (paint thinner) to remove small scratches. It takes away small layers of the plastic. I found this out when I was trying to clean a controller someone had given me. I just put the acetone on a paper towel and wiped over the areas that were dirty and some of the small scratches and dings came right out!

elephanturd (author)2012-06-25

Can somebody give me a link on amazon to where to buy clear coat? Preferably the one that you used on this controller. I just do not want the controller to run/smear after i do all this work. Thanks!

wanderson1 (author)2011-07-29

"Some of you may notice that the D-pad and other parts of the gun look different than the body"

Lol, so now we're painting guns instead of 360 controllers?

Dr.Paj (author)wanderson12011-07-30

I don't know what you are talking about... *glances left and right nervously*

dmadru (author)2011-03-03

I Made It! Duke Nukem Style.

PureBreed (author)2009-07-20

today i decided to try my own paint job on my controller, and learned how to open the controller with a plain star. i just took the smallest drill bit i could find, and broke the pin in the screw off. dont try to drill it down, u may strip the screw. instead put the end of the drill bit down beside the pin so its 'hooked' to it. barely pull the trigger on the drill and the pin flys off. but be careful, i almost got hit in the eye by one.

milesduggan (author)PureBreed2011-02-23

Hahaha as I was reading your post I was thinking to myself I wonder if one of them almost hit him in the eye like I did! Nasty little sucker that pops out of there huh?! You did exactly what I did to the screw and you even almost got yourself in the eye too. Good times! Safety glasses people! Wish I would have worn mine. lol

Dr.Paj (author)PureBreed2009-07-21

You can also use a small screwdriver to get between the pin and the corners like this picture I made in MS paint shows. The green line is the screwdriver, the black dot is the security tab.

milesduggan (author)Dr.Paj2010-02-19

 I just took a really small drill and VERY SLOWLY snapped out the middle. Its really cheap soft metal, BUT BE CAREFUL I ALMOST TOOK MY EYE OUT when one of them snapped off! Happy modding! :)

golddigger1559 (author)2010-12-29

my bad here it is

golddigger1559 (author)2010-12-29

love yours but heres mine

Algag (author)2010-08-15

you spelled llamma wrong the website is spelled with two m's

Dr.Paj (author)Algag2010-08-21

Thanks for the help, it has gone unnoticed for over 2 years, but it is now fixed.

iBurn (author)2008-06-10

Hey, kinda off topic here, but on the site for the lighting mod on the dome, does anybody know what size LED's they used? I would appreciate any help, thanks.

SabreLightning (author)iBurn2010-01-31

 If you're talking about the LEDs used in the XBOX button dome, they're 0603 SMD LEDs. Here's a photo of their size. The SMD LEDs come without the prongs though.

fallenspirit123 (author)iBurn2008-10-09

I belive 3mm or 5mm I would go with 3mm though

Dr.Paj (author)iBurn2008-07-15

You can buy the LEDs on the site, they are quite small and easily lost so if you are going to get them, get an extra or two.

Gage987 (author)2010-01-08

your d pad and triggers have inspired me.

paint the whole controller black and do the splatter on the d pad and triggers and do a left to right splatter with barely any on the right like a gradient

Dr.Paj (author)Gage9872010-01-12

Or it would look like you bashed someones face in with your controller...

reillymcginnis (author)2009-12-16

Very nice, very clean paint job. 5 stars! I like the blood spatter on the D-pad.

R 4 N D 0 M (author)2009-10-17

Nice, the d pad and triggers look best.
Good job on the third layer with the clear cote.

Dr.Paj (author)R 4 N D 0 M2009-10-19

Thanks, I guess people either like their look or hate it (see below post).

MooseSourberry (author)2009-09-27

The D-pad could be better, but other than that it looks pretty awesome. I am about to send my xbox in (boooo) but while it's gone I am gonna paint my controller so at least there won't be down time from being able to play since i only have one... haha.

Dr.Paj (author)MooseSourberry2009-10-03

I tried to make the D-pad look like a little blood splatter (along with the triggers).

MooseSourberry (author)Dr.Paj2009-10-03

I know what you tried to do, but it could be better. :] That's all I'm saying.

wolfman546 (author)2009-08-31

have to admit very nice looking controller i like the triggers alot nice job man

Dr.Paj (author)wolfman5462009-09-01

Thank you for the compliment.

Onemanarmy666 (author)2009-08-03

hey man, what kind of clear coat should i use? like what brand and what is it called?

Dr.Paj (author)Onemanarmy6662009-08-04

My clear eventually started to rub off with the combination of sweat, heat, and rubbing. I would advise that you try to find a protective covering (maybe a clear adhesive cover or a clear sleeve) for your controller that is see-through. Right now I can't find the clear I used on it, but I would advise you use something that is indoor/outdoor or outdoor because I would expect it to be more rugged and last longer.

zwild1 (author)Dr.Paj2009-08-14

try an automotive clear coat. and keep practicing with your shaker cans! it just takes a little bit of work to make it look pro.

Dr.Paj (author)zwild12009-08-16

The only problem with that is the price, and the fact that a poor foundation will cause it to flake off eventually. If you want to get the expense of automotive clear, you will probably need to put down a few layers of paint primer before the colors are added.

zwild1 (author)Dr.Paj2009-08-16

you bet! why not prime it?

Dr.Paj (author)zwild12009-08-18

I used a spray paint that didn't need any primer on plastic.

zwild1 (author)Dr.Paj2009-08-18

good deal! but if it started to rub off, it might not be the best choice. you're right about an outdoor paint though. keep up the mods!

ac1D (author)zwild12009-08-26

Hello. Sorry to "include" myself to your conversation. I painted, two months ago, two of my controller. What I did is use 3 coat of outdoor plastic paint, then FIVE coat of clear(for car, about 15$/can, a can can do 10 coat on a car so on a remote.. well, allot!) I did not sand down the clear part of the controller, and everything look fine. I use these controller at least 2-4 hours per day, and the paint/clear never went away!

crd22 (author)2009-08-22

First off, I like the paint design, it's unique. Second, the word you were looking for is "gradient". A gradient is when one color becomes another color. Feather is when an image's edges become partially transparent.

Dr.Paj (author)crd222009-08-25

Thanks for the terminology lesson.

Onemanarmy666 (author)2009-08-03

dude this looks so sweet. Awesome controller.

Titananimal (author)2009-07-12

Why do you have to do so much... I would just take the controller and get some warhammer 40k paint and dab it on..

Dr.Paj (author)Titananimal2009-07-12

Go for it.

Dr.Paj (author)2008-02-26

I have been using my controller a lot, and it is showing some signs of wear (some clear coat is coming off slowly). To prevent this, you could use automotive clear coat (1 to 2 coats), or do 4-6 coats with a spray paint. The only problem with automotive paints and coats is that it is very expensive, other than that it is very strong (or cars would look bad after a few weeks). I only put on two coats of clear so I will either just let it get wear or sand down the edges repaint (edges where there is wear) and apply a major amount of clear on high traffic areas like the sides and triggers. Right now I am busy with painting my road bike urban camo (camouflage with white, light gray, dark gray, and black) with the technique from the instructables' member AirbrushTricks. Check it out for an idea of how my next project will hopefully turn out.

Dr.Paj (author)Dr.Paj2008-03-22

Update: after a total of over 60 hours of ware, the paint has started to come off. I will remove the paint either by sanding or paint thinner, or both. After this I will order a case for it online. I suspect more success would have been achieved with more clear coating (and a better brand of paint, since the silver hasn't come off but the cheaper Rustoleum has come off).

Shadowfury (author)Dr.Paj2009-06-30

Try applying 3 coats of Dupli-Color Adhesion Promoter before painting. It helps the paint stick. Also, I'd recommend only using Krylon Fusion paint and clear coat.

Dr.Paj (author)Dr.Paj2008-03-23

I have grown tired of this paint job and have covered my entire controller in DUCT TAPE. At least now it will not look out of place in my basement. (I hope I don't lose it, it blends in with its surroundings). I'll post a picture as soon as I get one.

Dr.Paj (author)Dr.Paj2008-05-06

No picture. I just sanded it down to good 'ole classic white.

clark (author)Dr.Paj2008-06-12

why don't you just put these updates in the instructable itself?

Dr.Paj (author)Dr.Paj2008-05-27

I have painted my bike, its now two toned because it was easier and will look more like a speed bike and less like a camouflage mountain bike. It is painted silver and black, I will post pictures soon.

littlegandhi1199 (author)Dr.Paj2008-05-07

I painted it gold and it looks amazing, then just yesterday i painted my other one pink, but it is scratching off in one spot, i think i will just give it another coat of paint for it to be stronger Thanks for the tip

Dr.Paj (author)littlegandhi11992008-05-07

Make sure to let it dry, I wonder if you could buy a clear grip for it (like a gel case) so that you can see the design and it will not chip or rub off eventually.

About This Instructable




Bio: I am no longer a student at IU as I've graduated (huzzah!). I joined Instructables because I enjoy making and viewing unusual objects. I ... More »
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