How to Make Your Own Screen Protector (for less than a nickel!)

Picture of How to Make Your Own Screen Protector (for less than a nickel!)
So here's the story: you buy an expensive touchscreen phone or a iPod touch and do everything you can to protect it so you decide to visit an electronic store to buy a screen protector. Turns out the phone's not the only thing that's expensive; the little piece of plastic to protect your phone just cost you another $20.

A scratch-free phone: not as priceless as you think

However, there is alternative way: make your own screen protector (with no soapy water or mess)! And to make just one will probably cost you less than a nickel!

Thank you for those who voted for this instructable in the back to school contest!
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Step 1: Materials

Picture of Materials
Here's the secret and cheap "ingredient" to the screen protector...
  • Vinyl Covering (buy the thinnest kind you can find- I bought mine at Wal-Mart in the fabric department for $1.50 for a whole yard)**
You will also need:
  • Scissors/Craft Knife
  • Ruler
  • Cardboard
  • Pen
  • Cloth
**I have received many questions about the vinyl covering hopefully this can help you out:

1. Does it have adhesive on one side?

  • No, it doesn't have adhesive. The reason I wanted to make my screen protector this way is because it doesn't have any leftover residue because there isn't any "sticky side." The vinyl does stick to most electronics but results do vary.

2.  Where can I get vinyl covering?

  • Like what I said above, I got my vinyl covering at the fabric department in Wal-Mart. However this was a while ago and some Wal-Marts have closed their fabric departments. Craft and fabric stores should sell this also.

3.  Is this like cling wrap or lamination plastic?

  • Vinyl covering isn't like cling wrap or lamination plastic at all. I wouldn't recommend using plastics with adhesives in case of damage to your phone. I haven't tried cling wrap but I does seem like it would crinkle and have a lot of ridges and bubbles.

4. Does the vinyl interfere with how the touch screen reacts?

  • I used it on my iPod touch and had no problems with it at all. I don't think it will affect the screen reacts as long as you use a thin enough vinyl. Mine wasn't too thin and it worked great!

5.  Does the vinyl damage my screen?

  • I have used my screen protector for about 2 years and haven't had any problems with it damaging my screen. In fact, personally I think its better than the adhesive ones that might leave a residue.

6.  Does the vinyl have a lot of glare?

  • I think it should be fine for glare. I admit it does have a little but nothing to worry about. I haven't noticed any issues with it so it should be fine for most electronics.

Hope this helps out and leave a comment if you have any questions/suggestions/or anything else. :)
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jen7714 (author) 3 years ago
Since I have been receiving so many questions about the covering, I added a little section under the materials list to answer some questions. Please view that first. More questions are definitely welcome! :)

moeburn5 months ago

You talk a lot about how this is better than "adhesive" screen protectors. I have been buying and using screen protectors since before smart-phones were a thing (to protect camera LCD screens), and I have never once seen a screen protector with any kind of adhesive on it.

They all stick using friction and static electricity, the exact same way vinyl does.

I wonder if you could scan your phone so that you have a very accurate template of how to size up the vinyl? It would be easier to try that then to trim it up after you have the protector already applied. :)
jen7714 (author)  them8triark1 year ago
That's a great idea! Innovation at its finest :) Do you mind if I include this in my Instructable?
tedr1 year ago
Hello jen7714. Screen protectors are made of polyester film with a scratch resistant matte coating on one side and a cross linked silicone adhesive on the other. This is why thy are so expensive. The vinyl that you are using is a decent idea, but there are some things about soft vinyl you should know. Vinyl is made soft by adding plasticizers. Plasticizers contain phthalates, which are chemicals that become airborne. This chemicals have been banned in Europe for being carcinogenic, among other nasty side effects. There is plenty of info on this topic on the web. Hope this helps. Ted.
epicwind2 years ago
Doesn't work at all on my ipod touch or kindle.
jen7714 (author)  epicwind2 years ago
What is the problem? Is it not sticking? You really do have to find the thinnest vinyl; the thicker the piece the harder it is to adhere.
It's like trying to get a piece of paper to stick to it. There is absolutely no adhesion at at. I bought the thinnest they had available, but I live on Maui so we have limited supplies. I then went and got some 'clear' shelf paper. Not very 'clear' though. I went and bought a screen protector for the ipod. I'll be using it in Whistler and didn't have any more time to try and hunt stuff down.
how thick was the vinyl?
jen7714 (author)  Gr3at_Whit3_North_Guy2 years ago
The thinnest available will be the best. I will try to find the measuements for you.
I found some 4 gauge sheeting at Jo-Ann Fabrics for $2.99 a yard. Works fantastic! What I did to make sure it worked with my screen before buying it was placed my phone under the sheet, pressed it as flat to it as I could and then worked with the touchscreen through the vinyl. Thanks for the truly useful and money saving instructable! Once I get some more patches, you're getting one!
jen7714 (author)  Hoopajoo2 years ago
Wow that was such a nice compliment! Perfect! And a great way to test out the ideal thickness of the vinyl.Thank you so much for the patch as well! (I live for these types of comments haha :)
what do u mean by ur getting one if i send u pacthes
What I was meaning to say was once I get some more patches to send ( meaning that at the time I had zero remaining) I will send Jen7714 one (for who the comment was intended). I have since gotten more and the patch was sent (I am a man of my word, after all). Sorry for any confusion.
dubdukes3 years ago
one thing i'm not following... what keeps the vinyl in place on the phone????
If you want to get scientific and technical with it, it has to do with the electrons attracting each other on the surface of the phone and the vinyl cover.
jen7714 (author)  dubdukes3 years ago
The vinyl just naturally stays on. Maybe something to do with the two surfaces but it definitely stays on, without adhesive.
just used clear book covering
thnx for giving me a way outta these over priced screen protectors:-))
ipod12343 years ago
Why don't u just us packing tape, much better
jen7714 (author)  ipod12343 years ago
I didn't want to risk any adhesives on my IPod and I have heard that tape also leaves air bubbles.
ROOKIE493 years ago
vicpoole3 years ago
Thank you so much for this tip - I have a jelly cover so I just cut a piece of vinyl to cover the screen and tucked it down the sides.
My first attempt I covered the whole of the front and then could barely hear my caller so I trimmed it down to just the screen - very effective and very simple thank you so much for sharing - whodathought!!!
jen7714 (author)  vicpoole3 years ago
You're welcome! And thank you for the nice comments! I'm glad you liked it. Also, I also used it for just the screen. Now I know not to cover the whole thing :) Thanks again!
DieCastoms3 years ago
I have an iPaq hx6315 (The T-Mobil Cellphone version) that has had exactly the same screen protector on it for about 4 years. I have never needed to change it. My wife has a 3 year old Nintendo DS that has had the same screen protectors on it since the week she got it. I have never changed them either. She also has a Toshiba e750 PDA that has about 2 years of use on it and has never been changed! This is a wonderful idea! I was going to make an instructible, but you've done an excellent job on yours. Thanks for posting it.
jen7714 (author)  DieCastoms3 years ago
Your welcome! And I agree, my screen protector on my phones/iPods are still holding up. :)
slizide3 years ago
This sounds like a great idea, but does this type of vinyl produce a lot glare? I want to put a screen protector on my Kindle but I want it to be anti-glare.
jen7714 (author)  slizide3 years ago
I think it should be fine for glare. I admit it does have a little but nothing to worry about. I haven't noticed any issues with it so it should be fine for a kindle. Let me know how it works out!
macrumpton3 years ago
Great idea!
My only reservation would be that vinyl is pretty soft, so it will get scratched up pretty easily. I was thinking you might be able to do a two layer cover with a layer of vinyl and then on top of that a layer of clear mylar (polyester film). The mylar is very hard, but it does not have the natural stickiness that the vinyl has so you could use the vinyl as an adhesive layer. The big question is: would the double thickness interfere with the touchscreen?
jen7714 (author)  macrumpton3 years ago
It might. I have never tried it that because the vinyl worked for me! No scratches :) It could impact reaction of the screen just because the layers make it too thick. But try it out and let me know how it works out!
I have had these protectors on devices for as long as 4 years that have not needed to be changed. See my other comment at the top of the thread.
shetonus3 years ago
This looks Great!
But, I'm concerned about the use of vinyl. Corrosive Out-gassing can be an issue with some forms of vinyl, perhaps bleaching or 'clouding' plastic components. Would someone speak to which materials are recommended for use by the phone manufacturers, and which materials most screen protectors are made from?
jen7714 (author)  shetonus3 years ago
Thanks! About your concerns about the use of vinyl, I have used my screen protector for about 2 years and counting and haven't had any problems with it damaging my screen. In fact, I think its better than the adhesive ones that might leave a residue. I'm not positive what other screen protectors are made out of (besides the obvious answer- plastic). I hope you find the answer though. I bet a lot of people want to know.
jpnagle593 years ago
Hey there Jen7714,

Neat idea- I have just purchased an MP5 player, and I was thinking about screen saver covering's for it. The player has a touch screen, and I was be-bopping around the 'net looking for something to protect it. Then I saw your wonderful idea! I thank you for it.

One/two questions- is there any effect to way the screen reacts with the protector on it when you touch it, or is it about the same??? And I thought about everybody saying on these commit pages, to cut holes out for the camera, and such. Do you think the film will accept using an hole puncher to make those opening's-- for the camera and such? Just an idea.

Well, this old guy thanks' you for your work! Jamie

jen7714 (author)  jpnagle593 years ago
Hello! Your welcome, I'm glad I could help and thank your for the nice comment.

I used it on my iPod touch and had no problems with it at all. I don't think it will affect the screen reacts at all, if you use a thin enough vinyl. Mine wasn't too thin and it worked great!.

A hole punch is a great idea. It will definitely cut through the vinyl I have but make sure you find one with the holes big enough.

Hope this helps!
mstephans3 years ago

It's large, but if you print at 100%, and just the first page, you'll get the 1:1 of the front of a 3G/3Gs, which is what I needed.
onefun3 years ago
I have another idea for improvement.
photo copy your gadget's screen side, and cut the vinyl along it, cut out the speaker/camera/button with exact location also.
jen7714 (author)  onefun3 years ago
That's a great idea. I wanted to make this instructable as simple as I could so I didn't put as many measuring tips as I would have. :) Thanks for the comment!
srk jen77143 years ago
Everyone has access to either a photocopier, or a printer/scanner now a days.

Though I can see how cutting those small curvy holes for the speaker/camera/button can be tricky.

For simplicity, those can be cut in straight lines instead or arcs. For example- instead of making a circular hole for the button, make a square that touches the perimeter of the circle.

If this seems too complicated (or you are too lazy), just use the other alternative from my above comment.

Lastly, jen7714, like Newton, you have started something, on which we are building our ideas.
jen7714 (author)  srk3 years ago
Thank you! It's not everyday that one is compared to Newton. :) There are many alternatives for making this screen protector more elaborate. I'm definitely going to have to add some more information on making the product and some modifications you can do.
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