Step 2: Design the Graphics

Use a program to design the front panel overlay - I use Adobe Illustrator, but that is not the easiest to use (or the cheapest). Something like CorelDraw is more user friendly, but even Word, Publisher or even Powerpoint can work just as well.

Measure the 'recess' area of your box, and make your design a few millimetres (1/8") larger all-around - this is called a 'bleed', and is there so you can chop off the edges and have color going all the way to the edge of your design. Work out where you want any buttons or other components, and accurately position text to label these. Choose an interesting font (preferably other than Times New Roman and Arial - these look boring just because they are used for everything!)

To make it look really classy, put an image behind the text - I use a istockphoto which costs only a dollar or two for that perfect background image, but you can easily find free ones on a Google Image Search as long as you are not going to churn out thousands of widgets to sell and get yourself in trouble with licensing issues.

Finally reverse the design (most graphics programs have a "mirror image" function), and print it out on an OHP transparency sheet. If you can't find out how to reverse the image in your package, you can probably tell your printer to do this for you (many inkjets have this function built in to allow you to do things like T-Shirt transfers). Failing that, you don't really even need to reverse the image - but if you can, it just means you can turn the transparency over after printing, and the ink will be on the reverse side of the plastic, and will then stay protected for life and not scratch off. Alternatively, you could use a 'fixative' spray on the ink (like a lacquer), or stick another clear sheet of OHP film on top. Here is an image I have printed reversed from my color laser (the photo here shows it turned back around the right way). If you are using a laser, make sure you get a proper 'laser/photocopier' transparency that will withstand the heat, and if using an inkjet, use a proper inkjet transparency that is coated to make the ink stick.
Outstanding ! Great idea and great tutorial. I've used a similar idea in the past but you really put the finishing touches on this. Love it. And will definitely use it !
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Awesome idea! I was wondering how to do something to look professional and you answered!
i might make 1 that will look betta and advatize my website and for the buttons i will have a holes for a curcuit tester so i can easly make it a led, battery, and componet tester lol i can plug it in to my digital maulti meter as the curcuit and battery tester lol easy no real curcit behing it but the ristous for diffrend power lol
what r they ment to do???
oupps i c u have in step 6 what u use it for oupps
Instead of spending money at places like istockphoto, I use <a rel="nofollow" href="http://sxc.hu">sxc.hu</a> as it's free and the images are great!<br/>
Good job! Thank you for posting this - it's a really good idea. Do you think if you put a transparency on a black (or dark coloured) box you could put some (reflective) aluminium foil behind it? So glue that on, then glue the transparency on top - then you have a back-reflective graphic?
try using foil tape you can get it at the hardware store normally with the ducting stuff.
Interesting idea - worth a try - might be hard to get the foil to have an uneven, non-wrinkled appearance - perhaps a spray-on silvered paint might be worth a try as well. Not sure what advantage over a white background this would offer - presumably a higher reflectivitiy, and the appearance of silvered areas?
Does anyone know of an easy way to cut rectangular holes into plastic enclosures like the ones used here? If so, I'd be glad to hear about it.
i normaly use a cut-off wheel on a dremel but that doesnt work well for small holes. you need to use low speed to avoid melting the plastic.
It isn't the fastest, but using a nibbler you can get nice square edges. First drill and then nibble! Sometimes I use files as well. You can get punch/die sets if you need to get neat results quickly (production runs), but that is much more expensive.<br/><a rel="nofollow" href="http://www.rapidonline.com/Tools-Fasteners-Production-Equipment/Hand-Tools/Cutters-Snips/Nibbler/36734/kw/nibbler">Here is an inexpensive version</a> if you are my side of the Atlantic.<br/>
Thanks for posting, great info and ideas and the "Extreme Business Cards" one too.
cool good job
Wow its rayed 75 seems that everyone wants to make professional looking gadgets.
Hey, this is just what I needed for professional looking prototypes and technical jokes. but I don't know what you mean by ohp transparencies. what is it and where do I get it?
Overhead projector transparencies - thin sheets of clear material (usually polyester I think), designed to run through photocopiers or laser printers - the sort that teachers used to use to write on and project up on a board, but the ones designed for laser printers/photocopiers can withstand the heat of these machines.
Here's what I do: Print graphics right-side up on full-sheet label paper (like Office Depot 612071 or 612291), then stick full-sheet laminating film (like office Depot 365475) over that. Peel the liner off the paper side and stick to the box. Now you have a nice graphic with a protective plastic film over it. Also, metal electrical junction boxes with a blank cover make nice sturdy boxes, cheap!
An adage about stones and glass houses comes to mind :P Very nicely done Instructable.
Nicely done--thanks for sharing.
Great ! It is cool to know this because most of gadgets are good but doesn't looks as good as they can be. Thanks !
Love this instructable! Thanks for the ideas and a laugh or two reading the comments, too!
aha! I found one typo! In the last paragraph of the 2nd step you said: it just means you can turn the transparency over after printing, and the ink will be on the reverse side of the plastic, and will then stay protected for life and not scratch off. You should have said "you can't turn" Don't feel bad, one of my longer instructables had over 100 errors after I published it, later I went back and fixed a ton of them.
I'm fairly sure he got it right the first time actually, maybe just me though.
It's not just you. He meant can. He prints the image reversed so that when it's printed out he flips the transparency over to apply it. This means that the printed surface is actually on the side that's glued onto the box, which protects it from smudging/smearing/scratching/general damage.
Lol the new and improved Carmen Electra! That oughtta bring new people
guyfrom7up is right, very proffesional instructable. God instructable by the way!
you mean good instructable i think :)
I prefer to think that he was referring to me as a Deity - am I getting too big-headed here?
no my lord, your head is of regular size
Yeah, you are deity based on all of your comments and ratings. Great instructable or should I say god instructable. :)
Great Instructable but one question. What is the Carmen Electra device used for?
The text alludes to it in the "Intro" page - basically I did some special effects for a production of "Carmen" - as it was an electrical control box for "Carmen" - I named in "Carmen Electra" (sorry for the bad joke if you know of the actress!). There were strip lights on each step (made of strings of high power LEDs) that were activated in sequence by the switches. The last switch was to control a "pyro" - in this case an explosion/puff of smoke. Also had a hand-held flame thrower which was great fun!
Cool. Lucky that you get to use pyrotechnics in a school play. :)
Yes, but I must admit that I didn't really ask anyone before hand :) Our health and safety officer got very worried when she saw me asking for a long ladder to change the pyro devices after each performance. She asked me to make sure that no children go up the ladder - I told her that there was no problem - the children would be holding the explosives at the bottom of the ladder.
Hahaha. My former director was like that. She let me and my crew do what ever I wanted and still managed to produce a damn good show.
Yeah,I was wondering the same thing. It looks like an igniter kind of.IDK. Please fill us in. :) Great instructable btw.
Looks great :) Although, I do love making things that look like they just can't work.
Gotta agree with everyone else, this is a great instructable. And when I make my next gadget I'll know to order a box from Rapid. I would order from the US place but Rapid is much better organized, I know what I'm getting there.
i like it very much so, good instructions alos, only thing i would add, is instead of having a thin line around the edge fro trimming, i would use proper crop marks.
Good suggestion - sometimes I use crop marks when laying out multiple designs, but find that when you guillotine off one side, sometimes it is hard to then find the crop marks on an adjacent edge. Now I tend to put a box just slightly bigger than I need, and trim all edges just slightly under the line.
ah you see, the idea is that you use a nice fresh scapel, and a metal rule. and u dont chop the end completly off, ur leave a bit uncut at eiether end. if u get what i mean.
Great job! Did you use the transparency just because it lasts well, or for another reason? i.e. would laminating normal paper work?
Oh, it's so you can turn it over and still see it, right?
That's it! That way, the ink is protected by a layer of plastic and will never rub off.
Nice, this is so cool.
thanks A LOT. i love stuff like this very very cool instructable. good spelling, pictures, everything was awesome! (favorited)
Wow, they look very professional. The only hard part is to get the picture printed without looking crappy. Excelent Instructable.

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