Introduction: Renovate a Community Paint Booth

This is it. The big one. I've finally wrapped up my summer long project, and I'd like to share it with the good people at Instructables.

As someone who paints a lot of models, I always hated using the Invention Studio paint booth. It was scary, it was dirty, and I never knew if my stuff would get painted over. So, at the very start of the summer, I became the Paint Booth master and I decided to actually do something about it. I spent this summer completely overhauling our nasty old paintbooth into something we could be proud of as a community.

I'm still wrapping up a few things, but I want to show you how I renovated and reinvented a community paint booth. Unless otherwise stated, I did all of the work in this Instructable by myself.

Step 1: Assess the Mess.

When you're about to start a huge project like renovating an ugly, run down trailer, you need to take a serious look at what your current assets are. It'll help you decide which parts of the booth to emphasize and which you need to fix.

The booth interior is 10.5' long x 8' wide x 7.25' tall, and it is located a distance away from the main hub of the Invention Studio. It lives in a white trailer outside by the dumpsters. When I started, it was covered in graffiti, there was trash on the ground, and old projects cluttering up the space, but it did have a few solid things like:

  • Paint Booth Assets
    • Lighting
      • 2 sets of fluorescent lights (one missing its lights)
      • natural lighting during the daytime with the rear doors open
    • Ventilation
      • When the booth was custom built, a ventilation system was included.
      • It lives along the back wall, across from the 2 big doors of the rear.
    • Outlets
      • The paint booth has 2 power outlets, that are also controlled by the breaker box.
    • Ingress/Egress
      • 2 large back doors that allow for ventilation and natural lighting
        • Entrance to the back doors is challenging because of height.
      • 1 small side door
        • Easy to enter and exit from
        • Is frequently used
    • Movement?
      • Technically the paint booth has wheels, but it's been sitting so long that they're probably gone.
    • Furniture
      • A small table for painting
      • A flammables cabinet to store paints and other materials
      • A drying rack

Step 2: Need Find.

Obviously, the paint booth had a lot of problems. After looking at what we currently had, I started identifying problems. Need finding occurred from me just spending time in the booth, analyzing the parts that I didn't like about it, and also listening to other people. Many of the needs I noticed fit into one of four categories - Safety, Poor Results, Comfort, Usability. I detail these below.

  • Safety
    • Ventilation
      • The paint booth has a great ventilation system. People either use it without opening the large doors for proper air flow OR they don't realize that it exists.
    • Heat Sources
      • People don't realize that heat sources are a no-go in a booth filled with highly flammable substances. That's why I had to throw out a space heater that someone had brought in there for comfort.
    • Sharps
      • Blades like X-Acto knives and razor blades were being left on the table, painted over, and forgotten - creating a sharps hazard. There was also no adequate disposal for any sharps box.
    • Protective Gear
      • We didn't have any to offer users. Although I have my own respirator, I saw people down there using t-shirts, bandannas, or nothing at all to protect themselves from the vapor. These users were also frequently painting with the booth enclosed.
      • Users were also unable to distinguish between particulate masks and ones suitable for spray paint.
  • Poor Use Results
    • Overspray and Ruined Paint Jobs
      • Even though there was a drying rack, parts were sometimes left on the paint table - often due to unavailable space on the drying rack. If those parts were done in a dark color, users wouldn't see them, until they sprayed over the top of them.
      • Additionally, the drying rack was located closer to the vents than the paint table, meaning that overspray from the paint table would get onto the parts on the drying rack.
    • Particulate on painted surfaces
      • Dust and residue from the graffiti in the booth would flake off and land on parts sporadically.
      • We also are located in Georgia, where pollen and bugs are common for Spring/Summer. Because we need to keep the booth open for ventilation, debris would also be sucked in and onto parts that were drying, because of the proximity to the open door.
    • Delayed/Interrupted Drying/Curing
      • In Fall/Winter, the temperature drops below the paint dry/resin cure threshold of 55 degrees Fahrenheit. Paints take way longer to dry, and resins never cure.
  • Comfort
    • Summer Heat
      • It's a tin can outside in directy sunlight in Georgia. It gets really hot.
    • Winter Chill
      • It's an open tin can with a fan pulling air in. It gets chilly.
    • Filthy/Cluttered Surroundings
      • With nowhere to throw garbage, empty cans, old masks, and random pieces of garbage were perpetually scattered about.
    • Intimidation Factor
      • Graffiti can be cool, but it also makes a place seem uninviting, especially when some of the graffiti is hateful towards different races, genders, etc.
      • A lot of the graffiti was just to test out paints before you spray it on your project.
  • Usability
    • Breaker Box Confusion
      • Nobody could figure out how to turn on the lights or the vents.
    • Lack of Adequate Table Space
      • People regularly paint on the ground of the paint booth because there isn't enough table space.
    • Not easily located
      • Giving directions to the paint booth was a nightmare. "You're going to go downstairs and look for the big white trailer next to the dumpsters."
    • Not known about
      • People would regularly spray paint on the ground around the MRDC rather than use the paint booth. Very few people even knew that we had one.

Step 3: Ideate, Design, Refine!

With all of these needs in mind, I started day dreaming! I drew a lot of pictures, and shared a lot of ideas with my colleagues.

I even planned out a rearranged layout and work flow in a different Instructable!

Once I had settled on a basic plan to address the needs I started...

Step 4: Repair What You Have.

The first step was that I needed to make the paint booth look like it was cared for. I painted up items that were heavily graffitied, using some white paint that a colleague had purchased for the booth earlier in the semester.

I didn't just have to paint the walls, I also had to paint some of the furniture.

Immediately after I painted, I noticed that our booth was leaking. I enlisted the help of a friend to seal the top of the booth, where an errant piece of sheet metal (that was meant to be thrown into the dumpster) had punctured the top of the booth.

Just having a clean and bright space to work immediately made a huge improvement in the reception of the space.

Step 5: Protect the Repairs.

In painting the walls, I removed the areas for people to test paints. At the very end of the summer semester, when a lot of projects were due, a little paint testing showed up at the rear of the booth.

Because any graffiti is a psychological indicator that it's okay to do, I provided a safe and acceptable place for people to test paints. I also immediately did a touch-up job on the door.

My giant roll of paper also performed a secondary task, in that it blocked the small door - which helps reinforce traffic to the rear doors (which are vital for ventilation usage).

Step 6: Tweak What You Have.

We had some existing furniture and accessories that didn't live up to its full potential.

Since paints weren't being stored in the flammables cabinet anyway, and I thought that the door was impeding the storage of paints, I removed it and stuck it behind the cabinet. (Pro Tip: Always keep the really expensive door to the really expensive cabinet in case the situation changes.)

Similarly, the door to the breakers was just causing confusion among the users, so I took that off, too.

Step 7: Make a Maintenance Schedule.

Now that you've got a beautiful paint booth, you need to make sure that you are taking care of it.

Prepare and stick to a maintenance schedule, so that you can do things like make sure the filters are clean and do quick touch up paint jobs.

Step 8: Make It Easy for Your Community to Know the Rules.

You'll find that many people in a makerspace environment will follow the rules - simply because they want to retain access to the space. But if you want people to follow the rules, you have to make sure that they know what the rules are.

In addition to branding our paint booth, I laser cut a series of stencils to remind users of our rules, and to point out the purpose of certain areas.

Step 9: Make It Easy for Your Community to Follow the Rules.

Now that your community knows generally what they're supposed to do, you have to make sure that they are able to do it.

For instance, we are requiring people to wear respirators while painting, so we supplied them and made sure they were immediately visible. Right next to those is a box of respirator wipes so people can keep safe. We wanted to keep the space need and tidy, and we encourage our users to do so - so we added a trash can; we also added small storage to keep everything else they didn't want to toss out. We even gave them somewhere to safely dispose of their broken, dulled, or abused blades.

I hung up our peg boards with the help of one of my fellow prototyping instructors.

Step 10: Add Some Affordances.

If you want to get the community engaged in your space, give them things that make them more comfortable.

I created a bunch of cheap, free poster board stencils that users can use on their projects. If you're spending a lot of time masking and remasking, you'll definitely want somewhere to sit. If you're going to be spending hours in the paint booth, you should listen to music.

Things like this make the space more fun to be in.

Step 11: Advertise.

When you finally have a beautiful space, you need to show it off and let the community know that it is ready for them.

The Invention Studio did this by hosting a couple of cool events over the summer, and I've been helping to advertise by making cool projects in the paint booth and documenting them here on Instructables. The last picture is of some awesome custom art from the second galaxy spraypaint workshop.

Step 12: Enjoy!

I still have a few more steps to create the paint booth of my dreams (like a hanging paint space), but, by and large, the paint booth is open for business.

Never underestimate the power of a good renovation; even though the semester hasn't started yet, people keep telling me all of the cool ideas that our clean, professional space has inspired them to make!

From start to finish, the entire project cost roughly $1000 and a boat load of elbow grease. If you like any of my ideas, feel free to implement them in your own paint spaces. Just let me know how it turns out!

Happy painting!

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Bio: I'm an engineer, designer, and maker studying at the Georgia Institute of Technology.
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