Introduction: Spray Paint Stencil for Laptop

Picture of Spray Paint Stencil for Laptop

Make a stencil, and custom spray paint your laptop.

Step 1: Design the Template

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Bold designs work best. Try to keep all features larger than 0.150 inches.

This one is designed such that you can cut it from one piece of material and then snap in the interior pieces to do different layers. Since you never have to remove the first layer, the subsequent layers are already aligned.

If you are going to laser cut the template, make sure your design is in a vector format. Programs such as Adobe Streamline can turn bitmaps into vectors.

Step 2: Make the Stencil

Cut the stencil. Printing the design and cutting it by hand is a good option. Adhesive stencils help prevent paint wicking from underneath.

I elected to laser cut a stencil from 1/8 thick acylic. I wanted to reuse the stencil and have relatively small, sharp features.

Step 3: Test Stencil

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Test the stencil and your technique before painting your laptop. I have had limited success cleaning up mistakes with paint thinner and a small foam brush.

Step 4: Clean Laptop

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Clean the dirt and grime off our your laptop with acetone, rubbing alcohol, or soap and water. Be careful though, one (or maybe all three?!) might dissolve your laptop! A little bit of acetone on a paper towel didn't harm my ThinkPad.

Step 5: Position the Stencil

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Position the stencil and cover and exposed areas with tape. I used some lead weights to hold the stencil flush against the laptop. Place lead weights carefully!

Step 6: Paint First Layer

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Paint the first layer with thin coats of spray paint. For me, the first layer is the green outline. It's important to spray multiple thin coats several minutes apart. You don't want the paint forming droplets that will wick underneath the stencil.

Step 7: Thin Channels and Thick Paint

Picture of Thin Channels and Thick Paint

I was tempted to place interior parts on this first stencil. The thin channels didn't get much paint in them until I lost patience and really gooped the paint on. It then wicked under the stencil and made a mess.

Step 8: Place Second Layer Stencil

Picture of Place Second Layer Stencil

The second layer only covers the green outline leaving the interior open to be painted purple. After using it a few times you may need to scrape the paint off of the edges for it to snuggly snap into the first stencil.

Step 9: Paint Second Layer

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Paint the second layer with multiple thin coats.

Step 10: Place the Third Stencil

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Scrape paint off the edges if necessary.

Step 11: Paint Third Layer.

Paint the third layer with multiple thin coats.

Step 12: Remove Stencil and Tape

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If you're careful, you don't need to wait for the last layer to dry before removing the stencil.

Step 13: Be the Envy of Your Friends!

Picture of Be the Envy of Your Friends!

Can't get any color on your laser-etched powerbook, can you?!

A clear coat might be a good idea, but I figured the paint will eventually chip off and I'll just repaint it with another design.


Banfield Design (author)2010-02-16

I have a pretty awesome looking skull stencil that has seen some serious use, though because my laptop was a gift, I had to resort to getting a vinyl decal made

lookatmygrlyfont (author)2007-05-31

the ibook is still sexier ;)

IBM way sexier!

Seiko125 (author)Dylatron472009-11-21

i second that

cotton (author)2009-05-18

isnt this still stolen anways like 1-2 years ago i saw this ut i forgot were like tim hortons or mr sub

Derin (author)2009-02-19

Which one is that ThinkPad?Mine is a R31 made before the IBM/Lenovo thing.

Derin (author)Derin2009-02-19

Also,I plan to come about 5-6 years later.Prepare yourselves.

flaresam (author)2008-10-30

OMG! I have the same laptop!

Derin (author)flaresam2009-02-19

Which model?

abadfart (author)2008-12-01

nice my friend has one that looks like a watermelon

hannahelastic (author)2006-05-08

For the artistically impaired (like myself) you can open an image in photoshop and mess with threshold to get some great stencils.

King.Cobra (author)hannahelastic2008-09-16

that's a great idea. got to try it next time.

Inkscape ( is also an excellent vector graphics alternative for the financially impaired :D

MjPadfoot (author)2008-09-10

eric the instructable guy hits gold again! awesome intructabe dude...i'll look forward 2 spray painting my own... thanks hannahelastic, great tip for those who cant draw, like me:P

Omega192 (author)2008-08-20

Yay! eric uses a PC :D haha, nice 'ible, if i ever get a lappy i look forward to pimpin it out :P

Yerboogieman (author)2008-08-20

You cant repaint it with another design.

beauwalker23 (author)2008-08-19

looks sticky

ahead (author)2008-01-05


MumblingTuna (author)2007-11-12

Im thinking of turning my Toshiba Sattelite into a red and black monstrosity. Will rustoleum work?

Usermanual (author)2006-05-31

Instead of permanantly damaging my notebook I would go to and get a skin made with my custom image. But still cool because you personalized your notebook.

MumblingTuna (author)Usermanual2007-11-12

besides paint is cheaper (and you get more pride out of it) "yeah I'm a modder/hacker, I put an online order in for a sticker and then applied it to my computer"

phidauex (author)Usermanual2006-09-14

Damaged? Or improved?

tankboyben (author)phidauex2007-04-10

who cares? its theirs and if they like it cool, at the end of the day its theirs to do what they want with, try bieng a little more possative

stewmeat95 (author)tankboyben2007-10-18

hi its that guy {stew] i agree for once

tankboyben (author)stewmeat952007-10-18

Ah MR Meatstew my nemesis we meet again, glad you agree =oD

Crash2108 (author)Usermanual2006-12-18

That right theres is whats a calls an ad.

KronoNaut (author)2007-09-13

Great instructable Eric.

Punkguyta (author)2007-02-23

I was looking at somehow modding my ibook g4, I wanted to have a clear case, but that was pre-g4, they decided to use opaque plastics in the g4 ibooks and above sadly. Any ideas?

Ora (author)Punkguyta2007-08-28

You could do one of two things: First, you could take the case off, sand the entire thing with fine grit sandpaper, spray paint it, and put a protective clear coat over it. Or you could take the case, leave it un-sanded, boil some fabric dye in a shallow pan, and boil the case and have it absorb the color like this guy.

Punkguyta (author)Ora2007-08-29

Yea I've seen that done before, but I kinda just wanted a clear case, but actually a red ibook g4 would look rather snazzy, I might have to give that a try, thanks. -Punk

tehkryptonite (author)2007-08-19

Does the spray painted part "stick out"? Like if you run your hands over the image, will you feel a "bump"?

ewilhelm (author)tehkryptonite2007-08-20

A little bit.

TheGodsMustBeCrazy78 (author)2007-05-22

Go to Any good art store, on or offline and get yourself some frisket paper. Its a thin vinyl film with an adhesive backing. the back of the frisket is a thin paper that makes it easy to trim and put through a inkjet printer. I personally put the frisket on the surface and then draw with a fine point sharpie. then trim with an exacto, be careful the film is very thin .02 mm but leaves a very sharp line.

Andrew546 (author)2007-02-27

Those lead weights are huge! How much do they weigh?

ewilhelm (author)Andrew5462007-02-28

15 - 20 lbs I imagine.

Fenwick (author)2007-01-26

If you really wanted it to stick for good, you could have used some spraypaint that specifically sticks to plastic (like Krylon Fusion).

Sixxtwo (author)2006-08-16

Also another option for color is vinyl dye. sprays and acts like a spraypaint (slightly more 'runny') but it actully dyes the plastics as well; essentully it will not chip, rub or fade off. Also no real priming/sanding needed.

the only drawback is the limited color gamut as it is mainly used to refinish car interior pieces (carpet, door panels, dash parts)

used some on my i9300 dell and unlike the dell paint; in 1 year of use, the dye hasnt faded.

(I hate plugging websites on comment boards; but this seems to be the only place on the internet w/ it. Also some auto parts stores may have a limited (gray black) selection)

paulrocks3 (author)2006-07-16

OK, How is that damaging it?

Justinicus (author)2006-06-07

What kind of paint are you using, and how does it hold up to the abrasion normally experienced by a laptop?

amibolchi (author)2006-02-25

If you have a very good inkjet printer, you can build some panels similar to that found in electronics equipment, oscilloscopes etc. Similar way you can make the design above much easily. First link in describes such a project.

stayce (author)2006-02-20

thanks, this is cool. if you don't have access to a laser cutter, you can buy a cheap electric stencil cutter at craft stores and cut thru acetate or transparancies. it kinda looks like a soldering iron and cuts with heat - slightly easier than xacto for me at least.

fungus amungus (author)2006-02-15

A great way to avoid underspray is to spray the other side of the stencil with spray mount and stick it to the applied surface. That makes any medium adhesive.

If you want a reusable stencil, try creating a blank laminate for laser cutting or laminate a sheet of paper with the design on it for hand cutting.

One of these days I'll try out making a laser cut stencil. For now, I still love the work of cutting with an Xacto. To see some insane hand-cut pieces, check out

About This Instructable




Bio: Eric J. Wilhelm is the founder of Instructables. He has a Ph.D. from MIT in Mechanical Engineering. Eric believes in making technology accessible through ... More »
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