Introduction: Spray Paint Stencil for Laptop

Make a stencil, and custom spray paint your laptop.

Step 1: Design the Template

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Paint the second layer with multiple thin coats.

Step 10: Place the Third Stencil

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

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!

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 made it!(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 made it!(author)2007-05-31

the ibook is still sexier ;)

Dylatron47 made it!(author)2009-07-20

IBM way sexier!

Seiko125 made it!(author)2009-11-21

i second that

cotton made it!(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 made it!(author)2009-02-19

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

Derin made it!(author)2009-02-19

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

flaresam made it!(author)2008-10-30

OMG! I have the same laptop!

Derin made it!(author)2009-02-19

Which model?

abadfart made it!(author)2008-12-01

nice my friend has one that looks like a watermelon

hannahelastic made it!(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 made it!(author)2008-09-16

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

Dark_Helmet made it!(author)2008-07-22

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

MjPadfoot made it!(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 made it!(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 made it!(author)2008-08-20

You cant repaint it with another design.

beauwalker23 made it!(author)2008-08-19

looks sticky

ahead made it!(author)2008-01-05


MumblingTuna made it!(author)2007-11-12

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

Usermanual made it!(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 made it!(author)2007-11-12

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 made it!(author)2006-09-14

Damaged? Or improved?

tankboyben made it!(author)2007-04-10

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 made it!(author)2007-10-18

hi its that guy {stew] i agree for once

tankboyben made it!(author)2007-10-18

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

Crash2108 made it!(author)2006-12-18

That right theres is whats a calls an ad.

KronoNaut made it!(author)2007-09-13

Great instructable Eric.

Punkguyta made it!(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 made it!(author)2007-08-28

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 made it!(author)2007-08-29

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 made it!(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 made it!(author)2007-08-20

A little bit.

TheGodsMustBeCrazy78 made it!(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 made it!(author)2007-02-27

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

ewilhelm made it!(author)2007-02-28

15 - 20 lbs I imagine.

Fenwick made it!(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 made it!(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 made it!(author)2006-07-16

OK, How is that damaging it?

Justinicus made it!(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 made it!(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 made it!(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 made it!(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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