Introduction: Custom Slides for Outdoor Holiday Projector
Last year, after Halloween, I bought two of these outdoor projectors on clearance at Home Depot. I thought for only $5 each I'd find a use for them.
I assumed I could go online and buy extra slides for other holidays. After lots of looking, it turns out they don't sell the slides separately. I did see that someone made a 3D model to print your own/replacement plastic slide tray... same projector brand, different model. This incompatibility didn't bug me too much, cause the estimated cost to 3D print was almost $30 per tray!?
Opening the tray is actually not too bad, so I figured I'd just print my own slides on transparency paper and swap them out as needed.
- Outdoor slide projector - the one I bought was Gemmy Projection Whirl-A-Motion + Strobe
- If you get a different brand/model, make sure the projected light is white
- Inkjet or Color Laser Transparency paper
- Inkjet or Color Laser Printer
- Graphic editing software: Visio, InkSpace, etc.
- Digital Caliper (optional)
- 1/8" Drill bit with a brad point (or something else to make small holes in the transparency)
Step 1: Creating a Template - Measuring the Existing Slides
1st step was determining the size of the slides inside the trays, and making a template. I'm used to using Microsoft Visio, but any SVG editor should work just as well.
You'll need to open the slide tray up. The version I'm using has two little plastic tabs that need to be pried open.
Inside is a photo graphic slide. You can pull it up to remove it. I used a digital caliber to check the dimensions of the slide. I then recreated it as a template in Visio. You'll want the same shape so the slide will fit inside the tray. Pay attention to any protrusions, like the three raised parts. I supposed you could snap those off, to make the process easier.... but, they help align the slide into the tray. So a little extra work now, may save you time later. I used a paper clip to make holes in the printed paper tests to fit over those alignment tabs.
After many test prints and tweaks to the dimensions, I finalized the template.
With the dimensions correct I grouped parts of the object and assigned it to a layer.
- I have a visible/printable layer for part of the template.
- An invisible/printable layer (all black to make sure the background is black).
- And a separate layer for the images I'll add in the next step.
I duplicated the object many times so that I could fill an entire 8 1/2" x 11" page with them.
Note: later I found the plastic transparency was less forgiving than the paper test prints, and needed to trim the sides slightly. Otherwise the new slides kind of bunched up a little when inserted into the trays. If you're using the same slide projector as I am, you can skip this step and just use the template I've already created.
Step 2: Design New Custom Slides Using the Template
Using my template or the one you created, you can now start creating your own custom slides.
I mostly used Google image search to find clip-art to add to the slides. Resize each image to fit within the boundaries of the projection holes in the tray.
For example; my projector came with a pumpkin slide, but was black and white. I replaced that with a color version.
Note: if there are any words on the image, you many need to flip the image horizontally so the text is projected correctly. Otherwise the text could be backwards, like looking in a mirror. I suppose that actually depends on which way the slide is inserted and if the projector you wind up using utilizes a mirror.
Step 3: Print the Slides
Make sure to use the appropriate type of transparency for your printer. Inkjet, B&W laser, or Color laser. I'm using a color laser printer, which heats the page more than a B&W laser printer. If you use the wrong kind of transparency in a laser printer, you can damage your printer. Inkjet printers need the ink to set/dry, and won't work correctly with transparencies made for laser printers. Follow any directions that came with the transparency; some have to be printed on a specific side. The one I'm using does not.
Use some type of glove when handling the transparency. Both before and after printing, to prevent smudges and finger prints.
Load one page into the printer at a time. I used the bypass (manual feed) tray.
Step 4: Cut the Slides to Size
You should still be wearing gloves (or a glove) while handing the slides.
We need to cut them down to fit into the slide tray. I started with just one, to double check the fit... but afterwards I found it easier to cut them down in strips, and than work down to trimming one at a time.
Step 5: Cut the Necessary Holes and Insert Into the Trays
My projector slide trays have three alignment tabs. I need to cut matching holes in the slides so they can fit over those tabs (which I marked in red on my template).
With the paper tests, I was able to poke thru the paper with a paper clip. The paper clip method didn't work through the plastic transparency. For a few I used a sharp knife, and turned the point to cut a hole. Later I used a drill bit, with a brad point, and turned that in place with my hands (the drill caused more harm than good, but turning the bit by hand worked very well).
Between the holes not being perfect and the plastic being less forgiving (than the paper), the slides needed some additional help to seat into the trays. Using a retractable pen became the solution. Find a pen that is able to fit over the alignment tabs. Align the slide's holes with the tabs, now one by one push the pen over the slide holes and onto the alignment tabs. I found this to work very well.
Note: Don't use a plastic pen you like. I had to fix a plastic pen's hole so my multi-color twist pen would work smoothly again. The metal pen I used didn't seem to suffer any ill affects.
You should now be able close the second half of the tray, to keep the slide in place.
Step 6: Insert Into the Projector to Test
You can now insert you new slides (in the reused slide trays) into the projector.
Now your single holiday projector can be used for any other holiday, occasion, or even business promotions.
Note: I used a color laser printer; the black is sufficient but not as good as the original slide. You can also make out some "dithering" between the printed colors. An inkjet will likely smooth the colors out better. You may also be able to get your slide(s) printed professionally for better results.
Participated in the