Introduction: Hand Painted Retro/Space Themed Arcade Cabinet

About: Dale, 30, Downhill Skateboarder and Gamer.

Welcome to my guide to creating your own Space/Retro Gaming themed Tabletop Retro arcade cabinet!

For this Instructable, you will need:

Raspberry Pi 3 or 2 Board (RSComponents or Pimoroni) £28-34

Micro USB Cable to Power Raspberry Pi £2

8-16GB Micro SD Card £5-15

HDMI Cable £1-3

20-22" Flatscreen TV/Monitor with Speakers with 1 HDMI & 1 USB port spare £80-100

2 Player Arcade Control Kit £50

Arcade Cabinet MDF Flatpack DIY Kit £60-75

Acrylic Primer Gesso Black 250ml (HobbyCraft) £5-10

Acrylic Artists Paint Set (HobbyCraft) £20-35

20x Short Wood Screws (+ Handheld Electric Drill to insert) £4

4x M5 Short Nuts/Bolts £4

1x Large Paintbrush (to apply Primer) £3

1x Fine Paintbrush (to paint designs) £2

Total cost: £337

Step 1: Install & Configure RetroPie OS

'RetroPie' is the OS for the Raspberry Pi, used to run multiple game console emulators.

You will need to write the latest RetroPie OS image to your Micro SD Card, for the Raspberry Pi to use.

The Guide to do this is on their website.

Once you have written the Retropie OS image to your Micro SD card, insert it into the Raspbery Pi and turn on.

Connect your Raspberry Pi to your Router via an Ethernet cable (faster and easier) and use the RetroPie SSH Guide to copy over Game ROM files.

I find all my game Roms on

Step 2: Cabinet Prep

Due to most pre-made Arcade cabinets being MDF wood, you will need to apply 3 layers of Acrylic Primer (Gesso) to all of the outside facing panels, before you paint any designs on top.

As we wanted a space/retro gaming theme, we went for Black Gesso, but it is available in White too.

Be sure to dab your large paintbrush in water whilst applying the Black Gesso to make sure it gets evenly spread. Each layer should dry within 30 minutes.

Step 3: Paint Your Panels

We decided the best panels to paint would be those that are on show to the players all the time. These are the 2 Side Panels & the Button Panel.

We went for mostly space themed game designs, such as classics like 'Asteroids' & 'Space Invaders' See the Photos. These were painted freehand by my very talented other half. Be sure to use a ruler to do a pencil outline of your designs, especially the blocky characters, such as the Space Invader Aliens.

If you want to add a star background to your panels, carefully flick white paint off your Fine brush onto the black Panel.

Step 4: Build Your Cabinet

After all the painting is done, you're now ready to build the Arcade Cabinet. This is best done with 2 or 3 people for ease.

Before you screw in the Button panel, Insert all your buttons into the pre-cut 32mm holes and screw in with the black circle holds. To insert the Joysticks, you will need 2x Short M5 Nuts & Bolts and drill similar diameter holes to the M5 Nuts, one at the top left corner of the Joystick, one of the bottom right. See images.

You will now need to do the wiring, essentially you can set 2 buttons to be Start or Select and set 4 Buttons to be A, B, X, Y. The Joysticks just need Up, Down, Left, Right. The diagram for the encoder board can be found here.

Once the wiring is done, connect both Encoder boards via the USB cable to the USB Ports on the Raspberry Pi. Connect the Pi Micro USB power cable to the USB port on the TV. This will mean everything will come on once the TV gets turned on.

Though most cabinets come with instructions to Glue together, I wanted the cabinet to be more sturdy, so we drilled small wood screws through the connecting MDF panels. You will need around 20. See images. You will need help from someone to hold the panels in place, whilst you drill. If you want to cover up the metal part of the screw on show after drilling, black over the top with some Black Gesso.

Before inserting the TV frame panel, insert your Flatscreen 20-22" TV into the frame, resting it against the middle back mount. Once the TV is in place, drill the TV frame panel into place, depending on the kit, you may also need to screw a holding panel to the back bottom of the TV panel, to hold the TV/screen up. If there is a gap causing the Screen to lean back, use something like bubble wrap to hold it in place.

Leave the back panel til last, incase you need to access the electronics.

Step 5: Finishing Touches

Once the cabinet is built, you will most likely have a few parts that need covering with more Black Primer (Gesso). Simply apply 1 more layer, as they don't need designs on them.

For the shelf above the Screen, as we didn't need speakers, we decide to paint the inside of this with the Black Primer. We then bought a set of McDonalds Nintendo toys & USB Powered Fairy lights (powered by a spare Raspberry Pi USB Port) on Ebay for £5 and glued them inside the shelf before fitting the clear perspex panel over the top. But you can use your imagination for this and fit any another game/space style merchandise of your choice.

Once the figures are in place, hold and screw the top perspex panel into place. Apply a tiny amount of Black Primer to the screws on show using your fine brush.

If you need to make adjustments to the fairy lights or characters (before gluing them), you can access them from the back. See photos.

When you're happy everything is in place, hold and screw in the back panel of the cabinet. Again, apply a tiny amount of Black Primer to the screws on show using your fine brush.

As everything is powered from the TV/Monitor, you can chose where you want your Power plug for the TV/Monitor to come out. You can do this by drilling a hole in the back panel (big enough to fit the plug through, or you can unscrew the plug from its wire, feed the wire through one of the pre-cut holes in the side panels and reattach the plug to its wire.

Congratulations, you've now completed this Instructable! We hope you had as much fun building it as we did!

Step 6: Video Demo