Introduction: How to Paint a Plastic Camera

About: Student, writer, daydreamer, the usual. Has a Facebook:

I have a camera that I wanted to paint and thought "how the heck do I do that without ruining the camera?" There are many people interested in using medium-format plastic cameras to take photos these days. Translation; film cameras are back in! Using this retro type of camera, you can take "vintage" ye-olde looking photographs.

This new trend was likely started by Lomography. Lomography emphasizes casual, snapshot photography. Characteristics include over-saturated colors, off-kilter exposure, blurring, "happy accidents," and photographers are encouraged to take a lighthearted approach to their photos, and use these techniques to document everyday life. (<--oh noes Wikipedia!)

(Before you get all twitterpated; yes you could just use a digital camera and manipulate your pics, why would you use an "old clunker" blah blah. But there are people who genuinely enjoy this type of photography, so kindly don't use this as your forum to belittle those who like these cameras.)

Moving on!
I do have a Diana camera; it's a real vintage Diana. This it awesome, but I probably won't use it much, nor do I want to attempt painting a vintage camera. So I got Diana F+, a newer model made by Lomography.

However, most Dianas all look alike; black with turquoise. Sure you could fork out a lot of extra money and get a one of the ten different colors/patterns from the Lomography website, but even then; you're still getting a design someone else came up with in designs you'll probably see again with others who have a Diana camera.

This did not bode well with me. I wanted my Diana to be different! So I decided to look for a way to change the colors of my Diana camera. I decided to spraypaint my Diana in my favorite color; purple! (Heavily inspired by Patrick Ng and his choco-Diana.)

Please notethat when I took these many of these instruction photos, I had already painted the camera purple once before. So don't freak out that you see pieces of the camera already painted or disassembled. Just follow the directions and yours should turn out the same. :) I had to repaint because I didn't really pay attention the first time and missed several spots. :P

Plastic Camera (for this I will be using a Diana, but the paint method would work for other cameras)
Spraypaint x2: one made for plastic, one a different color. (I used Krylon Fusion for Plastic in Black Satin, and Rust-Oleum’s Painter’s Touch Ultra Cover in Purple.)
Tiny screwdriver 3/32" crosshead works great. Mine are from a watch/eyeglass repair kit.
Utility (X-Acto) knife.
Tape: I used both generic Scotch tape and masking tape, but blue painters tape would be even better.
Clean surface to work on
Ventilated flat surface to spraypaint on

And here we go!

Step 1: Disassemble Your Camera Part 1

Step 1: disassemble your camera! This is much scarier with an expensive digital camera than it is with a plastic camera. Lucky for us, the Diana is fairly simple to take apart.

1: Remove the lens from the front of the camera. Sadly I didn't do this step first and almost scratched the lens so. Do this first. Simply unscrew the lens.

2: Tape over the shutter to ensure no paint or dust or anything makes it into the shutter.

3. Carefully slide a utility knife blade underneath the shiny metal-looking stickers on top of the camera. One is in the center that says "Diana F+". Be extra careful if you want to re-use these! I personally did not like them so I wasn't as careful removing them. :)

Figure A shows the blade pressing under the edges of the sticker. I did this to loosen the glue so it would come off easier.
Figure B shows me removing the sticker from the camera.

4. Do the same thing as above, but for the round sticker over the winding wheel.
Figure A shows the utility knife blade going all the way around the edges of the sticker.
Figure B shows me gently lifting the sticker off of the winding wheel.

5. Now you should be able to see two smaller screws on the winding wheel. Using a 3/32" crosshead screwdriver, remove the screws from the wheel. I put these screws in a tiny plastic zip bag so I wouldn't lose them.

6. Once you've removed the screws from the top of the winding wheel, gently lift up on the wheel. This will remove it from the casing. If it doesn't come all the way off yet, don't worry! The next step will help.

Step 2: Disassemble Your Camera Part 2

7. Flip the camera over so you're looking at the bottom. Slide the switch to "open" and then gently remove the backing to your camera. You can set aside the film counter and backing; we won't need it for awhile.

8. Once the camera is open, turn the camera upside down so you can see into the top of the camera. Good lighting helps! I've indicated in photos where the screws are that hold the top of the camera to the bottom part.

On the left side, there are two screws close to the center of the camera. On the right side, there are also two screws, but the are toward the outside of the camera.

9. Remove the screws from the underside of the camera. I also put these in a plastic bag; you can put them in the same bag, the two from the winding wheel are slightly SHORTER than the ones for the housing.

10. With the four screws gone, you should be able to gently loosen the top part of the camera away from the main body. Do this gently; you don't want to break it off! If the bottom part of the turning wheel wasn't loose in point six, you can wiggle it loose from the winding wheel now. I put this piece in the ziploc bag for safekeeping.

11. Now you've successfully removed the lens housing (top part) from the body of the camera! Hang on to both of these pieces, we're going to use them in a moment. Remember; your camera won't be purple like mine is right now. Yours is likely a turquoise color still at this point.

12. Pick up the top piece to the camera. Looking inside it, you can see two lenses. We're going to remove those. I had no trouble removing the tiny lens: I just pinched it with my fingers and slid it up from it's "track" holding it in place. Keep the lenses clean and in a safe place! You don't want these scratched! (My poor Diana already had a slightly scratched front lens. Aww.)

13. Try to slide the larger lens out of the frame. This was slightly more difficult. For this one I had to gently push on it from the TOP of the casing to loosen it. Remember where the Diana F+ sticker was on the top of the camera? There's a slit there, I used the screwdriver to VERY lightly apply some pressure through to the lens. Sure enough, tried sliding it out this time and it was fine.

In the second picture you can see me removing the lens. I didn't remove the lens the first time I painted and it got ooky! I had to use remove the paint, it was a pain. 

14. Pick up the body of the camera now. You should see some wires attached to little boxes on the top. These are for a flash. You can simply tape over these to keep them from getting painted on. It's probably not a *big* deal even if they did, but better safe than sorry. I used masking tape and just went around and on top of the wires and the housing.

Now you're ready to start what I felt was the hardest part: taping!

Step 3: Taping Up the Camera

Step 2: Tape it up!

1. I wanted just the top and frame of the camera to be purple. So I taped all the way around the body of the camera using generic Scotch tape. I sat it right underneath the frame. You could do this in reverse though if you wanted to paint the body and not the frame. Simply tape over the frame and leave the body exposed.

2. Then I covered the main body of the camera with tissue paper to block up the rest of the camera from getting painted. I re-taped all the way around the edges to keep the tissue in place. These steps took me quite a bit of time lining up all the tape.

**Extra optional step**
3. I also painted the lens of the camera and the "picture counter" on the back of the camera. I didn't show this part, but if you want to spray the lens and picture counter, make SURE you've covered the actual LENS part from the back AND the top of the lens. NO glass/plastic lens should be visible.

I used a circular piece of cardboard to sit on top of the lenscap. I had also taped off the lens. After I painted the base coat, I covered up all but the very top of the lens so the part that *had* been silver would be painted. I simply used masking tape and put it all along the lens so only the top was exposed.

For the counter, I simply taped all around the counter securing tissue paper around the "bumpy" part of the back. Then I made sure to cover the red-film and the slider next to the film counter numbers. This didn't get a base coat; I just used the colored spraypaint as seen in the next step.

**As a note, I had also painted the body of the camera using the same Krylon Plastic Fusion Black Satin spraypaint. I wanted the lens features to be black so I painted the body and frame.

Step 4: Painting the Camera

Step 3: painting the camera!

1. Place camera top and body in a place where you have the space and ventilation to spraypaint all sides of the camera. I had an old pet crate outside and decided to spray on top of it. Outdoors = plus. Not going to spraypaint all over something I can't get paint on = also plus.

2. Spray the camera with the Plastic spraypaint as a primer. Remember the plastic fusion paint comes in many colors. I used black, but to keep colors bright you could use the white paint.

Using this paint as a first coat is an important step! Some paints don't require a primer, but to ensure my second coat of paint would stick to the Diana, I decided to play it safe and use a base coat of paint made for plastic. Make sure to use sweeping coats, and don't get the can too close to the camera when you spray or it'll just pool the paint up and mess up the camera. Remember to get all the way around the camera.

Krylon's Plastic Fusion paint doesn't take very long to dry. I waited about an hour. Turn the top over so you can see inside it. Spray inside this area as well unless you want the turquoise showing through.

3. After the base coat is dry inside and out, get out your second color of paint. Make sure the first coat is dry! If you don't wait, the paint will crackle.  Also make sure paint can is mixed well; I tested a spot on the cage before I sprayed directly onto the camera.

Now spray away! Again, make sure you're at least 14 inches from the camera to ensure the paint does NOT pool up all over.

4. Wait for paint to dry. I touched up spots on this camera several times over the course of a few days to make sure each coat was dry before repainting.

Step 5: Cleanup and Reassembly

Step 4: cleanup and putting the camera back together!

1. After you're happy with the color of your camera and the paint is fully dry, it's time to put the camera back together. Get out your plastic sandwich bag with your screws in it and the pieces of the camera like the lens plastic and the winding wheel bottom.

2. Take off all tape, tissue paper, etc you used to cover the camera. Careful when you remove tape; you don't want it to yank off paint! Make sure you've also taken the tape off of the lenses.

3. Slide the lenses back into the top of the camera. Make sure they're not wobbly nor off the "tracks" made for them.

4. Place the winding wheel cap on the top of the camera. Make sure it's lined up with the bottom of the winding wheel which you should have lined up underneath. Get the two smallest screws out and carefully tighten them in the top of the wheel. Test the wheel; make sure when you turn counter-clockwise you don't have to struggle to turn it and you can hear clicking. Also make sure it's not TOO loose.

5. Place the top of the camera back onto the base. Flip camera over and use the four remaining screws to secure the top of the camera back to the body. 

6. Now your camera should be put back together, except for the back! Get the back of the camera out. If you had painted it, make sure to take the tape off from around the picture counter. Place backing onto camera body, and once it's on properly make sure you look at the bottom and slide the switch to "close."

Step 6: Admire and Enjoy!

You should be done now! Feel free to admire and swoon over your newly painted Diana. (Yes it does work and is fully functional. I'm in the process of scanning some negatives to show).

I'm still not 100% done with my Diana; it needs new stickers for the top, winding wheel, and lens ring. I'm planning on making them myself and since they don't mess with the functions of the camera, I'll get to that at a later time. I'm also working on making a different strap for my Diana since the plastic one it came with is not to my liking.

I haven't tried this yet with a Holga, but I'm sure the basics are the same. Maybe sometime I will try this with additional cameras. ;) 

If you have any questions feel free to ask. And if you have questions about the Diana camera, those folks over at are always willing to help! To see more photos from these types of cameras, do a search for Diana photography, Holga photos, or just lomography photos.