Introduction: Zelda Fantasy Controller Mod

About: Geeky artist. MUST. MAKE. STUFF. More stuff at:

"Hey, anyone have a controller I can mod? No guarantee I won't destroy it."

I love to mess with stuff, so when I saw the gaming contest my first thought was to do a cool controller mod. After some begging, I appropriated a slightly wounded Xbox One controller to work on. In this Instructable, I'll show you my ideas, what worked and what blew up - or melted down. Ultimately, I'm very happy with the result, and my controller is happy too.

Why Zelda? Love the artwork! Love the colors!

Step 1: Boring Black Controller

I used an Xbox One controller, but the techniques I used in this Instructable will work with just about any controller. At first I had very grandiose plans, like making a Zelda mod with a working ocarina. However, in the interest of maintaining usability, I decided on a more streamlined plan. I still wanted to keep the Zelda "feel", and decided an abstract design would be best. You can easily imagine my design as the backdrop for a beautiful scene in Zelda.

Step 2: The Main Ingredients

Fantasy Colors

Pebeo Prism reactive paints produce interesting patterns that are perfect for fantasy. I used them for the main part of my mod. I have a set of 12 of which I chose about 6 colors. Depending on your controller, you should plan to match any elements or buttons that won't be covered. I would say you need at least 4 contrasting colors. You can buy Pebeo paints at most art stores and online. They're a little pricey, but they cover a lot of area.

Antique Metal

The other big part of my design was to turn parts of the plastic into swordlike, steampunk antique metal. I chose Gilder's Wax (Renaissance Wax) to create this effect. The wax is easy to work with and is permanent when dry. I used a green patina and a metallic gold. (You could also try acrylic paints and/or Rub and Buff, but I haven't tried those on a controller yet.)

You'll also need lots of toothpicks, something to keep your work surface clean, compressed air if you have it, and a flat head screwdriver. And lots of patience!

Step 3: Disassembly

Originally I planned to take the entire controller apart so that I could paint each section independently. I got pretty far and then ran into a problem. Part of the housing is attached with security screws. There is a special tool to get them out, but I don't have it. I tried the hacks I found online and succeeded only in stripping the screw heads. So now they're not only secure, they're permanent.

Ultimately I was glad I couldn't take the whole controller apart. It just added a little time because I had to do the top and bottom in stages.

Each controller is different, but the Xbox One has hand grip panels that can be pried off. THIS IS OPTIONAL! To pry them off, you have to get a screwdriver in the seam and start popping the tabs. It sounded like the tabs were breaking off, though they were fine. It took patience because there are a lot of tabs, and they kept trying to pop back together. If you need more explanation, there are videos on you tube.

This was enough disassembly for me.

Step 4: All Apart

Then I removed the batteries and the battery cover. The extra piece in the photo is the original broken bumper. (Which is why this controller was sacrificed.)

Step 5: Reactive Paints & the Battery Cover Test

You need to know little about Pebeo reactive paints.

The thing about Pebeo paints is that when combined they slowly form patterns. They work best if you stir a color well and drip some onto smooth flat surface. Then stir and add another color and wait to see what happens. You can also swirl colors or create color blocks. The most important part is the waiting. The reactions take time, so don't touch. If you don't like how they turn out, the best thing is just to paint over the ugly section after the paints have fully dried.

I began with the battery cover because if I messed up it was the easiest piece to start over. And who's looking at the battery cover, anyway?

I spread a thin layer of purple over the flat area with a toothpick. Then, WHILE THE PAINT WAS WET, dripped some green into the purple. I moved the paint around just a little with a toothpick and dripped in a little more purple.

Note: Use one toothpick per color. Try not to mix them in the jars.

Step 6: Patterns Form

While still wet, I added some red accents. Then waited...

Once the paint starts to dry, you have to leave it alone! Step out. Run away. Just be patient.

As the paints react, you'll see patterns form. The patterns settle out over a couple of hours, but the paint stays tacky for a long time.

Let the paint dry over night.

Step 7: Controller Body

The controller is smooth, but not flat. I decided the best way to work would be in small sections that I could hold a flat as possible. Otherwise I'd have a dripping mess.

Also, I wanted to create sections of color and pattern that would contrast with other sections. As such, I began painting small areas that didn't touch. I started with the same purple/green combination as on the battery cover, only instead of red accents, I used white.

I had to be careful to add enough paint to get a reaction, but not so much that it all dripped off the edges.

Here's the first section I painted. Loving the look!

Step 8: Handle Two

After painting a section of the right handle, I dripped paint on the left. I used a different color scheme. Green, orange, purple. white.

Then I waited. And watched the colors react into wonderful patterns. It's like magic.

While I let the paints set on the controller body, I took out the grip pieces I pried off the handles.

Step 9: Dripping Paint

I wanted it to look like the colors were dripping down the sides when the controller is reassembled.

While holding on to the tabs on the back of each piece, I carefully dripped paint starting at the top on the front of each grip. If the paint didn't run down on it's own, I guided it with a toothpick. Then I added a second color. I made each piece a different pattern.

To keep the pieces in the right position, I stacked old poker chips and coins under the top edges.

I cleaned away drips that went off the bottom edges with a toothpick.

(I also painted the little broken bumper piece.)

Step 10: Joy Stick Tops

These were especially fun. Because the joy sticks have depressions for your fingers, I was able to add a couple of paint colors to them without worrying about drips. I didn't have to be perfect because I'd be coming back to work on the sticks more later.

Same for the D-pad.

Step 11: Matching Buttons

After the first painted sections were well set, the dried paint acted as a barrier for painting the next sections. I made sure the boundaries had contrasting colors. One of the first things I did on my second round of painting was to incorporate the buttons into my design.

I carefully painted around each button, matching the paint color to the button. So, B got orange, A got green, and Y got gold. I left X for round three of painting, but obviously it would be blue.

I used a toothpick to push around the paints so I didn't get any on the buttons. Also, I didn't want any paint to drip into the buttons and keep them from working properly. While the paints were still wet, I added tiny drops of accent colors.

And waited for the reactions.

Step 12: Reactive Paint Does Its Thing

I filled in a little more and then...

Once again I positioned the controller to minimize drips.

Once again I waited overnight for the paint to dry.

Step 13: Filling In

Now I had well delineated sections bordered by dry paint. Filling in the central blank areas was the easiest part of the painting.

Again, I tried to use combinations I hadn't used yet.

Step 14: Finishing the Top

Most of what was left to fill in was the top center. I used a red/green combination on the front section, and white/purple by the ports. I went around the remaining buttons very carefully.

Color fail: Up to this point I'd been really happy with my color combinations. However, the white/purple just didn't keep with my colorful fantasy motif. (And it looked a little like intestines.) I ultimately decided to paint over the white section as you'll see later on.

Step 15: Touch Up

I made sure all the edges that would show were neatly painted, and carefully touched up any thin or bare spots.

Then I let everything dry overnight...again.

Step 16: Clean Up

When all the paint is totally dry:

Using a fingernail or wooden stick with an edge, scrape off any dry paint that got out of the lines. This will make the project look much crisper.

Step 17: The Faux Metal

Time for the Gilder's Wax!

You can wear gloves to apply the wax, but I usually don't bother. It' comes off pretty easily with warm water and soap.

Rub a finger on the green patina wax. Then apply that wax to the underside of the controller. Start with edges by rubbing from the bottom up. Then smooth along the edges with a clean finger so you don't get wax on the paint.

Apply wax gently around the ports, but don't get any wax inside.

Step 18: The Upside Down

Cover the rest of the underside. It doesn't have to be very even since the objective look is antique sword. If you want a deeper color, wait until the wax dries and smooth on a little more.

Step 19: Clean Up

Take a toothpick and run it through the seams to clean out any excess wax. Let the green wax dry completely.

Step 20: Gold

You will use a lot less of the gold wax. It should be an accent over the green.

Put a very small amount on a clean finger and start by running some gold along the green edges, over the green wax.

Lightly add gold unevenly over some of the underside.

Step 21: Back to Buttons

Apply gold around the outsides of the joy sticks over the black.

Apply gold on the edges of the directional pad.

Step 22: Back to the Grips

Add some gold highlights to the grips over the black areas.

Step 23: Check It Over

Examine your controller. Now is the time to see if you want to add or change anything. Also, clean up any areas where paint has strayed.

Step 24: Touch Ups

I decided I didn't like the black I left around the D-pad, so I carefully painted that area with a toothpick. Much better.

Also, I painted over the white intestiney area. I think it looks much better now.

Step 25: And Then Disaster Struck

Even though the paints and the wax are permanent, I wanted to add a sealer for extra shine and smoothness. After testing my tried and true varnish ( Protect a Clear), I started by sealing just a few areas. I put sealer on the joy sticks, grip pieces, and the waxed areas. Huge mistake!

While the varnish looked great at first, after a while the paint bubbled up and began to peel off. I'm so glad I didn't varnish the whole controller or I'd have started again from scratch.

I had to redo the joysticks and loose grip pieces.

The waxed areas were fine, but I wouldn't varnish them again them if I were to do it over.

Step 26: Redo

Step 27: Getting Back on Track

After fixing the damaged paint (not yet fixed in this photo), I was back on track. The controller and loose pieces needed about a day and a half to dry enough to handle without leaving fingerprints.

Step 28: Assembly

Time to see how it all looks together.

First blow some compressed air (if you have it) into the cracks to get rid of any dust, and in my case, fur.

Then pop the battery cover into place.

Looks great. Super happy!

Step 29: Grips

Remember all those tabs? Line up the grip pieces and start popping them back together. I kept thinking I was done, gave another squeeze and heard another pop. When everything is properly snapped in place, you'll have a seam with a fairly tight seal all the way around


Note: If you have any dripped paint in the way, scrape it off (where it won't show) with an Xacto blade.

(I also put back the broken bumper.)

Step 30: Details

Step 31: Ready to Play

Zelda mod complete. I'm very happy with the results.

The project took about a week and a half because of all the drying time. It went fairly smoothly and wasn't very expensive. And the leftover paint and wax will be around for many more projects.

I hope you enjoyed this Instructable!

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