Do you want your own high-quality vinyl laptop skin, but don't want to pay $20? Then read on!
Step 1: Set Up: Choose Your Image, Buy Materials
You will need:
1. A laptop
2. A high resolution image (resolution should be at least as high as your laptop screen)
3. A white gloss self adhesive A4 vinyl label suitable for inkjet printers (I ordered mine from eBay http://www.ebay.co.uk. Ten sheets cost me 10GBP).
4. Some sticky back plastic. I used the stuff libraries use to cover their books, bought from my local stationers Rymans http://www.ryman.co.uk/. A huge roll cost only 2GBP. It is thin, durable and tough.
5. A colour inkjet printer
6. A scanner is useful but not necessary
Step 2: Find the Correct Image Size
If you have a scanner, scan your laptop. Using an image manipulation package that supports layering (e.g. gimp http://www.gimp.org/) load the scanned image. Add a new layer and in this layer draw a box over the scanned image that marks the intended edges of your laptop skin. Make sure you curve the corners of the box to match the contours of your laptop if you wish to do so. Delete the layer containing the scanned image, so you are left only with the outline of your laptop skin. Now load a new layer with the image you wish to use as a skin. Resize and position the image so that the outline of the skin contains the image correctly. Now merge the layers. You should now have an image with the intended outline of your skin superimposed which will help you when you need to cut the image out.
If you do not have a scanner, you will instead need to resize your image so that when it is printed it will be the correct size for your laptop. Use an appropriate image manipulation package.
Step 3: Printing and Cutting
1. Print the resized image on the vinyl (make sure you print on the correct side!) using an inkjet printer set to the highest print quality possible
2. When dry, cover the A4 sheet with the sticky back plastic, ensuring there are no air bubbles. This is to stop the ink rubbing off the skin in your bag
3. Cut out the laptop skin, but save a small square of vinyl to test the adhesive on your laptop. I used a guillotine to keep the edges straight. If you don't have one, a roller cutter will do; failing that use scissors
Step 4: Test!
This is an important step to check the vinyl adhesive won't damage your laptop.
Take the small piece of vinyl you saved, remove the backing to expose the sticky surface and stick it somewhere discrete on your laptop. Leave it there for some time (I left mine in place for a month). When you feel an appropriate time has passed, remove the vinyl and check that it hasn't caused permanent damage to the laptop casing.
If the laptop is old and you don't care about it you can skip this.
Step 5: Stick Your Skin On
1. Ensure the surface is clean
2. Position the skin on the laptop and hold in place
3. Remove the backing from one corner of the skin and stick it in position
4. Slowly remove the backing and making sure at all times the laptop skin is in the correct position. If it isn't then correct for it now. Be careful not to introduce air bubbles. I found avoiding them impossible, but it is possible to remove small air bubbles later
5. With your thumb nail, slowly work small air bubbles to the edge of the laptop skin smoothing as you go
6. Enjoy your laptop cover!
The finished photos have been taken four months after attaching the skin. During this time my laptop has been thrown into my bag without a case on a daily basis, along with the charger, keys, pens etc. As you can see, it has held up well.