Painting a Case - Are You Nuts?

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While some people – OK, most people – just buy their PC to do work, surf the web, and play games, there are those of us who want to do all that but not have to look at a boring beige box. Some modifications (AKA mods) are as easy as replacing the side panel and adding lights. Painting goes way beyond this.

So what do we need to do to go way beyond and not make it look like the neighborhood graffiti artist took a spray can to your case? Read the directions on the can.

First thing you need is patience – you’re not gonna’ get that custom mirror finish paint job over night. Preparation is what’s going to make this look as good as it can be.

First you need to have some basic supplies:

  1. Wet-dry sandpaper in various grits from 220 – 600
  2. Some gloves will help with a smooth finish, as you not getting grease (aka finger prints) under the paint
  3. A clean place to paint – NOT IN THE HOUSE! Garage or outdoors, temperatures 50-90F and less than 85% humidity – you read the can, right?
  4. Some primer – should be compatible with the brand of paint
  5. Some paint – your choice of color
  6. Clear coat – optional

Clean the parts in soapy water, rinse thoroughly and repeat. Dry the parts th roughly. There is nothing worse than having a drop of water ruin that piece you were painting. Using some sandpaper or better yet, a sanding sponge, rough up the part. Also smooth areas that are not smooth. This roughs up the surface so the primer will adhere well to the parts.

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These are the backplates for my case – notice that there a faint scratches in the existing paint. This is what you want to happen so the primer will adhere to the part and then the paint will not chip so easily.

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This is the first coat of primer. Let this dry for a day if possible; however, this can be wet sanded lightly after two hours. The sanding cleans up drips and runs – make sure you clean the part after sanding to remove dust using a non treated cloth or just a damp rag.

The best way is to avoid drips and runs: do a very light coat – this may not cover the part evenly but that’s OK. Wait 20 minutes and lightly coat the part again. This will lessen the need to sand and you will not have to deal with drips and runs. Sanding the primer using 220 grit if you’re heavy on the paint, then to 320-400 grit; if you go higher, the paint may not adhere well to the primer.

Once the primer is dry and the parts sanded and cleaned, you’re ready for the first coat of paint.

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Yes – the paint is not even at all and there are light dark areas. That’s what you want as there are no blobs to clean up. This is a light coat. It dries faster and picks up less dust and insects from the air. The directions on the can said this would be dry to the touch in 15 minutes – it only took me 5. Also do not touch this with your hands. Grease leaves fish eyes and such. The next coat goes on the same as the first very easy and light.

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This is done as the manufacturer does not recommend a clear coat for this paint. I also did not want a glossy finish here.

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This is the same cover with two coats of aluminum colored paint. To do each side I was sure that the top where the screw goes was covered or against a block of wood so there was no need to mask.

I did all this in a few hours. It’s possible due to the paint I used and a hair dryer. Using very light coats, I waited a minute for the paint to settle, then ran a hair dyer on medium over the parts for 4 minutes. The lighter the coat the better this works.

You must not heat the parts hotter than 180 degrees, so keep the dryer moving. Also it is better to let the paint dry naturally. This is how the paint guys can get your car done in a day or two, otherwise you could be waiting a month for it.

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I will soon have this case completely painted and ready for show stay tuned!!!

My thanks to the people in the Overclocker’s forums for the advice and instructions I needed. I did not show the glossy car look that some have achieved, but that’s a matter of taste and some taste mighty good.
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Most of the accessories were painted before the case itself. I did need to find a way to attach the new radiator to the top of my case. I killed the MCR220, so I decided to cut out part of the side panel. Before you wonder what I was smoking, let me assure you I have another side panel for the case!

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I cut a big part of the side panel to obtain a large aluminum piece to cover the rad and the fill hole, as I had cut it too big due to the wrong tool. Wood cutting hole saws are not good – here’s a better saw it Bi-metal.

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After much work and frustration I got a plate.

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I know the hole was not covered – I did not want to interfere with the top plate. The hole was filled prior to painting.

The case was cleaned, sanded, rinsed and dried before painting.

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I used screws to fill in all holes on the motherboard tray. This served two purposes.

  • The hole after the screw is removed will still be grounded
  • The screw is now painted exactly like the case

If you paint these holes the motherboard may not be grounded, causing all sorts of issues.

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This is a shot of the first coat of primer.

The black metal flake is only going on the bottom top and motherboard tray. This is just the first light coat.

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The second and third coat on the top bottom and tray area:

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This is the first coat of silver. I held a piece of cardboard in front of the black areas to prevent them from becoming lighter/silver.

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This is the finished paint project:

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Robert Galewaler

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