case mod 101: how to paint your computer case (part 1)

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One of the best ways to improve your case’s looks without spending huge money is to spraypaint it. Getting serious with spraypaint is more about patience than money, but your case will still look like a million.

Getting that show car shine on your case is a great way to grab serious attention. In this series of two painting articles, we’ll reveal the secrets to getting your case to have the gloss of a new Benz, but for the price of a used Yugo. Professionals use compressed air and special equipment to paint. But you can get results that are just as good with a “rattlecan” and some sanding techniques. The first article will cover the proper techniques for surface preparation, and paint application. Next month’s installment will deal with applying the clear coat and finish sanding. You can paint your case according to this article and have a great looking case, but by adding the finishing touches you can have the show car look that will turn heads, so make sure to read the next article as well.

this is how it looks at the end of part 1

Your total budget for this project will be under twenty notes (and you can do just the first portion for under ten). You’ll need: a can of primer, a can of spraypaint in your choice of color, and a can of clearcoat. For surface preparation, you’ll need a sheet each of 220, 320, and 400 grit wet/dry sandpaper, and a sanding block. For finish sanding, you’ll need a sheet each of 600, 1000, and 1500 grit wet/dry sandpaper, plus rubbing compound. You’ll also want two or three clean cotton cloths.

the essential tools

When you select your paints, choose a good quality spraypaint for automotive applications. Auto parts stores are the best sources because you can usually pick up your sanding materials at the same time as your paint. Use a primer and paint from the same manufacturer for the best results, and never mix lacquer with acrylic enamel, pick one system or the other. I chose to use an enamel for this project. If you’re not after the show car look, and just want a rugged paint job, epoxy paint is available for extreme ruggedness.

Dupli-Color is a good brand, and there are many others

Don’t skimp on the paint, because in this project the labor will be vastly more intense than the material cost. As you can see, I spared no expense–I went for the “gray hot rod primer,” which I figure should be good for at least an extra 20 MHz overclock.

oooh baby, hot rod gray

You might have heard the key to successful painting is preparation (prep), and if so, you heard right. It’s important in any paint job, but critical for a show car gloss. Sand down the existing paint (usually a powder coat finish with a light texture on most cases) to get as flat a surface as possible before applying our paint. To remove the beige paint, start with a 220 grit, which is fine, but has a good deal of cutting action. Sand your panels fairly aggressively in a north-south motion, but lighten when if you start to cut through the beige to metal. We don’t need to remove the beige, but we do want the texture gone. Then move to a 320 grit and sand east-west with a light pressure. This will remove the scratch marks from the previous sanding, and smooth the surface.

linear sez: smooth it out, don’t strip it off
showing a bit of metal isn’t a problem

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