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

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Sand the bezel, both because we want to get rid of the texture, and because the raised lettering by the buttons will get flattened when we finish sand, so removing it during prep avoids having the beige show through. So get rid of the raised lettering or symbols on your bezel if you have any. The key to a mirror finish is flatness, not just gloss. Without both gloss and flatness, you won’t get a convincing mirror look.

before: these will give you a headache
after: flat and smooth after a few seconds of sanding

And the final key to prep is cleanliness. Leaving an oily fingerprint on your panel can keep the paint from properly adhering. So can dust from sanding or just regular old crud that blows by. So work in a dust-free area as much as possible, and wipe down your sanded workpiece before applying paint or primer. Care taken here will pay of in the form of a durable, chip-resistant finish.

prep complete and ready to prime

For each panel you’re painting (plus the bezel), take them to this state of smoothness first. Primer won’t fill scratches unless they’re very, very fine, and the application of your color coat will make scratches pop out like neon signs, so don’t take shortcuts on prep. Wet sanding keeps the sandpaper from clogging with paint particles. To properly wet sand, all you need is a shallow container with about a gallon of clean water to which you’ve added a couple drops of liquid dish detergent. If you have running water, that works well also. Rinse away all the paint residue and wipe the workpiece with a clean cotton rag, then set it aside to dry thoroughly.

wet sanding is the only kind of sanding you’ll do

Apply primer to your newly prepped surfaces. Pay attention to the edges, and to any areas where metal shows through the beige. Those are spots that will tend to wear, especially when you sand between coats. Get a thin first coat of primer down like in this picture.

a single coat–don’t overapply
lots of thin coats is the secret

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