frequencycentral OHP Transparency Graphic Technique Tutorial

Frequent question about boxes and accessories: painting, etching, clearcoating, lettering, glueing, and so on.
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frequencycentral
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Post by frequencycentral »

Here’s the transparency I use, it’s Staedtler Lumocolor Ink Jet Film. Fifty A4 sheets are about £15 ($20 maybe). It has two sides, a rough side and a smooth side. You print onto the rough side, it’s designed to take the ink. The image you print will be a reversed image, so eventually the smooth side will be the front of the graphic.

Image

I create my graphic in MS Publisher, using a series of construction lines to line up and measure where the pots, switches etc will be. I almost always have a border around my image, I just think it looks nicer that way. Here’s a direct link to the MS Publisher document for the graphic I’m working on, it will open into Publisher, and you can pick it apart:

http://dl.getdropbox.com/u/967492/Phase ... 20Stun.pub

After I’ve finished designing the graphic I ‘select all’ and ‘group objects’, that way all the component parts of the design become one object. All the lettering I use is create using Word Art, not text boxes. The reason for this is that you can flip Word Art, but you can’t flip text boxes. I also always have a line around the font, very thin though, to delineate the edges and make it stand out more.

I have found that very dark images don’t work so well, the black ink tends to bleed over time, so the graphic might look great the day you do it but is blurred six months later. If you really do want to use a dark image, you can lighten it a bit by playing with the ‘transparency’ slider in ‘format auto shape’, so that the blacks become greys.

Next, I broaden the border around the image, so that when I cut it out I’ll be cutting through the middle of a thick border rather than cutting along the edge of a thin border. Then I add two boxes which extend out from the graphic, this is so better to align my tri-square when I cut the image out. The next step is to create a drilling template. This is a copy of the graphic but with everything removed but the drill points and the borders. Finally, and most importantly, the whole image now needs to be grouped and flipped horizantally, so that a reverse image is printed onto the rough side of the transapency. Here’s what gets printed out:

Image

Next up, cutting out the drill template. I always cut with the ink side up, be it the drill template or the final graphic, as I don’t want the graphic to be damaged in any way. I use an ultra-sharp Stanley knife blade, a tri-square and an old piece of contiboard. This is where those guidelines really help to get things lined up to cut. A good eye helps too, and a nice smooth single movement cutting action. Don’t cut the whole length of the guideline, as you’ll still need it for the next edge you cut.

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Here’s the drill template cut out and placed on the enclosure:

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Then it’s a case of lining up the template on the enclosure and using masking tape to hold it in place.

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I then carefully centre punch the crosses and drill my holes. I always use a range of drill bits, starting with 1mm and working up in 1mm increments, as I have found that going straight for the big bits will put all your holes off. I hand sand the enclosure, wash it thoroughly and dry it off.

The graphic is cut out the same way as the drill template, except that I always use a piece of tissue that comes between each sheet of the transparencies to stop the front getting scratched. Again, ink side up, if you do it the other way round the ink will adhere to the tissue or what ever surface you’re cutting on

Image

Next I give the enclosure a spray of clearcoat, this will allow the graphic to adhere to the enclosure. Too much and the graphic will ‘float’, too little and you won’t get even coverage which can result in dry patches which can be seen beneath the graphic. Here’s the clear I use:

Image

Then I place the graphic onto the enclosure, there’s a bit of ‘wiggle time’ so you can line up the graphic nicely. You shouldn’t need to press it down, as the transparency is pretty think and will find it’s own level. When I’m satisfied that it’s lined up, I give the whole thing a generous shot of clearcoat all around, top and sides, paying particular attention to the edges of the graphic. The clear onto the bare aluminium will also stop it from tarnishing over time. I leave it to dry under a warm desk lamp, (excuse the glare in this photo!), giving it another shot all round every hour or so. Four or five shots in all. Then I leave it for 24 hours………………..see you tomorrow!

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Meantimes, here's some finished examples:

Image

Image

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Image

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Post by rocklander »

that's some cool stuff bro.. :applause:
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Post by audioimage »

Frequency Central, might I say, thank you for sharing your techniques. I work in the aerospace industry and I must say that I can really appreciate your attention to detail, right down to the alignment of the nuts and screws. Fine craftsmanship, I can tell that you take pride in your work.
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Post by trad3mark »

Head mesploded.

that is a seriously easy way of doing it. I'm very impressed! i'm so going to try that next time!!!

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Post by Scruffie »

Very Nice, up untill now i've just been using self adhesive ink jet film sheet and only occasionaly clear coating them (unless you actually spill water on them they don't get damaged and I don't intend to spill much on my pedals if I can help it) but it takes a long time and this looks alot more precise and a more long lasting finish, cheers Rick.

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Post by frequencycentral »

Thank you for your kind comments gentlemen, glad to be of some help.

Ok, 24 hours later, and the clear has completely dried. Now for my least favourite part, cutting away the transparency around the pre-drilled holes. I always do this 24 hours after adhearing the graphic. Because I'm impatient. It may be better to wait another day or so - though I never have. Because I'm impatient. Although the clear on the outside is dry, it will still be a little tacky underneath. I use the same Stanley blade I used earlier to carefully cut away the excess. A lot of care is needed here, as the graphic can lift a little as you cut. I apply a little pressure with my fingers around the area I'm cutting to prevent this. The upside of the clear still being a little tacky underneath is that if the graphic does lift a little as you cut you can just press it back down and no harm is done. Be particularly careful not to leave any overhang, as any pots, switches etc pushed through from underneath will catch and lift the graphic.

Image

Here's the finished enclosure, awaiting it's circuit:

Image

I have another little design process which I always use which I think helps for a good finish. I have found that the lateral pressure of mounting pots and switches tightly can warp and lift the graphic, so I mount all my pots onto a piece of perf. This keeps them all nicely aligned, and also helps with neat wiring (you can connect all the common grounds for example), but most importantly it means that I only need to hand tighten the pots, as their attachment to the perf keeps them in place and stops them from spinning. Here's the circuit that's going into the enclosure when I've finished tweaking it, it's R.G.'s Phase 180 Plus, an eight stage version of the MXR Phase 90:

Image

Here's another one (a Big Muff), this time with the whole circuit including the pots all on one board:

Image

Here's an example of one that didn't work out so well. This one looked superb when I finished it, October 2008. However, now you can see that the text is barely legible in places, and the whole thing looks kinda blurry. The black seems to have taken over. A lesson learned. Now I'm really careful to choose graphics which will work with the technique, so excessively dark graphics are out:

Image

Finally, just to demonstrate the longevity of the process, here's one of my first enclosures done using this technique, it's about a year old now and still looking great:

Image

That's it! Hope it helps some of you along the way! Have fun.

Rick

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Post by CGP »

Hi I know nobody has posted on here for a long time but has anyone tried this technique with laserjet film?
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Post by dorothegreat »

frequencycentral wrote:Thank you for your kind comments gentlemen, glad to be of some help.


Image

That's it! Hope it helps some of you along the way! Have fun.

Rick

hi rick, im just curious as to what is that slot on side :scratch:
thanks

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Post by frequencycentral »

dorothegreat wrote:
frequencycentral wrote:Thank you for your kind comments gentlemen, glad to be of some help.


Image

That's it! Hope it helps some of you along the way! Have fun.

Rick

hi rick, im just curious as to what is that slot on side :scratch:
thanks
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Post by Ice-9 »

Great tutorial on OHP prints, I love the attention to detail on your designs Rick and the way you share how to do it. :applause:
It's fairly straight forward, if you want to start it , press start. You can work out the rest of the controls for yourself !

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Post by bato001 »

I have used this tutorial for 2 enclosures and it worked like a charm. The Bender print came out too lite, but that is my fault for choosing the wrong picture. Thank you for the excellent instructions!
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Post by meffcio »

The graphics look great, but I don't think I understood everything correctly. I mean, what do you do after cutting the graphic? You just place it on the enclosure with the ink side facing the metal? And that's all? No pressing down? Leave it for how long?

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Post by frequencycentral »

meffcio wrote:The graphics look great, but I don't think I understood everything correctly. I mean, what do you do after cutting the graphic? You just place it on the enclosure with the ink side facing the metal? And that's all? No pressing down? Leave it for how long?
frequencycentral wrote:Next I give the enclosure a spray of clearcoat, this will allow the graphic to adhere to the enclosure. Too much and the graphic will ‘float’, too little and you won’t get even coverage which can result in dry patches which can be seen beneath the graphic. Here’s the clear I use:

Then I place the graphic onto the enclosure, there’s a bit of ‘wiggle time’ so you can line up the graphic nicely. You shouldn’t need to press it down, as the transparency is pretty think and will find it’s own level. When I’m satisfied that it’s lined up, I give the whole thing a generous shot of clearcoat all around, top and sides, paying particular attention to the edges of the graphic. The clear onto the bare aluminium will also stop it from tarnishing over time. I leave it to dry under a warm desk lamp, (excuse the glare in this photo!), giving it another shot all round every hour or so. Four or five shots in all. Then I leave it for 24 hours………………

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Post by aprilia1k »

Another lurkingly late post -- but heck, there was one in August this year, 3 yrs past OP.

Your pedals are fricking awesome man. The artwork on the outside appears to be equally expressed in your lead dress, layout etc.. just immaculate. I hope you get what these little masterpieces are worth -- the word uber-boutique comes to mind (not in the negative that booteek can imply nowadays of course - so nothing bad meant by that ;-) Just brilliant. And sharing technique too -- that's very cool man.
On the last post you mention something about the clearcoat you use, but it appears to be missing (a deleted link or brand name perhaps?)..

Anyway -- thanks for this killer tutorial, and the images of your work. Just sweet. Those are some toys worth suffering G.A.S. over.

Cheers -

Stephen

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Post by aprilia1k »

went right past the can of clear ... doh! Never mind bout that ;-)

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Post by frequencycentral »

Nice to see this thread still alive!

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Post by ezugaru »

It's motivating when you share your work man!!! and even more when you share tips ;)

I am reading lots about tubes to understand your mini tube amps :D
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Post by mill3744 »

Does anyone have a good way to get bubbles out from under the film. I definitely used enough clear so that there shouldn't be dry patches every time i do this there seems to be air bubbles. I have tried starting on one side and letting the film lay down to fix this but it doesn't work.

any thoughts?

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Post by toomanypies »

Yes, prick them with a very sharp needle and apply pressure.

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Post by ch1naski »

frequencycentral wrote:
dorothegreat wrote:
frequencycentral wrote:Thank you for your kind comments gentlemen, glad to be of some help.


[ Image ]

That's it! Hope it helps some of you along the way! Have fun.

Rick

hi rick, im just curious as to what is that slot on side :scratch:
thanks
Ventilation. There are 2 x 6111 submini tubes inside that pedal. Those little fuckers run hot.
off topic, but what circuit it's that? I like tubes. :)

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