Difference between revisions of "DIY Case Badges"

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-- [[User:Dagmar d'Surreal|Dagmar d'Surreal]] 05:34, 7 July 2008 (UTC)
-- [[User:Dagmar d'Surreal|Dagmar d'Surreal]] 05:34, 7 July 2008 (UTC)
[[Category:Knowledge Base]]

Revision as of 02:11, 15 October 2009

Do-it-yourself Case Badges

Things you will need:

  • A color inkjet printer.
  • Inkjet-friendly Shrinky Dinks.
  • A conventional oven (not a microwave oven)
  • A pizza-tray.
  • A sheet of (normal) paper.
  • Some minor skill with Gimp and Inkscape.
  • A can of spray laquer/enamel.
  • A logo to print.

Getting the materials

Inkjet Printer

As to the printer, you're on your own. Inkjet printers are really, really easy to get now, and for something like this, a used one will do fine if you don't already have one--just be sure its ink cartridges aren't empty.

For reasons which might not be immediately obvious to some of you, a color laser printer (while very nice) will not work for this because what you will be printing on is very heat-sensitive and is likely to shrink and curl up inside your laser printer and break it. You have been warned. Don't even try using a laser printer for this.


If you're really, really good with materials, as has been documented elsewhere on the internet (Google for "DIY ShinkyDinks"), simple #6 recyclable plastic that you can score with some fine sandpaper can be used if you want to do this by hand, but printing on plastic doesn't work very well without a coating on it to make the ink stick better. If you use plain, clear #6 plastic, you can just use fine-tipped sharpies (or colored pencils) and draw the badge by hand.

The easiest thing to do is just go online to http://www.shrinkydinks.com and order some Shrinky Dinks for Inkjet Printers. After shipping it'll be about $20. Yes I understand this is not exactly cost-effective, but there's ten sheets to a pack, and you can easily fit five or six images on each one that will shrink to being about 1.5 inches wide and about two-thirds of an inch high using the pill-shaped graphic below. You can make a whole bunch of the things and give them to your friends, wear them as pirate eyepatches, whatever you like.

Conventional Oven

A toaster-oven for heating up sandwiches will do in a pinch, so long as you stay near the target temperature of 300 degrees Fahrenheit. A microwave oven is most definitely not going to do anything but make a mess, and I know how we geeks love our microwaves, but they fail us utterly in this respect.

Pizza tray

A pizza tray is what I personally recommend because these tend to be thinner than cookie trays, and geeks are more likely to have these around. I have also (with some success) used a large, smooth tile of marbled stone that happened to be lying around. Just understand that such a stone is going to soak up lots of heat and be tricky to get back out of the oven without burning yourself. The thinner and smoother what you can safely stick in the oven is, the better. Tinfoil would almost work, but good luck getting a piece of it absolutely flat and staying that way. If you're the kind of industrial-strength geek that has a small sheet of actual aluminum around, that will work as well, and it's really what you should aim for in a pizza tray.

Sheet of plain paper

The documentation that will come with the Shrinky Dinks says to use a piece of a brown paper bag, but these are not as common as they used to be, and if you've got a printer, you've probably got some 24 weight inkjet paper around as well. The purpose of this is to go between the pizza tray and the Shrinky Dink so it won't stick to the thing.


Download them. They're free.

Spray Enamel

Again, the documentation that will come with the Shrinky Dinks suggests nail polish, but this has its own problems. For one thing, nail polish (I say this having tried it) is very hard to get completely smooth and perfect looking. More evil still, if you've used Sharpies to draw on the plastic, nail polish will cause it to smear and run when you brush it on. Don't use this until after you've shrunk the badge. Just go to the local store and buy a can of clear spray enamel or laquer (if there's a difference between them that isn't purely marketing, I don't know it).

For your instant gratification, there are the following:

  • template.svg SVG ready-for-printing template -- Note that this needs MythTV_logo_desat.png below to be put in the same directory before it will load properly. Use Inkscape to print this because Firefox does not render it entirely correctly!
  • MythTV_logo_desat.png PNG logo, desaturated for printing
  • MythTV_logo_desat.xcf Gimp Artwork, normal saturation

I'm fairly sure the original logo came from Juski, so all credit for that goes to him.

The template.svg includes very faint dotted lines for cutting along that you can carefully remove with a pencil eraser after printing, or with sandpaper after shrinking. The image it references has already had its colors reduced and should look correct once shrunk. The xcf file contains the original logo, with a 66% white overlay layer, which is how you make the desaturated image that will retain the dark blacks properly (as with MythTV_logo_desat.png)

If you come up with more, link 'em here.

Commencing Work

Editing the artwork

You will absolutely need to lighten/diffuse the image by about 66% before you print it, at least for the colors. When the artwork is heated, it's going to shrink to about 33% (plain #6 plastic) of its original size, so the ink density on the surface will go way up. If you don't desaturate the image, it's going to look too dark when you're done. At the present time, Gimp is printing entirely incorrectly here so I've been printing with Inkscape--which also allows me to add a very fine outline around the image so I can cut accurately with a pair of scissors.

Printing the artwork

Layout the images in Inkscape, leaving a half-inch border around the edges of the page (because very few things which aren't photo printers will print right to the edge of the paper), and size them to compensate for the shrinking that will take place. I wanted a target of 1.5 inches wide, so I scaled my printed images to about 4.5 inches wide. 4.5" x 33% == 1.5".

I strongly recommend doing two things before you print on the Shrinky Dink material the first time. The first thing being to calibrate the inkjet printer using whatever tool the manufacturer gave you to be sure that the black ink and the colored ink are actually lined up with each other. The second thing being the last-minute sanity check--printing a "proof sheet" on a plain sheet of paper to be sure there's not some driver issue waiting to screw everything up.

Once you think you're ready to print, set the printer for printing transparencies and print. Let the page sit to dry for 10 minutes or so before you dare touch it. Ink takes much longer to dry/cure on plastic.

One thing in your favor is that really minor perturbations of the image will simply disappear when you shrink them. This will be more important to people doing hand-drawn badges, but it's worthy of mention because cheap inkjet prints may look odd at first, but will be fine once shrunk.

Shrinking the artwork

Using a pair of scissors with a smooth edge (the kind with miniature serrations mean the result will have a very rough looking border, and pinking shears are completely out of the question unless you're into that sort of thing) carefully cut out the printed piece.

Pre-heat your oven to bake at 300°F, and put one of it's racks in the middle. Put the sheet of paper on the pizza tray, and then the things you want shrunk atop the nice smooth paper. Don't worry, the paper won't burn (it won't even brown) at 300F. Remember Fahrenheit 451? That's right, 451°F is the temperature at which paper starts to burn, and 300°F is nowhere near that hot. You can even reuse your proof sheet for this if you want to be environmentally-conscious--just turn it printed side down.

Pop the pizza-tray into the oven and simply wait. Shrinking time can vary a bit, but generally between three and five minutes is all it's going to take. Ten minutes is probably really pushing your luck, and after that many minutes the ink may suffer adversely. Don't panic if the badges exhibit horrifying deformities while shrinking. As long as they don't curl up and touch themselves they will flatten out momentarily. Uneven, rapid heating is what causes this (250°F is less troublesome than 300°F, but slower), which is why there was so much emphasis on using a thin pizza tray above. Like the Shrinky Dink instructions say, if you absolutely have to, you can reach in there with a fork and flatten them back out while they're still hot, but it really shouldn't be necessary. From my experimentation, it's long thin things (like the 150 mm x 10 mm test ruler I tried to shrink) which will be most prone to curling. Anything that's not more than twice as long as it is high shouldn't be in any danger.

Once your Dinky has been Shrinkied, it should be about 2mm thick, and it will still be soft for a minute or so after it comes out of the oven. Now would be the time to slap a piece of aluminum foil (or folded-up paper, etc) on top and gently squash it with something that won't burn (a sheet of paper folded three times will keep you from burning your fingers, use your own judgement) if it's not entirely flat yet. Don't press too hard while the material is still hot!--it will squish like a s'more if you do more than just flatten it. After a couple of minutes, the thing will have completely cooled and hardened and be safe to meddle with further.

Finishing the artwork

At this point it is time to do any sanding/filing to the edges of the badge if you weren't as skilled with the scissors as you wanted to be. Sandpaper, emery boards, anything along those lines will work.

Now, to make sure that an errant soda or absent-minded swipe with surface cleaner doesn't destroy your case badge, you're going to spray it with the enamel. For the love of all that is holy, do this outside. Never use spray paint cans indoors unless you like anoxia and trips to the hospital (or morgue). I recommend using a cardboard box or something as a base. Fold a small piece of tape into a square or triangle and use it to stick the badge to the box and simultaneously keep it from actually touching the surface directly because the enamel can easily glue the badge to the box and leave you with a problem on your hands otherwise. Shake that can and give the badges a quick blast. Read the directions on the can with respect to second and third coatings and how long to let it dry/cure.

Applying the badge

Surely after all this you have figured out something to use to stick the badge to your case (like, say, double-sided Scotch tape). Feel free to take some pictures of the finished product and show 'em off.

-- Dagmar d'Surreal 05:34, 7 July 2008 (UTC)