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.
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:
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.
Here’s the drill template cut out and placed on the enclosure:
Then it’s a case of lining up the template on the enclosure and using masking tape to hold it in place.
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
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………………..see you tomorrow!
Meantimes, here's some finished examples: