This guide is a basic introduction to custom case modding. While we prefer all out customization, it’s important to start somewhere with basic lighting, cutting, and painting techniques. The guide walks you through the hands on skills and equipment. To modify a plain PC case into your custom beast of a machine, you will have to start work on three areas depending on what you want the end result to look like – Painting, Cutting and Lighting.
Metal and plastic parts need different painting approaches. But with the common factor of extreme care and great effort. For preparing metal surfaces:
- The surface needs to be sandpapered and scrubbed clean of existing paint.
- Areas to be left out need to be protected with masking tape.
- The first coat (one or two) is the primer â€“ allow it to hold and get dry.
- After the specified waiting time between coats, start the spray painting of the case.
- Apply a few successive light coats for consistency and coating of every nook and cranny.
- For the final finish, apply a clear coat layer of acrylic paint enamel for shine and added protection.
For preparing plastic surface:
- A good clean surface is a must-do. Wipe the surface with a lint-free towel and a mild soap and let it dry.
- Painting on plastic is more deliberate with several very light coats.
- A few dozen coats might do but allow each coat to dry out before the next.
- Leave the plastic component overnight for the final coat to completely dry out.
- A few coats of clear coat enamel paint gets you the glossy finished look.
- Painting the back of clear plastics and optionally etching the paint with designs gives an eye catching mirror effect.
Cutting is where all your precision skills will be brought into play. A slip and its back to square one. Cutting requires rotary tools (dremel) and a need for accuracy. For cutting metal surface:
- Swathe the target areas with masking tape to protect the surface from nicks and cuts.
- Draw or trace the â€˜blueprintâ€™ of your plan onto the tape.
- Always cut inside the marked lines of your designs and then reshape and finish the cutout area with a file.
- And then give a sandpaper rubdown to the edges to smooth them out.
- A plastic or rubber trim around the cutout is what improves the look and protects it from dust and us from nicks.
- Trims are easy to find and can be melded to the edges by heating it with a hairdryer.
For cutting plastic surfaces:
- Mark out the design on the surface and start drilling with a narrow drill bit.
- Start from inside the design and move slowly towards the marked lines.
- Drilling heats up the plastic, so keep removing the tiny cut shards as they might fuse again.
- With the cutout done, finish reshaping and smoothing with a file and sandpaper. (It is recommended to use successively finer grades of wet-dry sandpaper for best results).
- Finally, polishing compounds help to buff the edges and gives a finished look.
Most case mods use lighting to jazz up the look. Three types of lighting are best-loved by modders – Cold Cathode Fluorescent Light Tubes (CCFLs), Electro-Luminescent Wire (EL-Wire), and Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs).
- Cathodes are bright, cheap and easy to install. They are available in a variety of colors and sizes (from 4 inches to 2 feet).
- EL-Wires are lighted wires which can be shaped for trims, wrapped around cables and for other patterns. They arenâ€™t super bright but are flexible.
- LEDs are in vogue because of their exact colors, paltry heat, tiny power consumption, and longevity. LEDs can be inserted in custom patterns and are in sold in DIY, single, or multiple-LED packages. For modding pick the super bright ones rated above 2500 mcd.
The three types of lighting have their own method of installation, wiring and testing. This AMD tutorial is details the requirements of each and a blow by blow case mod guide. The how-to guide also puts in a few tips on how to be more creative with the modding.
For a beginner, PC case modding is about learning how to use the basic tools and circuitry techniques. To see some fantastic case mods in action check out our Case Mod section.