Printing on a case

I’m currently designing a case for a Midirex build. This is my first DIY build AND my first case design. I spent some time this weekend trying to figure out how to get markings on my case without actually carving them out (I like the look of painted-on markings vs. filled in). The method I want to try is to laser cut all the markings out of a sheet of card stock (or thick paper, maybe thin plastic?) that is cut to the size of my panels. Then I’ll tape them on with masking tape and paint over them in some sort of enamel paint (that’s the model paint, right?)

Is this a common approach when making cases? Is there a downside

I also read a bit about screen printing; is that how most of the big shops get markings on their products?

Yes, screen printing is the most common way IMHO.
You can buy screen printing sets all over the place, it seems to be relatively easy to do at home. The common screen printing kits are usually for fabrics (t-Shirts, bags, etc.) but I don’t see why it shouldn’t work for metal or wood. I guess you need a fine mesh to get fine pitch text for the labeling.
The more complicated part is to make the paint scratch resistant on metal. I’m guessing that professional panels are put into an oven for some time to “burn in” the paint. Could be wrong, though.

If your case is light color, then you can use water slide decals and later lacquer the case. Downside is that you can’t print white.
Maybe you have nearby a UV printer what is cheaper to use one off printing. Look for companies who print onto lighters and pencils and so on.
Screen printing has high setup costs and is reasonable for large quantities.

I’m planning to build this on acrylic. I’ve found screen printing ink for signs, posters etc (http://www.dickblick.com/products/speedball-permanent-acrylic-screen-printing-ink/) and I think that would work, but I’d also have to pick up a screen, chemicals for cleaning it and maybe more. Not sure if it’s worth it for a one-off build. I might look into a UV printer; I know there are lots of local print shops around here.

Thinking more about the stencil idea, I could see paint running under the stencil and making a mess pretty easily. Maybe that’s not such a good idea?

Thanks for the input!

You used to be able to get masking film for airbrush art. It’s self-adhesive, with a low tack, so you can stick it on, and (in theory) peel it off again, without damaging the surface. I guess you’d have to pre-cut it, then apply it to the surface to cover the parts you don’t want to paint, then spray-paint the design before peeling it off again. Worth a try, perhaps.

You may be able to get someone to laser-cut the masking film for you, or print the outlines on an inkjet printer, stick the film onto the case, and cut it in-situ with a good sharp scalpel.

a|x

This is the stuff I’m talking about.

a|x

I’ve tried painting with a stencil several time for other things. It always looks messy. Maybe I used the wrong paint, not thick enough… Spray paint could work if applied patiently in small amounts

I think the masking film would help, though. It actually sticks to the surface, so you get less bleed around the edges, provided you don’t apply too much spray.

a|x

+1 for maskingfilm.
I´m planning a rather big frontpanel with some labels and graphics.

The simple solution would be to have 2 sets of masks. I.e first paint the base, then mask for the graphics, paint and remove that mask. Then add the mask for labels, paint, remove mask and then a layer of clearcoat on top. Maybe there will be some need for a light wet-sanding between the layers to remove “masking-edges”

The only challenge is to find someone who is able to cut the maskingfilm with decent precision