This is a follow-on to my article on panel "Metalising", and takes the process a stage further by allowing you to add legends and decals to your case panels. In fact the technique can also be be applied to making case badges and logos. Since this technique uses an inkjet printer to produce the graphics it is really only suitable for light coloured cases unless you have an Alps printer which can print using metallic inks.
The whole process is based around inkjet printable clear adhesive sheet. This is has a printable surface on one side and a clear adhesive layer, protected by a peel-able backing sheet on the other. The sheets are usually A4 in size and can be obtained from most printer supplies stores. I get mine from DCData who sell a range of printing materials useful to the modding enthusiast. At £4 for ten A4 sized sheets you can afford to experiment quite a bit.
The first stage of the process is to design your panel, label, logo etc. using your preferred drawing/CAD package. The design is printed on to the clear adhesive sheet which is then stuck down and trimmed to size and shape using a sharp modeling knife.
To demonstrate I am using a plastic 5 1/4" drive bay panel which has been metalised using the method shown here. The panel design was printed on to a sheet of clear adhesive film. The film was then roughly trimmed oversize using scissors.
The adhesive film was peeled away from the backing, being careful not to touch the sticky side with my fingers which would have left unsightly finger prints. The film was carefully positioned over the panel whilst not allowing the sticky surface to come into contact with the panel. Once I was happy that the alignment was perfect, I pressed the film on to the panel, working from the center outwards to prevent any trapped air bubbles forming. If you get it right, the clear film is virtually invisible showing only the printed design. If you get the alignment wrong and have to peel the film off there is a good chance the adhesive will "stress" and produce a white mark which is impossible to remove. If this happens a new label will need to be printed. The key point here is to take your time and exercise care when aligning and applying the film and you will get a perfect result every time. A few practice runs on an old panel would not go amiss to master the technique first. The fact the film is transparent does make alignment with the panel underneath fairly easy.
Once the film had been stuck down, the excess was trimmed off by running a sharp modeling blade, (X-acto), around the panel edges. Incidentally, those three crosses are drill centers. I sometimes use this technique to mark out panels for drilling. (Little tip there!).