Home GuitarPCB Forum General DIY Pedal Discussion designing better-looking pedals

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    hey there! after some searching, i’m coming up a bit empty-handed: what sort of resources or tools do y’all use for designing more professional-looking pedal enclosures? i’ve been assembling lots of anti-design pedals with an office labeler as seen here: https://guitarpcb.com/community/topic/tube-screaming-ultra-afterblaster/

    which is fun in a kind of lazy punk way, but i think it’d be great to build something a little more evolved, or that i’d feel good about selling. thanks in advance!


    I generally use toner transfer which I iron onto the enclosure

    I usually sand the enclosure flat with 80 grit then smooth it out with 120 grit clean it in soap and water and iron it onto the enclosure then I’ll either finish it with a few coats of clearcoat or translucent paint for some colour

    The good thing is if you decide to you can always go on to etch it

    Once you get the knack of it the toner usually always transfers on fully now and again you’ll pull parts off when removing the backing paper

    Basically this procedure I just don’t always etch it


    I use gimp for my designs, some examples – 1st one I messed the enclosure drilling up so used an aluminium sheet, 2nd one onto a powder coated enclosure, 3rd bare sanded enclosure and last bare enclosure with a few translucent orange coatings

    There are other methods like waterslide decals or even Taydas UV printing if you decide to try this method just remember the enclosure gets extremely hot very quickly so pick it up with long nosed pliers and don’t touch it



    This always works for me when I am being cheap, and in a hurry, but want it to look great.

    Gimp and Inkscape are very robust free alternatives but have a learning curve. Plenty of YouTube tutorials.

    A couple people had problems with the ink not curing enough before adding the Armor All silicon coating (I never had an issue) but if that’s the case you could just as easily spray a thin coat of lacquer. Just follow my instructions in the video.


    I use Photoshop to work up my artwork over drill templates. From there, I either do up a waterslide or have then enclosure professionally drilled and painted at a fab house (AmplifyFun) in Portland. Here’s a prototype Stereo/Dual Chorus done up in waterslide and clear coat. Inside are two highly modified Mini-Me chorus circuits.


    Hey P, there are so many ways I’ve seen over the years. I’m not really sure how I landed on what I do but I’ve never wanted to change. I’m old. I hate change. What I do know is there is a learning curve to whatever method you want to use so you will screw up whatever it is at times until you lock into your preferred choice. I think a lot of it depends on how much you care what it looks like vs how much time it will take you to finish them. I enjoy the process to be honest with you. Many don’t. It’s sort of like everyone loves to populate the boards and everyone hates wiring them. I’ll bullet point what I do but it’s time consuming really.

    1. First thing is I work up the knob design. I try to do something different every time. I don’t gig so I don’t really need to follow a user friendly pattern of knobs and switches. I mark it up with a pencil. I use a hole punch that marks the enclosure so the drill bit doesn’t walk on me. I then drill out all the holes.
    2. I use a pad sander and I use 220 grit and sand the heck out of it until semi shiny. Don’t kill yourself here.
    3. I use mineral spirits or Iso alchohol to wipe it down real good as I want the paint to stick good.
    4. Spray paint. I’m always using different colors. For this I do 3 thin coats. If you try to do it with any less coats it will run on you. I wait 10 min between coats. Let dry overnight.
    5. I then pull a pic off the internet and drop it into Pixelmator (I have a Mac) and I start to manipulate it how I want.
    6. I use waterslide decals so I print it to a waterslide decal.
    7. I spray the decal with lacquer, 3 thin coats 10 min apart. Let dry overnight.
    8. Place the decal on the enclosure and let dry overnight.
    9. I then cut out the holes with a razorblade knife. Be careful here or you will lift the decal.
    10. I tried the lacquer thing but I just hated having to put 10 coats on there and it smells so bad so I landed on a product called Envirotex. I now use Parks you can find on Home Depot. This is a 2 part epoxy. Steep learning curve on this process but this is how I coat my pedals. It is an imperfect method as it relates to the sides but heck unless you get it professionally all or most of the methods are imperfect.
    11. Let dry for 72 hours. If less you will leave fingerprints. If too much more than 96 hours and it becomes so hard it is more difficult to scrape things off.
    12. I may or may not have to carve out the holes a bit but there is some finish scrapping I’ll call it from here.


    Frankly, as I type this out I’m not sure why I do this method. It sounds painful! There are steps within the steps above but this is a rough outline.



    Big O

    Here is what I have been doing for the past few years.  I mainly use waterslide decals, but also at times use Barry’s photo techique printed on a laser printer, usually with bigger builds/enclosures. I had trouble with the photos smearing with the Armor All after I ran out of my original laser photo paper and bought new stock.  I was then forced to clearcoat the photos done on a laser printer with acrylic lacquer.

    I use Paint.net for designing graphics, which is a free program.  It has been a Godsend for me and it has been relatively easy to use.  With this program, you add layers to the graphics and can name them other than 1,2,3,4 etc.  You can also move the layers around.  I usually start with things like outlines, etc. and hole centers, circles for the holes, then circles for the Knob size I am going to use, etc.  This helps to layout where you can place different graphics pictures, labels, etc.  With layout lines such as ones to keep letter labels even, after placing the letter graphics, you can deselect the label lines so they don’t stay in the final image for printing.  I also use Paint.net for the drill templates.

    Waterslide decals done on an inkjet printer require spraying lacquer on them after printing (I wait about 24 hours for the ink to dry).  I use clear acrylic lacquer and it works fine. After applying the decal to the enclosure, I spray some additional clearcoat on the decal for further protection.

    With photo graphics, after application to the enclosure, I spray the Armorall on top (over the clear coated photo).

    I use White enclosures, either painted white (auto spray paint works best IMO) or powder coated white from a vendor if I am using a colored label.  I use lighter color painted or powder coated enclosures with black and white graphics.

    Examples are below:

    Drill Template:

    Barry Style Photo Graphics:


    Colored Waterslide Decals (More Recent Builds):


    Black and White Graphics on Colored Enclosure:


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