How to paint computer cases with middle schoolers?
March 25, 2014 8:08 AM   Subscribe

I work in a middle school and as a service project, my students want to build computers and paint them in the school colors to either donate to homeless shelters in town or to keep in the trophy case here at the middle school. I don't know what it takes to paint them, though, and I could use some help!

There are two cases we're going to be working with. One is an Antec Atlas 550 Server Case and the other is a Lenovo IBM ThinkCentre A60 8700 case.

I had looked up some stuff online that talked about sanding them down. I had also seen some folks talking about just priming and painting over the primer. I don't know what this means exactly. We're limited by our budget (around 50$) and by our supplies (I don't have any means of sanding them down).

I had initially thought we could just spray paint them but I've read some things about spray paint not sticking well or peeling off. What do y'all think would be best?
posted by Modica to Computers & Internet (5 answers total)
I've had good results with spray paint before - start with a layer of white primer, of course, and build on that. Maybe you could have the kids make stencils?
posted by fifthrider at 8:26 AM on March 25, 2014

Are they metal or plastic? I'm sorry, I can't tell from the picture. If they're metal, good enamel spray paint should stick just fine; you can get spray paint designed for metal, in fact.

If they're plastic, a lot depends on the -kind- of plastic, but starting with a spray primer might be your best bet. Try a bit on a small piece though, to make sure the spray won't melt the plastic! (Spray primer is a matte sort of spray paint designed to adhere well to things; it comes in various colors and you just spray it on to get a uniform color and surface that will take paint, then paint)

If they're metal -and- plastic, maybe mask the plastic parts and paint the metal?

By 'sanding it down', they just mean, if you 'rough up' a slick smooth surface a little, it provides more traction for the paint to stick, by increasing the surface area in microscopic but exponential ways. Just get some sandpaper and rub the surface briskly in various directions until it's not shiny anymore.
posted by The otter lady at 8:27 AM on March 25, 2014

Chalk paint doesn't need sanding or priming. Don't buy commercial stuff ($$$), make your own using the recipes online (I recommend calcium carbonate in acrylic over the other recipies due to allergy/safety/health concerns with children). Bonus, lesson in colour creation and a bit of chemistry. You may want to wax the items after painting (very quick drying with chalk paint) to smooth and seal it.

Chalk paint is NOT chalkboard paint, FYI
posted by saucysault at 8:32 AM on March 25, 2014

I think the Antec one is aluminum while the IBM one is plastic on front, metal on the sides.
posted by Modica at 9:19 AM on March 25, 2014

To do a good job of painting a case takes five steps:

- Disassemble the computer, so you're only working with the parts you want to paint.

- Sand (honestly, this is optional, but it makes a big difference -- Search amazon for a "Sanding sponge" in fine/medium grit. Then rub the case with the sponge until the case is no longer shiny). Wipe down the case afterwards to remove any sanding dust.

- Prime. Spray it with a good all-purpose primer. Let this dry.

- Paint. Spray with a standard spray enamel (Krylon is fine). You should do a series of light coats, with 15-20 minutes of time (at least) between them. Then let it dry at least a few hours.

- Clear-Coat. Spray with a clear coat (glossy or matte, your choice). You can buy these next to your spray paint cans. It's basically just clear spray paint to provide sacrificial coverage. When the case gets scratched, you want it to only scratch the clear coat, which will keep the scratch mostly hidden.

Let that dry and then reassemble.
posted by toxic at 1:53 PM on March 25, 2014

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