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Project: Give the Window to Your Computer's Soul a Unique Look

Windows on PCs are now very popular. No, I'm not talking about a particular operating system. I'm talking about an actual window on a computer case. Case windows are popping up everywhere, either as case customizations done by modders or on premodded cases.

Modders take pride in making a case look unique. That means doing more than just installing a plain old clear window. The window should reflect your personality. Let's look at some techniques to enhance your case windows.

NOTE

Some of these case enhancement techniques involve power tools, so you'll need goggles and ear protection.

But first, a few special trimmings are needed:

  • Appliqués

  • Dremel tool (for etching acrylic)

  • Marker

  • Rubbing alcohol

  • Lights

  • Tints

  • Baby shampoo

  • Squeegee

  • Hair dryer

  • File

  • Decals

NOTE

If you find you need additional help, visit my forums at http://yoshi.us and post a message.

Appliqués and Etchings

Appliqués are decals you can apply to your window and are available from a number of retailers. To find appliqué vendors, just do a Google search on PC appliqués or use a similar term.

Because most windows are made of acrylic, you can also forgo the appliqués and etch your image directly onto the window if you'd like. It might sound a bit risky and complicated, but it's actually quite simple:

  1. Print your design. This will be used as your template.

  2. Tape the template under the window and use it as a guide. See Figure 3.18. Instead of printing a template, you can also draw directly on the window using a marker.

  3. Figure 3.18Figure 3.18 This template might be more complex than those you try at home.

  4. Etch the image by following your template. I like to use a Dremel tool with a small round bur.

  5. If you use a marker to draw directly on the window, you can use rubbing alcohol to erase the remaining ink.

Fortunately, acrylic isn't expensive. Most window-size pieces cost under $20. Keep in mind that this is an art project, so don't feel limited by your template. Embellish your etching by adding texture and details. If you ruin the acrylic, just buy another piece and start over.

Lights

What's not to like about acrylic windows? As discussed earlier, acrylic is easy to etch, it's affordable, and of course, it's translucent. You knew that, but here's something you might not know.

If you install a light on the edge of an etched acrylic window, the etched area glows the color of the light. And you can have only the etching illuminated when the system is powered on.

In addition, you can get creative with your lighting. You can use a multicolored setup with multiple layers of acrylic, each with its own design and color. You can also play with shapes.

TIP

Make sure you keep the light from escaping around the edge of the window. This is especially important if you're using multiple layers with different colors. Remember, the light inside the case (neon, LED, etc.) will also show up in the etched surface.

In my case, I used LEDs that are about as thick as the window. I also used black electrical tape to isolate the light.

Tints

You can also use window tints to enhance your lights, either by changing the color or by helping to create the illusion of a solid surface when there is no light showing through. Mask off the area you want to keep clear. Paint the window the same color as the tint. After it dries, apply the window tint. The tint will make the panel look solid when the computer is shut off. When you power on your computer, the lights will show your window detail.

Cut the window tint into the desired shape and apply it to the window. Sound hard? Don't worry. With a little practice it's no sweat. Here are a few tips:

  1. Use a mixture of baby shampoo and water (mostly water) and spray it on the window and tint film. This helps ensure that no part will immediately stick. Use a squeegee to remove the liquid that is trapped under the tinting film, so that no air pockets are trapped under the film. Start from the middle of the window, so that you're pushing the air pockets and the liquid out. If you have any dust or air under the tint, it won't look right.

  2. Use a hair dryer to dry the film as you squeegee out the liquid. The hair dryer dries the tint and activates the glue. The heat will cause the glue to bond to the window with more strength.

  3. If you're covering the entire window with tint, use a fine file to smooth out the edge. Apply the tint so it extends beyond the edge of the window. Then file the edge. This allows the tint to cover the very edge of the window.

Painting

Another fun technique is to paint part of the window. You can paint the area you don't want visible and leave the rest clear.

Decals

Decals are similar to appliqués. Most of the decals you'll find are frosted to look like etchings, but you can also use solid decals. The choice is yours.

You can visit your local sign store to obtain ready-to-apply (RTA) decals made to your specifications. In most instances, you can provide the store with a digital file of the graphic you want, and the store will make a decal for you.

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