Jes Everafter

A little bit of everything.

Project: Pink Keyboard: A Tutorial

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My keyboard came as a set with a wireless mouse and they share an adapter. They work so well and they were such a good price that my boyfriend and dad’s computers also have the same set. While the keys and function have been fine, I’ve been a little hard on the outside. My wireless keyboard which I love so much was getting a bit tragic looking.   There were splatters and smudges of paint on it that I probably could’ve gotten out and large bleached out splotches across it (from knocking over a bottle of nail polish remover) which I couldn’t, so I decided to spruce it up a bit.

There are a couple of ways you can do this: either leaving all the keys on and taping around them, or pulling the keyboard apart and popping the keys off so the painting is more thorough and there’s no chance of accidentally painting the keys.  I thought about actually painting my keys but ultimately decided against it. One way you could do that if you wanted color on them but didn’t want to obscure the numbers would be to stick the faces of the keys to some tape and then just paint the sides, I suppose. You also don’t have to do the keyboard a bright color, you could just repaint it black or grey or white, whatever the original color is if you wanted.

I’m so very sorry some of the photos for this are so terrible. One day I’ll have a real camera… and do things in the light of day. They’ve been converted to black and white so that the varying bits of blurry, pixellated mess won’t be as distracting. I’d love to also take better after pics but the keyboard is currently in Texas and I’m in Ohio.

Materials

Additionally, if taking keyboard apart:

  • small phillips screwdriver
  • q-tips
  • water/mild cleaner

Please read the entirety of each step before doing it.

Step 0: Test

If you’re hesitant or don’t know how good your chosen paint will look on the keyboard’s plastic, you can do what I did and tape off a bit of the battery cover to use as a test area. I taped off and primed one side, let it dry then painted both sides with the colored paint. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go with no clearcoat, glossy, or matte, so I tested that too. To do this, after the color was dry, I taped in the opposite direction and tried a couple of different clearcoats. After the clearcoats dried I tried scratching up the different sections with my nail to see which was most durable. I chose to have primer, paint, and a clear matte top coat.

Not that you have to, but I also brought up a photo of it in Photoshop to play around with when I was contemplating painting the keys. and deciding whether or not to paint the black detail part around the silver application keys.

 

Step 1: Disassemble

If you’re not taking your keyboard apart or are just partially disassembling, you can skip to step 3.

Otherwise, take the batteries out if applicable and pop the top off. There was quite a bit of resistance pulling the two halves apart and I felt like it was going to break but it just took a little force and nothing ended up breaking. Take photos or notes of the placement of all the keys, even if you think you know where they go. I touch type 100+ wpm and still have little clue where even most of the letters go if they aren’t a vowel or ‘qwerty’.

Using the small flat head screwdriver, pop all of the keys off by slipping it underneath each one and gently using it as a lever to lift each one up. The longer keys (enter, backspace, shift, spacebar) will have a little metal rod (you can see them in a pic on step 2) set into plastic tabs that keeps them level when they’re pressed. Be extra careful with these, pushing just enough to feel them pop off then lift them up and disentangle them. If you break the tabs, the keys will be more difficult to evenly press when typing. I separated mine into different little containers to make putting them back on easier. The number pad went into one, letters into one, and all the other keys into another.

Flip your keyboard over and take all of the little screws out, putting them in a little container so you don’t lose any.

I actually further disassembled my keyboard, taking the whole circuit board out to clean around it but that shouldn’t be necessary.

Step 2: Clean

Just in case and first of all, I’m doing this step in particular with a wireless keyboard which I took apart so that I could clean it without getting the circuit board wet. If you’re doing this with a corded board or aren’t taking it apart, DON’T wash it off. Wipe it down with a lightly damp cloth, maybe use some compressed air, but don’t give it a shower.

My keyboard was really dirty, both with the paint on top and gunk under the keys, so with all the keys off, I actually took it into the shower, drizzled some liquid soap (I used bodywash. It was what was close.) scrubbed at it a little and rinsed it off. I did the same thing in the sink to the keys, making damn sure there was no way for them to go down the drain.  I patted it all dry with a dry washcloth and left it to air dry while I did the next part.

There was some dust and debris around the little silicone nodes that the keys hit, so I squirted a little plain water on a q-tip and gently cleaned around the ones that were dirty.

Step 3: Tape Off

If you aren’t taking the keys off, you can probably just do the same taping technique, but I’d suggest leaving a bit more of a lip to make sure the sides of the keys are protected. If you’re leaving keys but pulling the halves apart for whatever reason, I’d also suggest taping off the keys before disassembling.

You may be able to skip this step. I didn’t for two or three reasons, the first one being I was afraid to get paint in the little holes the key’s backs (stems?) go into. I didn’t know how much of a clearance they had and was afraid with as many coats as the keyboard was going to get, it might make the keys not move as easily. Next, with the in between key area still being dark, when its dirty it isn’t as immediately noticable. I also wanted to tape off an indented detail that runs around the keyboard. (This didn’t turn out as well as I’d hoped and I may go back later and just paint that part too.)

I taped off where all the keys were with masking tape. The easiest way to do this is to use scissors to cut a straight edge and lay it down right up to the edge of the .. key well? (we’re going to call it a key well),  overlapping the pieces. Once they’re all on one section, you can use one of the screwdrivers to fold the edges of the tape over the edges of the key well. This’ll allow the edges to be painted but not the bottom of the key well.. for the most part.

Keep going until you’ve covered all the spaces. You may have to cut special sized ones for any smaller keys.

Step 4: Prime, Paint, Clearcoat

After my battery cover test, I decided the paint color I chose needed a coat of primer beneath it, so the board received one. I used Valspar All-Purpose Primer in Gray. This is some old can that was in the garage, there’s no telling how old it is and I don’t think it’s even for plastic but I tested it on the cover and it worked really well.  I actually really liked the grey itself.

After the primer dried,  I gave the keyboard 2 or 3 coats of Krylon Gloss in Ballet Slipper pink. It was really pretty as a gloss and I use it on other things as well, but that didn’t work out well with the keys and the angle of my desk light hitting it and I didn’t want it getting scuffed up, so I also gave it about 3 coats of Rustoleum Ultimate 2X Clear Matte to make the finish match the keys’ finish.

Step 5: Reassembly

After the paint’s all dry, I poked a hole in the tape over the key wells with the flat head, then lifted it off and put the keys back in place. I carefully used a box cutter to score the paint around the taped part of the detail on the front of the keyboard. Then, I snapped the two halves of the keyboard back together, flipped it over, and put all the screws back in.

What do you think? Have you painted a keyboard? What color? Let me see!

 

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