REPAIRING A PINBALL BACKGLASS
WITH WATERSLIDE DECALS
By Alan Lewis
NEED TO TURN A BUTT UGLY BACKGLASS INTO A DECENT ONE?
This was my second backglass repair attempt using clear waterslide decals and an inkjet printer. The first repair you read aboutHERE. The first project repaired translucent areas. It was a 50% successful project. Looked excellent when front lit and adequate when backlit.
The second project was a Gottlieb 1959 Around the World Pinball backglass that had a rather substantial amount of the top and side background and graphic damaged in the opaque area. This is a great candidate for this procedure.
The benefit that I see with this method is that you can replace large areas of complex graphics easily. The decal serves two purposes: to replace graphics and to blend with existing graphics. You don't need to replace an entire graphic with a decal, just the missing part. The unseen area of the decal just hides behind the original graphic and blends together with the original graphic as it goes into the visible areas. On this backglass the spikes around the player 1 and 2 target circles are good examples of an original graphic blending together with the decal. Parts of the spikes were left original and the remainders were on the decal. The same with the white target circles.
BEFORE AND AFTER
Not only were there large areas missing or flaking off but someone had used dark blue spray paint to try to fix it! Lots of spray paint! Dripping down the glass...........
So this one was major surgery.
The first thing to do was to Triple Thick the backglass.
The second thing to do was to scan the original backglass. I did a complete 300dpi scan and stitched the images together into one large file. This way I can make a translite if I totally ruin the original backglass. I also need the scanned images to fix the damaged areas in a graphics editor program.
Use a hot knife to cut along the trim lines.
I used two tools to scrape the old paint/ink off the glass: A sharp wood chisel for the larger areas and an X-Acto flat chisel blade (shown in photo) for the fine work along the trim line.
The X-acto flat chisel blade is excellent for scraping off paint/ink along the fine edges of the trim line.
This is how much I had to remove. I should have removed just a little bit more of the flaky areas but live and learn.
I had trimmed off small amounts of the edges of some main graphics as well as half of each white circle target and spike graphics around the 1 and 2.
The beauty of using decals is that any missing graphics are replaced as part of the one repair panel decal.
I learned that you must match your colors (background in this case) by printing on the decal sheet. So you will need to sacrifice some decal material. I applied various shades from the graphic editor program and printed onto the decal paper and compared to the original backglass color.
After you fix the graphics on your computer do a test print out at full size on standard paper. Use this to hold behind the backglass where the decal will go. You may notice slight differences in size. Adjust the dpi of the printout until you get a perfect match. I don't know why I had to do this but I did.
So don't commit any decal paper until you do this test printing for each panel of the repair.
Now you are ready to print the decal panel. If the repair area is large like mine was then you will be making many panels and overlapping them.
Print the decal as a mirror image because what will be showing through the backglass is actually the bottom of the decal, not the top.
After the ink is dry paint the printed side with white flat spray paint. You can have some of the image ghosting through like shown.
Trim the decal panel to go around any original graphics that shouldn't be covered up such as translucent areas. Make sure to overlap the decal if possible over adjacent opaque areas to make a seamless transition. Don't butt the edge of the decal to the original graphic but overlap it a bit.
When the decal dries it will suck right down to the glass and be very tight to the original graphics as you can see in the photo. Notice the overlapped areas and the trimmed areas.
I used 6 panels to do my backglass. Each panel overlapped the other. Notice the trimmed areas of the decals to clear translucent areas.
The last step is to paint the white decal face with silver paint. I brushed on aluminum paint.
The finished backglass
I am very satisfied with the result of this project. I think it worked 100% except for some judgements on my part on how much to trim off the glass. I should have trimmed about two square inches more of the original ink.
This method still requires a lot of patience for color matching and some quality computer time to repair the graphics. But applying the decal is very quick and easy. So you are doing all the difficult work before working on the glass itself. Mistakes are done while working on the computer rather than the glass. If you don't like the decal panel after you apply it just peel it off while it is still damp.
COPYRIGHT 2008 BY ALAN LEWIS