“My Sketchbook” is the blog of Tim Chorzempa, Web Designer, Graphic Designer and self admitted geek.

Marpat Camo Laptop

As a Graphic Designer and Web Designer, I deal with a lot of tight deadlines. I also deal with writing and formatting a ton of copy! A few years ago, I decided I could use some practice with touch typing to help with my speed and accuracy when I type.




From a keyboarding classes I took growing up, I learned that if I can't see the keys, I can't cheat. The typewriters in the classroom all had the keys painted over.

I looked at buying blank keyboards, painting over a normal keyboard, and adding key overlay stickers to help me practice. I found that blank specialty keyboards cost a lot of money, I didn't want to buy a new keyboard just to paint over it, and I didn't like the idea of stickers coming off of a keyboard when I type.

After a trip to my closet I remembered an ancient laptop I bought on eBay by the year before. I bought it so I could learn how to take laptops apart and fix them. Perfect! It had a keyboard, it was already paid for, and I could take it anywhere to practice typing and stow it away quickly.

Next I planned my approach. I wanted a guide that my fingers should follow up and down from the home row, which meant I needed to stripe the keys and use more than one color of paint. After mocking up the key pattern in PhotoShop, it reminded me of the Mar-pat camouflage pattern that soldiers wear. This laptop was heavy and indestructible like a tank, so why not run with the metaphor? Next I mocked up a design for the outside casing. Paying homage to my Apple-geek roots, I added stylized apple logos to the pattern.

Next I had to decide on a paint to use. The choice of brands was easy because I've repainted old yellowing Macintoshes before using Krylon Fusion spray paint for plastic, and the results were fantastic! As luck would have it, camouflage colors were available, and they came in a nice matte finish.

To keep the circuitry from being damaged when I was spraying I removed the outer casings of the laptop and put the insides in a safe place. I removed the keys very slowly one by one, and mounted them onto straws from the dollar store with two sided tape. This was easy because the keys on this computer are constructed more like the sturdy and thick desktop keyboards than most laptops.

From there I had to decide how to mask off the surface, and what order to paint the colors in. The tan color would came first, then the olive and finally the brown on top. Wide blue painter's tape from 3M worked very well in masking out the sections I wanted to paint the contrasting colors. When I was done spraying one color, I laid the tape out in strips that butted up against each other atop of what I already painted and trimmed the tape carefully with an Exacto blade, making sure not to cut all the way through the tape. I waited a 24 hours between layers to ensure that the previous layer was completely dry.

Next came reassembly, which went by quickly and without any trouble. By the time I was done I was happy how well it turned out. The finish of the paints is matte, which was perfect for hiding minor imperfections and providing just a little grip on the keyboard.

When I was done I used the laptop for over a year. It was nice to practice typing from anywhere instead of being connected to the my desktop. When I finally sold it on ebay, I was able to recoup the cost of both the laptop and the supplies I used to decorate it with.

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