3DS XL Painting Update: Top Shell Mystery Cracked! Pics and Info Inside

Discussion in '3DS - Console, Accessories and Hardware' started by chrisd, Jun 16, 2013.

  1. chrisd
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    chrisd Member

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    Hey all, over the past few days you might have seen my previous thread asking about how to open up the 3DS XL's top screen, as I want to paint the colored parts of the system a different color.

    I am happy now to present a success! Not a 100% success, but enough that I can provide some pictures and other info.

    In addition, I've had some issues from opening up the case, and I'm hoping that others with the tools and knowhow can repeat my experiment with better success completion, and thus expand this topic further.

    As far as I can tell there is no other recorded instance of the 3DS XL case being opened up on the top half, and so I hope that with this first success there can be a flurry of further achievements and we can fully document the best means of opening up the top half of the case and/or removing components within. For now, since I don't want to mess with the XL much more than I already have, I will stick to the removal of the top, and hopefully we can go from there.

    I will be completing a set of photos and a simple writeup of what I've figured out, which will fill the next few posts. I will do my best to give as much info as I can obtain so far. For those looking for more info, I apologize that this initial post doesn't have any pictures or info just yet. I want to work on it a bit more and then put it up on this thread, so please stay tuned for later. Thanks for reading, and I hope I can soon help provide some good info for those who want to mod their 3DS XL in the future.
     

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  2. chrisd
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    chrisd Member

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    Hey all. Been gone a while, thought I would share some progress reports.

    I have painted the top of the XL. Thanks to a friend who has some good experience with spraypainting, the job is just about done. I need to get an email back about a decal and apply finish, but after that it should be all done, aside from painting the bottom as well which will come later.

    Here's a dump of some random pics. I will supply more and add detail in the coming weekend.

    ...Except right now, the SD card is refusing to be read! Figures. I will work on that and get back to this post. A deluge of pics was requested, and I intend to provide. Got it going proper again. Here's a quick write-up with pics (more coming soon, after I apply a coat of finish).

    Tools of the Trade (this guide follows spray painting):

    -00 size phillips head screwdriver (the kind used to remove the XL battery cover, Nintendo loves this screwdriver so many places sell this kind of driver along with the triwings Nintendo loves in their older portables)
    -thin, blunt wedge tool
    -fine grit sandpaper (I use 800)
    -blue painter's tape (if you need to cover sections)
    -spray can of primer (black for dark colors, white for light colors)
    -spray can of paint (in color desired)
    -spray can of finish (matte, glossy, clear, it all is up to preference.)
    -about half an hour to spare

    How to paint the top cover of a 3DS XL:

    1. Remove the top of the shell. First, unscrew the four phillips screws in the top of the case. These are hidden under four pads next to the top screen. These can be removed with a thin wedge tool, such as an xacto blade. After removing the pads and setting them aside, unscrew the four screws and set them aside as well. Don't lose them! After removing them, close the system and begin the wedging process. Insert the tool into the edges of the case, and start slowly prying them apart. I recommend starting at the corners above the notification light in the top corner and the matching edge. These two spots are easiest to pry apart in my experience. Use a thin, blunt tool, which won't cut or otherwise damage internals. This is important because the inside tabs can be broken by strong force from metal tools, and the internal ribbon cables for cameras, screen, and speakers may be cut if you use something like an Xacto knife and mess up. And naturally, don't do this while it's turned on or plugged in (in fact, I'd even remove the battery with that phillips driver you used earlier!)

    2. Separate the top from the rest of the system, and take the top cover to where you intend to paint. If spray painting then I recommend a wide-open, well-ventilated space, which isn't too windy or humid. Be sure to use a tarp of some kind since spray-painting will leave nice colorful spots on your floor/sidewalk/driveway/insert painting space here otherwise.

    3. If you want to leave some part a certain color, say the top black edge, or the red/blue/silver/etc. main color surface, then you want to use blue painting tape to cover that area. Be VERY careful when putting tape on, you want it firmly attached and with a very clean edge so that things aren't sloppy when done! You can also do this to your own painting after you're done, so if you want to paint both parts then you can cover one with tape after you've painted it and it's finished. Worry about that after this first job though!

    4. Start sanding the surface you want to paint! You want to use high grit sandpaper (I used 800 grit) so that you don't do some serious damage or anything. Don't bother sanding off ALL of the paint, just the top layer of gloss and some extra, so that the top feels very smooth and probably looks like it went through a war zone. You want to sand so that the paint sticks to the plastic well.

    5. Now that you've taped off areas that don't need paint, and sanded the areas that do need paint, well, time to paint! Well, time to prime first. Put your piece down and get to work. If spray-painting, your can will likely have a metal ball in it that clicks when you shake the can. Go ahead and shake your can of primer for about 2 minutes. You want to do this to mix and be ready to spray properly. Also spray into the open (if you're outdoors) to make sure that it's coming out smoothly and cleanly.

    On a note about primer, if you're painting a dark color, then you should choose black primer. If you are painting a light color, then go with white primer. This isn't super essential, but your results will be better and more easily achieved with the right primer choice. I went with white, so naturally white primer was my pick.

    6. Now then, you have your well-shaken and tested can of primer, go ahead and put your piece on the tarp or other safe painting zone, and, holding your can a good distance away from the surface (about as far as you can go from the surface that it will still apply as you spray toward it), spray the primer on, holding the nozzle down firmly and moving slowly back and forth, left and right, to get a nice, even coating. Once this is done, you should wait a few minutes at least until the primer is dry.

    As a friendly warning, I also recommend some kind of mask or other breathing protection. Spray paints, especially the acrylics that I use, emit a noxious fume which can be harmful to your lungs. That's why you should protect against such things with a proper breathing protection. Cheap masks are available at home improvement stores, though I'd recommend a more expensive solution if you plan to do this painting stuff often (say, for plastic model kits).

    7. Once your primer has dried, do the same thing for it, all the above primer steps, but for the paint that you wish to use. If you're going with a white paint, for example, then prepare it and check it all the same ways that you did for your primer, and then apply in the same way that you did the primer. In addition, be cautious and make sure that you apply to the curved edges of the top (assuming you're painting that part of the system, as I was). These would normally only get painted by the paint on top flowing onto them by gravity. You want to apply a little on these edges anyway, because direct paint will stick and look nicer! Just don't go as heavy as on the top, a smaller amount will do fine.

    8. Once you've done this, let it dry as you did for the primer. After you can touch it and not have paint pick up (only test this VERY lightly!) or better yet, after waiting a while, it should be dry. Go ahead and admire your work, chances are you did some great stuff and your system looks very nice! It's okay to feel proud!

    After enjoying some success, it's time to ruin it. Just kidding! You want to use finish now. This spray onto the finished coat of paint and locks in the paint to 'finish' the job. It will provide a final layer to protect and stylize your fine work. Most importantly, it will protect your paint from fingerprints, and grease, and all kinds of nasty stuff!

    9. Apply finish the same way you did primer and paint, and let it dry the same way too. When you first do it, you'll think it looks awful and that you ruined everything. Don't worry, this is normal! When it's finished drying, then you'll be amazed at how much better it looks! At this point, your work should be done, and your 3DS will be all fancy and customized! At this point, do the reverse of the first steps, reapplying the top of the case and screwing back in the phillips screws. Now your system should be all finished, unless you want to do more painting, but hey, this is a tutorial for the top, not for the whole thing. I'm not crazy enough to fully remove everything from the system, not yet anyway! Hope that this helped you all on your way to painting your 3DS with some custom colors.


    I will be back later to help touch this up further, hopefully with pics that could help you all out. I already did mine (and unfortunately did not take pictures) but I will try and stage some and put them up for all to see.
     
  3. chrisd
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    chrisd Member

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    [held for later]
     
  4. chrisd
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    chrisd Member

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    Problems:

    As far as I can tell thus far, there is no sure-fire way to open up the top screen cover and not do some partial damage to the plastic tabs which hold the top of the case tightly together. It seems you may find that with too many reckless openings that your case's top half no longer holds snugly together; I my case, one corner is only held shut at all by one of the four screws hidden underneath the rubber pads. While I cannot seem to get it back 100% to normal, I hold out hope that I can get it better tomorrow, and that this is not an inevitable fate.

    I no longer believe that the 3DS opens with a 'prying open' motion, but rather with a sliding motion. If you look at the tabs inside of the top of the system, you see that some of them are not triangles, like the tabs on the inside of battery covers on remotes and game boys, but are blocky. This I suspect is because they are not intended to open up like battery covers are, and this design is probably the reason that I broke some of them when I tried prying my top cover open.

    What you really need is a sliding motion. After removing the four phillips screws on the inside, you close the system, put it on a table, and then push on the top half of the hinge. If you do that, the cover just pops off! Granted I have a system with some broken tabs, and it's already been opened multiple times, so mine might give more easily than a virgin 3DS XL. However, I do think that this will get you further with less stress than trying to pry the thing open with a scalpel or something.

    Please give this new method a try, and tell me how it works out!

    If this is how it's properly opened, then I can really say for sure that the colored parts of a 3DS XL are easily removed and modified without damaging the system. I will wait for some verification first though.

    Another problem encountered was the discovery of some small rectangular parts (pictured) which fell out of the top half of the case when I first opened it up. These small rectangles were made of some odd materials, one was a slightly firm black rectangle with a large rectangular hole taken out of it, and the other was the same size overall but thin and of a fine mesh material.

    The mysterious rectangles from the inside of the system are in fact an insert for the speakers of the 3DSXL, and form a barrier to protect the speakers from dust which may enter the speaker holes on the system. If one of your speakers falls out during the process of opening the top half of the system, you may find these dust filter rectangles fall out. Just put these two rectangle pieces back into the case in the same spot that the speakers go, BEFORE you put the speaker in, and then put the speaker in. They will not budge with the speaker on top of them.

    I believe the order should be

    speaker
    rectangle with hole in it
    mesh rectangle
    speaker holes

    If you place the XL on a flat surface while removing the top cover (using my slide method mentioned above!) then this shouldn't be an issue.
     

    Attached Files:

  5. qweesy777

    qweesy777 Member

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    cool subscribed, excited to see the outcome.......fill this thread with pics
     
  6. chrisd
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    chrisd Member

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    Also, some random tips I thought of:

    the cam lenses are actually two separate parts connected by thin strips of black tape. Conveniently they stay in place just by keeping them proper when you close the system up again, so don't worry much about them.

    Krylon Crystal Finish Acrylic Spray caused major problems with adherence. I talked with a Krylon rep about it, and apparently some substrates (ie. 3DS XL plastic) don't react well to the chemicals in some of their products. They recommended that I apply a Low Odor Clear Finish (Matte or Glossy) to fix the problem, and after doing so with the Matte I can confirm that the issues I had (infinite smells, sticky surface) went away with some good coatings of the fixer product. I can still stand by the Krylon Short Cuts Flat White paint, and the Krylon White Primer Spray that I used, just don't use Krylon Acrylic Crystal Finish for your 3DS painting. If you're obsessive about looking authentic with your paint jobs, then go with the Matte finish I mentioned, it looks great! It should go on without any problems.


    Also, be very careful about dust! drying time is a perfect chance for dust particles to land on your XL and ruin an otherwise smooth finish. Don't waste time and money, find a way to protect your drying piece from dust. I don't yet know such a method, so if you have experience painting stuff and not getting dust on it then please let me know!

    Sorry I haven't shared many pics, I just haven't gone and taken/uploaded many yet. I will deliver when I can do so!
     
  7. BerserkLeon

    BerserkLeon Not-so-new member

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    The sliding motion is something nintendo should be known for by now, GBA and GB carts both utilize them to open them after the screw in the back has been removed. the top-shell of a DSLite also requires the sliding motion if you don't want to break anything on it.
    Ed: would like to see these pics as well :)
     
  8. unz

    unz Chaotic Neutral

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    I worked for a number of years in a kitchenware factory that ran semi-automated paintlines for applying enamel paints, teflon and ceramic coatings to frypans, etc. I also trained as an automotive spray painter, so I'm reasonably familiar with industrial and commercial spraybooths. But you know what? None of what I know would apply to your situation, as you don't have access to a commercial spraybooth or curing oven.
    [/CSB]

    Anyway, so I was going to suggest asking the guys at your local hobby/model shop for advice. Then I Googled the question and found this old forum thread, full of tips that you can actually use.
     
  9. William Bernhard

    William Bernhard Member

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    Wow awesome I was trying to open the upper side of the case to paint it too! Also your work looks preety good!
     
  10. chrisd
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    chrisd Member

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    Hey everybody! Sorry I've been neglecting this thread, it's just been a while since I've had some time to dwell on it.


    I wanted to do some quick updates and add some more info as well as respond to some posts here.


    unz:
    Thanks for the heads-up, I only wish I could access professional grade stuff! Maybe I'll have one by the time they release another portable for me to paint. Maybe a Vita if I ever decide to get one.
    I'll definitely be checking out that link, thanks for sharing!

    BerserkLeon:
    I was not aware of that sliding motion being present on other Nintendo portables. At the very least I'm glad that I have more evidence toward the XL using that very same method. I only wish I had known that sooner!


    As for everyone asking for pictures, are there any in particular you would like to see? I admit that I did not think to get pictures of some steps of the process, but I fortunately can detail them well enough, and even demonstrate once more if I ever get a broken XL to experiment on further.

    In addition, what would be an effective means of sharing pictures here on GBATemp? I'm not very familiar with how things work around here.
     
  11. chrisd
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    chrisd Member

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    Now for updates. Here's what I've done in the last few weeks:

    1. Stripped off the first layer of paint.

    This went well for the top and poorly for the second, entirely because I did the bottom first. I conversed with Krylon reps until I found the best way available to me for removing the old Krylon paint while not damaging the plastic. The best means of removing that old Krylon paint, primer, and finish was to scrape the paint off with a plastic edge (like an old gift card) while simultaneously heating it with a blow dryer. The other potential options were chemical paint strippers, which would likely eat away the plastic. Thus, it was only proper to scrape away. If you do have to go this route, then I recommend some good working music and a pair of gloves, because otherwise your hands will get really hot, and you will be really, really bored! Another important reminder is to not use a metal tool, or anything harder than the plastic which could scratch it. This can and will scratch up your XL's plastic casing, and as far as I know it cannot be fixed. I learned this the hard way, as I got fed up using my plastic scraper and switched to the much faster combination of a flathead screwbit and the dull edge of a scalpel, which finished much faster but left much scratching damage on the battery cover. I learned my lesson there and avoided those tools for the top segment, thus sparing it from such mangling.

    I do have pictures of this process, so if you need to remove krylon paints from your XL then this might be helpful to you! Note that I only know it works for the particular paints that I used in my first paint attempt, and can't say for sure if it works on all their varieties. Krylon has a customer service contact center which is very helpful for this kind of thing. Explain your goals in good detail and you should receive a respectable, helpful answer in return.

    2. Repainted with Krylon Fusion

    No longer virgin to the art of spraypainting, this job was a piece of cake. It helps that Krylon Fusion really dries quickly and doesn't require sanding or priming for use on plastic (though I still sanded and cleaned it off first since there was old paint still on it and I needed to be thorough). The results were also great, if I do say so myself. I found that by taking a clean plastic storage container (about shoebox size), removing the lid, and placing it open end down over top of the drying XL parts, was excellent at preventing any dust from settling on the piece. Just put it in place immediately after spraying and wait for it to dry. No dust as long as you don't have any dust on the inside the container!

    Attached is some new photos of the new paintjob. I used Krylon Fusion in Matte Satin, about 3 coats totaling 10 passes, on clean bare plastic. I did not have time to use finish on it before going back to school, and it seems that it is still a bit susceptible to scratching, so you may want to try using some kind of finish (perhaps the Low Odor Clear Finish I used on the first coat). I still like the look of it though, and a case is easy enough protection from the elements. The photo I tried to use is too large. Is there another good place to upload these? I'd just resize it like the other pictures in this thread, but I'd really prefer a solution that didn't require me to resize every photo I plan to upload.

    As a disclaimer, I have not yet done any heavy play with the system recently, and as such I cannot guarantee that even Fusion is immune to the sweat and grease from one's hands. I have noticed what appear to be some finger marks on the bottom side of my XL, but this was after only two days, and such things may not be an issue after a week or so (the recommended 'test period' according to a krylon rep). Still, I recommend exercising caution with new paintjobs, as you never truly know what they will accept and reject.
     
  12. chrisd
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    chrisd Member

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    [​IMG]
    Decided to resize a bit on here, this is a pic I took the other day of the new, Fusion paintjob. You can see some rough spots on the edge of the black and white near the top, and just barely spot the small red mark where I scratched a bit off accidentally, but other than that it came out very clean.


    [​IMG]

    And here's the back. As you can see, there are a number of heavy scratch marks from where I used that metal tool to remove the old paint. Don't make my mistake!

    Also, there' the badly handpainted SD card cover, which I didn't try spraypainting due to perceived complexities therein. I may try at some point though, but really I'm probably better off just hand painting it. Thing doesn't look too horrible anyway, but it's obviously not good. If anyone has handpainting tips then I'd love to hear em!