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Making Panels with
an Inkjet Printer
Once your control panel has been designed in
Inkscape (or other graphics program), you only need to
print out the resulting image onto paper, plastic, vinyl, or
other medium. When printing, be sure the image is
reproduced at 100% with no scaling. Otherwise, the size
of the control panel in the graphics program won't match
the size of the printed result.
The choice of the printed medium is dependent
largely on the printing process which (for most of us) is
limited to inkjet and laser printers. In the printing world,
the medium you print on is called the substrate. Certain
substrates are best suited for certain types of printing.
The vast majority of consumer inkjet printers — such
as the Epson model in Figure 1 — use a water-based dye
or pigment ink. Being water based, the ink must literally
"soak" into the material, so this requires the substrate to
be somewhat porous. Paper is the most common porous
inkjet substrate. It's inexpensive, and comes in many
finishes — smooth, rough, shiny, and others.
While there are some peel-and-stick paper labels
available for inkjet printers, it's not difficult to apply the
printed artwork substrate to the panel material using a
spray or brush-on adhesive. For the latter, regular paper
cement gives satisfactory results. When using a spray
adhesive, find one for permanent application; many are
designed for temporary use, and the adhesive loses its
bond over time. For either spray or brush-on, make sure
the adhesive doesn't discolor the paper or artwork. If it
does, use a heavier paper or apply the adhesive in thinner
A disadvantage to paper is that when cut or drilled, it
tends to shred a little around the edges, like that shown in
Figure 2. This is inconsequential if you're drilling holes for components that use washers or nuts to
secure them. The hardware covers over the rough edges so no one sees them.
Figure 1. This Epson Workforce 30 inkjet printer produces a rainbow of
colors on a variety of paper and porous vinyl materials ("substrates").
Photo courtesy Seiko Epson Corp.
Figure 2. Ragged
holes are caused by
drilling with dull bits
or using the wrong
drilling speed. Many
be hidden by the
of the switches,
pots, and other
components in your
Shredding can become a problem with components
(like LEDs) that are simply inserted into place. In such
cases, you may wish to opt for LED mounting hardware
which will conceal the shredding, or use a fine pair of
scissors to trim off any dangling bits left over from the
cutting or drilling.
Another disadvantage of using paper for panels is
waterproofing. Unless you seal the finished art (I’ll get to
that in a bit), the paper remains porous to moisture, and
can be readily damaged if wet. Paper can also show signs
of wear and dirt — a consideration if the panel is
expected to see more frequent use, especially outdoors.
To combat these problems, one alternative is water-permeable vinyl. It’s thicker and more durable than paper,
and is available as a peel-off sticker (see Figure 3). The
trick is to find a printable vinyl for water-based inkjet
printers. Most professional-grade printable vinyls are
made for a completely different kind of ink that uses
May 2013 49
Figure 3. Peel-and-stick label stock makes applying the
printed artwork a breeze.