The Nerd-Cave Reconfiguration: Backdrop It Like It’s Hot

With the construction of my cabinets done, it was time to start sprucing them up a bit. There's nothing wrong with just plain 'ol Detolfs, but I wanted to do something above and beyond the norm to really set my collection off.

During my initial planning I had intended on putting a mirrored finish on the backs of my snazzy new Detolfs by applying mirrored window tint to them. I'd seen it done in a couple people's collections, and had really liked the way it looked.

However after seeing how big these pieces of glass were, I wasn't completely confident in my ability to apply the thin film without getting a bunch of wrinkles in it; not to mention Mrs. Th0r was not going to be happy with the amount of time it was going to take to apply the tint, and wait for it to dry. In retrospect this was probably one of the best decisions I could have made, because what I ended up with turned out way better than I could even have imagined.

It took a couple days of looking through The Detolf thread on TFW2005, and other peoples setups, but I finally had the epiphany IMG_00000039I was waiting for! I remembered seeing someone else's collection, they had found some high resolution image files of The Ark and Nemesis (Autobot and Decepticon bases), and printed them out to hang on the walls behind their figures; I needed to find these files! I couldn't remember exactly where I had seen them, but I knew I had commented on the thread, so I started on the tedious process of searching through every post I had ever made on TFW until I found it.

It took a while, but eventually I hit pay-dirt. It turns out that the files were initially part of a paper-craft project by Mandingo Rex onnemesis TFormers to make a play-set scaled for Classics figures. While I didn't need the files to make the "origami" computer consoles, the backdrops were absolutely perfect. There were several different panels in each set which was awesome because it meant that I wouldn't have to use the same image printed over and over again as a backdrop; I could mix it up a bit.

I usually separate my figures by faction; e.g. Autobots on one shelf, and Decepticons on another. The only problem I had now was that I was sure that I was going to end up with at least one cabinet that was going to be a mix of both. I knew that I could keep the individual shelves divided by faction, but I didn't want one cabinet be IMG_00000114"wallpapered" half orange, and half purple; I wanted each cabinet to be uniform. My solution was simple; use my limited "Photoshop" skills to do a quick color change from purple to blue/gray on the Nemesis set to make them resemble the color of the planet Cybertron from the old G1 cartoon. This was easier said than done because my photo editing skills are practically non-existent, and I was just using a basic editing program (no PhotoShop in my skimpy little budget). It took a couple of days of playing around with different filters/color change options, and posting samples online to get opinions before I was able to achieve something that I was happy with, but it was well worth it. Below are links to the original artwork, as well as mirrored copies in case (for whatever reason) the originals become unavailable.

I had planned on just printing these out myself, but after doing enough to cover one cabinet it was more than apparent that it would be more cost effective to take them somewhere to be printed. The files are 11"x17", and my printer could only handle up to an 8.5"x11" sheet of paper, so it would take less sheets to cover the back of the cabinet, and I wouldn't run through a metric IMG-20131009-00882butt-ton of ink printing enough to cover all twelve of these massive cabinets. Staples offers full color printing service, and I pass by there every day on my way to/from work so I stopped in to get a quote, and the email address for their print center. I sent in six different panels asking for two of each (for a total of twelve), requested that they use 11"x17" gloss paper, and included my contact information so that they could notify me when they were finished. When it was all said and done, it cost about $25 to print them out, and they were ready the next day. Much to my surprise the colors on their prints were much more vibrant, and detailed, than the ones that I had made on my crappy little printer. The only down side was that, even though my cheap little printer could do it, Staples was unable to print the files without a border around them. No biggie though, I just took a ruler, and an razor blade to the edges, and went to town.

With the excess "borders" trimmed off it was time to start "wallpapering" my new curio cabinets. This was a little time consuming, but overall pretty painless. I started at the top, attaching two of the panels with a bit of clear sticky tape, careful to stay as close to where the wood and glass met to avoid any type of gap in theIMG_00000203 backing. I also tried to keep the seem between the two sheets of paper as close to the seem between the two sheets of glass as possible (with minimal overlap). With the first row of panels in place, I started working my way down the cabinet, attaching the next row of sheets to the bottoms of the previous row (again using very minimal overlap) until the entire back was covered. With everything in place I proceeded to trim the excess backing from the sides. I used a box cutter to find the little "groove" where the glass slides into the plastic corner piece that holds the corners together, and used that as a guide to trim off the extra paper. Once the excess was trimmed off, I used some more sticky tape to attach the sides of the paper to the sides of the cabinet, and took the time to completely seal the spots where the sheets of paper overlapped.

IMG_00000212The last step in the process involved me standing back triumphantly, and yelling, "Look at what I have created!" (At 4:00 in the morning Mrs. Th0r was less than happy with me, but sometimes you just need to let the joy flow.)

2 thoughts on “The Nerd-Cave Reconfiguration: Backdrop It Like It’s Hot”

  1. This is great! Your tutorial blogs have been inspiring as I’m in the middle of planning my own displays.

    I’m actually a designer and had a thought you might be interested in as far as the backdrops: You could use the original files as patterns in Photoshop…essentially tiling them together digitally until you have the dimensions of the back of your cabinets. At this point, return to Staples or any printer. Personally, I would choose a printer for a couple reasons: FedExKinkos/Staples/etc. do not color-calibrate, so the colors on your monitor won’t match accurately what is actually printed. Speaking of that, make sure that your Photoshop file is in CMYK mode and make note of the color profile. The output file provided to the printer can be PDF and let them know which color profile you used. That will ensure the colors absolutely matching. The second reason for choosing a printer is that their printers allow for bleed (so no need for you to cut off those borders). So basically you’d be creating one large sheet per backdrop/cabinet.

    At this point, stop in a crafts store or art supplies place and cut-to-measure a matching piece of foam core, but just slightly larger for mounting purposes. And also purchase some 3M spray adhesive and a brayer (looks like a handheld paint roller). Almost forgot, one of those erasers that are tan and crumble too. You’ll spray the adhesive onto the print about 3-5 passes. Very quickly mount that onto the foam core before the adhesive dries and align the sides to afford for maximum clearance/coverage so there won’t be visible gaps later. You’ll use the brayer to flatten out the print and remove air bubbles. And voila! One-piece backdrops that can now be mounted with maybe velcro or even brads/staples.

    1. ITA: Oh yeah. Forgot about the eraser again. The point of those crumbly erasers is they remove any adhesive that might squeeze or spill off onto the front of the art and foam core without ruining either.

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