Not long ago I was asked if I would like to try SkinIt, a protective and colorful way to personalize many popular consumer electronic items with custom vinyl overlays. Of course I wanted to give them a try, but the art choices were almost overwhelming…and then there was the decision of which gadgets to skin. SkinIt makes overlays for mobile phones, digital musical players, laptops, gaming devices, and various other gear.
In the end, I wound up choosing the Asterisk skin, and I included a .jpg of the Gear Diary logo to get a SkinIt custom design; a week or so later I received two skins for the Samsung A900 and a skin for my Toshiba laptop.
Although the skins are not very thick, they are much less fragile than I was expecting. Each skin uses “3M Scotchcal High Performance Film Automotive Grade with Comply Adhesive Performance” which allows easy installation, but also allows clean removal with “little or no adhesive residue”. The skins are cut to fit each particular device and are supposed to curve with the item’s contours. Obviously the vinyl skin does not provide the drop-protection associated with a padded protective case, but it will serve as a layer of protection between the covered device and the typical daily use bumps and scrapes.
After the SkinIt arrives, installation is done by first cleaning the device to be skinned. As you can imagine, this is especially important with a device such as a mobile phone that might have hand and face grease on it. The device’s surface should be wiped with a damp (not wet!) cloth and allowed to dry completely. To make sure that any remaining fingerprints and skin grease are removed, the device should then be lightly wiped with alcohol.
Now the device is ready to be skinned!
It’s important to carefully examine how the pieces of the SkinIt are arranged on the paper backing; there will usually be several pieces and cutouts – especially for detailed devices such as a mobile phone or gaming device. Here is the skin for the A900 – notice that the back alone is made of three sections with a small cutout in top portion. The skin which will cover the front of the phone has six cutouts that need to be removed so that the various buttons, LEDs and speakers are not covered. Everything is completely custom cut for the particular device, and I like how the only evident branding is in an inconspicuous spot on the lower back skin.
It’s important not to stretch the skin as it is removed from the paper backing and then applied to the device; taking it easy and not getting in a rush is the best way to do the installation. It’s important to make sure that the tacky sides of the skin don’t touch each other, because just like regular tape when the sides touch, the skin’s tacky sides�will adhere together which can cause damage to the skin.
The sticky metallic backing on the vinyl makes the skin more rugged than one might expect
Going slowly, make sure that the holes in the skin are lined up with the edges and buttons of the device being skinned…
If needed, the skin can be carefully pulled up and realigned; try to get it right the first time though, so that there is less chance of stretching and distorting the skin.
If there are small bubbles under the skin, they will probably go away within a day or so on their own, but the skin can be lifted and smoothed to remove them if they are making you crazy. Or if necessary you can borrow a window tinter’s trick and use a pin to make a tiny air escape hole.
Here it is, the skinned A900. Overall I like the way that the skin looks, but I think that the skin might be just a smidge too large. While I am confident that I lined everything up perfectly and backed the starting edges as far as they could go without hanging over, the skin at the curve of the very bottom of the A900′s flip has the smallest bit of skin overhang, and it won’t lay perfectly smooth. It’s not a major problem, I’m just picky about things like that.
I think that installing a laptop skin is much easier than doing smaller items, because there aren’t a bunch of button holes and other specialized points that must be lined up. But skinning a laptop will present its own challenges for some because the surface is so large and the objective is to get the skin on without stretching it or leaving bubbles anywhere.
I managed to do it with no bubbles and no stretch, and�here’s how: I installed the skin from the hinge down, peeling back the amount of skin that I needed to apply and rolling the paper backing from the underside as I attached the skin to my laptop. Those that are familiar with applying screen protectors will recognize the method, and as I laid the skin down I used the heel of my fist to smooth everything.; once again – going slow will pay off. I found that it was very easy to gently pull the skin back up if I needed to (like when on of my long hairs was trapped under the skin :-P), but once I had laid the final corner down the skin was securely installed. My laptop lid has perhaps a millimeter of unskinned space all around – so it fits perfectly with no overhang anywhere.
I really like how the SkinIt looks on my laptop, I’ll definitely be leaving it in place
Applying a SkinIt vinyl overlay is a quick and easy way to protect your device’s surface as well as set it apart from everyone else’s. The selection of stock designs is quite good, but the option of being able to create a custom skin from your own art is what makes this service truly great.
SkinIt designs are available directly from the manufacturer.
MSRP: $14.95 for the A900 skins and $29.95 for the laptop skin; prices vary depending upon the device
What I Like: Plenty of stock art to choose from with the option of custom designs for the same price, layer of protection from scratches and light bumps, instant personalization, easy to apply
What Needs Improvement: The mobile phone skin seemed to be just the tiniest bit too big