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DIY Custom iPhone Cover

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

A while ago I saw this post on Dwellings by DeVore where she printed out her own paper iPhone covers, and then fit them inside an inexpensive clear plastic case:

Since I traded in my 8-year-old brick phone for a spankin' new iPhone a few months ago, and I'm too cheap to shell out $20+ for a case, I've been meaning to try this out myself.

First, I snagged a simple snap-together case off Ebay for a whopping $3, including shipping. (You can also use the back-only, single-piece cases like the one above.)

Next, I thought I could just trace the case and cut out my paper, like Devore did.

I was wrong.

The case I got is much thicker on the outside, and as I tried to trim (and trim, and trim) the paper down to size, my lines got wonky and I lost the proper curve on the rounded edges. It was über frustrating, and finally I decided there HAD to be a better way.

So, I got out some heavy-duty aluminum foil:

I pressed the foil into the case, and used my fingernail to get a nice sharp edge on the inside edges. Then I kept going over the edges with my nail until it cut a nice clean line:

If you do this, be sure to only use your fingernail; a blade could scratch the inside of your case.

I also pushed the foil through the camera hole and scrunched it down to get the right shape.

When I was done, I popped the foil out and had a perfect template to trace onto my paper. Yes! A better way!

Be careful while tracing; obviously the foil is very fragile, so you'll have to hold the edges down with one hand while you trace with the other.

For my design, I had some leftover scraps of this pretty laser-cut paper I mentioned a few days ago that I wanted to use:

Here it's layered over black cardstock, but of course I wanted something more colorful for my phone. So, I hunted through my tiny scrapbook folder and found a pretty orange sheet. I glued the two together, and...


The hardest part was cutting out the camera hole, and I'm embarrassed to say that even though I used to dabble in Scherenschnitte (aka paper cutting) I managed to mangle it pretty well. I think my blade was just too dull. :/

Anyway, the good news is that the shadow from the case edge neatly hides the worst of it:

I like that you can definitely tell it's two pieces of paper layered; gives it a nifty 3D look.

Next I used one of my all-time favorite scrapbook papers:

I've been hoarding this one sheet for years. It's nice to finally find a project to show it off!

And since these cases only allow you to make a design for the back of your phone, I also scanned the paper to use it as my screen's wallpaper:


Scrapbook papers are perfect for this, but obviously you can also print something - anything, in fact - for your case design. Any pattern, any saying, any geeky game or movie reference.... Oh my, the possibilities.

You can bet I'll be brainstorming up my favorite ten or twenty ideas pretty soon. :D

Also, I'm not familiar with other phone cases out there, but I wouldn't be surprised if you could use this tutorial on other hard clear-case styles. Just look around on Ebay; if it exists, I'm sure it's there!

So tell me, fellow geeks: what designs should I make next?

Posted by Jen at 2:23 PM Labels: , , ,


  1. You are a genius. That is all.

    BTW - I LOVE that scrapbook paper!! I feel a trip to Michael's coming on...

  2. Very pretty! I need to upgrade my phone here in a couple of months and that's a great idea.

    I used to dabble with Scherenschnitte and have never met anyone else who even knew what I was talking about, let alone done it! Yay us! Most of my stuff back then was nature related, as I'm a bit of a wildlife nerd. Scherenschnitte flower-sniffing skunk anyone? Whimsicle (CF4L) star-nosed mole? No?

    Of course, I'm sitting here looking at an empty spot over one book case, and how cool would a Scherenschnitte Tardis be? Swoon! I suppose I should tackle some other projects first, but I'm mentally in a papery place right now. Heck with the half done Halloween costume, I'm playin' with paper!

  3. Is it just me - or do I see a Tardis phone cover in the near future?

  4. I used to work for an aircraft salesman and the aviation industry has Jeppesen Charts that show the flight paths to and from all airports. These were updated frequently and I got to update his books. I love planes and maps and the old charts aren't good for anything--EXCEPT wrapping paper!

    --Not the Original Suzanne

  5. I think a Ghostbusters proton pack would be perfect.

  6. Ohhhh that looks so fab--I'm jealous I don't have an iphone now so I can do it. :D
    Thanks for reminding me of the word Scherenschnitte. I did a lot of it in my high school art classes. I recently picked up a new x-acto knife that sits comfortably in the crook of my index finger and has a blade on a pivot so it's supposed to be easier to do curves. I should finally try it out.

  7. Of course you know about Scherenschnitte. My mom used to do it, and I would delight in telling my friends what it was - because it sounded dirty.

  8. LOVE!
    I have an HTC Incredible and there are NO awesome cases for it. The weird shapes on the back may have something to do with it. Never really thought of making my own! I'm pretty careful with my phone, so maybe I'll just pick up some sticker paper to print on from Staples. Oh, the possibilities... Currently I'm getting back into polymer clay and making some Legend of Zelda keychains with it, so maybe I'll run with that design idea.

  9. Make a phone holder that looks like a Farnsworth from Warehouse 13...and, yes, I've been looking for a metal box JUST. THE. RIGHT. SIZE. for my Droid. *pout*

  10. Thank you for spelling "voilà" almost right! Beats the hell out of "walla" and the like that I've seen elsewhere. But do please note the last character should be "à" (ALT+0224) and not "á" (ALT+0225).

    Just sayin'.

  11. I kinda want to dope slap myself for not thinking of this myself. I'm ordering a new case right now.

    I think wrapping paper would be great for this project. I'm always buying the cute stuff then hoarding it. Or what about comic book pages? Or prints or scans of your favorites from your personal art collection?

  12. Oooh! Shiny :D

    Maybe something with an Art Nouveau motif or another beautiful turn of the century scroll-work style.

    Or a painting of a rocketship similar to Khara Ledon's Etsy shop

  13. I love this! I have mug from Starbucks that you're supposed to put pictures in, but I use scrapbook paper instead. I have a different one every time I go; now for matching mug and phone...

  14. What's next? Duh. TARDIS.


    If you Google up TARDIS book cover there's a PDF from the UK floating around. I used it to make my own River Song notebook. Then...take a pic of the inside view of the TARDIS for your wallpaper.


  15. alas, I can't afford an iPhone at this time, but I have a smartphone that I will HAVE to see if I can find a clear case for, so I can try this!

  16. I saw this somewhere recently and have been on the lookout for a clear case. I've got a sturdy but boring black case now, 'cause I'm so afraid of hurting my phone!

  17. Use a Qtip instead of your fingernail when you're "molding" the foil to the case... more control and way less "tearage"! =)

  18. The foil is a great idea! I have a purple Samsung Strive and I have been considering a clear cover with my own paper or fabric insert since I recently cracked the case I have. Thanks for the initial problem solving!

    It's only a year old phone and it's already getting hard to find the fun cases that aren't just solid colors! =oP

  19. I think next you need to make some fun with Portals....

  20. I can't give you a specific idea but I remember you've posted some adorable fan art of various disney or star-wars characters. I'd scan and resize or crop to create a case design. (making sure to include the artist signature of course!)

  21. Would it be simpler - if possibly slightly less precise - to just trace the outside of your phone instead? Not sure how tight the fit might be.

  22. I hate getting a new phone - it means about 3 weeks of frustration while I learn how to use the darn thing. I've been hanging on to my scratched phone that's been dropped so many times I'm amazed it still works, and my hubby is trying to talk me into an iPhone...

    He'll be very happy for your post! If I can make it pretty, maybe it will be worth the frustration... :)

  23. I have had a clear case for my Windows Phone for MONTHS, and I've been meaning to do this. Thanks to your foil tip, I think I'll tackle it tomorrow!

    Oh, the possibilities! Scrapbook paper? Nah... Maybe a Tardis????

  24. Hahaha...looks like I am not the first one with the Tardis idea. I should read the comments before posting my own.

    I think a lot of us are going to be walking around with little police boxes in our pockets and purses pretty soon.

  25. I have several sheets of your "all time favorite scrapbook paper"!!! I was using it for a project that didn't work out the way I wanted...
    What a fun idea! I have a "Psych" phone cover right now :)

  26. I have an iPhone 3gs and a bit of a case habit. Every time I get a new one, I find a problem with it. But the last one I got solved two problems. It has a lip so there's some projection if it falls screen-side down and it has a clear back so I can decorate it. I had My Little Pony stickers I wanted to use but I didn't want to stick them on the phone so I took the clear backing that was in the sticker pack, cut it to size (not nearly as carefully or as well as you did since I'm impatient and I wanted my PonyPhone NOW), clipped a corner so it wouldn't be over the camera, and decorated it with stickers. Put that in the case and the iPhone inside and now I have ponies all the time.

    I left my phone in Hobby Lobby Saturday. When I went to pick it up, the manager said I probably won't be giving the kid the phone back any time soon. I was confused until I realized the thought the phone belonged to my child. I don't have a child. It's my pony phone. And I'm proud of it! That's why I'm holding on to more pony stickers--eventually I'll have a new iPhone to decorate.

  27. I did this with wrapping paper & just traced my phone, cut out & made sure it fit in the case & traced the camera hole off the case. was really easy.

    I need to find some nicer paper now....

  28. Why not a Stay Puft marshmallow man? Or the eye thingie from Portal that you like? Seems to me the possibilities are endless. Or, and here's a thought, your Epbot robot?

  29. You. Are. So. CLEVER!!!! Now, I know you're big on Dr. Who and the likes, and I'm going to claim ignorance on all things like that, BUT! Surely there is some kind of communicating device that is used on a show like that that you could replicate? That sounds really cool to me!

  30. I'm thinking a Ghostbusters trap, Back to The Future flux capacitor, a cutesy robot and something steampunk-ish may be in order next. :-)

  31. What next? Disney.... Disney.... DISNEY! Specifically Nightmare before Christmas, because....well, 'tis the season, and it's my favorite movie.

  32. What next? Disney, Firefly, Seasonal / Holiday, Mona Lisa (and other classic / priceless art pieces), the possibilities are limitless!! MWaahahaha! *cough* If you do a Nightmare before Christmas one, please, PLEASE upload pics!

    WV: Schewa

    "Schewa! I'd be happy to gift wrap this for you!"

  33. Did you see the cross-stitch phone covers from Purl Soho? I want one so very much! Just think of the geek-charting possibilities...


  34. Did you make a plain paper template for future interchangeable custom covers for your phone?

  35. I use a belt holster that a case can't fit in, but in looking at my phone I see that there is a space that can be decorated. I'm eyeing inkjet cling film, so I can change what is stuck on my phone.

    My holster is plain black, but there are a lot of things that can be glued to leather. Now I have to choose some.

  36. And! check this out! http://blog.craftzine.com/archive/2011/10/how-to_cross-stitch_cell_phone.html

    Cross stitch in a clear case, via craftzine.com

  37. You should totally get a sheep music print out of your ring tone or the theme from firefly.

  38. Okay, so slightly off topic, but I got an email with this link in and it reminded me of the people here! My fave geeky t-shirt site does iPhone cases now :D Possibly a good source for inspiration too!

    I want the TARDIS.

    I need an iPhone first I guess

    RedBubble iPhone Cases

  39. Beautiful idea! I have a clear case for my phone and usually stick a photo in there, but now I think I will get more colorful/craft. Also - bravo on your layered/cut-out design - it looks so much like these fancy-schmancy ones:

  40. I think you should have your Epbot robot on the back of your phone! :)

  41. Idea: favorite tee shirt designs (im thinking threadless) giving credit at the bottom!!! so many cute pictures waiting to become my phone cover....

  42. while you are thinking of your iphone, I thought I might point out that a friend of mine mixes together fantastic music to use as ring tone etc on them :) He sends all his music out into the web for free. However right now he's looking to make ppl individualised ring tones. You can find him at http://www.facebook.com/unclecaine just tell him what you want to have!

  43. Crafty.

    wv: decorism. I am not making this up.

  44. I'm due for an upgrade on my phone this month, and I love the case I have now, but I won't be able to use it anymore. Looks like I'll be gettin' all kinds of crafty for my new case! Thanks, Jen! :)

  45. Hey this is a great idea! I do geek/fantasy/sci-fi-themed papercut for fun on etsy http://www.etsy.com/shop/freakydragonlady and this would be a a great challenge; to make a beautiful yet geeky phonecase! I'm feeling...hmm, isn't the new BBC Sherlock out soon? Or Bioshock Infinite? Or...Well I guess that's the great thing about changable cases, I could change it with my mood :)

  46. Instructions work great for iPads as well. Just a few more holes to cut out. And I had to cut out the Apple in the middle. Thank you:)

  47. I imagine this would be my phone cover very soon.


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