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How to make your own custom iPhone case

Heather Barnett is a freelance writer and foodie whose work has been featured in blogs, websites, magazines, and TV and radio ads. She spends her free time relaxing with her soulmate, Keith; her dog, Mosby "The Fly Slayer;" and Felix th...

Add personality & texture to your iPhone

Whether you're a geek goddess with a flair for style or a glitter pen-wielding craft maven, if you have both an iPhone and the longing for a super-special, one-of-a-kind case, this craft's for you. Check out this simply smart how-to.

Custom iPhone case

Love your iPhone, but can't find that perfect custom case? No problem! You can easily make your own custom case even if you're not a crafting diva. All you need is the clear plastic iPhone case of your choosing and a color printer, glitter pens, fabric scraps and more!

This relatively inexpensive craft is a fun way to protect your iPhone while earning the bragging rights of "most unique case." Today, we're creating a custom case for an iPhone 4S. The steps are the same for any iPhone, but choose your supplies and customize your template accordingly.

What you'll need:

  • Clear plastic iPhone case
  • Rubber cement, spray adhesive or other clear-drying glue/adhesive
  • Various optional supplies (see below)

Optional supplies:

  • Fabric swatch(es) large enough to cover the iPhone
  • Glitter pens
  • Markers
  • 25 pound laser printer paper
  • Laser printer
  • Other: Use your imagination!

Custom iPhone case -- templatese

Tip: You can use fabric, but if you do, make sure the case has enough room to contain the fabric and still snap closed. If you aren't sure, buy your case from a retailer that has a generous return policy or fake the fabric texture with ink.

Step 1: Conceptualize your art & buy your case

First, you'll want to have a clear idea of what you want to accomplish. We went with a simple, modern design in one of our favorite color schemes. You should have an idea of what you want your final case to look like before you buy your clear plastic case. We used this case from Electromaster, which snaps on securely and costs less than $2 (meaning you can make 10 custom cases for the price of most single cases available in retail stores). But you can use whatever case appeals to you, as long as it's clear.

Tip: If you use the template linked here, make sure you only print your design. The blue line indicates the approximate location you should cut, but that could change depending on the iPhone or case you have. The red line indicates the area in which you should keep your text to ensure it stays in the visible area without getting too close to the edges. These are just guides to use. The .psd version of the template is designed to allow you to delete that layer of the file prior to printing.

Step 2: Customize

Now it's time to create your masterpiece. You can use your own mad scrapbooking skills or just your desktop publishing software to accomplish this. Create and place shapes, text and other elements until you get the desired look.

First, measure your iPhone by tracing it (in pencil) on a piece of paper, then cut your materials to match. Since your case may change the way it fits, make sure you don't put important design elements on the edges unless they can be cut and still make sense.

For an easy shortcut, use this template from stickermule to start. It's made to work with computer software (we used it in Adobe PhotoShop), but you can also print it out to use as a guide to ensure you don't get too close to the edges for a scrapbooking version. Just use your pencil to trace the lines it provides on the paper or fabric you plan to use.

We created a simple polka-dot pattern printed on a color laser printer on 25-pound laser paper (for a good sheen that wasn't too glossy). You could also recreate a similar design by cutting small circles of varying sizes in your favorite color scheme, then glue them onto plain white paper. Or, just use your imagination

Fun extras to add: 

  • Add glitter glue for a little bling!
  • Use markers or colored pens for some custom decorations or to add your signature.
  • Glue on cutouts from your scrapbooking materials for a little extra fun.

Custom iPhone case -- cut

Step 3: Cut it out

Using scissors or a craft knife on a cutting mat, carefully cut around the pencil lines you created for your phone. Note that it may be necessary to trim it later based on the size of your case. Cut it larger than necessary if you're unsure. You'll also need to cut holes in the design that conform to key openings, like the one for the camera. You can use the case as a template by placing it over the cutout and tracing the inside of the holes lightly with a pencil or the craft knife.

Tip: You can find plenty of templates that allow you to decorate the front of your iPhone in the right case, too. Think carefully about that. The iPhone's retina display is intended to work best with a solid black or white color surrounding it. Customizing the front with colors could affect how you see the color on your screen.

Step 4: Glue it

Using spray adhesive or rubber cement, lightly and evenly coat the front (designed) side of the pattern. Do so in a well-ventilated room or outside, as these types of adhesives can be highly toxic. Press it firmly onto the back end of the clear case, smoothing evenly from the center outward.

Step 5: Dry and affix

Allow the case to dry completely prior to using it. Let it sit for 24 to 48 hours to be extra sure. Then affix the case to your phone and go!

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