Playfield Overlay Guide





NOTE:
Before attempting to put any overlay on your playfield, please check with a local artist, pinball enthusiast, or see the links below. They might be able to touch up your playfield and make it look better than an overlay. Please see the links below.  

Bill Davis

Mr. Pinball Collector Register

 

Home of the first successfully clearcoated playfield overlay.

Updated 7-11-05

 

Playfield Overlay Installation Guide

 

Materials Needed:

Sander

Dust Mask

Sandpaper (400 & 600 grit)

Polyurethane or Wood Sealer

Screwdrivers & Common Hand Tools

Bucket

Soapy Water

Cotton Cloths

Pin or Ice Pick (for finding screw holes)

Naphtha or Orange Clean

Camera or Paper and Pencil

High Quality Wax or Polish (optional)

Rolling Pin (optional)

Squeegee (optional)

Tracing Paper (optional)

 

 
  1. You'll need to find a way to support the playfield. I've used plenty of things to support playfields, but I found something that works really well.   

  2. Get approximately 12 feet of 2 X 6 framing studs, two shed handles, 1 3/4 inch screws, and 3 inch screws from your local Home Depot or equivalent.  

  3. Measure the area between the opening of your playfield supports. Click here to see a picture.

  4. Cut two pieces of the 2 X 6 to this length.

  5. Measure the length of the playfield and add six inches. (This will give you some room to move the supports in case of error.)

  6. Cut the two 2 X 6's to this length.  

  7. Place the longer pieces under the playfield and make a pencil mark where you have to screw the shorter cross-pieces in.

  8. Frame the whole thing together using screws. Mount the handles on the longer sides.  

  9. Note: Depending on which playfield you have, you might need to cut notches in the 2 X 6 pieces to accommodate parts being mounted close to the playfield edge. Xenon is an example. Also, newer games like Funhouse may need to be elevated more by using wider wood.

  10. You can also make this thing as elaborate as you want. I made mine adjustable and put a solid piece of 1/4 plywood underneath the frame.

  11. Have a camera, pen and paper, or a game manual available.

  12. Take several pictures of (or draw) every hole, post and assembly, especially under the plastics and other hidden areas. Tip: If you have a manual, photocopy the playfield diagram (rubber ring diagram, switch diagram, etc). For an Eight Ball Deluxe, use the “vector drawing” on page 35 in the manual. Tip: Get some tracing paper and lay it on top of the stripped playfield. Mark or trace the screw holes.

  13. Tip: Group the same size posts by numbers. Also group the same type screws by letters. Mark the number and letter of the corresponding post/screw placement on your drawing or picture. 

  14. Tip: You could also use some cardboard and poke the posts/screws into it as it is laid out on the playfield.

  15. Remove the plastics and make note of screw, post, and hardware placement. Tip: I found a 30 compartment storage bin very handy for marking and storing the playfield parts.

  16. Remove playfield from game and position it on a sturdy table. Support the playfield with some blocks of wood or equivalent on the underside making sure the area is clear of contacts, wiring, etc.

  17. Remove the posts, pop bumpers, switches, ramps, etc. from the playfield. I found a 30 compartment storage bin very handy for marking and storing the playfield parts. Note: If installing the Fabulous Fantasies EBD overlay, trace the existing black line near the outhole area. This will help you in a few steps.

  18. At this point, check all of the inserts to see if they are loose, too high, or too low. If you have any inserts like this, you'll need to readjust them. This has already been documented by a friend of mine as seen below.

  19. Note: The following information and picture is copyright www.dreamstasys.com and is provided for reference only.

    Plastic lamp insert removal: A socket wrench set with extension bar, a punch set, a hammer, and a strong hair dryer can be used.

    Sockets were matched to close-fit into the circular lamp insert holes.

    Some of the lamp inserts in Xenon were the classic Bally arrow insert. For this, a socket was matched to close-fit into the arrow-head, and a punch pin for the tail-end.

    Hot air was applied directly to the underside of an insert for about 30 seconds to 1 minute. This softened the glue that held the lamp insert in place. 

    The matching socket was quickly placed into the hole and with the hammer the lamp insert was squarely tapped out of its place. On some stubborn inserts, it was necessary to apply more heat. 

  20. At this point, you can clean the old glue from the insert hole. You can use wood glue or epoxy to hold the insert back in. be sure to apply the glue to the "lip" and a little on the walls of the hole. Make sure the insert is flush before the glue sets. If the insert is concave, you can fill the depression in with clear epoxy available at many home improvement stores. Make sure the playfield is level and apply the epoxy to the top of the insert. Gravity should help level the epoxy. Wait until dry, then sand with 600 grit sandpaper and a sanding block. If the insert is bowed up in the middle, then sand it flush with 600 grit sandpaper and a sanding block. TIP: You can leave the inserts just a tiny bit above the playfield, then sand them flush.

  21. Sand the playfield using a palm sander with 400 grit sandpaper. This will remove the old artwork and varnish. It will also level the playfield surface.

  22. Clean the playfield with Naphtha, Orange Clean, or equivalent.

  23. Note: If you are installing the Fabulous Fantasies EBD overlay, you will need to re-paint the upper outhole area. I used water-based acrylic paint I found at Wal-Mart. The paint made by Apple Barrel Colors, Plaid Enterprises Inc. The color code is Lemon Chiffon, number 20584. This color is almost a perfect match to the overlay. Do not try to sand around the existing outhole area. The existing colors will not be consistent and chances are the area already has wear marks. Make the whole playfield look new by re-painting the area. Be sure to add paint under the area where the overlay meets the yellow to prevent misalignment. You will need to re-draw the black line as well. Trace the line in with a pencil using your template from above. Find the center axis for the line (check near the right pop bumper hole.) Attach some string (tape it down to something) to the center axis area. Tape a fine tip brush to the other end of the string and paint the area in with some black Acrylic paint. Let the area dry for at least an hour before the next step. You could also use a Sharpie, but it might bleed a little. I've heard other people use Testor's Enamel paint pens too.

  24. Apply three moderate coats of polyurethane. I used Minwax clear polyurethane (www.minwax.com) because it is fast drying and easy to work with. It is also cheaper than Varathane. Sand with 600 grit sandpaper between coats. Be sure to follow the prepping instructions on the spray can.

  25. Drying times may vary due to climate and elevation. Read the label on your spray can for best results.

  26. Lightly sand the last coat of Polyurethane with 600 grit sandpaper and wait at least two hours before the next step.

  27. Wipe down the playfield with Naphtha, Orange Clean, or equivalent.

  28. Test fit the overlay on the playfield. Make sure the inserts line up closely. Tip: Shine a flashlight from below the playfield through the inserts to line it up the overlay.

  29. Get a 1 gallon bucket and fill it with water. Add a couple squirts of dish detergent.

  30. Using a cotton rag, wet the playfield with the soapy water.

  31. Peel the adhesive backing from the overlay and lay the overlay on the playfield.

  32. You should be able to skew the overlay into position and line up the inserts. Tip: Shine a flashlight from below the playfield through the inserts to line it up if you have trouble.

  33. When the overlay is lined up, Use your soapy rag and apply pressure to squeeze out the bubbles and water from under the overlay. Be sure to start from the middle and squeegee towards the edges. Tip: You can use a squeegee to help minimize the bubbles.

  34. Use a wooden rolling pin to get the rest of the bubbles out. Again, start from the middle and work your way towards the edge. Don’t roll the rolling pin directly on the playfield. Lay down a dry towel first and use the rolling pin on that.

  35. A few trapped air bubbles are inevitable. Use a small safety pin to pop the air bubbles. Then you can re-stick the overlay by applying pressure with your thumb. (Assuming you have thumbs).

  36. At this point, you can cut out the bonus “star” rollover insert area. Use an exacto knife or razor blade and cut along the inside edge of the black outline on the overlay. Tip: You can use a mechanic’s socket as a guide for cutting the circle out of the mylar.

  37. If you are satisfied with the overlay, go ahead and start reassembling the playfield. Otherwise, continue on :)

 

Mylar Overlay Clearcoat Guide

 

 

Please only do this if you are comfortable working with clearcoats. If this is the first time you are clearcoating anything, try it out on a scrap playfield before attempting to do this on your game. Please email me if you have questions.

 

Materials Needed:

Sander

Dust Mask

Sandpaper (600 grit)

Varathane by Flecto

Naphtha or Orange Clean

High Quality Wax or Polish

Paint Sprayer (optional)

 

 

 
  1. These steps apply to mylar type overlays. I have not tried this on a polycarbonate (Arcade Grafix) overlay.

  2. Continued from above… Sand the overlay with 600 grit sandpaper. Be sure to sand enough to break the glossy surface of the Mylar.

  3. Clean the playfield with Naphtha or Orange Clean.

  4. Apply 4 moderate coats of clear coat. I used Crystal Clear Varathane (www.flecto.com) and a foam brush to minimize bubbles. Tip: Let the first coat dry for 24 hours before sanding it. You can also skip this step if the coating is too thin. Tip: You can use a conventional paint sprayer instead of a brush.

  5. Sand with 600 grit sandpaper between coats.

  6. Allow the playfield to dry for two weeks or more. This allows time for the polyurethane, adhesive, and Varathane to cure.

  7. Wax the playfield with a high quality carnauba paste wax. or equivalent.

  8. Start the reassembly process.

  9. Enjoy your new playfield :)

 

This guide is for your reference only. 

You are responsible for any damage or malfunction of your pinball machine.



 

My playfield overlay was purchased from Herb Silvers at Fabulous Fantasies. It is a screened, mylar overlay.

Here is some information on manufacturers who make overlays..

 

Fabulous Fantasies www.fabfan.com

Graphics are reverse screen printed on two layer mylar. The color match is very good. The insert areas are clear with the text and images screened on. The overlay has 3M adhesive to attach it to the playfield. Because the images are screened on, the colors very bright and consistent throughout the overlay. All holes are plotter cut. Check out the Eight Ball Deluxe and Kiss overlays!

   

Phoenix Arcade www.phoenixarcade.com

These overlays are printed on one layer of grade #2A mylar, then cold-pressed onto another piece of mylar. This process "sandwiches" the artwork between the layers. The overlay is screened like an original playfield. Has 3M bond adhesive. All holes are plotter cut. Quality is right on. Be sure to check out Darin's Funhouse overlay! Update 3-10-06: Funhouse overlays are out of production. Possibly a new playfield by NAPPA will come out soon.

   

Arcade Shop www.arcadeshop.com

The overlays were made by Herb Silvers at Fabulous Fantasies. They are the same quality as Fabulous Fantasies and made the same way.

   

Jeff Elie

The Black Knight overlays seem to be very high quality. The artwork is screened on top of a 2 mil thick piece of mylar. Jeff suggests that you seal protect the artwork by clearcoating it as described above or install another sheet of mylar on the overlay. Update 3-10-06: Jeff no longer sells the BK overlays and his site is down.

   

Tony Cesario http://home.san.rr.com/pinball/taf/taf.html

Tony was one of the first people to make a quality overlay for TAF Mansion. The artwork is screened on top of a 1.5 mil thick piece of mylar, then sealed with another 1.5 mil layer of mylar. The overlay looks very faithful to the original and can be installed using a method similar to this page.

   

Arcade Grafix AKA PC Amusements AKA Arcade Overlays AKA PC Connection, etc..

Update 7-30-04. Arcade Grafix still around. Now it is known as Pinball Connection from Nevada. Looks like they are trying to hide from someone? No matter name they have this week, the same people are still running it. Beware.

Update 6-26-04! It is confirmed that Arcade Grafix has been shutdown due to numerous complaints, unethical business practices, and copyright infringement of Namco products. Be forewarned the former employees have started their own business called www.arcadeoverlays.com. It also looks like PC Amusements (the parent company of Arcade Grafix) has been closed. Read about it by clicking here.

 

I have been receiving emails from my readers regarding Arcade Grafix's unethical business practices and unfair return policy. I do NOT support their company in any way and urge you not to buy from them. The information below is to provide my readers with an understanding how the overlays are made.

Printed on an inkjet plotter machine on paper-like material which is laminated to polycarbonate (Lexan) sheet. Insert areas are colored with the text printed on the overlay. That is why there are no clear areas on the overlay. This makes the insert lights look dimmer and hard to see. No need to repaint any area on the playfield. The overlay covers it. The ball trough area on the overlay is pain because it needs to be heated up and press fitted or cut out completely. The overlay is thick, thus, making it harder to find the existing screw holes. The colors are not consistent and are pixilated. The lines and graphics are noticeably thicker than an original playfield. Some details are usually missing. The quality is terrible compared to the other companies mentioned.

I talked to one of the graphic designers and Heath (owner) in 2002 at a Super Auction. We were discussing the pros and cons of their overlays and the process. They seemed to take my input as “constructive criticism”. Heath also mentioned they are looking into a new process to make overlays. He said the quality will be better and more options will be available. They are still using the same process.

I have emailed Heath at Arcade Grafix inquiring about their "new printer",  "better overlays",  and availability. I have not heard back for months and have sent numerous emails.

 


 

Here are some pictures of my playfield and others that were submitted by people who used this guide. Please note that I bought a spare, stripped playfield. You'll notice all of the parts were taken off. This is not necessary. Only the top parts must be removed.

 

Click on a picture for more detail.

 

Jesse Kujawa's Playfield

 ebd1.jpg (181630 bytes) ebd2.jpg (133554 bytes) ebd3.jpg (46147 bytes) ebd4.jpg (109978 bytes) ebd5.jpg (196741 bytes) ebd6.jpg (115553 bytes) ebd7.jpg (190940 bytes) ebd8.jpg (189857 bytes) ebd9.jpg (133407 bytes) ebd10.jpg (138087 bytes) ebd11.jpg (148067 bytes)

Comments: Clearcoated overlay using this guide.

 

 

Funhouse Overlay clearcoated by Bill Davis.

(Pictures taken at 2004 Pinball Expo)

bdfh1.jpg (337000 bytes) bdfh2.jpg (552094 bytes) bdfh3.jpg (440349 bytes) bdfh4.jpg (392837 bytes) bdfh5.jpg (374392 bytes)

 

 

Reed Wilson's Playfield


Comments: Clearcoated overlay using this guide.

 

 

Mel Appels' Playfield

fhoverlay6.jpg (54228 bytes) fhoverlay1.jpg (103818 bytes) fhoverlay2.jpg (94753 bytes) fhoverlay3.jpg (159295 bytes) fhoverlay4.jpg (123777 bytes) fhoverlay5.jpg (109760 bytes)

Comments: Installed and prepped overlay using this guide.

 

 

Robert McHenry's Playfield

http://home.comcast.net/~nhpinball/ImagePage.htm

Comments: Clearcoated overlay using this guide

 

Readers Comments:

"I clearcoated an overlay and it looks fantastic" "I'm satisfied with the results!" - Robert Mc Henry

"The overlay you did looks great" - Dave King

"Thanks for all the help with the overlay" "You have great tips about identifying screw location and posts" - Larry Hammer

"Thanks for the help and great information" - Bart Creech

"I did everything on your website" "The overlay worked great and the colors are fantastic" - Reed Wilson

"What a great resource for overlay installation" - Tony Cesario

 

 

If you have a playfield with an overlay installed or have an overlay with clearcoat, send me some pictures and I can host them for you.

Questions? Comments? Please drop me a line - info@pinballmagic.com 

 

 

 

 

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