If you’re like most web workers, you’ve got a laptop computer. And if you’re like most of us, it looks just like all the rest. Oh sure, it might be a glossy white MacBook, but let’s face it: go to the right conference and you’ll see dozens, if not hundreds, of glossy white MacBooks. In an age of rampant individuality, the vast majority of web workers have plain white, black, or silver boxes that they cart around to do their most important work on.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. There are options these days for making your laptop computer stand out from the pack. In addition to making a statement, there’s one good practical reason for doing this: in theory, customizing your laptop lowers its resale value on the open market and makes it a less attractive target for theft. But really, the best reason is just to be one of the cool kids. Here are the three main paths you can take to a laptop facelift:
Skins: Skins are big stickers that are sized to fit your laptop lid, printed with snappy artwork. You can buy preprinted skins from a variety of vendors, including Schtickers, DecalGirl, Garskin, Pimp My Laptop, and SkinIt. Pricing starts around $20 for stock designs, and some vendors will let you upload your own custom artwork for just a few dollars more. On the plus side, skins are the least expensive and quickest way to customize your laptop; you apply them yourself with only a few minutes of downtime. On the minus side, if you’re not careful, you can end up with air bubbles or wrinkles, and the edges may eventually peel or discolor. Skins tend to wear in time, so may need to be replaced, and they’re not that effective as a theft deterrent as they can be removed with light solvents.
Custom Paint Job: The current high end in laptop detailing is a custom paint job applied by a company like Laptop Design USA or M-Tech. These firms will use automotive paint or similar processes to apply eye-popping designs directly to the lid of your laptop, and for an additional fee you can get the other parts of the case painted as well. You should expect to pay around $200 for this service. A custom paint job can give you the most permanent and durable artwork for your laptop, and it will stand out in a way that skins just can’t. But you’ll have to be prepared to do without the laptop for days or even weeks while it’s off being painted, and if you have the entire case done it will be disassembled with possible side-effects on your warranty. It’s possible to chip the paint on your $200 paint job if you’re not careful, too.
Do it Yourself: If you don’t want to spend a lot of money, and you have some artistic talent (and bravery), you can paint your own laptop. The most common technique I’ve seen is to use spray paint and stencils. On the upside, you’ll save time and money, and you’re guaranteed true uniqueness for your artistic creation. But you also have the chance to make a complete botch of the job, and if you take your laptop apart and can’t figure out how to put it back together, no one is going to help you.