Hello there, folks! During these Pokémon Go-crazed times, I've had to go back to my nostalgic state of mind and found the urge to give my Game Boy Advance some new life. In this Instructable, I'll take you through how I modded my GBA into becoming a special Mew & Mewtwo Edition, and some of the experiences I've taken with me along the way. This is a mod anyone can do, and there are endless possibilities; that's what's so great about it! Now, let's give this thing some new life.
Step 1: Preparation and Materials
1 Game Boy Advance, of course. If you don't want to take your chances with the original GBA shell, you can buy a replacement shell instead.
I chose to use Auto-Air Airbrush Colors, it's just as good to use spray cans. The type of paint that I've experienced worked best for this type of plastic is automotive paint, and this goes for spray cans too.
1 GBA glass screen. Since I'm doing this, I want to change out the old and worn out plastic screen for a more solid one.
Quick drying two-component epoxy glue. I just got this from my local hardware store, nothing fancy.
And, finally, clear acrylic spray to coat the whole thing and give it a glossy look. Also got this at my local hardware store.
Step 2: Preparing and Disassembling the Game Boy Advance
So, we start off by disassembling the Game Boy. There are in total 7 screws on the back, one’s hidden under the battery lid. When we’ve removed the back cover, there’s two more screws keeping the motherboard in place. Before lifting it up, we have to gently jerk it upwards; I put a screwdriver in between the ribbon cable and the plastic cover. It’s kinda important to try not to break the ribbon cable. Then there’s this tiny piece of plastic that covers the battery light that we have to remove as well, or we won’t be able to see the light. This also means that we probably won’t have time to save our game in time, and so the GameBoy will die and we lose everything, and we don’t want that.
Then we pop out the glass screen, because this time we’re gonna exchange it for a nice, shiny glass screen. Now we peel off the sticker and remove the metal piece that holds the cartridge in place. Now we have a front and a back piece ready for the next step; sanding.
Step 3: Sanding the Plastic With Wet Sandpaper
We’re using wet sandpaper to get rid of the protective coating we usually find on all types of plastic. This will make the paint stick better to the surface, and it will make it smoother which will give better results in the end. If we jump this step, we might experience problems with the paint such as cracks and other problems and irregularities in the paint. We’re gonna start at grit 600, and when it’s absolutely smooth and there are no visible scratches, we’ll continue with 1000, then 1500, and finally 2000. When using wet sandpaper, make sure to use plenty of water. Anyway, when we’re done sanding it’s gonna be ridiculously smooth, as long as we make sure to really smooth it out in between each layer.
Step 4: Airbrushing or Spray Painting the Two Pieces
The kind of airbrush paint we’re gonna use for this type of console mod is Auto-Air Colors, which is a kind of water-based automotive paint. It’s actually meant for cars, but it’s absolutely perfect for this purpose as it’s robust, super-smooth and there are unlimited colours and variations of it. We could of course use spray paint instead, completely possible, and I’ve experienced that the automotive types are better in this category as well. As a first step in airbrushing(/spray painting) I always put on a base coat of white, because that brings out the other colours on top of it much better and clearer. If we used, for example, black as our base colour, the colour on top would look a lot darker and less saturated.
Following up on top of the white, we have a medium aluminum base that is going to give it some nice glitter and shine effect, as long as we don’t cover it up completely with a non-transparent colour. You could just use a silver spray can here instead. Then we’re gonna use a candy pigmented purple colour to create a fading effect on top of the aluminum. I've found it easier to use transparent colours when making effects like these, but it's completely possible with opaque colours.
Step 5: Paint a Custom Design or Use Decals
When the paint was dry, I continued to paint by hand. We’re gonna use the samepaint as we did earlier. There’s no problem painting with normal brushes using this airbrush paint. All you need is the three primary colours (red, blue, yellow) and some black and white to create anything you want. It’s detailed and time-consuming work, but it’s gonna be worth it. The lines and the proportions can be a bit tough, though. Also, if we take a look at the two pieces, I tried to make them match, and I think it’s kinda cool when they do because it looks more complete that way.
At this step, if you don't want to paint by hand, you could use some sort of decals instead. Water slide decals are quite common for this purpose.
Step 6: Coat the Pieces With Clear Acrylic Spray (clear Coating)
Topping it all with some clear acrylig spray to seal the paint, protect it and give it a glossy, shiny effect. It’s important to make sure that the layers of airbrudh / spray can paint are completely dry before we start coating it, because if it’s not, the coating might react with the paint and make it crack. Not cool when we’ve used 6 hours + painting that design. I usually wait 2 or more days before coating it with clear spray. The paint can seem dry because it's dry to the touch, but it needs quite some time to harden as well. This might take longer than expected. I put on at least 5 layers of this clear coat when it was dry, and let it dry in between each layer (about 30 min - 1 hour in between). When those layers were done, I let it sit for another couple of days to harden completely.
Step 7: Glue on the Glass Screen With Epoxy and Assemble the Game Boy
As we’re going to attach a new screen, we need some strong glue to hold it in place; and two component quick drying epoxy is just what we need! But oh man, just stop for a second there and appreciate the beauty of the shiny, new glass screen. Anyway, now we’re putting on some glue at the top and the bottom to really seal it in place. Don’t even dare touch that screen when pushing it down, it’s just too shiny. This particular glue didn't take long to dry, but that depends on what you use. Be very careful when applying it, because if it's too much it might seep out on the sides.
Step 8: Last Touches
Just signed it, and figured that the battery lid wouldn’t slide in place because the layers of clear coat were too thick. Solution; use a scalpel to peel off all those layers around the edges where the battery lid fits in. This helped a lot, and now it’s fully reassembled, and fully finished. You could also clear coat it with the lid on, but it's a bit of work trying to take it off after its dried because you'd have to cut it out. Feel free to use some rubbing compound or polishing wax when it’s dry and finished, that will really bring out the shine in it!
If you like the design and want to use it yourself, I've added a .pdf to a sketch I made for reference. I always find it helpful to have some sort of picture reference when I paint designs like these, so usually I draw them beforehand.
Step 9: Result and Final Thoughts
I think that modding consoles is so much fun, because you have endless possibilities when it comes to different designs. Here's some of the things you could do to spice it up even further:
- Experiment with other designs, try out different things, such as painting by hand, using special markers, using stencils and spray cans / airbrush, use decals and more. There's no limit as to what you can do with your designs.
- Custom buttons! I've tried spray painting buttons too, but what I've experienced, at least, is that the layers of paint become so thick that you can't push them in properly. There are buttons you can order online in different colours, though. If you have any tips on this topic, write me a message!
- Backlit screen mod - just to really complete the Game Boy Advance, why not make it backlit too?
Let me know what you think!
And if you have any tips or further thoughts, feel free to share them!