Just like with many things in this world, age is typically not kind to arcade cabinets. Dents and scratches appear from the barrage of players “enjoying” the game, the wood starts to swell or fall apart due to exposure to the elements and once bright artwork becomes just a shadow of it’s former glory. While some arcade cabinets have painted artwork, many games use adhesive-backed artwork which makes installation a much easier task. In this post, we will discuss how to remove and install adhesive-backed artwork on your arcade cabinet to give it a much newer appearance.
Installing Artwork On An Arcade Cabinet
Of course, before we can install any artwork we must first remove the current artwork that is on the arcade cabinet. Removing the original artwork can be a daunting task but there are some tools that can help you out. We recommend using a glass scraper and a heat gun as these can help loosen old adhesive. You can also try some different household items such as WD-40, Goo Gone and Mr. Clean’s Magic Eraser. All of these have been helpful in removing old artwork over the years. Once you have removed the old artwork, you will need to make sure that you have a smooth surface to apply the artwork on. If there are holes in your cabinet, use bondo or some other wood filler to fill them in. You might also want to sand, primer and paint your game while there is no artwork on it. Ensuring your cabinet has a smooth surface will save you a lot of headaches when installing your new artwork.
With the artwork removed and the cabinet repair completed, we can now move on to installing our new artwork. Start off by locating where you are going to put the artwork on your cabinet. You might even use a tape measure and a pencil to mark the location on your cabinet. If you are installing sideart, make sure that you mark both sides of the cabinet the same so that the artwork will appear even. At this point, you might want to take the artwork out and inspect it. If your artwork has protective tape on the front of it, remove it. Please don’t remove the adhesive-backed side of the artwork at this time. We will remove this once we start the application process.
There are two methods that we like to use when installing artwork on an arcade cabinet: the dry method and the wet method. The tools that you need will depend on which method you decide to use. The dry method doesn’t require very much as far as tools are concerned. A squeegee to help get the air bubbles out is pretty much all you need. The wet method, however, requires a few more items. As you probably figured out by the name, the wet method requires some sort of soapy liquid (such as glass cleaner or a soap and water mixture). Since we will be dealing with liquids, it’s also a good idea to have a towel and something on the floor underneath the cabinet to catch any excess liquid that might leak from underneath the artwork. If you are applying artwork to the front of your cabinet, you will need something such as a razor blade to cut the hole for your coin door regardless of the method.
With the dry method, we begin by removing the entire adhesive backing of your artwork. Take the artwork and line it up with your markings while it’s about an inch or so away from your cabinet. Once you are confident with the position of your artwork, attach the top part of it to the cabinet while maintaining it’s location with your markings. Let the artwork hang and slowly work your hands down the center of the artwork. When you get to the bottom of the artwork, move your hand or the squeegee from the center of the artwork to the outside edge on each side. Try to work out as many of the air bubbles as you can without damaging the artwork. Make sure that you let the artwork sit for about a day or so. This should allow many of the pesky air bubbles to come out on their own before taking more drastic measures.
With the wet method, we begin by spraying the soapy liquid that we are using on our arcade cabinet. Next, peel the top of the adhesive backing of your artwork and line it up with your markings while it’s about an inch or so away from your cabinet. Once you are confident with the position of your artwork, spray the top part of your artwork with the soapy liquid and attach it to the cabinet while maintaining it’s location with your markings. Let the artwork hang and slowly peel off the rest of the adhesive backing while you spray it with the soapy liquid. Work your hands or the squeegee down the center of the artwork. When you get to the bottom of the artwork, start moving your hands or the squeegee from the center to the outside edge on each side. Try to work out as many of the air bubbles as you can without damaging the artwork. You will find that it’s much easier to work out the air bubbles with the wet method as the artwork can shift a bit thanks to the soapy liquid. Just like with the dry method, let the artwork sit for about a day or so. This should allow many of the pesky air bubbles to come out on their own before taking more drastic measures.
You might notice some air bubbles even after letting your cabinet sit for a while. We recommend using either a small pin or razor blade to cut a very small hole in the air bubble. After cutting the hole for your air bubble, use your hands or squeegee to work the adhesive around that area. Make sure you select an area of the artwork that somewhat matches the color of the cabinet as this will make the affected area less noticeable. Please only use this as a last resort. If your cabinet is smooth and the quality of your artwork is good, you should not need to apply this process at all.
Installing new artwork on an arcade cabinet is an especially important skill for those of us who consider ourselves arcade collectors. Whether you have a new or a restored cabinet, installing artwork on your cabinet can give it a very professional look. While it can be a daunting and somewhat stressful process, you are often left with an end product that looks like it just came off the factory line. Please leave any questions or suggestions in the comments section below.