Graham Stevens
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Preserving Laptop Stickers on MacBooks

This is now a thing! Here is the follow-up post, containing the details. Join the Kickstarter here!

If you are looking for the ‘I am interested’ form, you can find it here.

Preface

I’ve always liked the idea of putting stickers on my MacBook Pro, but have always avoided it for two key reasons:

  • Resale - By putting stickers on my laptop, I am either going to have to try to remove them again once I come to selling it, lowering my resale price because the laptop isn’t in near pristine condition.
  • Damage - There is a worry that some stickers may leave a horrible hard-to-remove residue, or maybe leave a discolouration to the aluminium.

Who would realistically buy a used high-end laptop, covered in someone else’s stickers which will likely mean nothing to them? Let alone running the risk that the stickers would leave a horrible sticky residue when you try to remove them or leave permanent marks.

There is also the fact that some of your stickers may have some slight sentimental value. This may sound odd to some, but stickers can be a badge of honour – showing that you’ve been to certain conferences, or managed to pick up that ‘rare’ sticker for a certain popular language, software, or startup.

An idea was born

I began thinking of ways to combat these issues. I came up with a small list of requirements that would satisfy my needs:

  • Fairly invisible, without close inspection of the laptop
  • Easily removable
  • Leave zero trace even after months or years of application
  • Bonus Feature: Something that can be kept, so that those sentimental stickers aren’t lost.

First up, I thought about trying to find a transparent vinyl material that could be cut to perfectly fit the retina MacBook Pro lid. Immediately the older-style iPhone screen protectors came to mind, which were a transparent and doubled as a protective layer to the top case. My issues with this approach were:

  • They would be too easy to spot, due to their glossy shine.
  • Some brands were well known for turning yellow or orange after months of use (Orange-peeling).
  • Sourcing the material appeared to be difficult

Eventually, I found what I was looking for…

Prototype

As it turns out, there is another market which has a very similar set of requirements - vehicle wrapping. They use high-quality vinyl ‘wraps’ (vinyl), allowing folks to alter the colour of their vehicle without an expensive respraying of the bodywork. The same technique is often used to provide entire printed coverage of some company vehicles etc.

I began hunting & ordering as many samples as I could from various suppliers, where the colour appeared to very closely resemble that of the MacBook Pro aluminium Silver. I don’t have a Space Grey device to test against, but I did see some samples which may certainly do the job for these too.

Below are all of the samples applied together, to get an idea of which provides the best match.

A huge variety of colours - some matching better than others.

With one sample standing-out as a particularly close match (from all angles, giving that metallic reflection we get from the silver aluminium), I ordered up a larger sample to give this a real shot.

Because these vinyl wraps are intended for vehicles, they come with some additional properties which are really useful:

  • Purposely won’t leave any residue behind (and if they do, easy to remove)
  • Hard wearing, as they are used to battling the elements.
  • Super easy to apply, thanks to tiny ‘channels’ carved into the adhesive side, making air bubbles non-existent.

The first prototype before application...

And here it is fully applied. The Apple logo isn't perfect, but it'll do.

Showing the corner and how well the colour matches.

Once it was applied, it was time to go to the next level of Inception, and apply some stickers to the sticker…

This is how it stayed for a number of months, to give it a true test. This laptop endured being crushed into a carry-on bag for a couple of conferences, the freezing winter of Estonia, and general wear-and-tear of being a working laptop.

It held up really well, and in some cases I get the feeling it certainly prevented a couple of scratches that may have occurred otherwise.

The Outcome

My MacBook Pro lid stickers, now preserved forever.

I am really pleased with how this turned out – the sticker came off wonderfully after getting one of the corners started. Once off, I stuck it to a piece of thick white card, and popped it in a frame. The end result looks fantastic. The same can not be said about my photography skills when it comes to shooting glass head-on… next time I’ll get a polarising filter to help.

As for the MacBook Pro lid? Immaculate. All it needed was a little wipe around the edges where dust and residue had collected to leave a sort of ‘outline’ where the sticker had been. Other than that, it was like new.

Interested?

I have mentioned this project a couple of times, and there has been a slight stirring of interest when I have done so. So, I am trying to gauge interest to see if I should consider producing these for people to buy – I have setup a short 5 question form to figure out popularity, machine sizes, colours etc. so please fill it out if you think this might be useful to you.

You can find the form here

There is also a bonus question if you can think of a product name for this ‘thing’. I have some already, but none are jumping out at me just yet.


$ whoami I am Graham Stevens, a Cyber Security Specialist based in the South West of the UK. If you're lucky, I very occasionally post updates on Twitter.