ďSaving Pinballs One Game at a TimeĒ

By Alan Lewis

The previous two pages on repairing backglasses dealt with areas that are not backlit.Areas like this only need good color matching to look good with front lighting.Now I am ready to take on the final backglass challenge: backlit graphics.

Backlit graphics require both good color matching when the game is turned off and good color density and intensity when lit from behind.Up to now waterslide decals were not dense enough to look like the original graphics when lit from behind.They looked washed out. This is no longer true.

This backglass belongs to Bob Herbison.Thanks to Duncan Brown and Doug Dabkowski for the great images of the repair area that I used to reconstruct the graphics.Also Steve Yates for offering a color matching chart on his website and explaining some of his decal repair techniques.Ideas add to one another, that equals progress.

I spent more time on scanning the backglass and reconstructing the image in Photoshop Elements than I did doing the decal work.



This RAINBOW backglass was in really bad shape in the general illumination area but excellent in all other areas.It was worth saving.


A closer look at the damage.My decal repair method does not work on spot repairs in backlit areas; it must replace entire graphics in this case.So all these graphics must go.OUCH!


After scraping it looked like this.This is without doubt the largest single repair panel I have attempted, and it also includes backlit graphics which I had never attempted.

decal front.jpg

These are 3 pf the 4 main repair decal panels I made.This is for repairing the front lit graphics.You follow the same procedure as my previous two web pages to get to this point therefore I will not repeat this part.


We will skip to where these panels are in place and ready for the new part of the repair technique.Remember, the front lit repair decals are now done and ready for the backlit repair.

decal panels.jpg

The repair decals are in place.I outlined the areas to be backlit with silver paint to act as a light mask.This did not work well, so donít do this step.But at least you can see where the second set of decals will go.

The second set of decals will go onto the white painted backing of the first set of decals.

decal half lit.jpg

This is an example of the backlit repair technique.In order to repair backlit areas you must increase the intensity of the decal image.Doubling up the image does this.Print another set of decals of just the backlit graphics and add a black outline for masking.Apply this new decal on the REAR of the backglass directly over the white background of the front decal image.Use a lightbox to illuminate the graphic so you can match the decal position.


In this photo I show the difference between a backlit single decal versus a double decal.The upper part of the graphic is much denser than the bottom.Just the right amount to look like the original.



decal rear.jpg

These are the second decal printouts for the backlit repair.Note the black outline to mask the light from the front image.

decal second1.jpg

Cutout each image around the black masking outline.These are clear decals so they will be fragile.Moving them around when applying can be tricky so carefully position them as you withdraw the backing paper.

decal half lit2.jpg

Another example of one decal versus two.I havenít finished the black masking yet so it looks funky right now.You can see the dramatic increase in backlit color and intensity that matches the original.

decal rear2.jpg

The rear of the glass after repair.It looks strange but it works great.

I brush painted the flat black masking around the decal black borders to finish the job.





For comparison purposes I illuminated the entire backglass with one light source.The repaired graphics look exactly the same as the original graphics.This is one repair that looks better backlit than front lit.

A success.

Letís save some more pinball machines destined for obscurity!


You can now save original pinball backglasses that have backlit graphic damage.This technique is very well suited for smaller backlit repairs that only need the backlit area repaired, such as just one or two score windows.In this case you could apply the first clear repair decal without the white painted background, then print the second decal on white decal paper and apply that over the first decal.The white decal paper will supply the white background needed for proper color along with the second graphic to make it dense.

Another optional method is to put two clear, printed, decals over each other without a white separator.Then add a third decal without graphic, printed onto white decal paper over that.My experience is that doubling up on the clear decal graphics without a white separator will make the front lit image too dense for easy color matching to the original graphics.Not impossible, just more difficult.I have also found that applying one clear decal over another is difficult.It is hard to reposition the second decal because it likes to stick to the first decal.I got lots of wrinkles and some tears.

But if you want the front lit image to be denser, doubling the clear printed graphic decals will do that very well.That might work well for playfield plastics done with this technique.

The unique thing about the technique I showed on this web page is that the second decal graphic does not add anything to the front lit image until it is lit up.Only when it is lit up does the second decal graphic add to the first decal image.You only need to color match for the front lit graphic on one decal, not two.


Since this is the first time Iíve done this backlit repair I donít know how the decal graphics will be affected by the light bulbs.Probably similar to the original ink but I donít know for sure.Fading could be an issue.It would be a good idea to put in #47 bulbs or maybe #51.Heat buildup is always bad for ink graphics.I think that each routed out cavity in the wood panel behind the graphics should have a hole drilled through at the top of the cavity.This will let some of the heat out rather than building up.

LED bulbs maybe?Or a separate UV filter film behind the graphics?White bulb covers perhaps?



Copyright by Alan Lewis