By Alan Lewis


When you need to repair the flaking paint on a pinball backglass you have a few choices:

Most of us either leave it alone or try to paint it ourselves. I learned when trying to touch up missing paint on playfields that I have absolutely no talent in mixing matching colors for repairs. I never get it right.

I decided to try a different way of repairing missing paint on a pinball backglass that would eliminate matching colors by mixing paint: Use water transfer decals printed from a computer scan of the backglass.

Make sure that you coat the backglass with Krylon Triple Thick before doing any touch ups.

The process is to scan the backglass area to be repaired into the computer. Touch up the bad areas in a photo-editing program. Print out onto ink jet decal paper and spray white paint over the decal. Then just transfer the decal onto the area to be repaired. The color is on the bottom of the decal where it adheres to the glass, just where you want it. It is a reversed decal from what you are used to using.

For those damaged areas that are a solid primary color you may decide to just find a spray paint that matches and paint right on the decal paper. In my case the orange was that way.

Since this was my first attempt at doing it this way I figured it may not come out as nice as I would like. These things are always learning experiences that take a few attempts and mistakes to perfect. This one was no exception.

Before on left, After on right.

This shows three areas I repaired with decals. The word "Spooks", the word "period" on the lower left, and the words "Game Over" on the lower right. Photo is with front lighting only, no backlight.

This shows how much paint was missing: Before and After


Another area was the Witch. Lots of paint flecks missing. It looked terrible even without the backlight on.

Before on left, After on right. It looks very nice when front lit.

A decal lets you print one image that repairs all colors at the same time. Graphics like this one will require a mirror image decal.








This shows everything that I did. I used Testors clear decal paper for ink jet printers. I found that the orange color for "Spooks" matched exactly to Chrysler Orange engine paint. So I painted the decal paper with this paint rather than print it on the computer.

The other repairs were done with inkjet printed decals as shown.

I spray painted white over all decals to act as a light diffuser and to brighten up the colors. Without the white overcoat the inkjet colors are way too thin.










This is the first orange decal over the "oo" in Spooks. The white is the overcoat over the orange.

All other decals are similar to this.

The decal shrinks right down in contact with the original paint. It really hugs the original paint perfectly.









All the decals in place.





The decals shrink down in direct contact with the old paint.


The finished job when backlit.

Do it yourself repairs on backglasses usually won't pass this test. This one was no exception. But it definitely looked far better than before repair. Without the back light on the backglass looks excellent.


Using decals will make a backglass look very good when front lit. It will be pretty good when back lit.

When front lit it almost looks new.

The major benefit is no color mixing for matching. Plus you can print a single repair decal for a complex graphic with multiple colors.


For translucent areas like this I now think the entire graphic should be cut out carefully and replaced with the decal.

The decals are a bit thin on ink for matching the color saturation of the original backglass ink so I'm thinking that printing with a lot more contrast to increase color saturation, or laying down multiple layers of decals without the white paint, then capping it off with the final decal with white background. Maybe that would increase the intensity of the colors to look more like the original.

This is a repair method that needs more refinement. It is an easy method for those backglasses that aren't collectors' items.