Scorpion artwork
Scorpion artwork by Leonardo Guzmán

Introduction

You may want to customize your arcade stick’s artwork for many reasons. One reason is that you do not like the original artwork of a certain arcade stick. Another reason could be that, although you like the original artwork, you would still like something different, such as something that represents your personality and the games you play. You may even be a sponsored player who would like to represent his or her sponsor through arcade stick art!

The Two Main Methods

Whichever motive you may have, know that you can customize your arcade stick, hitbox, mixbox, or any similar controller through two main ways:

  1. By uploading an image file, usually in PSD format, to an online seller’s website when buying a controller
  2. By inserting the artwork manually yourself

You can either obtain artwork by hiring a professional or put together the artwork yourself. First, you have to come up with the design. Then, you need to make sure that it fits the template of the controller you have in mind. Many templates are available on manufacturer’s sites or even fightstick-oriented sites.

Needless to say, make sure the joystick, buttons, and so on do not cover crucial elements of your art. For example, you do not want the joystick to cover a character’s beautiful face!

Now, uploading an image file is fairly simple, so there are no intricacies for us to go into, which is why we will simply delve into how you would insert artwork into an arcade stick yourself.

Akuma artwork
Akuma artwork by Han Gilbert

Inserting Artwork Manually

Question 1: Can your arcade stick handle custom artwork?

You can usually tell by seeing if there already is default artwork and by checking if the top panel is plexiglass or something similar with removable screws holding it down. Artwork is usually just a simple sheet.

An even easier indicator is if the manufacturer’s site has a template available to download or, again, you may be able to find a template offsite. Finally, you may have seen your same arcade stick modded by someone else online, hinting that you can probably do the same!

The above was the best case scenario. The worst case scenario is that you have to simply stick your new artwork up top without any unscrewing. However, that does not always have to lead to a low quality result…

Question 2: Will you or someone else design the artwork?

If you want to do it yourself, the simplest thing you can do is use your favorite image editing software to put together a design out of hi-res pictures you have found online. Just makes sure you avoid copyright infringement if you are looking to make a living out of this. Otherwise, for personal use, you should be fine!

Question 3: Does the artwork actually fit your arcade stick?

Make sure you layer the template on top of your artwork and turn colors from RGB (red, green, and blue) to CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow, and key), which is a color scheme suitable for printing. Be aware that you may have to retweak the artwork’s colors to make them look like your original vision again.

Optimally, your file should be a vector file that does not lose resolution as you zoom into it, but it is understandable that it is not always possible to produce a vector file as you may have incorporated fighting game or anime characters into your artwork that have large but finite resolutions.

Print out a cheap black-and-white version with your regular printer, cut out the joystick and button areas, and put the paper on top of your arcade stick to see if the artwork fits. Do a couple of practice sessions with a specialized knife and any hole puncher for joystick/buttons and screws respectively. If everything is good, it is time to take your file to a professional printing shop or do it yourself if you have the proper equipment. Shops may set you back a couple of dollars, well, depending on where you live…

Experiment with different types of paper, such as matte, to see how it looks under plexiglass. You do not want to overdo the glossiness as plexiglass already takes care of that for you. The average recommended paperweight is about 225 grams per square meter (gsm), which is much thicker than what the basic home printer usually works with. Clean your artwork and plexiglass before application to make sure there are no smudges, dust, and so on.

King artwork
King artwork by Marques West

The Easiest Way Out

While we encourage players to take the plunge and go through the gritty process of applying custom artwork themselves, we also recommended starting out by simply ordering digital artwork and uploading it to an online seller upon checkout when buying an arcade stick. For that, you can hire one of our artists through our custom artwork service!