Do it yourself: iPhone app magnets

Lacking gift ideas for Christmas? Not that much of a budget to put in it? Missing the times when it was all about giving something meaningful and hand made? Got it, which is why this time I wanted to try a little DIY tutorial to make your own iPhone app magnets. I know, it remains a geeky gift, but still, it is always something to give a present made by yourself!

First, you will need:
– An iPhone, iPod touch or iPad – optional;
– A computer;
– A color printer;
– White paper sheets – as thick as you can get that fit your printer;
– Adhesive or non-adhesive magnet sheets – you can find some on eBay;
– Glue – for non-adhesive magnet sheets;
– A sharp cutter – kids, please ask your parents for help;
– A metal ruler – the ever-needed cutter guide;
– White glue for a nice finish – or spray lacquer;
– A thin paintbrush.

Now let’s move on to the different steps:

1. Choosing and making the icons

First, choose which app icons you will be making. The easiest way to get them is by taking a screenshot from your iOS device – hence the need for one, remember: home button + lockscreen button simultaneously –, but you may as well take a screenshot from the Internet – search for “iPhone springboard screenshot”, for example, or check below.

Now, before printing those icons, you will have to edit the screenshot pic in order to take out the extra space from the picture. Here is where your computer and your favourite photo editing application will come handy – of course, you can edit your picture right from your iOS device if you feel like it. It is all about selecting the icons and cutting-pasting them together, so that no space is left between them – or very little, around 1mm. Here is how my icons looked liked after the editing:

Note for custom icons: of course, you can use a picture of your own to make an icon. You only need to upload it to the Internet – on Flickr, Picasa, Facebook, your move – and open it in Safari in your iPhone, iPod touch or iPad, through its direct link – which will end by an extension like “.jpeg”, “.jpg”, “.bmp”. Then zoom in to get the part of the pic you want in the logo. Through the “option” button in the menu bar, select “add to home screen”. Here’s a visual example:

Once you are happy with the result, print them! Personally, I prefer to paste the picture into a Word sheet before printing, so I get the exact preview – which I don’t get in Mac Preview or PC Paint. But of course, if you use Photoshop or other advanced software, this should be a problem. What about the size? Well, you choose, mine were close to an iPad app icon, which I find ideal for, say, a fridge.

2. Sticking the paper icons to the magnet sheet

I strongly recommend that you do not cut the icons apart before this step, as this will make it harder to stick them correctly onto the magnet sheet – believe me, I tried both ways. If you got an adhesive sheet, perfect, then you only need to stick your icons on it. If not, put a thin layer of glue on the icons paper sheet; wait a little before sticking it to the magnet sheet.

3. Cutting the icons

Here comes the hard – and long – part. Separate the zone where you stuck your icons; this will make it easier to work on them. You can leave the unused part of the magnet sheet for other projects – unless you figured a way to use it entirely! Once you do this, your icons should look like this:

Then, cut them apart in columns, which will make the process faster and more accurate than cutting icons one by one. Then cut columns down into single icons. And that’s it! Instructions for this step make it seem short, but it takes time, so be patient – and careful! Indeed, paper remains quite fragile even after being stuck on the magnet sheet, so cut gently… and avoid the fingers. When you are done, your almost-ready magnets will look like this:

Ok, so it’s still a bit raw. The last cuts are the trickiest: the round corners. I must admit that I may have cheated a bit at this stage… In fact, I only did 3 cuts to each corner, but due to the size of my icons – about the size of an iPad icon – it did the trick. Of course, if you chose to make larger icons, you may need to perform several cuts before getting a satisfactory result. My 3 cuts looked like this:

4. Lacquering and finishing up

Ok, so the hardest and most dangerous part is over. Now, my favourite part – I used to do it on plasticine figurines when I was a child: varnishing. This is where you either use white glue or spray lacquer. In my opinion, you should use white glue, for many reasons, but mainly because it’s easier to find, cheaper, and less harmful to the environment. Need another argument not involving Greenpeace? Spray results are pretty bad: most paper types absorb it, so the bright colors fade away, resulting in greyish app icons.

So, back to the glue: gently spread a thin layer of glue on each of your icons with a paintbrush, but be quick, before it starts drying, if you want to get a uniform surface. For a better result, you may want to put a second layer of white glue; it’s really up to you and depends on the result you wish to get. More glue means a glossier surface, but may also mean color fading to whiter shades. Finally, for a perfect finish, you can put a bit of glue over the sides of each icon, so that the final result gives the impression that paper, magnet and glue really are just one single object.

You’re done! I hope you enjoyed this DIY tutorial. I’m not that into making things myself, but from time to time I like geeky crafts. I may think of making more of these tutorials in the future… Oh, and if you got stuck on a step, or thought that something was not clear enough, please feel free to tell me with a comment or a tweet to @yvan165!

However, if you find this too difficult, or are too lazy, or simply do not have time for all this before Christmas, you can buy manufactured app magnets – on eBay, for example. You may agree with me on the fact that these icons do not look exactly like iOS ones, which was one of the reasons that led me into this little geeky craft.

Thanks to Agence LBA for gently allowing me to use their logo as an app icon, you can check their website:
Red chili peppers picture ©

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