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How to Design a Custom Phone Case

By Nora Inveiss - Reading time: 5 minutes

Printful now proudly offers custom phone cases, one of our most requested products. That means you can add cases for the most recent iPhone models to your store (or print a one-off case for yourself!). This blog post goes over why you should consider adding iPhone cases to your store, and it explains how to design a custom phone case. It also covers details about the cases themselves and how they’re printed.

As smartphone sales grow and new innovations come to market, phone case sales will also grow. According to a survey conducted by NDP in 2013, 75% of smartphone owners have a case for their phone. They report some more interesting findings:

  • 70% of people who don’t use a case are Android users
  • 87% of iPhone owners use a case for their phones
  • 49% of iPhone owners have used more than one case in their phone’s lifetime

The same survey also found that there are 5 main groups of people who buy phone cases:

  1. Durable protection – these people are looking for a solid, quality case that will protect their phone
  2. Fashion and style – this group of people places the utmost importance on the aesthetics of the case
  3. Practical fashion – this group also cares about the case’s aesthetics, but they’re more sensitive to cost
  4. Basic protection – this group is the least selective; they want a functional case to protect their phone, but they’re not particularly picky
  5. Tech enthusiasts – these people are savvy and generally enthusiastic about all things tech

Phone cases are a popular must-have for many smartphone owners. The motivations for buying cases are vastly different – some people emphasize the practicality and protection, while others are more interested in a case that represents their personal style.

More high-fashion brands such as Louis Vuitton are delving into phone case designs, positioning phone cases as not only a practical tech accessory, but also a fashion statement. With a case, your phone can be easily customized and used to express your personality.

Through Printful, you can enter the phone case market and create phone cases with your own designs. The next section of this post covers details about Printful’s phone cases and printing process, and includes tips to create graphics.

Printful’s Phone Case Specs

First, let’s take a closer look at the case itself. As of now, Printful has phone cases designed for the iPhone 6/6s and iPhone 6/6s Plus. Whether more models are added will depend on the phone’s popularity and customer demand.phone examples
The iPhone cases Printful offers are thin, light, and made of a polycarbonate plastic. They don’t cover the screen, but they’ll protect the back of the phone from scratches. They’re one-piece, solid plastic construction, and the holes and buttons are aligned with the phone’s features.

It’s important to note that these cases aren’t shock-proof. So while they may protect your phone from some minor wear and tear, don’t count on them to be indestructible or to prevent serious damages. They are meant mostly for aesthetic purposes.

How are cases printed?

The first step for every phone case order is approving the graphics – if the graphics match our guidelines, the order is sent to print. Before printing, a trained operator makes sure the printer doesn’t have any lint or dust. A white underbase and colored top coat are then printed simultaneously using UV printing technology. Once the cases are complete, they’re packaged in poly bubble padded mailers and shipped out.

UV printing essentially dries ink through a photochemical reaction. High-intensity ultraviolet lights are used to cure, or dry inks, turning them from liquid to solid. UV printing is commonly used to print on materials such as plastic, wood, and metal.

Make Use of Transparent Colors

Contrary to some of Printful’s other products, iPhone case printing does support transparency. However, there are some extra considerations to keep in mind if you opt for transparent colors.
transparency

  1. We advise against printing elements that have both opaque and transparent elements. This is because the contrast of solid colors (which are printed with a white underbase) and transparent colors (without a white underbase) is stark. In some cases the end result may look like there are gaps in your design and that colors didn’t print properly. This is especially noticeable with white and lighter tones, so use extra caution with those colors. The best thing to do is to order samples to test how your graphics turn out.
  2. Be aware that transparent colors look vastly different from opaque colors. Take a look at the example photos above and on our guidelines page to give you an idea.
  1. When editing transparent colors in Photoshop, it will refer to “opacity.” Transparency and opacity are the inverse of each other – 100% transparent is 0% opaque and vice versa. If you have a graphic and you want 25% transparency, on Photoshop it’ll show up as 75% opacity.
  1. As always, we recommend ordering samples to make sure the cases come out the way you envisioned. This goes for cases without transparency too – you always want to see a sample of your product before putting it on the market.

Transparent background and sides

You don’t have to fill up the entire space with your design. Whatever is left transparent on your print file will be clear and you’ll be able to see the phone through the case.

If you’d like to create a graphic where parts of the case are clear, then keep the Apple logo and text placement in mind. You’ll be able to see it, so it may affect the way your design looks.

transparent back and sides 2Graphics don’t wrap around the entire case, so the sides will also be see-through. This is great because it gives you a little bit of both worlds – you get to feature your awesome designs, but you don’t completely cover up the design of the phone, either.

Follow Print File Guidelines

Be sure to follow the guidelines when creating your print files, as they’re what the fulfilment team references to print your products. A print file that doesn’t match our guidelines might not turn out the way you want. These are the essential points you need to remember when creating your print files:

  • Artwork should measure 2.93”x6.1” with 300 dpi
  • Toggle between the instructions and your design using the eye icon. Remember to turn off the instructions before you submit your print file.
  • Fill out the entire print area for full bleed
  • Graphics won’t print on the sides of the case
  • Keep the most important elements of your graphic within the dotted line; anything outside the safety zone may be cut off  
  • If you want to make your colors transparent, adjust the opacity
  • Save as a .PNG before submitting to Printful

Printful uses the same print file for the iPhone 6/6s and the iPhone 6 Plus/6s Plus. There’s no need to submit two individual print files for each phone model – we simply scale down for the 6/6s. That’s why the correct dpi is especially important here, so the graphic still looks good if we scale it for the 6 or 6s.

You can download our iPhone case guidelines here. You can also check out our Design Services if you’d like more hands-on help getting your graphics and print files just right.

iPhone cases are also on the mockup generator. We suggest submitting these with your orders – mockups help the fulfilment team better understand your vision. However, note that the print file is the ultimate reference used to print your designs, so that’s critical to get right.

You can also use the mockup generator to create mockup images that you can post to your store. This gives your customers an idea of what they’re buying.

Time to Design Your Own Phone Case

Phone cases are a popular accessory and most smartphone owners will want one, either for protection, fashion or a bit of both. With Printful, you can offer phone cases with your custom designs, or create a one-off case for yourself. Use our guidelines and tips when creating your designs, and order samples to test that your cases come out the way you want.

Ready to design custom phone cases? Head over to our guidelines to get started!

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  1. Luke Smith

    This is a really good article about custom printing, and how to get a phone case made. The video was nice, and showing how it is done like the printing process. It is cool to be able to print a custom design for your phone case.

  2. Ginger

    Definitely going to add this to my product list, however would LOVE to see a more durable case as an option in the near future. My market is a bit more tough on life, and as a given, more tough on their phones as well 🙂

      1. Anne

        I have a question. How would I make my own phone case with UV light that can clean a phone with the click of a button? Please help!!

  3. Kirk@burkleycase

    Very cool idea. One concern I would have is eventual wear and tear. I would imagine depending the environment the phone is located in (like a bag or pocket for a long period of time) the lettering would eventually wear out. Would you guys have an idea of how long printing would last or would that simply depend on how the case is handled?

    1. Nora Inveiss Post author

      Great question!

      It depends on how the case is handled. UV inks cure to tough surfaces that are highly resistant to scratching or wear and tear, so the print will hold up for a long time. But all prints and inks can eventually wear, so if you carry your case next to a set of keys, for example, the case may eventually scratch.

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