3 neat ideas for custom controllers that don’t break the bank

For almost as long as there have been consoles and controllers, people have wanted to customize them. After all, anyone can buy the standard version from the store—but everyone wants something all their own. And well, you’re going to spend hours together, so you want it to be a perfect fit.

But well, it’s not exactly cheap to get custom controllers. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve looked at building my own Xbox controller, or designing my own Joy-Cons, just to be dissuaded as soon as I saw the price tag.

Of course, our house has managed to turn me into a bit of a DIY nut, so when my own Joy-Con stopped working, I tried to find ways to fix it without dishing out for new ones—which led me down a path of what I could do to customize them while I was at it.

So today, I figured I’d share some of the techniques I discovered for customizing controllers on a budget!

Installing new shells

For most types of controllers, it’s not too tricky to find uniquely designed replacement shells, which pretty much just replace your controller’s back and front plates. In fact, there are all kinds of them on Amazon, and they tend to sit in the $20-30 CAD range, which makes them much more affordable than custom controllers.

The catch? You have to do the work for their replacement yourself, which means dealing with tiny motherboards and all kinds of weird, delicate wires.

This is actually what I ended up doing for my Joy-Cons a couple of weeks ago to turn the default blue and red into a lovely light pink. If you, too, decide to go this route, there are three things you’ll need to know:

  1. You will need a good guide, and be sure to read ahead before you start!
  2. You’ll need to plan lots of time for it—the entire process for my Joy-Cons took me about three hours.
  3. Be sure to take pictures of everything as you go, so you don’t end up with a random mystery screw that you have no idea where it came from. Not from experience.

Applying decals

This is one of my favourite ways to decorate pretty much anything because it’s really easy to do, and also easy to switch out when you want something new. I actually have several decaled items around the house, including a lovely rose-gold chevron pattern on my Xbox One S and my signature pink-and-blue DualShock controller.

Personally, I love getting these from Skinit for a few reasons. They have a really great selection, including cute and aesthetic stuff; they’re really easy to apply, even for my total lack of sticker skill; and they pretty much always have a sale going!

If you decide to go this route, the one trick I learned after my first application experience is that if you have trouble getting a decal to lie flat, use a hair dryer on low to make it more flexible!

Going full DIY

If you have more of an artistic bent, then you might like the idea of making your own customized controllers all by yourself! It’s actually simpler than you might think, and obviously there are varying degrees of difficulty depending on your own skills.

Personally, if I were brave enough, I would pick a simple one like using a metallic colour shift spray paint (I know I’ve used Rust-oleum on other projects and liked the end result), but I’ve seen so many pictures of controllers done up with acrylics and paint markers to be completely unique pieces of art!

Have you ever tried customizing controllers? Which one would you like to try?

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