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Skinning the iPhone 3G

Tweet Many of you will know that in August I was the lucky winner of a brand new Apple iPhone 3G, thanks to a green slimy,  “high tech” cleaner. I purchased some Cyber Clean and entered, explicity because of the competition. So, one of the first things I did was hunt around looking for a [...]

Many of you will know that in August I was the lucky winner of a brand new Apple iPhone 3G, thanks to a green slimy,  “high tech” cleaner. I purchased some Cyber Clean and entered, explicity because of the competition.

So, one of the first things I did was hunt around looking for a skin to protect it – after all the last thing an iPhone wants is a nasty big scratch. The first 3 weeks of having it I was SO gentle with it. I was hunting around for “Invisible Skin” and I tell you, it’s nigh on impossible to find anything like that here in NZ.

After looking around online I found someone talking about Best Skins Ever, and at less than 1/2 the price I thought it was worth a shot. Waiting the almost 14 days for them to arrive from the States, I couldn’t have them and not apply straight away.

So …. this post is about what I did, some lessons I learnt and … well hopefully it helps anyone else who’s going to skin their phone.

Step One: Getting things together

The first thing you need to do is get a handful of items together.

Getting things together

Getting things together

In the pic above you’ll see I have

  • Laptop with instructions (simple and they serve their purpose – no diagrams etc though)
  • Two skins (sitting on laptop)
  • Small bowl of luke warm water, with 3 drops of liquid soap added
  • Tea towl
  • Hard sponge (didn’t really need this in the end)
  • Damp cloth

One thing that is missing from the pic which you do need is a credit card (or any other card) to use to force excess water and air out from under the skin.

Lesson One: use a bigger bowl. Ideally use a bowl you can immerse the skin fully – a desert bowl would have been far better than this small chinese bowl that I used.  You may find you need to dip your skin more than once, so having a bigger bowl will help LOTS!

Step Two: Cleaning the phone

This turned out to be harder than I thought. I was considering using rubbing alcohol for this, however feared that could do more damage than it was worth. So one damp cloth  and a fair amount of gentle rubbing, she came up sparkling clean.

Concentrate on one surface. Do the front FIRST, the reason for this is when you flip the phone over to do the back – the front skin will protect your screen.

Lesson Two: use a lintless cloth. The iPhone seems to attract dust out of thin air, so if the cloth you are using has lint on it, chances are this will end up on the phone – PITA to remove. So use a cloth that won’t deposit these.

Step Three: Wetting and applying the skin

Time to get that skin on your phone. The first thing to do is to wet the skin. There is a fine line here between damp, wet, soaking wet. You want wet.  What I did was dip the skin fully into the water, lift it out and run the skin between two (wet) fingers to remove excess water.

One thing I did next that instructions say NOT to do! I put water directly on the phone – do this at your OWN risk. To do this I simply dipped my finger in the bowl and then ran the finger around the screen. What ever you do do NOT put water near the edges, home button or speaker!

Now place the skin on the phone – it’s all wet, it won’t stick. Here is where the juggling act comes into play, too much water and you’ll make a mess. Not enough water and the skin will stick (which can stretch when you pull it up to reapply). Having just enough water means you can move the skin around to get placement just right.

Note: don’t fret, it’s safer to err on the side of too much water, which you can always dry up with a cloth. You’ll soon get a feel for how much water you need.

Working quickly and carefully, line the skin up with the home button and speaker – if you get these right, the edges should be sweet. Now, holding one end use your finger to push excess water out to the edges. Do NOT push water towards the home button or speaker.

Check your skin as you work – now is the time to remove (and if you need too, like I did, remove it and place it into the water immediately). After this it will start to stretch if you try to remove it. Try to hold in in one place or it will move as you start to remove excess water. It will begin to stick, so just keep checking and making small adjustments if needed.

Here is where the credit card comes into play. Using the edge of the credit card and a firm (not hard) pressure, push from the center of the screen out towards the edge. You’ll be surprised how much extra water comes out.

Done. Using a damp cloth gently wipe away excess water and take a look. Don’t be too worried if it’s got a small bubble – they’ll dry out. Leave it for 20 mins.

Lesson Three: I needed more light and should have taken more time. I got my skin right around the home button but it’s out by less than 1mm at the top meaning I have the smallest of white in the top left corner where the skin hangs off the screen – not earth shattering. More light would have helped me to see this better.

Bonus Tip: Water is your friend and your enemy. If you get finger prints, dust or other items on your skin, simply dunk it in water and remove. However make sure you get rid of the excess.

Checking the front

Checking the front

So here we have the front sitting up to dry for 20 mins before tackling the back. You can see it’s good, but not great at this point. Notice there is a small white mark on the right side of the home button. This is where I hit the skin too hard with the credit card, leaving some gum on the surface. It polished out later.

Front all done

Front all done

Here we are looking much better. As the skin dries it becomes clearer with any water trapped underneath evaporating.

Step four: The back

The back is a lot harder than the front given the curves, buttons and holes – but surprisingly simple once you get into it.

Again clean your phone with something that is not going to leave lint all over it. Again, take your skin, wet it fully and I again wet the back of the phone with my finger.

This skin I found I needed to take a LOT more time with. Due to the nature of the shape it’s hard to line everything up perfectly – but you’ll get it really close. With enough water you can simple slide the skin into place.

Back on waiting for some dryness

Back on waiting for some dryness

You’ll find you’ll get the bulk of the phone back to line up but the edges will not stick yet. It can be annoying with the smallest movement pushing the skin out of place. However you can use this to your advantage by holding one side where you want it, and moving the back around to ensure the holes line up etc.  You will find, because 3 of the sides have holes it’s easiest to work from the right side which has none. Make sure it’s lined up, hold it tight and move the rest around. You should be good. The other 3 sides are a little more forgiving as you can move the outter edge to get around holes & buttons.

Once you have it sitting in a suitable place, again use your finger to push water out & then the credit card. You’ll now be at the position I was in the photo above. Your edges won’t stick because they are too wet and you’ll probably have some decent bubbles in the phone.

I began to work the bubbles, fretting over them wanting to get them out.

After about 20 mins the excess water had dried enough for me to go around and force the edges down around the curves and such like.

Again a soft damp cloth was used to give the whole surface a rub down & the phone was placed in the hot water cupboard overnight.

Lesson four: take your time with the edges, if you get them wrong, gently peal up and if you need to remove finger prints or dust, again a little water on a finger will easily remove these. You can pull on the skin to get it to do what you need to do – just remember don’t pull (stretch) too much, and too much water means waiting again before things will stick.

Bonus tip: don’t sweat the small(ish) bubbles. By all means ensure the biggest bubbles of water (they won’t be air) are pushed out towards the sides, but the smaller ones – these will evaporate over the next 24 to 48 hours. I had 2 bubbles near the middle back of my phone, they are gone now.

Step five: done

99% done, waiting for dryness

99% done, waiting for dryness

This shot (sorry it’s not great) was taken just before placing the phone in the hot water cupboard. You’ll seed on the corner you can bearly make out the cuts in the skin to get it to form to the corner, but otherwise it’s hard to detect. You can also see a bubble up the left side of the picture. This bubble evaporated overnight, I didn’t need to work it out.


It’s not a walk in the park, but anyone taking a little time and care and being armed with a trusty bowl of water can apply their own skin to protect their device.

Now almost a week on there are a couple of things to note:

  • skin doesn’t smudge anywhere near as much as natural surface
  • the skin does add extra around the home button meaning it’s a firmer push to activate now
  • likewise the sleep button needs a deliberate push to activate
  • don’t fret the small things, the skin will dry and forgive a lot (but make sure you get it clean!)

So there you have it, skinning the iPhone.

Note: sorry I didn’t take more photos throughout the process, I should have asked my wife to snap some action shots, or simply taken more myself – doh! gotta get better at this


2 Responses


Gosh was it worth it, my tip would be to use a spray PC screen cleaner for clean the screen prior to applying the skin.

Not sure about all this water I had no problems with the skins I got from the Apple store.

And finally get yourself a piel frama leather case for it they are the dogs nuts.