There are a number of things you must consider when you are recreating the back glass for a pinball machine. First, you are printing the image on the backside of the glass so all of the images are reversed. Second, some areas of the glass must be clear to allow for the score to be seen. Third, some areas of the screen have to be translucent so that game-play messages can be seen but other areas need to remain dark. Fourth, recreating the artwork can be time-consuming. Accurate Signs has made a number of repairs to pinball machines for a Fun!, a company located near us in Mesquite, Texas. On occasion they will get a machine that has been damaged and will need us to create a new back glass.
It is not uncommon for the back glass of a pinball machine to become damaged in shipping. Since they are made of glass they will break if over stressed. The top glass is also broken with regularity but is easily replaced. But the back glass has a number of unique issues (noted above) that make replacement much more of a problem. Fortunately, a good sign shop that has a printer that can print white and clear can solve the problem. Especially if they have a good graphic designer who can imagine how to print the glass and create the elements, in the correct layers, needed to accomplish this. Without a good printer and a good designer pinball repairs can be difficult if not impossible.
In most cases a pinball machine has a clear back glass that has relatively simple artwork. The Lady Luck machine (back glass shown at left) was damaged in shipping. Notice that there are 13 rectangles across the face that need to be clear so that each player’s score and other information that is shown using digital readouts can be seen. Also, note that the “Ball In Play” and “Dealer’s Card Score” text are not prominently displayed but have lights behind them that make this information pop when appropriate. Those two areas are bound by a rectangle of white ink that blocks light from shining across a larger area of the glass. You cannot see the white because it was laid down last after the colors were printed. Creating the art files needed to print clear, translucent, opaque, and other unique aspects of a pinball back glass can be very difficult. Not only because each layer must be created with care but then you must print each layer in the correct order so that the finished product looks as it should.
The White Water pinball repair to the back glass was much more of a problem. The original had a reflective finish that made the water shimmer. We decided to print the entire piece on a silver reflective surface. Then white was laid down on the silver so that the words, and other features could be printed in full color. Then color and clear was printed over the top of the water area of the image to give it the swirls, and white water effective to make it look like the original.
Though pinball repairs is a small part of our business it is very interesting to determine how to recreate these pieces. And our experience in solving these types of problems helps us better provide solutions for customer problems that are more traditional in nature.