Tips on Submitting Etch Artwork for the PDP Nintendo Switch Light Up Dock Shield


The PDP Nintendo Switch Light Up Dock Shield is a colorful compliment to the existing dock that accompanies the non-Lite model. It rotates through several colors across red, green and blue hues.  If you are looking to create your own special panel using our service, here are tips to get close to the output as original panels.

Replicating the Style of Original Panels

The panels that come with the PDP Light Up Dock Shield uses flat white graphics to display its lighting effects. 

To replicate this in an etch, you must use only two colors: Black and White. Unlike greyscale, which allows for values of black or white in between, you cannot have more than these two colors. 

One important thing to remember about etching is this: Anything that is black will etch as frosted white on acrylic. Conversely, anything that is white will not etch at all. 

This  idea is sure to trip up many folks who aren't used to submitting artwork like this. I explain further below.

Let's review this example.  It has only two colors - black and white:

PDP Dock Tutorial Example 1: Sample Black and White Image

Untreated, it will etch like this:  Remember, areas that are black in the original photo will etch as white. Anything that is white in the photo will not etch at all.

PDP Dock Tutorial Example 1: Plexi Output

However, you may prefer to see more of the character's face rather than an outline of it, and keep the hair: 

PDP Dock Tutorial Example 2:Optimal Output

This was done using three techniques: inverting, masking, and stroke.


The "invert" of a black and white photo reverses the colors.  Everything that was once black is now white and vice versa. Here is an example of of the the image when inverted:

PDP Dock Tutorial Example 1: Sample Black and White Image Inverse

Remember that when etching, anything black will appear as frosted white.  However, you may not want this effect, as the entire background is white:

PDP Dock Tutorial Example 3: Inverse Unwanted Effect


In Photoshop, you have the ability to "mask" an object. To do this, create a selection around the shape of the subject, then click the "mask" icon in the layer.


With the layer mask in place, anything that is not part of the mask (what appears in white within the mask thumbnail) is hidden. Photoshop represents transparency via a checkerboard pattern.

PDP Dock Tutorial Example 5: Mask

An important note regarding transparency: If you are using Photoshop, make sure the new document you place an image into has the background set to "transparent", or you won't immediately see the transparency that is created by the mask.

Tool Window Background Transparency

A detailed explanation of how layer masks work, as well as clipping masks, is available via  Definitely worth a read.

Adding a Stroke Line

A "stroke" line is a visual attribute that you can apply to a path, or in this case, an object.  A stroke line can vary and thickness and color. In the image where a portion of the character's hair is at left, it is colored white and thus does not appear when etched:

PDP Dock Tutorial Example 7: Before Stroke

For our image, we want the stroke path to represent where the anime character's hair appears.  since when etching, anything that is white will not etch.  

In Photoshop, locate your "Layers" palette. (Menu: View > Layers) and click the "fx" icon.  Of the options that appear in the resulting dropdown, select "Stroke...":

PDP Dock Tutorial Example 7: Stroke Fx Palette

The following window will appear, allowing you to adjust the size and position of the stroke line. In this case, we add a 5 pixel stroke line. If you are using our Photoshop template, expect to use a higher number to represent the stroke line since a higher resolution is used in that template.

PDP Dock Tutorial Example 7: Expanded Options for Effects

This is how it should look after the stroke is applied:

PDP Dock Tutorial Example 7: Stroke Output

And when etched will look like this:

PDP Dock Tutorial Example 2:Optimal Output

You can learn more about stroke lines at

Flipping for Correct Install Orientation

One more important note regarding laser etch is orientation.  Etching is performed on the back side of the acrylic.  This means that the etch appears behind the surface, and must have its orientation reversed to appear correct when installed onto the dock shield.

In this example, the output here is not yet reversed:

PDP Dock Tutorial Example 7: Stroke Output

The non-reversed will actually appear like this when etched and then installed onto the dock shield:


Since you want the character to appear on the right side when installed, you'll instead want to horizontally flip the image layer.  In Photoshop, select the artwork layer, then select the following from the menu:

Edit > Transform > Flip Horizontal 

It will now look like this:

PDP Dock Tutorial Example 7: Stroke Output

and etched, will output correctly like this:

PDP Dock Tutorial Example 2:Optimal Output

Grayscale Images

The process of etching uses the laser to create successive frosted lines onto cast acrylic.  In software, the laser etch machine interprets the color black as an area to fire the etch laser, and white as an area to skip.

This means that for the most faithful reproduction onto acrylic, we need artwork in black and white.  Grayscale, or images that have varying intensities of black or white, will also etch, but as white dots of varying size and density which attempt to represent a shade of gray.

This closeup view shows how grayscale images can etch on acrylic.

When submitting artwork with grayscale values, please keep this in mind.  Similar techniques described under "Replicate Style of Original Panels" topic, such as masking and stroke can also apply to the greyscale images.

I Don't Have Photoshop

File:Adobe Photoshop CC icon.svg

Many that don't own a copy of Photoshop will often use the free, open source application GIMP to create artwork using our control panel templates. It is possible to import our Photoshop templates into GIMP. Plexworks currently does not support GIMP's .XCF format, but GIMP does export to Photoshop .PSD format.

Another possible alternative is Autodesk Sketchbook, recently made free to download and use.  It will open Photoshop PSD files, allow you to work in layers, and export to PSD.  We have tried it and it does function well.

Plexworks will also accept files in JPG, PNG, TIFF, and PDF.  However, there are some caveats when submitting these formats:

  • Often, artwork saved as PDF in Photoshop will automatically flatten all of the layers into one single layer.  We cannot use this because the guidelines must be removed before we print the artwork.  The guidelines are only for your use when positioning artwork elements.  If you have Photoshop, please save as a layered PSD file instead. You won't help us by saving in PDF.
  • Artwork that are submitted without our Photoshop templates, a smaller size than 300dpi, or other inconsistency from our templates will be prone to judgement calls from our fulfillment team when sizing for print within our internal templates. We will post warning notes of possible changes that we have to make in order to etch the artwork.  Please note that custom artwork services are not refundable.
  • Please consider the artwork you are using in relation to the layout you want to print on.  For example, key parts of the artwork may get removed when trying to format it for the panel.
  • Please keep in mind that artwork submitted without our Photoshop template will be attempted to line up with our internal templates, but may not align exactly as expected. If you are concerned about positioning, then please use our Photoshop templates to submit your artwork.

Here is one example of an artwork submitted by a customer that did not use a photoshop template, nor formatted for black and white:


Our artists will try to use some quick techniques to output like this 


However, when an image is not submitted using the template, or black and white and reversed, we cannot guarantee that we will match what the customer might desire. All custom artwork services are non-refundable unless damaged in transit.

I hope these techniques may help you design a fun and attractive PDP Light Up Dock Shield panel.


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