How To Paint Your Own Audio Patch Cables

After creating my own audio patch cable experiment proved unreliable, I ordered some normal, boring looking 1′ (0.3m) black with red and white tipped RCA cables. But I still wanted the cables to have a distinctive look to them. So I decided to paint them. Supplying your own cables, it’ll cost you less than $10 to do it yourself too…

Materials needed

Spray paint. I highly recommend Krylon “Fusion For Plastic” (what I simply call Krylon Fusion). You don’t need any sanding or spray painting primer or none of that stupid mess.

3M painters tape. Don’t buy the “Duck” brand tape, it’s the worst (Duck brand, not to be confused with duct tape). The Duck brand promises to be “easy to remove, no mess!”. But in reality, it has almost zero adhesion (especially here in humid post-globalwarmed Florida). Duck brand won’t stick to walls, let along surfaces you’re masking. Only buy 3M brand painters tape. The last thing you want is for your masking to unpeel while spray painting.

Some kind of material to paint on. Cardboard is what I used.

Masking off

This is one of the easiest masking jobs I’ve done for painting. Just rip off some tape and mask the metal contacts off. The tape will sometimes not line up where you intended, so just lift up and realign. Pretty simple.

My first attempt

So I went online… eBay… and bought 1′ (0.3m) long stereo RCA cables. FYI, 1.5′ (0.46m) is probably needed to reach the furthest ends my TEAC PB-64 patch bay but 1′ reaches 95% of the patch ports. I got the cables for a pretty good price, $3.59 for 2 stereo RCA cables, free “fast” shipping from California to sunny Florida. Bought 10 cables worth, so that gives me 20 cables (10 stereo).

I originally decided to paint these black. But I was out of Krylon Fusion black paint and decided to use another brand of black paint “for plastic” that I had on hand.

They look good in person and all, but they’re tacky as sin even a week after painting them still. A week! I let my chick hold one of them (a week after being painted) and she immediately said “Eww, it’s sticky! Take it…” and quickly handed it back. There’s a reason I’ve been using Krylon Fusion for years and try to only ever buy it.

Painting

Now you paint. It’s a pretty straightforward job if you know how to spray paint. If you don’t, go online and research methods. Just know, if you’re using Krylon Fusion, you don’t need sanding, spraying primer or using rubbing alcohol or none of that junk before you paint. I highly recommend only using Krylon Fusion as… well I’m not sure why the RCA cables came out tacky as it hardly ever happens with other brands, but since it happened to me, it can happen to you without Krylon Fusion. So use Krylon Fusion just for audio cables if nothing else.

If you can’t find Krylon Fusion locally (I got mine from Ace Hardware), get some on Amazon, even if you pay more for it. You’ll have to wait for it to be shipped, but do so… the last thing you want is tacky BS while unplugging cables (it may even leave residue on your fingers, like mine did a week after painting).

In nearly every situation, I spray a clear coat protectant on top of anything I’m painting. Not this time. You don’t have to worry about color oxidation due to sun exposure, protecting the glossiness isn’t desired in fact and it may make the colors “brown” overtime (oils in your skin is my guess) by using a clear coat on top. I felt, based on my experience of Krylon Fusion’s unique properties, that it was probably best not to apply a clear coat.

My second attempt (matching Reason’s patch cables)

I had four cables I had somehow forgotten to paint, so I knew I was planning on painting those cables. Since I had to paint some cables, I decided it would be cool if I painted the patch cables green to match the green audio patch cables of Reason. I should add that, in Reason, audio patch cables are colored based on their use. Red are for going to mixer and mix devices, green are for FX audio routing, blue for certain combinator use and white for mastering to audio output. (Yellow cables are not audio patch cables in Reason or the real world but are control voltage, or CV, cables.)

So, technically in my use, the cables should be pure red or pure white as they’re not connecting to FXs. Back in Reason 4 and older, red cables dominated the rack as cables had to stretch all the way up to the mixers. But Reason now has “mix devices” and “audio devices” that… I guess wirelessly transmit audio to the virtual SSL. Now racks are dominated by green patch cables. So I decided to make the patch cables green to match, visually, how the Reason rack looks. This image is from a combinator patch I’ve created (and use in nearly every song). Ignoring the yellow cables CV cables, you can see it’s just a sea of green audio patch cables.

Technically Reason’s patch cables are a shade slightly darker to signify which is left and which is right, but that’ll just add needless complexity and even some confusion. This is why all my physical patch cables are the same color (although, ironically enough, many of the cables in the back of the patch bay are red, matching Reason’s red and green cables). If you wanted to make your cables a slight shade darker, get automotive taillight tinting spray (any brand). That would allow you to get an even and consistent coat as opposed to trying to lightly spray specks of black spray paint.

It doesn’t matter what color audio patch cables are, of course, but I really wanted to do it because a lot of people I have over comment on how cool the Reason rack is when I flip the virtual rack around. So I figured having these patch cables green would help people visualize the connection between the real and virtual audio world.

The results

This time, I made sure to buy Krylon Fusion paint (only Ace Hardware carries it locally). The results are perfect, no tacky BS, just normal results as you’d expect. They turned out beautifully.

I would have done this process from the start and not messed with trying to make my own patch cables if I would have had the idea to change the color of the patch cables from the start. That was my number one goal in creating my own audio patch cables was making them look like something involved with music creation and not something you’d find connected to the back of someone’s TV. Being able to paint standard RCA cables makes them exactly what I was wanting.

What the patch bay is used for and why I went with RCA instead of 1/4″ connections can be found at the end of this article.

Later. – MJ

  • http://www.jaexx.com Jaëxx

    After a few days, the quality, texture and smoothness of the patch cables has exceeded my expectations. I’ve shown people the cables and they’ve said it looks like the patch cables came green from the factory. Only time will tell about the durability of the paint, but this is a fantastic process.

  • http://www.jaexx.com Jaëxx

    Another thing I forgot to mention; on the cans of Krylon Fusion, they recommend (I believe) 24 hours of curing to avoid chipping. I recommend allowing them to cure for that time.