Custom graphic overlays are a way to guide users on how to interact with your product, as well as mark it with your professional brand or logo. While there’s no end to how you can use a graphic overlay, you should consider the environmental conditions before moving forward with the planning and design phase. 

With so many overlay alternatives, selecting the correct design elements for your specifications can be challenging. This post will explain the steps in creating a graphic overlay and which options might best suit your application’s requirements: 

What Is a Graphic Overlay?

Graphic overlays are useful for electrical products, as they act as a type of interface. If the product has buttons or dials, a graphic overlay can be printed over them to help the user interact with the device. But there’s more: 

Overlays can be custom designed to display text and designs placed on the product's exterior. They add a level of professionalism while also protecting the electrical components underneath. The overlay can feature your company’s name, instructions about the product, safety warnings, and more. 

Creating a Graphic Overlay 

Define the Application 

Before designing your graphic overlay, you should decide what requirements it’ll need. Consider the product’s surface, installation location, and environmental conditions, as they can all impact your chosen graphic overlay.

Some application details you should review include the following:

  • Functional use
  • Environment 
  • Appearance 
  • Branding
  • Standards/regulations 
  • Visibility
  • Quantity 
  • Budget

According to our friends who specialize in custom converting solutions, the electrical components underneath a graphic overlay are made of sensitive components. That’s why it’s important to keep the application details in mind to ensure your graphic overlay can withstand the environment you need it to work in. 

Choosing the Material 

As mentioned, environmental factors could impact your graphic overlay and the electrical components beneath it. When crafting the perfect overlay, you need to consider its durability. Most overlays are made from plastic substrate materials or a variety of metals. Each material has its own unique characteristic.

The most common types of graphic overlay materials include:

  • Polyester
  • Polycarbonate 
  • Stainless steel
  • Aluminum
  • Anodized aluminum
  • Brass

Crafting the Design 

The graphic elements of your overlay require some thought. Some options to consider include text, graphics, logos, barcodes, colors, etc. 

Screen printing, digital printing, and photo imaging are the three types of printing technologies used when making graphic overlays. If you’re utilizing a metal substrate, etching may be an alternative. 

Many graphic overlays include the company’s logo or a model/product name. If you require an overlay for a control panel, including labels or icons on/around the buttons can help users identify how to interact with your product. 

Some graphic overlays will also feature safety warnings, instructions, bar codes, serial numbers, and more. It’s important to determine whether your product requires these additional features in the design to help users. 

Size and Shape 

Keep in mind that your graphic overlay may have to provide visual cues to help users know how to use its functions. That’s why you need to ensure the overlay will fit over the product. All texts and icons must be placed over the top of the correct function, especially if your overlay is on a membrane switch. 


This may seem like a simple aspect of the graphic overlay design, but there are numerous colors to choose from. You may want an opaque or transparent color, depending on the application. A low gloss can provide a slick look, while something more vibrant can make the product pop and catch the user’s attention. If your company or brand has a specific set of colors, you may consider implementing them in the overlay’s design. Sometimes the colors can be as simple as black, white, or gray. It all depends on the application and whether there’s an LED light or screen within the overlay. 

Approving the Design

Once your graphic overlay design is complete, you’ll want to look it over to ensure it’s to your satisfaction. Are the dimensions accurate? Does the surface look good? Are the text and icons correct? These are questions you should ask yourself while looking over the design. The overlay will be on your product, after all. 

The graphic overlay process may seem complex, but it can be simple as long as you have the right help. It’s pivotal to consult with professionals when crafting a graphic overlay design; you want to end up with an overlay that’s clear and concise. We hope our step-by-step breakdown has shed some light on the beauty and utility of graphic overlay designs.