This family is in need of a vacation. Between selling our home and moving last summer, a family vacation just wasn’t something we had time to throw into the mix. With Lil’ Man beginning kindergarten this fall, I definitely want to have one last “hurrah” before both of my boys are out of the house full-time.
So here we are, planning a trip to Disney World for Lil’ Man. (It is snowing right now, so I’m very much looking forward to a more tropical climate!) With our current planning underway and my husband constantly urging me to share some of the more artistic things I do for my son, I thought I would share how I customized our MagicBands for our trip a few years ago.
If you are unfamiliar with these magical little devices, they are essentially a wristband with an RFID chip inside. You use these nifty bands to unlock your resort room, gain admission to the parks, deduct meals from your dining plan, charge store purchases to your room and manage your FastPass+. All of these things can be managed through your My Disney Experience account. I must admit that I love that I no longer have to cart around each family members tickets, room keys and FastPasses when I’m already the one carrying the snacks, camera and other necessities!
Disney allows you to customize the color of your MagicBand, but that is about it. Not too exciting, especially if you are a kid. You can purchase various MagicBands with characters or even some charms from the Disney Store or shops at the park, but let’s face it, do you really want to spend more money on something you are already getting as a part of your resort reservation? I personally prefer to save a bit of money and go the cheap DIY route.
I did a bit of research before customizing our bands (we had 6 altogether since we split our stay between two hotels). First of all, don’t worry about copyright. This is one of the few times Disney will let what is technically copyright infringement slide. In fact, their cast members like to admire the customized bands and will often engage you in conversation about them. If your artistic talents don’t extend beyond drawing stick figures, you can try using rub on tattoos or even stickers and sealing them with varnish. I personally have not given this a try, so I cannot attest to how this method will hold up during your stay.
You also don’t have to do anything intricate for your design. Stick to simpler characters like Mike Wazowski from Monster’s Inc. or Baymax from Big Hero Six. You can even do something as simple as the Beast’s enchanted rose (Beauty and the Beast) or paint a few Mickey Mouse heads and polka dots. There are a lot of people who have shared their designs on places like DIS Boards, so if you need some ideas it is a good place to start.
If you would like to paint your own Magic Bands, you can follow my tutorial below. Make sure you read my challenges section so you can avoid some of my mistakes before moving onto the instructions.
- Acrylic Paints (avoid gloss paints)
- Paint Brushes
- Permanent Marker (thin tip)
- Optional: rub-on tattoos, stickers, rhinestones and craft glue (I use E6000). I’ve also seen people mention using materials like washi tape.
Challenges of DIY Band Customization:
You will be drawing on a surface that isn’t flat. Because of the RFID chip, there is no way to lay the band completely flat and I found that this made it a bit tricky to sketch out my design. I recommend drawing your design on paper first for practice and then use a pencil to draw it onto your band. Also, the Mickey head in the middle of the band adds to the challenge. Try to avoid drawing anything too complex on that area.
You will be painting on a small surface. Make sure you have a variety of thin tip paintbrushes. Remember, this is a very small surface. Disney is releasing a second generation of MagicBands that look a bit wider than the original, but I do not imagine it will make that big of a difference and I have yet to see a release date for them. Patience is key during this project!
How do you seal your artwork once you have painted your design? This was a question that I really couldn’t find a good answer to when I originally painted my bands. I used O.P.I.’s clear coat nail polish to seal my artwork since nail polish seemed to be a popular medium amongst those decorating their bands. Unfortunately, some of the band’s artwork began to crack after a few days of wear. I believe this is due to two reasons:
- I used the paints I had on-hand and some were probably a little old/dry. I recommend using new acrylic paints for this project (I would avoid nail polishes).
- I used clear nail polish instead of varnish. In all of the articles and boards I looked at regarding MagicBand painting, no one stated how their bands held up at the parks. A Magic Kingdom cast member told me that varnish works better than nail polish, so I will be using varnish when I paint our bands this summer. I’ve seen people recommend both gloss or satin finish varnishes (brush, not spray). If you want your bands to be extra shiny then go with the gloss finish.
Will any added bling fall off of your band? I did add a few rhinestones to one of my bands. I used E6000 adhesive (this is super strong) and I still managed to lose one rhinestone. Just know if you are looking to add something like rhinestones, they may fall off your band. I also made vinyl decals with my Cricut. The letters on the Mike Wazowski band were gone within an hour.
Update 3 March 2018: Check out my DIY Disney MagicBand Painting Tutorial video. Time stamps are included in the description as well as a link to my MagicBand template.
- Search the Internet for ideas. As I mentioned earlier, you’ll find a lot of Disney fans are more than happy to share their designs with others. You’ll find everything from super simple ideas to extremely intricate works of art. You can search this DIS Board thread for inspiration to get started or use one of the designs you see here.
- Sketch out your designs on paper. I used a template similar to this one for the original MagicBands. Print it out and sketch your design within the given template.
- Draw your design onto your MagicBand with pencil first. You can easily erase any mistakes from the band. Then go over your pencil outline with a permanent marker. Allow for the marker to dry completely before painting to avoid smudges. Be sure to erase any unwanted pencil markings.
- Paint your design using acrylic paints. Once done, set aside to dry for 24 hours before applying your varnish. The varnish will act as a protective clear coat.
- After the paint has dried, apply your varnish with a clean paint brush. Follow the directions on the container for application and drying times. I only apply the protective clear coat over the painted areas, not the entire band. I recommended applying two coats to make sure you haven’t missed any areas.
Have fun with your designs! If you can, incorporate some glow-in-the-dark paint and watch your band light up on rides like Buzz Lightyear’s Ranger Spin. Also, your MagicBands don’t have to be Disney themed. I’ve seen people incorporate their favorite sports teams as well as DC superheroes.
How do you decorate your MagicBands? Feel free to share your thoughts and ideas below. Let me know if there is anything I left out!