Review: ColorWare iPhone paint job - Macenstein

Review: ColorWare iPhone paint job

Some of you may be asking yourselves, “Why on Earth would someone pay $600 for a cell phone and then plunk down another $219 on top of that for a custom paint job?”

If you have to ask that question, then I’m sorry, you are just not geeky enough to read this blog. So thank you for your time, here’s your hat, you are now officially banned from Macenstein. For the rest of you, behold the awesomeness.

colorware iphone

ColorWare has a long tradition of providing high quality paint jobs on a variety of electronic gear ranging from MacBooks to PS3’s to iPods. So it was not surprising that mere days after Apple began selling the iPhone, ColorWare made it known they would also offer their custom paint jobs on Apple’s much-hyped “phone, iPod, and internet communication device”. I’ve had my ColorWare’d iPhone back from receiving its “Envy and Carbon” paint job for almost a full month now, so I can give a fairly educated assessment of how well the ColorWare treatment holds up on the iPhone.

colorware iphone

First things first. You have two options when ordering your ColorWare painted iPhone. First, like me, you can buy your iPhone at an Apple or AT&T store, and then send it in to ColorWare. The second (and much smarter option) would be to buy the iPhone directly from ColorWare (at no extra charge) along with your paint job. This is the smarter option for a couple reasons. First, you don’t waste money on shipping and insuring your iPhone to get it to them. Second, there is a slightly gray area when it comes to painting an iPhone and its warranty. The iPhone’s official terms of use claim that any “modified iPhone” – or one that has had its serial number modified – is no longer covered by Apple’s warranty. ColorWare’s paint job completely covers up the iPhone’s serial number (located on the bottom rear of the phone), so while in theory the paint job should not be responsible for anything going wrong with your phone, if Apple wanted to, they could decide to not honor your warranty should your iPhone crap out (even though the serial number can still be obtained via software). ColorWare is aware of this, and while in the past Apple has honored the warranty of some ColorWare painted iPods without incident, ColorWare offers their own 1-year warranty on the iPhone if you buy it directly from them. On the other hand, if you send yours in to be painted, ColorWare only offers a 30-day warranty, which is good enough to make sure your phone functions correctly, but it won’t really help you out if the screen develops bad pixels caused by a manufacturing defect 6 months from now. Since I am what is known as an “early adopter” (I bought my iPhone before ColorWare announced they were planning on painting them) my only option was to send mine in.

colorware iphone

Place your order

The ordering process is very simple, and quite fun, actually. ColorWare offers an online tool that allows you to choose the colors and parts of your iPhone you’d like to paint. You can choose to paint the back, bottom, frame, home button, and Apple logo on the iPhone itself, and you can also opt to paint the earbuds and docking cradle as well. Selecting all options will run you $219, while painting only the rear of the phone (top and bottom) costs $149. In the interest of journalism, I went pretty much all out, painting everything but the iPhone’s “home” button.

colorware iphone
Above: ColorWare’s online color picker gives you a pretty good idea of what your final colors will look like. (Note: you cannot see the ColorWare logo (which is applied tot he bottom of the iPhone) in this preview, but you CAN on a real iPhone when looking straight at the back.)

The hardest part by far is choosing the colors. While there are certainly some heinous color schemes you could come up with if you wanted to (and some might argue I in fact did) there are some amazing choices as well. Much like getting a tattoo, the paint job is permanent, so the pressure to choose a color scheme that you can live with “forever” (or a couple years, at least) is real, and something to keep in mind.

The second hardest part of getting an iPhone painted is the wait. This is another reason I would suggest buying the iPhone directly from ColorWare. In my case, I had already activated my iPhone, so my old phone no longer worked. I was told it would take “about 2 weeks” for my paint job to be completed, but in reality it took 3, which is a long time for someone to be without a cell phone in this day and age. Even someone like me, who has no friends, felt a bit naked without it. ColorWare explained that my slightly longer wait time was due to the initial demand, which is understandable, but you should be prepared for the possibility of extra downtime just in case.

How’s it look?

The paint job itself is really just amazing. I have zero complaints. Even the tiniest holes around the speakers, the SIM card slot, and the speaker holes on the docking cradle… everything is pristine. I chose a metallic paint, meaning there are tiny sparkling flecks in it, just like automotive paint. Assuming you are happy with the colors you chose (and the online color picker does a pretty good job approximating the colors, from my experience) you are going to love the craftsmanship of the paint job. After a month’s worth of use, it has not even the slightest hint of a scratch on it.

colorware iphone

The only word of warning I would have is with regards to the Apple logo. If you opt to paint this, ColorWare actually removes the chrome logo, and paints the phone under it, meaning the logo itself will now appear recessed slightly. Not a big deal to me, but some people might care. (Also, I have no idea what they do with the removed Chrome Apple logo, but they don’t send it to you. My guess is look on eBay in a couple months for “Apple logo earrings”).


Right off the bat I am going to ignore the 2 biggest potential complaints many of you may raise; namely price and the wait time involved, since both of these are known going into the process. Either you think the paint job is worth the money or you don’t. I know I certainly could not have done this type of paint job myself for any price. If you can, more power to you, but for most of us, paying a pro is the way to go.

So, that brings me to my only complaint. For whatever reason, ColorWare slaps their logo on the very bottom of the iPhone, near the dock. The thin-lined, silver logo is not overly obtrusive, but it is a bit large. The reason for this logo inclusion baffles me. If someone is paying $219 for a custom iPod paint job, the last thing they want is a 2nd company’s logo marring the sleek look of the phone.

Now, I understand an artist wanted to sign his work, but let’s be honest here, this is a cosmetic change, not a custom mural. The logo inclusion seems like unnecessary advertising, yet I cannot imagine a scenario where the logo would aid in their publicity. Here’s why… The following is a typical scenario when someone sees your painted iPhone (and I am drawing from experience here)…”Oh wow, cool! How’d you get a colored iPhone?” – “Oh this, I got it painted by a company called ColorWare.” The End.

Never is my iPhone just sitting somewhere where a stranger would walk up, examine it, and then be left baffled as to how it became painted the colors it is. I am always available to answer questions when anyone sees my iPhone. Similarly, the logo placement is low enough and hard enough to read that it would not be possible for someone watching me make a call (and amazed at the color of my iPhone) to read the logo and then go to ColorWare’s site. It just seems like a bad decision. The only possible scenario where I can see this benefiting ColorWare is perhaps if a company orders 5000 painted iPods to give away as promotional gifts. In that case I guess the people receiving those iPods would be saved the “hassle” of typing “painted iPod” into Google, and can just type in “ColorWare painted iPod“. But since either way, ColorWare comes back as the top result, this seems like a bad argument.

Perhaps ColorWare is looking to promote itself in cases of iPhone theft, where a robber may may want to know where the iPhone he stole was painted, but again, is that small market worth subjecting the rest of us to such unnecessary advertising?

Above: This template gives you a good idea of the ColorWare logo size and placement. However, you likely will not see this template during your order process, so their logo may come as a surprise to you.

Ok, well, aside from the logo, the only other caveat I have is to once again remember that the paint job IS permanent, and while you can change your iPhone’s look with cases, even the tightest fitting rubber sleeves do let a little of your iPhone show through the exposed ports. So if you think you’ll want a bright pink case at some point, be wary of painting your iPhone a clashing red.


The choice of whether or not to put an extra $200 into your iPhone simply to change its color is a tough one for many people, especially those with limited funds. However, with Apple recently dropping the price of the iPhone a coincidental $200, a ColorWare paint job becomes just a bit more feasible. If you can rationalize the cost, there is no real downside to the ColorWare treatment, as the quality is top notch. However, if possible we suggest buying the iPhone directly from ColorWare rather then sending in your own store-bought model, as it not only saves money in shipping, but gives you a year-long warranty as well.

Price: $149-$219

Pros: Great quality craftsmanship, wide selection of colors, scratch resistant finish

Cons: Permanent, expensive, ColorWare logo on bottom of the iPhone

Below you will find the full ColorWare gallery. Click a image to enlarge.

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14 Responses to “Review: ColorWare iPhone paint job”
  1. Hendry says:

    I am totally going to do this on my next iPhone. I agree though that because the iPhone is a v1 phone from a company that has never made a phone before, and because it uses so many new touchscreen technologies and such, the idea of ripping up your warranty is a bad idea, so I think I’ll buy from colorware.

  2. Nathaniel says:

    Wow, that’s beautiful. I’ll totally get that done on my iPhone if they will agree not to put their logo on it.

    My main problem with their logo is that, frankly, it sucks and is ugly. If it were lovely and minimalist like the apple, I wouldn’t mind it being on there, but it looks like a something they had Kinko’s or someone’s brother-in-law design.

  3. Hexen says:

    That is just gorgeous! Worth the money in my opinion to have something unique with that amount of attention to detail. I’ve been on the Colorware site lots of times – I’d love to get my MacBook Pro painted (as I scratched the top!) but unfortunately they don’t deal with anyone outside the U.S. – guess I’ll have to try and find someone that can do as good a job in the U.K.! Thanks for the review and great pics!

  4. shane1598 says:

    I’d love to, but 599 for iphone plus 100 for insurance ( and 200 paint job = 900. Just to be the coolest geek on the block…

  5. Ay Gotsa Kulrr iFuwn Too. says:

    I think that that is a very handsome color, but I mine done with a classic black color, graphite back, black logo, and a carbon frame. Its great too because it has a scratch-resistant finish that protects my phone from my crappy incase “protective” cover.

  6. Eugene says:

    I bought an iPod touch from Colorware painted in prowler. Within a week the paint started chipping and flaking off various places on the device. I sent it back to them (which I had to pay for myself) and THEN they charged me again to repaint the device. Their Customer service is horrible on top of the poor experience I had with the product itself. I dont recommend this service at all.

  7. HRI says:

    First, writing a published article that begins by addressing anyone that might not agree with the content to stop reading and go away should be quite enough to determine that the author is in fact a complete dip ship, and whatever it is he/she is in fact writing about most likely also proves this. This article and author are perfect examples. Second, believing that paying an extra 200 bucks to have a $600 (the cost of an iPhone at time the article was written) PDA/Smart phone custom painted is completely brainless has nothing whatsoever to do with how geeky one is or isn’t. Unless the author is a person with an eccentric devotion to custom painting (which appears not to be the case; the site, article and term are all addressed to computer users not custom painters), the desire to take such a risk on something that serves no actual purpose but to possibly bring a moment of attention, in fact does not define the term “geeky”. And third, if absolutely set on the idea of custom painting your device, why not at least wait for a more appropriate time… for example, after so much use over time the original paint job begins to wear and you become so unhappy with it’s appearance due to the scrapes and marks. Though still a bit vain you may find to be a much wiser route. It would be as if you purchased a brand new phone. Though I imagine those of you who might consider a custom paint job immediately after buying the new whatever, couldn’t bare the thought of not upgrading the second a new and “better” version of the same was released… in Apple’s case, a whole six months later. So nevermind, do whatcha want, it’s all the same in the end. Man… I need to cut back on the Adderall.

  8. nG says:

    From what I’ve been told from Colorware, they fixed the recessed Apple logo in the back.

    I ordered mine with all carbon, smoke white logo. I hope it turns out ok.

  9. Liystalander says:

    I just got my colorwared iPhone back, and I am very happy with the quality of the paint. Only problem is that within an hour of using the phone, the paint scratched once. Nothing that won’t buff out or that is too deep, but still, for $200? I wasn’t even doing anything too rough either, just put it in my pocket. I’m going to get an invisible shield for sure. Besides the small, light scratch, the paint looks fantastic. I love the color combo, and will post pics later. I just got it today, and haven’t been able to take pics yet.

  10. Liystalander says:

    Here are some pics of my ColorWare iPhone:

  11. Ronald says:

    How is Colorware doing the paint jobs? By cadcam or is someone hand painting them. I saw all these cool ones with logos. how do they do this?

  12. CHRISS says:

    ordered a ps3 controller to colorware
    that was 1 week ago I still dont get an answer or an invoice from them with the shipping costs.[
    are they on vacation or what?
    i ordered it from japan.


  13. CHRISS says:

    The reasons why someone want to custom pint a device are many
    if you wait till your device and gets old to paint it THE COMPANY MAY REFUSE TO PAINT IT. LIKE THAT, YOU WILL LOOSE THE SHIPPING COSTS.


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