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I have an IKEA desk with a subtle fake wood grain paint layer (black) on the surface. The paint in the area that my mouse moves has worn away leaving a shiny textureless surface that the laser mouse doesn't detect.

What's the simplest, cheapest, most effective way to re-surface that region (or the whole desk)?

I don't like mouse mats. I'm thinking wallpaper or paint, but I don't know what types of paint will provide the surface required for the laser mouse to accurately detect movement.

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    Have you tried a different mouse manufacturer? Maybe you can borrow one from a friend. I had a Logitech mouse work on a surface on which a Microsoft mouse would not. (or vice versa) – mike65535 Jul 27 '18 at 14:01
  • A plain pad of paper would work as well as a mouse pad, for your purposes. – Yehuda_NYC Jul 27 '18 at 14:02
  • I would stay away from plastic and paper if you want long-term. Go with cork, fabric, finished wood, leather, or some other natural and non-fading surface material. – dandavis Jul 27 '18 at 17:21
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Shelf liner (contact paper). Cut it into an oversize mouse pad shape with rounded corners and stick it down. You want it large enough that you aren't snagging the edge with your arm, keyboard, etc. It'll feel like nothing but give your mouse a better view.

You could use black so it's not so conspicuous, but a bold color pattern might be spiffy. Change it out when it gets polished or worn.

  • This will work with either a smooth shelf liner with a printed pattern having a lot of light/dark transitions (like woodgrain), or a textured shelf liner that can even be clear. This is probably the easiest, ready to use idea. – fixer1234 Jul 27 '18 at 20:26
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You need a surface with a pattern or texture on it. In my experience any 1/4" span of distance needs to have at least 2-3 transitions on it. If all the sensor sees is a solid color, it can't realize you have moved it. The wood grain was doing that for you.

As you have discovered, routine use of a computer mouse will polish the surface to a mirror finish, and optical mice don't work on mirror finishes. The reflectivity blinds the mouse regardless of underlying pattern.

You could remove the gloss by light sanding (we painters call it 'scuff sanding'), but there still needs to be an underlying pattern.

Obviously, a weak or fragile finish will quickly fail.

So we can cross a few things off the list

  • any latex paint (fragile)
  • any solid-color paint (no pattern)
  • gloss paint (too reflective)
  • any LPU coating without some flattening additive (too reflective)

That leaves us little choice. It's a tough problem.

Only paint I can really think is epoxy garage floor paint, with plenty of chips to add a pattern. This surface may not end up smooth, so I would sand it smooth.

So I would look at other coatings, e.g. A vinyl stick-down coating, I print out a sheet of hashmarks and change it regularly, but now we're just talking a mouse pad, which is what you don't want.

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Rub the area with 000 or 0000 steel wool to bring back some subtle texture. It won't be possibly lumpy or uneven like paint, and you can easily texture the affected area only. This is a far cheaper solution in terms of money and time than paint.

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Use fabric. The threads are detectable by the mouse. You can cover the whole top with something like a table cloth, or use a smaller piece in the work area. You say you don't like mouse pads but you're considering something like wallpaper, so I assume the mouse pad thickness is it's main problem, and maybe the issue of keeping it positioned.

Soft fabric, like cotton, will have more friction; something like nylon will have less.

If you want almost no friction, laminate a piece of cloth. That will also keep the surface from wearing and make it easily cleanable. It will be cardstock thickness. Something the size of a mouse pad or place mat can be laminated in readily available heat laminators, or you can use adhesive laminating pockets that don't require heat. A matte lamination film will probably work better than a glossy film for mouse purposes.

You could also print out a custom pattern on paper, as Harper suggested, and laminate it to give it a longer life.

An area-sized piece can be stuck to the desktop with a temporary adhesive so that it doesn't move around.

Note that if you're going to laminate cloth (or a paper pattern) and stick it to the desktop, you're essentially making your own shelf liner, so isherwood's idea is a lot simpler. I'd use my idea instead only if you were going with a table cloth or wanted a material or pattern that wasn't available in a ready-made shelf liner.

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