Adding your own PC case etching is a great way to make your PC stand out from the crowd, and we really like what Custom PC reader Simon Beacock has done with his dragon design here. He also went all out with his first go at hard-line water cooling for this build, which he calls Little Drakon. It’s a great-looking system with several tubing bends and an angled graphics card.
Custom PC has been celebrating the best PC builds since 2003, and our Facebook group has over 300,000 members. We’ve seen many custom gaming PCs, from mods based on existing case designs to scratch builds. Check out our full guide on how to etch glass PC case panels to learn how to create your own etching. Here we talk to Simon about how he created this water-cooled, dragon-themed PC.
Custom PC: So how did this build start?
Simon: My plan was for this to be my first hard-line tubing build, having previously worked on soft tubing builds. I wanted to create a PC that looked a bit different from the norm, and I was inspired by reviews of water-cooling components online. I’ve been interested in the orange, black and white color scheme for a while, as I think it’s unique and I’ve used it for my last couple of builds – it’s becoming a signature for me.
Custom PC: What made you choose the Raijintek Paean case as the foundation?
Simon: I chose this case as it looked quite different from most of the other cases I’ve seen in online PC building groups. I looked through multiple options online before deciding on the Raijintek for a
Firstly, I had my eye on the EK-Quantum Volume FLT 360 Reservoir, as I thought it looked different from the usual setup, so I really needed a case big enough to house it comfortably. I also wanted a basement for the radiators so they were out of sight, and to use pass-through fittings. This case ticked all the boxes for me.
Custom PC: We love the artwork on the front panel window. What’s the design and how did you make it?
Simon: I etched the design myself onto the front panel using a vinyl stencil I created with my own tools. However, the design itself was created by an artist I found online. I knew what I wanted but I also needed an artist’s touch, so I gave him some ideas – I wanted it to involve a dragon and have a tribal look. After a couple of drafts and revisions, I was very happy with the result – I think it really makes a difference to an otherwise plain-looking front.
Custom PC: How did you get the graphics card to lean like that, and how do you access the display outputs?
Simon: I’ve been experimenting with different mounts in order to get a different look from normal vertical mounts, and I found this EZDIY-FAB Vertical Graphics Card Holder on Amazon, which was perfect for what I wanted. Using this graphics card holder did present some challenges for accessing the outputs, so I used a 90-degree display port extension cable, which did the trick.
Custom PC: What material did you use for the tubing, and how did you cut and bend it to shape?
Simon: I used EK-HD PETG 12/16mm tubing. It was my first time using hard-line tubing, so I thought the bigger the better! It actually wasn’t too hard to bend into shape – I cut it with a hacksaw and used an EK tool to get the 90-degree bends.
Custom PC: That’s a very clean loop. How did you plan, measure and make the holes for the pass-through fittings, and how does the tubing all link up under the PSU shroud?
Simon: This case is perfect for allowing the tubing to go down to the basement where the radiators are located. However, I did have to modify the case slightly by replacing the original plate for the pass-through with an acrylic replacement. I used FreeCAD software to design an acrylic plate to my specifications so that I could use pass-through fittings for the visible hard line tubing at the top.
From there they go to the hidden soft tubing in the basement, linking up the radiators, pump and drain valve. I used the flat reservoir as a basis for measuring, so I could make the holes for the pass-through ports line up perfectly. I used a third-party company to manufacture the acrylic plate to my specifications.
Custom PC: What peachy coolant is that?
Simon: I went with EK Cryofuel solid fire orange coolant in the end, after first trying amber orange. I preferred its more solid look. I was already using EK products, so it just made sense.
Custom PC: Tell us about any other custom parts and modifications you made to the case.
Simon: I had to cut a hole out of the back of the case to allow all the cabling to come from the basement through to the rear. I used a Dremel with a cutting disc to do this work, and the cable management worked out pretty well for me in the end.
I also added some adhesive fixing mounts for cable ties, which came in very handy. In addition, I had to add another hole at the rear for the drain valve using a step drill bit. It’s a bit nerve-wracking drilling and cutting into a £200+ case, but I’m happy with the result.
Custom PC: How did you plan the lighting for this build, and how is it all controlled?
Simon: As the theme is black and orange, I wanted some white lighting to illuminate the components and the case itself. I thought this would show off the build adequately; without the white lighting it would be too dark to enjoy. The fans in the main part of the case are white with an orange ring to coordinate with the rest of the theme.
The lighting in the basement (fans and pump) is a more subtle plain orange, which I think gives it a nice glow while still keeping the focus on the main part of the build. There are three Corsair LL 140mm fans and two Corsair RGB strips, which are controlled by Corsair’s iCUE software. Meanwhile, the EK reservoir/blocks are controlled by MSI’s Mystic Light system, as are the lights from the three 120mm EK fans in the basement.
Custom PC: What hardware specs did you choose and why?
Simon: I chose an Intel Core i7-12700K CPU paired with a GeForce RTX 3080 Ti GPU. I went with this hardware, as I want to keep this build for a good few years, but still have the option to upgrade to DDR5 in the future (I’m sticking to DDR4 for the time being).
This is an upgrade from my previous build, which I’d been using for a good few years. I’ve always used Intel and Nvidia components – I’ve never had an issue with them previously, and I wanted to see what Intel’s 12th-gen CPUs had to offer when combined with Windows 11. I also have 32GB of RAM, which is an upgrade from the 16GB in my previous build.
Custom PC: What do you use this PC for?
Simon: I mainly use this PC for hardcore gaming, where I can max out the settings to enjoy ray tracing eye candy. Other than that, I use it for Netflix and social media.
Custom PC: Did you come across any difficulties?
Simon: As much as I love the look of the graphics card at an angle, it was really difficult to line up the tubing behind the card – I had to make two 90-degree bends close together while tilting the tubing at the same angle as the card. The card isn’t locked in place, as the bracket is only magnetically fixed, so I had to eyeball the tubing before the graphics card was installed. It took about half a day to set it up in the end, but I finally got it right after the third attempt.
Also, I bought an EK leak and pressure testing tool to test the loop before adding the fluid. I had a blowout during the test, which I think was down to me forgetting to debur the end of the tube going to the CPU. Luckily it didn’t do any damage to the O-rings, so I was able to fix it and then the pressure test was a success.
Custom PC: How long did it take you to complete this build, from start to finish?
Simon: From start to finish it took four months. I did change my mind quite a lot about what parts I wanted to use, and the difficulties with sourcing a graphics card at a reasonable price slowed me down.
Once I had decided on the parts, I had to wait a while for shipping too. For example, I had to buy the EK blocks directly from the source due to shortages, and I had to wait a while for the cables, as they were made specifically to my length and colour needs. Once I had all the parts and was ready to begin, it was complete within three days, including case mods.
Custom PC: Are you completely happy with the end result?
Simon: Yes, I’m happy with the end result. In retrospect, I wish I’d made the entire bottom plate from acrylic, so I could install the GPU at a sharper angle and then hide the tubing directly behind the card. I think this would have given it a tidier, simpler look.
I plan to upgrade the memory to Corsair Dominator Platinum. They weren’t available at the time I was putting this build together. This memory replacement is going to cause problems with the clearance of the tubing though. I’ll have to redo the tubing line to the CPU so that it clears the larger memory modules. I might also upgrade the motherboard if DDR5 memory becomes more affordable.
Little Drakon water-cooled PC specs
- CPU: Intel Core i7-12700K
- Case: Raijintek Paean
- GPU: Asus TUF GeForce RTX 3080 Ti
- Storage: 500GB WD Black SN850, 1TB WD Blue SN550, 2TB Crucial P2
- Memory: 32GB (2 x 16GB) Crucial Ballistix RGB DDR4 3600MHz
- Motherboard: MSI MAG Z690 Tomahawk WIFI DDR4
- PSU: Corsair RM1000x
- Cooling: 2 x EK-CoolStream SE 360 radiators, EK-Quantum Volume FLT 360 D-RGB reservoir, EK-Quantum Inertia D5 PWM D-RGB pump, EK-Quantum Velocity² D-RGB CPU waterblock, EK-Quantum Vector TUF RTX 3080 D-RGB Nickel 3 GPU waterblock, EK-Vardar X3M fans, Corsair LL 140mm fans
The PC builder
- Name: Simon Beacock
- Age: 35
- Occupation: Property maintenance
- Location: Slough, UK
- Main uses for PC: Gaming
- Likes: Motorbikes, DIY, action films and sci-fi tv shows such as Star Trek and Stargate
- Dislikes: Hot drinks, rom coms
This is a quality build Simon, nice work. The custom dragon etching looks great, and you’d never know that was your first try at using hard-line water-cooling tubing.
Check out our best gaming setups guide if you want to see more outstanding custom PCs, and if you’ve built an extraordinary PC of any description yourself, then we’d love to see it! Join our Facebook group if you’d like to submit your own work for consideration.