My control panels are a pretty simple design. There are two standard sizes I have designated for my control panels. My standard sizes are 3"x8" and 6"x8". The panels are made of two layers of 1/8" thick Lexan.
I design the artwork on the computer using Microsoft PowerPoint. I print the artwork on fairly heavy weight paper semi-gloss paper. I use a color laser printer so that the images are waterproof. The images are then cut to size with a straight-edge and an Xacto knife.
The beauty of having the artwork saved digitally is that changes can be easily made. For example, I changed the name of town from "Snafu Junction" to "Platte Junction". I reprinted the artwork and replaced the old artwork with an updated version.
This artwork is then sandwiched between two Lexan plates. I then drill the holes for the mounting screws using a 1/16" bit. The mounting screws serve a dual purpose. These screws keep the Lexan plates and artwork all aligned. I then drill holes for the LED's using a 1/8" bit (almost perfect for a 3mm LED). I use red and orange LED's that have a flat face, that I found at All Electronics. The red LED's are for spurs and orange LED's are for main line routes. I drilled the holes for the push buttons using a 1/4" bit. The push buttons are simple normally-open momentary switches.
Originally I was going to use Double-Pole-Double-Throw (DPDT) switches to control all of my tortoise switch machines. I chose to use push buttons instead because i wanted to be able to lock out the control of main line switches and be able to activate turnouts from multiple locations. See the Layout Controls Section for more detail on the electronics behind the control panels.
These control panels seem to have caught the attention of many people and many emails have been received about how the artwork was made in Powerpoint. The PowerPoint Document can be found here and here for the larger panels