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Subject: My Overkill Card-Making Technique rss

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Sean Forrester
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Like the title says, sometimes I think my card making technique is a little overkill. I would never use this method to test a game. However, I do use this method to make cards that my friends might think I bought…


The first time I made a deck of cards for myself was shortly after I discovered the Decktet. The results were less than amazing. I had misalignment issues between the front and the back, the cards were not quite the same size, and the thickness/spring was all wrong. You could play games with them, but forget about shuffling. And no one would ever mistake them for store bought.

A couple years later, and after much trial and error, I feel pretty good about my self-made cards. I now have no problems with getting the back and front of the cards to line up. In fact, I can easily make my cards with less than 1/16th inch bleed, no problem. At first I worried that the cards were too thick, but everyone that matters says they like the feel of the cards in their hand. And the cards have a nice bend and spring to them that reminds me of regular Bicycle cards (even if they are twice as thick). Now people usually ask me where I bought the game, which is a pretty good feeling.

Anyway, I suppose I need to stop the jabberin’ and start the tutorial.


So, most PnP cards are set up 9 cards per page, one page for front and one page for the back of the cards. This makes sense because you get the most standard poker sized cards out of a single page with this format (i.e. 6 pages for a standard 54 card deck - fronts only). The only problem for me was I could never get the front and back to line up quite right. Even using a table light, it is just really hard trying to line up two pages that are sticky with glue. Which leads me to:

Step 1 – Getting the cards in the right format
I have a GIMP template that I use to get the cards in the format I like.

The template has cut marks setup for 3.5 x 2.5 cards. It also has a fold line exactly half way between the two rows of cards. The white outline is actually a cutout I use to white out the image of the cards a small bit before the edge of the cards. In my experience, printer ink has a tendency to flake and rub off the edge of cards. By keeping the edges white you don’t notice any difference. The white out line is actually its own image layer in GIMP. So all I have to do is copy the individual card images from their source file and paste them into their own layer below the white cutouts. I use guides so the images will snap to the correct placement.

The top row is reserved for the front card images, and the bottom row for upside-down back card images. If you haven’t figured out what I am doing you will soon see why. Here is a completed page of cards:

Using the above template will give you 13 ½ pages of cards for a standard 54 card deck. This is only 1 ½ pages more than the 9 cards per page method (if you are using card backs).

Step 2 – Getting ready for glue
I use 110lb cardstock. I know, I know, that’s the equivalent of 220lb stock once you glue the back and front together. I like it, I’m used to it. All my gamer friends are used to it. If you don’t like it, try out other weights. I’ve actually been thinking about trying a little lighter weight linen cover stock on Black Canyon’s (Nick) suggestion in his tutorial.


So you have printed all your pages of cards and are ready to start assembly…Score a line directly over the fold line in the center of the page.

The page should now be easy to fold.

As you can see, once folded the page will make a perfectly aligned row of 4 cards, front and back. This page is ready for glue…


Step 3 – Glue
I use Elmer’s Spray Adhesive for cards. I like it because this glue lets you reposition for a minute or so after you apply the glue. And, at least for cardstock to cardstock, it makes a good strong bond.

I then fold, press together, and rub to ensure a good strong bond.


Step 4 – Cutting
I use a standard cutting mat, an Exacto knife, and a metal ruler. The most important thing about cutting is lining up the ruler the same way every time. This ensures the cards are as close to the same size as possible. I make sure I can just start to see the cut marks. If I can see any white between the cut mark and the ruler than I reposition the ruler.

You may be wondering why I separate the cards by a thin strip. Yes, this requires 2 cuts instead of 1. But, it is also the best way to ensure that every edge of each card is nice, clean, and straight.

After the cards are all cut out I then use my corner rounder to give the cards a nice finished look.

Maybe you noticed that my white cutouts from Step 1 match up with a 1/4th inch corner rounder?

Update: As an optional extra step I would recommend sealing the finished cards. My personal preference is using clear semi-gloss lacquer wood finish. If the cards feel a little rough after they are dry then you don't have a thick enough coat on the cards. When they are finished, the cards should have a slick, almost plastic-like feel to them.


Completed!

Here is my completed Four Operations Math Deck using this technique.

And here are some shots showing the shuffle.

You’ll see it’s a pretty even shuffle for hand cut cards!

Of course, it is a very small bit thicker than a standard deck of cards…



I have seen many people asking about cutting out cards and tiles, image alignment, and size recently. I used many of these techniques and ideas to make counters and tiles as well. So I hope this tutorial helps.

So far I have used this method to make 3 Decktets (2 for myself and 1 as a gift), all the cards for ScottE’s excellent Dune redesign, 1 Four Operations deck, and 1 copy of New World Colony.


And, of course, if you really want the finished product to look professional, put those cards in a nice box! Here are boxes I made to fit my thick cards...



My GIMP card template is available for download here:
GIMP Template

I have also uploaded several files that I have converted. See this geeklist:
My Overkill Card-Making Technique Files
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Excellent tutorial (and a clever technique too). Is there any chance you can upload and link the GIMP template as a file?
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Coen Velden
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Thanks for this tutorial!

I've seen many PnP games that I would like to build, but many of them need cards to be made.

Since I want these cards in good quality, making them myself seemed to be too much of a hassle.

I'm definitely gonna try your technique, and it would be nice if you'd post these templates as well!
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Gadi Oron
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Hi,

Very nice technique and impressive results.

My big issue with making cards is making sure you get uniform sizes. You probably have good eyes and hands because I never manage to get the accuracy you show - even 1/2mm error shows very well when you hold the cards.

I was thinking about ways to cut cards consistently, but just a ruler will not do the work.

By the way, someone here knows how visit cards are cut to size? I have access to good quality pro guillotines and I can't figure out how you use those to cut cards with accurate sizes.

Ciao
 
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Cattlemark
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I really like this method, and I imagine (as you said), doing it with the linen stock would be a great option.

Also, here's another request for the GIMP template file.
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Sean Forrester
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Any suggestions about where I should post the file? It is 17mb.
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Try the file area for Miscellaneous Game Accessory (more people will see it) or Miscellaneous Card Game Accessory (probably correct). Otherwise ask an Admin - I suggest Dale Yu or Jon Theys since they both concentrate on file submissions.
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Andrew Tullsen
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FNH1's cards for his game Mecha Duel are set up just like this.
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Sean Forrester
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I hadn't seen this. I do have to admit that I started putting the front and back on the same page after seeing the way Carthaginian setup his files for the Magic Realm redesign. Great ideas should always be shared!

BTW, I asked Dale where the best place for the template file would be. Will let you know his response.
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Wendell Beitzel
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I am looking at making cards for Zombie Plague. Thebacks that will be glued do not have exact edges, so I am going to glue to full sheets together and then cut out from the front side. The issue I am having is that I am printing these out on photo paper, and I seem to be having trouble with the gluing process. Glues do not seem to want to dry between two sheets of photo paper.

Has anyone tried using a dry mounting option? This uses a tissue sheet that goes between two items, and then heat is applied to create the bond. I thought maybe this would provide a more permanent bond than regular glue.

Also, where does someone go about getting the corner rounder that makes the same size edges as regular playing cards? None of the craft stores I have gone to seem to carry them that small.

Thanks!
 
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Sean Forrester
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Have you tried the Super 77 spray glue by 3M. I've heard it has a good strong bond. If that doesn't work there are all sorts of more industrial product...like the glue that auto shops use to install the head liner (just thinking out of the box - you never know until you try).

And don't think that just because making a game is a craft project you have to go to a craft store. I've bought most of my tools and products at home depot...

As far as the heat application, I would be worried about the heat messing up the picture. But you could always do a test sheet.

As far as the corner rounder, I don't recall seeing anything smaller than 1/4th, but I haven't checked the internet. I am quite happy with 1/4th and will likely continue using that size for my cards.
 
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Nick Hayes
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Awesome work Sean.

I used this method to set up my Chunky Fighters cards back when I was making them by hand. It works out very well since the game only requires four cards. I also used this method to make my copy of Island Trader. As you mentioned, it makes alignment issues a thing of the past and shuffling is great. After logging many hours playing Island Trader I began to dislike the thickness of the cards. I think using 67lb cover stock instead of 110 index might be a good solution.

regex wrote:
My big issue with making cards is making sure you get uniform sizes. You probably have good eyes and hands because I never manage to get the accuracy you show...

Many people simply cannot make consistent cuts by hand. I don't know if this is due to vision, lack of patience, unsteady hands, or incorrect technique. I think the two best alternatives for these people are card sleeves or Artscow.
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Marc Guy

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Black Canyon wrote:
Many people simply cannot make consistent cuts by hand. I don't know if this is due to vision, lack of patience, unsteady hands, or incorrect technique. I think the two best alternatives for these people are card sleeves or Artscow.


I would recommend using something like this (that's just a random image of a paper cutter... I don't mean to recommend this one in particular, just something to give you an idea). Though this picture doesn't show one, most come with a backstop you can set that lets you adjust the size of the cut you want to make.

You still have to cut one of the long and short sides for your card by hand, but once you do, set the back stop on the paper cutter to the length you need and place the edge you cut by hand up against it. Don't move the backstop until you've cut ALL your cards in one direction (I say this because once you move the backstop, it's very difficult to get it exactly where you want it again). Now reset the backstop to the width you need, and cut all cards again. That should give you a uniform cut for all of them.
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Andrew Rowse
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Black Canyon wrote:
Many people simply cannot make consistent cuts by hand. I don't know if this is due to vision, lack of patience, unsteady hands, or incorrect technique. I think the two best alternatives for these people are card sleeves or Artscow.


Or, if they're prepared to invest a little more into handiwork, the Sizzix Artist Trading Card dies are perfect.
 
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monchi
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regex wrote:
Hi,

Very nice technique and impressive results.

My big issue with making cards is making sure you get uniform sizes. You probably have good eyes and hands because I never manage to get the accuracy you show - even 1/2mm error shows very well when you hold the cards.

I was thinking about ways to cut cards consistently, but just a ruler will not do the work.

By the way, someone here knows how visit cards are cut to size? I have access to good quality pro guillotines and I can't figure out how you use those to cut cards with accurate sizes.

Ciao


I am not sure what your problem is with regards to figuring out how to use a guillotine cutter to cut cards consistently? It should be straight forward as you should have a gauge you can set that will result in each lift being cut to the same size. If you want send me a geek mail with what your problem is or how you are trying to cut the cards and I can see if I can point you in the right direction. We use two guillotine cutters and have no such issues or problems.
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monchichi wrote:
regex wrote:
Hi,

Very nice technique and impressive results.

My big issue with making cards is making sure you get uniform sizes. You probably have good eyes and hands because I never manage to get the accuracy you show - even 1/2mm error shows very well when you hold the cards.

I was thinking about ways to cut cards consistently, but just a ruler will not do the work.

By the way, someone here knows how visit cards are cut to size? I have access to good quality pro guillotines and I can't figure out how you use those to cut cards with accurate sizes.

Ciao


I am not sure what your problem is with regards to figuring out how to use a guillotine cutter to cut cards consistently? It should be straight forward as you should have a gauge you can set that will result in each lift being cut to the same size. If you want send me a geek mail with what your problem is or how you are trying to cut the cards and I can see if I can point you in the right direction. We use two guillotine cutters and have no such issues or problems.


The problem is most people don't now how to use them.
The cheap ones create bad habits in people, and those continue to the higher end machines.
The problem most people have (i've trained > 50) is they always fail to use a weight or to hold the entire product down while cutting, and it bows slightly leading in a somewhat diagnol cut.

The correct way to cut is to pull straight down on the handle while pulling it in slightly (especially in cheap cutters), while either using a cutting weight, or pressing/holding down what you are cutting on the left of the guild rail.

Or alternately get a cutter that does at the work for you (mostly) and gives PERFECT cuts 100% of the time.

I use an 8200M which takes all the quess work out.


Make sure your paper cutter has a clamp, if it doesn't, you need to hold the work down, or get a paper weight
These are cheaper than the 8200m and have clamps/weights.



Konig

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Michael Wohlwend
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Gimp has a log how things were done, so you can just post the log to create the template for the cards...

Michael
 
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Michael Wohlwend
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Ruharc wrote:
I am looking at making cards for Zombie Plague. Thebacks that will be glued do not have exact edges, so I am going to glue to full sheets together and then cut out from the front side. The issue I am having is that I am printing these out on photo paper, and I seem to be having trouble with the gluing process. Glues do not seem to want to dry between two sheets of photo paper.


what about using one sheet of photopaper for the front and one sheet of full label paper for the back?

Quote:

Also, where does someone go about getting the corner rounder that makes the same size edges as regular playing cards? None of the craft stores I have gone to seem to carry them that small.

Thanks!


amaz... for example, at least the .de site sells them


Michael
 
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Sean Forrester
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I posted my card template file to dropbox. Let me know if anyone has a problem accessing the link:

http://db.tt/deHNCCU

Thanks to leaxe for the suggestion!

Enjoy!
Sean
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Greg CZ
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If I sleeve pnp cards, I never rounded the corners. Works fine.
 
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Sean Forrester
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IMO, using card sleeves changes things quite a bit. First, you don't have to worry about the cards being exactly the same size. Second, you can just print the card images on regular paper. The most common way of using sleeves is buying a bunch of cheap cards (MtG in bulk or something like it) and putting these in between your front and back card image. The card in the middle will provide the thickness you need. So, as a side benefit you don't have to worry about alignment or bleed either.

Much easier and cheaper than my method above. My method is geared for if you don't want to sleeve your cards.
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Michael Wohlwend
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Do you seal the printed cards?

Michael
 
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Sean Forrester
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I haven't been, no. I tried using shellac on a bunch of cards I made for my build of Mr. Jack. The cards wouldn't slide against each other and as they rubbed together the sealant would ball up on the card. I ended up tossing the batch and starting over, this time without the shellac.

That isn't to say that some other type of sealant wouldn't work. It's just that I don't see the need. One of my Decktet decks has seen lots of table time and the images are holding up fine. We even played outside a few times on the dusty patio table...probably why the edges of the cards seem a little dingy now (of course this will happen to store bought cards as well).
 
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Peter Wiles
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I have recently tried Krylon crystal clear glaze.

If you spray a heavy enough coat on, it turns out pretty slick, and it dries fast. So far, I have been really happy with it. Here is the product information:
http://www.krylon.com/products/triplethick_crystal_clear_gla...
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Matthew Harkness
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THIS IS AN AWESOME METHOD FOR MAKING CARDS...and it works!

Thank you so much Sean
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