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Subject: A review of SuperiorPOD's game card quality. rss

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Daniel Solis
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(Details in this blog post.)


I decided to try out SuperiorPOD mainly because their pricing structure was clear, their interface was easy to use and their templates were super-helpful. Here are the results of two separate card orders.


These cards are pretty thick and sturdy. They're not matte or linen, which would normally be ideal for game cards, but they still shuffle extremely well. Above, you see the thickness of a full 108-card deck, which is the largest deck SuperiorPOD offers on their website.


The first order printed much brighter and yellower than I intended. That order was printed from a print-ready PDF (PDF-X 2008 Protocol). I suspect some of those vector elements just rendered unexpectedly. In the second order, the files were simple flattened TIFFs. Larger file size, but also simpler to render.


As you can see, the reds, grays and oranges are mostly the same in both printings. However, the second printing more accurately picked up the subtle beige background patterns as intended.


The blues, teals and greens were the biggest problem areas in the first printing. They printed much yellower, which turned a teal into an aqua. The second printing still had a touch too much yellow in the skin tone, but otherwise was much improved.


And take a look at how thick they print black ink. You can really see it raised off the surface of the cardstock. This might be what makes the cards easier to shuffle. The irregularly raised black ink may create just enough void between the cards to let them sift easily between each other. In the aggregate, this may also make the deck bigger than you expect, so make sure your box isn't too small.

Timelines
First Order
Files Sent to SuperiorPOD: April 8
Shipment Sent by SuperiorPOD: April 24
Package Arrived: April 27

Second Order
Files Sent to SuperiorPOD: May 2
Shipment Sent by SuperiorPOD: May 14
Package Arrived: May 17

Overall, I'm satisfied with the results! It takes some very conscious tweaking of your files to get the best output, but if you're looking for an affordable POD printer for your card games, give SuperiorPOD a shot. Soon, I'll print some cards with The Game Crafter and report the results.
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Jason
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Thanks for the info. Is it just me or is the corner radius on the first printing larger?

Which color profile did you use with the TIFFs? sRGB?
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monchi
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I searched long and hard for the linen paper stock in North America and found it almost impossible to find. The printing and paper industry in North America has taken a major thrashing the last few years so the types of stocks that are available to printers is a lot more limited than other places around the world. Another thing that you need to take into account with the paper stock is that digital printers are limited in many ways by the type of stock they can run. The thickest stock that most digital printers are able to run is about 130# Cover stock. There are also a number of digital printers that come with approved stock lists, so if the stock is an approved stock a lot of printers won't touch it as there will be no guarantee as to the results.

As for the color output. It is important to understand the difference between RGB and CMYK color spacing. Printing companies that have both offset and digital presses will tend to work in CMYK where printers that are 100% digital will work in either but you will find that certain types of printers will work better in one of the other. You can have a very dramatic color shift if you set your files in sRGB,RGB or CMYK and it is not printed in the right spacing.

Digital printing can be a bit of a crap shoot as you have no way of knowing how regularly the printer is re-calibrating their presses. The best printing companies will do this every day but that is not the norm. This is why you can have two batches of prints that used the same files that come out with slightly different coloring.

As for the cards where the background came out different, that too can be a result of the color spacing. We did some test printing for a wedding photographer client of ours and when we used different color profiles you would notice that different colors would be clipped. What I mean by this is that in one image you could see all the detail in a jacket an in the next you couldn't see the details.

Digital printers for the most part use toner based inks. This is why you get that raised printing effect. Unlike liquid based inks the toner based inks build layers on each other.

Anytime you are sending prints to a company for digital printing you want to make sure that you are using the right color profile. You also need to make sure that you don't fall into the monitor trap. There are a lot of people that will like what they see on their monitor and then think the printing is off. Colors on your monitor are back lite where as prints reflect light, so what you see at home and what you get won't always be the same.
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monchi
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I should have also mentioned that printers only print 300dpi. That is one of those things that most people outside of the industry don't know. So it doesn't matter how many dpi you make your file, the printer will only print it at 300dpi. Most people that aren't familiar with the printing industry end up creating and sending files to printers that are a million times to large. All a printer needs to print your work is a PDF file at 100% that is 300dpi.

I have had photographers send me files for books they want printed where there the file for a single page is larger than what 40 pages should be. The only time you need high dpi files is when you are printing photos on photo paper. Printers hate it when you send them large files as it takes them for ever to work with.
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Filip W.
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How's the durability? Have you tried bending the cards? Scratching them (especially the raised black ink part)? Any indication of split seams, color fraying at the edges, etc.?

How do the cards feel, like a magic card? Poker card? Solid/flimsy? Light/hefty?

Great report!
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monchi
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I can't comment on POD's cards as I haven't personally seen them, but with most digital unless you have some kind of coating they will scratch. It is possible to put an aqueous coating on digital printing but chances are they don't as it adds to the cost. Any production run game that has non-textured cards will come with a protective coating of some sort. All it really takes to scratch the surfaces of a card is some dust in between the cards as it acts like sand paper. I have noticed a number of games recently that aren't using textured cards.

There are a few ways that cards are made. The best, being the poker card style, use a special stock. These are the most expensive and there are only certain companies that are actually allowed to buy and use that stock. The next is a textured stock with a thin laminate. it gives a similar look and feel. Next is the textured stock with an aqueous coating or varnish to protect the printing. You can probably follow along for the next two.


filwi wrote:
How's the durability? Have you tried bending the cards? Scratching them (especially the raised black ink part)? Any indication of split seams, color fraying at the edges, etc.?

How do the cards feel, like a magic card? Poker card? Solid/flimsy? Light/hefty?

Great report!
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Daniel Solis
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@Jason A.:

There doesn't seem to be a difference in the corner radius. The color profile was sRGB IEC61966-2.1


@Filip W.:

It sounds like you're pretty rough on your cards! I've bent as much as I normally would while shuffling, but not so much that I'd actually fold the card. The cards hold up well after repeated shuffling.

As for scratching, I scratched with my fingernails and with the corners of other cards as aggressively as I could. If you held the card at a certain angle, you could definitely see subtle creases, but the ink itself didn't flake. Looking at the card straight on, I couldn't see any damage whatsoever. Granted, my cards are probably more lightly printed. No large solid black fields of ink.

The edges of the older deck are a little soft after repeated shuffling, but nothing so different than any other card game on my shelf. As far as the weight, I find it comparable to a Magic card. Not hefty, but certainly heavier than some board game cards I've played with.
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I. J. Thompson
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Lots of good info here. Thanks, guys.

Here I've been having my 60-card decks printed and cut at Staples (which necessitates a square corner) for $10, when I could be having them done with round corners at SuperiorPOD for about $6.50! Am I missing something?
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Daniel Solis
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Add in shipping expenses and the two- or three-week waiting period, but yeah it's still a heck of a deal for card prototypes.
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Daniel Solis
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Let it be known and logged for the record... Last night, I had a question about the double-tuck box template. Emailed question to SuperiorPOD at 10:08pm and got a response from owner Jeff Valent at 10:46pm. Fantastic service.
 
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Gladen Blackshield
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Thanks for the information, and the cool pics to illustrate your points. It would be nice to see lots more impartial first-hand reviews of printers' quality like this.
 
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Daniel Solis
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Me, too. In particular, I'd like to see how SPOD handles cards with more photorealistic colors and textures.
 
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Paul DeStefano
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gobi wrote:
Me, too. In particular, I'd like to see how SPOD handles cards with more photorealistic colors and textures.


I had them do a card game with all photos and it was flawless.
 
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Paul DeStefano
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monchichi wrote:
I should have also mentioned that printers only print 300dpi. That is one of those things that most people outside of the industry don't know. So it doesn't matter how many dpi you make your file, the printer will only print it at 300dpi. Most people that aren't familiar with the printing industry end up creating and sending files to printers that are a million times to large. All a printer needs to print your work is a PDF file at 100% that is 300dpi.

I have had photographers send me files for books they want printed where there the file for a single page is larger than what 40 pages should be. The only time you need high dpi files is when you are printing photos on photo paper. Printers hate it when you send them large files as it takes them for ever to work with.


This is EXTREMELY misleading.

NOTHING PRINTS AT ANY DPI.

DPI is a scaling number. That's it.

Physical prints are measured in PPI.

A picture at 10 DPI and 10,000 DPI look identical on screen. All it means is how big you want it scaled physically, since screens are different sizes.

If I give you a picture 100 pixels across and say its 300DPI, when you print it, it will be 1/3". If I take the identical picture and call it 600DPI, it will be 1/6".

That has zero effect on the quality. If I'm printing a 3PPI, you will get a 1 pixel blob as your picture.

Printers commonly print anywhere from 240-3600PPI using files labelled whtever DPI you want.

DPI is ONLY used to determine final scale - NOT QUALITY.

DPI IS NOT RESOLUTION. It is SIZING.

You can get a lot more detail here:
http://www.rideau-info.com/photos/mythdpi.html
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Daniel Solis
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Geosphere wrote:
I had them do a card game with all photos and it was flawless.


That's good to hear. There were some blemishes where I had large fields of solid color, so I was wondering if a photo or rich texture would be more forgiving.
 
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