IntroductionATZ Event Cards, ATZ Event Cards - Updated Style, ATZ Event Cards, Part 3, ATZ Event Cards: Finally, Various Game Cards]. For some time now I've been promising to write an article on how I make such cards, so here it is.
Choose the publisherIt may seem counter-intuitive to make this the first step, but it's important to know up front how you intend to print your cards. This decision may impact the number of cards you can have in a deck and the aspect ratio, colour depth and printable material.
For example, if using a commercial service such as Artscow.com then a standard deck will be 54 cards (52 playing cards plus 2 jokers) printed on 280gsm paper, requiring a resolution/aspect ration of 750x1050 or higher.
On the other hand, if you use a home printer then the deck can consist of any number of cards, any aspect ration and any resolution - but the material on which you print may be limited in thickness. Also, you'll need to cut out and trim the cards yourself - this isn't as easy as you might think, especially trying to get the card backs to line up correctly with the fronts!
Gather dataOnce you know what limits there may be, decide how many cards you will create and what information needs to go on them. This is probably best done as a paper list as you'll revise it a lot when developing your ideas!
In my TRWNN deck, it became obvious early on that there were 2 distinct categories of cards: "character cards" give the character's name, photo, class and faction, while "action cards" have the action name and a textual description of the action. These use quite separate designs.
Decide on the Design
Original/first design Final "MtG" design
For the TRWNN cards, I added a scrollwork pattern near the bottom of each card. This serves no game purpose, but helps to fill space and to identify the different categories as belonging to the same deck.
Also note that in my ATZ event deck, each card was given a quote or caption. Again, this doesn't make any difference to the rules and isn't strictly necessary, but it helps to set the atmosphere.
Make a Template
I used Powerpoint to create the ATZ Event Deck. Firstly, I set the page size to that required for Artscow (i.e. 750x1050). Then I created a single master slide (i.e. template) with all the borders and backgrounds I wanted. The master slide has 4 "click here" placeholders on it, so that whenever I create a new slide I just have to fill in those 4 items.
Create the cards!Now you are ready to make all the cards you want. Take the template created above and copy it as many times as needed. Then go through the paper list of cards that you gathered and fill in each template with the data for a separate card. If you need to add photographs then these will have to be collected; I find that this is actually much more time-consuming than the rest of the process.
Don't forget to produce a card back as well!
Tip: it's probably a good idea to use an image editor to resize any photos so they have the same aspect ratio as the placeholder on the template. That way you won't get any unexpected clipping or stretching effects on the card!
Export your designsIf you are using a commercial printer then you'll need to save your cards in a format that the printing company can accept. This is probably going to be .png or a similar bitmap format, with each card saved as a separate file.
Tip: In Powerpoint, you can use the "save as" option and choose to export the entire presentation as .png . If you then select "export all slides", it will write each slide out as a separate image file, which is just what you want!
If you are printing the cards yourself then this step is probably not necessary. Just print the cards on your home printer.
Print the deck!Upload the exported image files to your chosen commercial printing company (artscow.com has a "batch upload" which makes this very easy). Use these images to create a custom deck of playing cards, then order it, sit back and wait for the postman!
Tip: if you're using artscow then remember to switch off the "poker text" on each card. Otherwise your cards will automatically have regular playing card symbols as well as your chosen design, such as 2 of hearts. I speak from experience with one of my early attempts :- ( . I've no knowledge of other commercial printers.