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Prototyping Computer Questions

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Mrtwills
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Joined: 08/30/2015

I just got a new PC and not the most computer savy but can teach myself most things easily with tutorials and playing with programs. I have two main questions.

1) What are great free prototyping programs do people use instead of Adobe (which I can't afford)? Friends of mind suggested GIMP and Inkscape (which he suggested was better).

2) After answering question one, what does anyone know of any places where I can find or buy cheap templates for cards, etc... Last time I made cards I used a busness card template from Avery company by importing it into Word. There has to be an easier and smoother way to do this. Keep in mind I would love to be able to data merge.

I haven't been on here in awhile so if this has been talked about at length in another topic please point me in that direction. All help is great and much appreciated.

If anyone wants to tweet at me I can be found at @wills_trevor where I also asked this question.

JamJam52
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Joined: 03/20/2016
If you just want really basic

If you just want really basic layouts then SVG-Edit is a web browser based program that I found, it cant do much but its free and you don't need to install anything, the only downside is it look pixel rather than physical dimension based.

Other than that inkscape look pretty good!

As for cards a good way I've found is to buy card sleeve protectors, you can get them from anywhere that sells Magic the gathering. Then just print on paper and slide them in :) Its nice to buy some magic cards and use them as backers if you really want the card stiffness.

I Will Never Gr...
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Joined: 04/23/2015
Inkscape and Scribus

Instead of Illustrator use Inkscape
Instead of InDesign use Scribus

Using these two in combination works wonders.

As far as templates go, enter the size card you're working with in Scribus and create your own! Just make sure to have an appropriate amount of bleed (typically 3mm) and safe zone (another 3mm) and you're good to go for most applications.

Mrtwills
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Joined: 08/30/2015
I've done the card backing

I've done the card backing before. I wanted to know if anyone knew of any templates that I might use to allow for easy data merging. Daniel Solis teaches this but all his techniques you can only do it on Adobe. My wife figured out how to do it on Avery template for business cards but it was clunky and I feel took way longer then it should and trying to make my life as easy as possible. Time is precious. Thanks for the help.

I did see The Game Crafter had some templates for various cards which would be great so that if I ever wanted to use their services it's already set up. I'm going to listen to a Episode of a podcast they recommend to see what else they say about this.

Basically I want an easy way to merge data from an excel spreak sheet into templates I've made. Or if anyone has any or know of any tutuorial sites on how to make templates.

Mrtwills
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Joined: 08/30/2015
Thanks. I will give Scribus

Thanks. I will give Scribus I try for sure!

Adam Leamey
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Joined: 02/23/2017
Having designed my own card

Having designed my own card layouts my only advice is decide on the size of your cards and create some simple templates to work off. Just make the design simple and understandable.

For inspiration just look at some other card designs star wars destiny cards have very simple designs to them and work very well.

Gabe
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I'm a big fan of Canva.

I'm a big fan of Canva. www.canva.com

It's super simple and has tons of resources/graphics to use along with being able to upload your own.

I print my stuff at the Game Crafter, so I just start a new project in Canva with the necessary dimensions and then upload a template to use as a reference.

ruy343
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Joined: 07/03/2013
Depends on the application

When I want to squeeze out some cards quickly (I have a 6-month-old child, so my time is limited) I usually create my prototypes in Excel.

Yup, Excel.

I work with it all the time, and can create a master sheet with all of my cards at a glance, and then use formulas to convert that to a rough card outline that I can print and play with. And, if I get a cool idea while at work, I can make up a master sheet in a google calc sheet and access it back home easily.

Boards and such also can be often accomplished easily with excel. It's a great way to get a grid quickly too.

Please note: just because it's made in Excel doesn't mean that it doesn't have aesthetic value - in fact, it allows me to create a minimalist card design with color codes and minimal iconography, forcing me to think through what's important on my cards.

When I'm actually trying to make some art, I use Paint.net. I don't know why I prefer it over GIMP, but I do... I'll make my images to scale with blank poker cards I have from TheGameCrafter (3.4"x2.4", leaving 1/10" margin for error), and I'll glue stick them on and cover them with a penny sleeve.

Recently, my work has been mostly confined to cards (I like making micro games), so take whatever I provide here with that understanding.

The Odd Fox
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Joined: 01/19/2017
Another option

I used to use Pixlr as an alternative to Photoshop. It actually does a pretty good job for being free and browser based.

I also use The Game Crafter for templates and will print prototypes with them when I'm ready for that.

GameKnight
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Joined: 12/18/2008
Tabletop Design Software

Inkscape is great for a free vector illustration program. Paint.net is great for a free image editing (compatible with Photoshop files).

The easiest layout program for prototyping I have ever used is PowerPoint. Most people look at it as a presentation program. It also supports printing at any size paper you specify. Works well for cards, boards, and components. You can set up your grids to support the margins you need when you print and cut the paper for your game.

I use it to lay out games and print on 8.5 x 11, 8.5 x 14, 11 x 17, 12 x 18, and 13 x 19 inkjet paper. You can whip out some nice board game printouts that fit on industry standard chipboard sizes.

FrankM
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Joined: 01/27/2017
Another free option

No one has mentioned nanDECK yet. Definitely not the simplest solution, and probably pointless unless you have duplicate cards or other repeated elements that take advantage of the scripting language.

On the plus side, it does export directly to The Game Crafter, and partially to several other gaming-related sites.

bluesea
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My 2 cents...

GameKnight wrote:
Inkscape is great for a free vector illustration program. Paint.net is great for a free image editing (compatible with Photoshop files).

The easiest layout program for prototyping I have ever used is PowerPoint. Most people look at it as a presentation program. It also supports printing at any size paper you specify. Works well for cards, boards, and components. You can set up your grids to support the margins you need when you print and cut the paper for your game.

+1 for inkscape, however I am having some stability problems with the latest version, 0.92.1. But still, an essential tool.

As to PowerPoint, this is an inspired suggestion! I will definitely give this a go. I am a bit unsure still how the printing would work, though. I would be printing out cards on an letter/A4 paper. Any tricks there?

I will also give a big +1 to excel for quick and dirty and quite nice cards.

And can we please have a kickstarter to develop a better interface for Nandeck? I will throw money at it! I haven't been able to justify the trade off in learning the application vs time spent actually doing the work.

Has anyone tried Card Maker? I just learned about it but haven't given it a go. Looks powerful: https://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/1358768/cardmaker-gallery-what-have...

More info on Card Maker here:
https://www.boardgamegeek.com/guild/2250
https://www.nhmk.com/tools.php

FrankM
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Also worth checking

If your computer has Excel and PowerPoint, check if it has Publisher in there as well. It doesn't inherit all of the common editing features of Word/Excel/PowerPoint, but it does have merge capabilities and much better layout control.

Since my current project doesn't need any of the advanced features from nanDECK, I thought I'd give Publisher a whirl. Not very far into the project, but haven't hit any hair-pulling-inducing limitations yet.

nand
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Calvin Keeney from

Calvin Keeney from Streamlined Gaming has made some great video tutorials for nanDECK:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0FAd0gOE3Rw
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OyjroKL-ij4
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q_8lpZibBLk
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JvpSjtzVqvk

Note that in the first you can see the visual editor, an alternate method for designing cards that is more friendly than coding.

bluesea
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nand wrote:Calvin Keeney from

nand wrote:
Calvin Keeney from Streamlined Gaming has made some great video tutorials for nanDECK:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0FAd0gOE3Rw
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OyjroKL-ij4
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q_8lpZibBLk
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JvpSjtzVqvk

Note that in the first you can see the visual editor, an alternate method for designing cards that is more friendly than coding.

Thanks much for posting this. I will definitely check them out...now about that kickstarter...?!?! ;)

bluesea
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I forgot to mention...

I forgot to mention another trick for generating prototype graphics. I discovered this by accident:

So if you know AutoCAD, that skill set can be very useful for protoyping with inkscape. First, get a 2D cad program. I use DraftSight. For practical purposes of prototyping, DraftSight is so similar to AutoCAD that it may as well be the same program...and it's FREE for non-commercial use. (heck, even for commercial use I think it's only $100/yr or $300 to own.)

If you are not familiar with 2D CAD, all you really need to learn are some basic commands and you can be up and running quickly. It's not difficult.

But if you do know CAD, here is the trick: you may draw in your 2D CAD program and import the drawing directly into inkscape. The benefit: drawing in 2D is easier, quicker, and more precise in CAD than inkscape.

When you are done with the CAD drawing, then save it as both .dwg and .dxf files.

And here's the trick: the .dxf file may be opened directly by inkscape.

To open the .dxf file, right click on the .dxf file and use the "open with" option and choose inkscape. Once the drawing is open in inkscape you can modify it, color it, change it's size, change line weights, export a .png, etc. as if it was created in inkscape. I've yet to find a limitation of this method.

This "trick" of working between CAD and inkscape saves me a goodish amount of time and frustration. Hope this helps.

pelle
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Inkscape ++ One thing that

Inkscape ++

One thing that Inkscape does not do out of the box is some kind of data-merge to arrange the cards into sheets (eg 3x3 per page), but I made an extension you can install to get that as well (draw templates, and optionally layout of sheets, in Inkscape, or import from some other applciation, then apply data from a spreadsheet/CSV):

http://www.bgdf.com/node/19140

"Inkscape countersheetsextension 2.0"

pelle
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bluesea wrote: This "trick"

bluesea wrote:

This "trick" of working between CAD and inkscape saves me a goodish amount of time and frustration. Hope this helps.

I have limited experience with CAD. Used it in school and a bit at home (my dad always had some old auto cad or something installed that he uses now and then for his hobby projects).

Needed to make some non-game-related drawings last year and settled on FreeCAD that I think is pretty amazing for free software, and also works on different platforms, and has a very sensible API for writing plugins/extensions. Never tried to do anything to export to Inkscape though. It seems very focused on making drawings for physical components, rather than just laying out random vectors that will end up looking god as ink-dots on paper? But it has already many different modes for working on different types of projects, and I could easily imagine adding a mode for card-design, but I think only a very low number of people would be interested, because CAD is not the easiest thing to get into, and to be honest a bit of overkill compared to just using something like Inkscape.

https://www.freecadweb.org

Blender is also pretty good and fun to play around with. Not CAD, and not the precision and power of CAD, but it has other uses (if you want to learn fewer applications and have other uses for 3D software). Also something you need many hours to learn how to use (I an not claiming to be an expert at all). More useful for artists making final artwork to use in a game (3D rendered images) than for prototypes.

https://www.blender.org

nand
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bluesea wrote:Thanks much for

bluesea wrote:
Thanks much for posting this. I will definitely check them out...now about that kickstarter...?!?! ;)

For a new interface? Hummm, before doing that, I'll need to know what would be the changes in the current one :-)

GameKnight
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Joined: 12/18/2008
In Powerpoint, you can

In Powerpoint, you can specify A4 page size in the Design tab. Then when you output your final design as a jpg or a pdf, it is sized correctly.

I've actually created Powerpoint files that are poker card-sized (such as for Gamecrafter files). You make one card per slide, and then batch save every card as a jpg suitable for uploading to Gamecrafter. Just make sure you size the slides for the printer's specs. There is almost always extra space needed to accommodate bleeds and some cut variances during the print process.

AbErRational
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Joined: 12/02/2016
There's intresting new

There's intresting new options here I see.

I've done most of my prototypes with the combination of GIMP, Inkscape and Scribus. Only exeption from that is one wooden game prototype which I put together with Mastercam (a very expensive software I got to know well when I was in a school of arts and crafts.)

I think it is reasonably easy in GIMP to make print patterns and work with a layer stack of card components for multiple cards on the same page.

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