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How difficult is it to make your own cards?

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Anonymous

If I ever actually finish my dungeon crawl game, I'd like to self-publish it and sell it myself. One of the things that I am wrestling with is if I should design it with cards or not.

If I do decide to use cards, I think they would simply be "business card" type cards. They might have a small B&W illustration to one side with a small amount of print on them - like a Monopoly Chance/Community Chest card.

How hard would it be to make something like this? What all would be involved?

VeritasGames
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How difficult is it to make your own cards?

If you are going to do it on business cards, Avery makes a business card sheet for inkjets that breaks apart leaving little or no evidence of perforation. This is more expensive than their normal microperforated stuff, but it's not bad.

These types of cards will NOT stand up to abuse, and so if they are intended for a game which involves a lot of shuffling or holding the cards in your hands, then these are a bad choice. For such use and abuse use at least 110 pound stock. If you can't afford to get a finishing service to cut the stock for you, buy a $50.00 rotary cutter.

theraje
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How difficult is it to make your own cards?

It isn't too terribly hard to make your own cards. You can just open your favorite graphics editor, make a new canvas at 2.5" x 3.5" (tell it to use inches as measurement instead of pixels if needed), and set the resolution to 600 dpi. Then design a "skeleton" card, using only components that will be on all cards (border, text boxes, etc.). Then build each card (adding graphics and text) individually. Afterward, organize them into sheets (I can fit eight cards on 8.5" x 11" sheets). They are now ready for printing.

If you want your cards printed and cut by someone else, export it to a common, lossless format (such as TIF or PNG, but not JPG) supported by your print shop (ask them what formats they support, and ask about any "hidden" fees such as a fee to have them transfer your files onto their computers). Just be sure to emphasize the importance of the card backs being aligned properly in relation to the fronts (if you can export to press-quality PDF, this shouldn't be a problem).

As VeritasGames pointed out, use 110 lb. card stock whatever you do.

If you're feeling more industrious and want to do it yourself, make some test pages using your printer (first printing on plain paper to see how the alignment is), and then try the card stock to make sure it can handle the thick paper. You should double-check this for alignment, in case your printer has a hard time with thicker stock.

Afterward, buy a paper cutter and a rounded corner punch. Cutting one card sheet at a time is best (as the cutter will not likely handle more than that considering the thickness of the paper). Once you cut your cards out this way, use the rounded corner punch (which you can probably find in your local Wal-Mart's office section for under $10) to round your corners off.

You have two choices as far as card safety: Protective deck sleeves, or lamination. Deck sleeves are my favorite for playtesting, but if you plan to release the cards in a package, you might want to get a laminating machine and small laminating pouches. Make sure the stuff you get bonds to the paper well before going willy-nilly laminating your cards.

Hope this helps!

Anonymous
How difficult is it to make your own cards?

Thank you for the responses. I think I should clarify what I'm after.

I'm looking at making a game that is very cheap to produce, as well as a game that I can produce as orders come in (as opposed to making a run of 100/500/whatever # of games at a time).

It would use a single color poster that I would get copied at Kinko's and then cut up into the individual tiles. It would have a few meeples (that I would paint myself) as well as a few dice that I would buy in bulk. Each game would also come with a reference chart (that I might decide to laminate).

The cards themselves, like the rest of my game components, would be very simple. There would be 2 decks - an encounter deck and a treasure deck. The treasure deck would be printed on plain yellow business cards, and the encounter deck would be printed on plain red business card stock. They wouldn't have any border designs, nor anything on the backs.

Wear isn't a real concern since this game is going to be cheap. The cards won't be held in hand - they'd be flipped over, some dice would be rolled, and then it would be put in a discard pile. They wouldn't be the shuffling kind - you'd just mix them up at the beginning of the game. I'm also not worried about rounding off the corners. Laminating and card sleeves, etc. are out of the question.

My printer isn't "worthy" of printing anything up that is worth keeping, so they would have to be printed at Kinko's as well. Isn't there a template for for making business cards on MS Word that I could use?

I'm thinking it would take me:
1. drawing the small B&W pictures
2. scanning them
3. placing the scanned image on a business card template
4. entering the appropriate text
5. having the cards printed out on sheets of business card paper
6. punch the cards out.

Am I missing something?

Anonymous
How difficult is it to make your own cards?

For what you want, you could save yourself some money by skipping the business card stock and just print onto 110# colored card stock. Then use either a rotary trimmer or a guillotine style paper cutter to cut them out. Just use the cutting fence that comes with these things and all your cards will be exactly the same size. Very cheap and easy.

Anonymous
How difficult is it to make your own cards?

THANK YOU!!! I was stuck thinking I would need to put everything into a business card template. The thought of having to scan, resize, align, etc. just wasn't appealing to me since each card would have a different illustration. But with what you are saying, I could do all of the drawing and writing/typing on a single sheet of paper and then have it simply copied onto some heavy weight paper. That should be a bit cheaper than copying to business card sheets.

That sounds much better! It is amazing how we can get stuck thinking in a rut when a simple solution is right there staring us in the face... That would make printing cards for my game very practical. I might have to name one of the characters "Siskny" in your honor. :>)

FastLearner
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How difficult is it to make your own cards?

Also, if you have them printed on a small offset press, I suggest paper a bit heavier in weight than 110# cardstock. At least an 80 lb cover (which is heaver, slightly, than 110# cardstock), or like a 14 pt bristol -- better shuffling, longer wear.

C2S -- coated two sides -- is idea, as it will provide a nice professional look. You'll save a bit with C1S (coated one side), and if you go with it, the standard in trivia-type games is to have the card backs on the coated side, the card fronts on the uncoated side. Still, C2S would be much nicer.

Your best bet: find an example of something you like and bring it to your printer, tell him that's what you want. That way you don't have to try to understand the terms. (There's quite a bit to know.)

-- Matthew

theraje
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How difficult is it to make your own cards?

FastLearner wrote:
Also, if you have them printed on a small offset press, I suggest paper a bit heavier in weight than 110# cardstock. At least an 80 lb cover (which is heaver, slightly, than 110# cardstock)

You mean 110 lb. card stock is lighter than 80 lb. card stock? I thought the higher the lb rating, the heavier the stock... ?

VeritasGames
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How difficult is it to make your own cards?

FastLearner wrote:
Also, if you have them printed on a small offset press, I suggest paper a bit heavier in weight than 110# cardstock. At least an 80 lb cover (which is heaver, slightly, than 110# cardstock), or like a 14 pt bristol -- better shuffling, longer wear.

C2S -- coated two sides -- is idea, as it will provide a nice professional look. You'll save a bit with C1S (coated one side), and if you go with it, the standard in trivia-type games is to have the card backs on the coated side, the card fronts on the uncoated side. Still, C2S would be much nicer.

A couple of points. First, if you use something heavier than 110# cardstock, get a sample to make sure it goes through your printer. If you have a cheap printer heavier stocks might not go through.

Second, if you have an inkjet, please TOTALLY IGNORE the comments about C2S if you print at home. That's a great suggestion for Kinko's or laser printers, but inkjet ink won't stick well to C2S stock and you'll have an inky mess inside your printer. Inkjet ink only sticks straight to paper or to coated stocks rated specifically for inkjets (it's a gel layer).

VeritasGames
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How difficult is it to make your own cards?

theraje wrote:

You mean 110 lb. card stock is lighter than 80 lb. card stock? I thought the higher the lb rating, the heavier the stock... ?

No. Read his post very carefully. He compared 110 lb. CARD stock to 80 lb. COVER stock. The two are different.

Pound weight is misleading for U.S. stocks. It is the weight of a fixed number of sheets. However, different types of stock have different typical page sizes, and so one class of stock may have a sheet size substantially smaller than another type of stock. When that happens, the stock with the smaller (but not thinner) standard sheet size can have a lower pound weight even though it's actually a denser stock.

The European system of measuring Grams per Square Meter (gsm) is much more intuitive way of gauging stock density.

http://www.cardfaq.org/faq/glossary.html

All that said, Fast Learner may know offhand, but I'm not sure that 80 pound coverstock is denser than 110 pound card stock. Without a density comparison chart I can't say. Some things commonly called "cardstock" seem to be measured on the Bristol scale while others are measured on the Index scale. I think 110 pound Bristol is heavier than 80 pound cover while 110 pound index is lighter than 80 pound cover.

I can say that 14 point C2S feels reasonably similar when shuffled to 300 gsm playing card stock. The C2S 14 point stock will not have the same memory, will not have the same spring, and will chip more readily, but will be a reliable substitute on a budget for 300 gsm playing card stock if you don't need a stock with absolute opacity.

markmist
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How difficult is it to make your own cards?


Thanks for posting this link. I had always wondered how the whole measuring of paper weight was calculated. Now I know why the 110 lb. Index stock is better than the 65 lb. Cover Stock. It is also more white in color.

I am guessing that the 110 lb. Index is the way to go for inkjets - I can't see anything thicker than that working without problems. You can buy 250 sheets for $10 at Staples. That's only 4 cents a sheet. Not bad for making cards for a playable prototype. Now if I can just figure out how to match the backs up consistently.......

VeritasGames
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How difficult is it to make your own cards?

If you give yourself about an 1/8" gap all the way around the card face you can generally line things up pretty well. Duplexing printers can probably get things closer than that since a lot of the guesswork comes from the paper traction feed system engaging in a quasi-random fashion when you try to load a piece of paper once, reverse it, and load it again on an inkjet.

The above alignment I'm talking about is alignment of one side to another. Trying to print a card background (say at Kinko's, printing 1000 sheets at a time) and then trying to make the text fit by inkjetting over a template -- well that's pretty tricky. You need a fair margin for error (no boxes that tightly hug the text). Again, expect between an 1/8" and a 1/4" of shift depending on the quality of your printer.

markmist
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How difficult is it to make your own cards?

VeritasGames wrote:
If you give yourself about an 1/8" gap all the way around the card face you can generally line things up pretty well. Duplexing printers can probably get things closer than that since a lot of the guesswork comes from the paper traction feed system engaging in a quasi-random fashion when you try to load a piece of paper once, reverse it, and load it again on an inkjet.

What exactly do you mean by the paper traction feed system engages in a quasi-random fashion? So, this is printer error and not human error and there is nothing I can do about it?

Like I said in another thread, one attempt will yield a perfect line-up, the next one may be off slightly, and another attempt may be way off. Also, sometimes it is off horizontally and sometimes vertically.

What is the cheapest duplex printer I could buy?

Since my fronts and backs both have borders (giving myself a 1/8 inch gap won't really work, although I am not exactly sure what you mean by that), do you have any other suggestions?

Thanks for your help.

FastLearner
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How difficult is it to make your own cards?

Note carefully the first 11 words of my post:

Also, if you have them printed on a small offset press...

All of that advice was for offset printing. Not inkjets, not laser. I certainly agree that traditional coated papers and inkjets are not friends. But offset presses don't mind at all.

80# cover is usually heavier/stiffer than 110# cardstock... not only are they measured differently (as noted above), but it varies greatly from paper to paper. Most 80# cover has a heavier feel, but it's important to understand that weight <> thickness <> stiffness. Paper sample books are designed to help you pick the ideal paper for you... if you're having it printed on a small offset press, the printer should have plenty of sample books.

If you're printing it on a laser printer (or photocopier), you're much more limited in the thickness you'll be able to use. If you're printing it will an inkjet, the same thickness problems apply, as do problems with ink absorption, considerably limiting the paper you can use.

20 years in the printing industry (from the graphic designer side) brings a lot of experience. Just be happy you're not pasting up the cards with hot wax!

-- Matthew

Anonymous
How difficult is it to make your own cards?

I can speak from personal experience that lining up fronts and backs of cards in a home printer can be VERY dificult and frustrating. I had a printer that would never load paper the same way twice and would be as far as .5" off. It was terrible!

Quote:
So, this is printer error and not human error and there is nothing I can do about it?

The biggest problem with home printers isn't the tolerances, it's the consistency. As you mentioned, many less expensive home printers don't really line things up the same way twice. Sometimes you get lucky and get a printer that does a good job at it. I haven't been lucky yet.

There are ways to get fronts and backs to align nearly perfectly, but they're very time consuming. I have used with great success a system whereby I print the fronts and backs on separate 24 lb wax holdout paper and then use spray glue to cement them together (forming a laminate with surprising strength and better resistance to splitting and delaminating that regular cardstock... and you can add an opaque layer for 100% opacity in homemade cards), but it takes a while to go through the process.

Quote:
What is the cheapest duplex printer I could buy?

Unfortunately cheap just exacerbates the problem. Keep in mind that the printer needn't have a duplex unit to print on both sides. You can always spend the extra money on a better printer without a duplexing unit and just manually put the pages through twice.

If it's critical that your prototype look professional (and your home printer does a lousy job aligning front and back), then either use a manual system for lining up the fronts and the backs, or take your job to a print house (or copy shop) that can output them within reasonable tolerances.

Quote:
Since my fronts and backs both have borders (giving myself a 1/8 inch gap won't really work, although I am not exactly sure what you mean by that), do you have any other suggestions?

The 1/8" gap means that you leave a 1/8" white space between the atrwork and the edge of the card. It's better design for both printability and for reduced card wear.

Cards with printing to the edge (called full-bleed, where the image actually bleeds off the edge of the card) tend to show wear at the edges more readily. This effectively "marks" the cards. Not a big deal for prototyping or sending samples to publishers, but it's a design consideration worth bearing in mind as you design games.

FastLearner
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How difficult is it to make your own cards?

A trick on manual duplexing:

Lead with the same edge into the printer both sides. That is, if you have a piece of paper with 4 sides, labelled clockwise from the top 1 2 3 4, and the first time your paper goes through you put the #1 side in first, the next time you want the #1 side in first, too. That means in your software you need to design the backs of the cards so that they are upside-down.

The result is that whatever bias your printer has towards or away from the beginning will be mirrored on the flip side, generally lining things up much better.

Also, for more than a year in my little bits of spare time I've been programming a card design program to make me happy. One of its features is offsetting: one time you print some blank pages front and back, as the program describes. You hold them up to the light and tell the program how far off -- up/down and left/right -- the registration marks are. The program saves this information (averaging your multiple measurements) and henceforth pushes everything around on the front/back a bit to increase the likelihood of matching (you can run tests after it guesses and further refine it).

It won't make up for the randomness that exists, but it will make up for the regular pattern of offsetting that all prnters seem to have.

Why this isn't built into printer drivers I do not know, other than it being a fair bit of work.

VeritasGames
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How difficult is it to make your own cards?

markmist wrote:
What exactly do you mean by the paper traction feed system engages in a quasi-random fashion? So, this is printer error and not human error and there is nothing I can do about it?

The traction system to load paper in most inkjets should theoretically line up 100% of the time if the paper loads exactly the same each time and feeds through at the same rate. Since a lot of the loading process is generally some form of friction feed, that's not going to work instantly every time, and there may be a somewhat random lag of a few tenths of a second and maybe a 1/4 of an inch of random difference in where it grabs the paper.

In my experience, this can be minimized by loading a single page at a time. I find that when you have a stack of paper, the friction feeder tends to have more variance in where it grabs the paper. Maybe I'm hallucinating, but I don't think so.

This is a mechanical limitation, and can only be limited by humans, at best, as I've described above and by regularly cleaning the printer's parts thoroughly.

The better printers tend to have substantially less variance in alignment.

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