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Making Cards for DTRPG and DTCards

Posted: Tue Jan 15, 2019 6:19 pm
by kedamono
Todd asked me to talk about my experience making cards for DriveThruRPG and their companion site, DriveThruCards.

Now OneBookShelf has a decent set of tutorials for making cards: Preparing Your Cards
However, I don't have the tools that they list, so I had to come up with my own method.

The tutorial has templates for InDesign and Scribus, and from what I understand, they are very well made. But, I don't have either program, so I can't verify. Instead I had to create my own workflow.

I used the PDF template for the U.S. Poker Deck, 2.5" to 3.5". This is what I used to create my own template in Microsoft PowerPoint. Yes, PowerPoint. For simple layout and design, you really can't go wrong with a decent presentation program. If I didn't have PowerPoint, I could have used Google Slides or Mac Keynote. (Yes, I'm a Mac.)

If you have software that can add the bleed area required, which is 0.125" all around the printable area, you can create a slide that's 2.5" x 3.5" in size. But, if you don't have preflight software like I have, then you'll want to make your slide 2.75" by 3.75" and then set guides to create a 2.5"x3.5" printing region. You'll want to keep everything inside that box, except for your bleeds.

For my Gamma Watch and Yarr! We Be Pirates! card decks, I had 6 elements that were at the edge of the card. For them, I made sure that I had a color block that stretched into the bleed area and directly to the edge of the slide. Because the color elements where going to change depending on what was on the card, I created a "template slide" of a card with all the colors. Then I'd just duplicate it and recolor the bits that didn't apply a light gray.

If you plan to have multiple decks, you'll want to include them all in the final PDF, unless you're using a different sized card size for some special cards.

That means you'll need to do some test prints to make sure you get your font sizes right. I used 11 point, 14 point and 24 point fonts, with some adjustments. The font I used for Yarr! We Be Pirates was a decorative font, Captain Howdy, and I had to scale it down as it was very big. Now some fonts will give you trouble. For one game of mine, Into The Chasm, I use Coalition. It's a font that takes forever for Photoshop to render. If I ever make a PoD version of the game, I will render the titles in PS, rasterize them, and then export them as transparent PNGs. Because I know it will not go through OneBookShelves' preflight check.

For the Print and Play PDFs I export the PowerPoint slides as JPEGs into a folder. PowerPoint does this very well. Then I use a PnP template that I created in my publishing software, Apple's Pages, that has one page for backs and another for fronts. Because I have unique text on at least 20 of the cards I have to keep in mind that the backs should be in reverse order of the fronts, so that when printed 2-sided, they will line up correctly. And it takes time to place each image. Yarr! We Be Pirates! had 98 cards, or 196 images and took a day and half to setup and verify.

Now, the only problem with PowerPoint, et. al., is that when you export to PDF, they only do RGB color. And that's a problem. OneBookShelf's Print on Demand system requires that your PDFs use CMYK for color.

I was lucky that my brother worked for a Printer manufacturer and software developer. I got an app that lets me "print" to a CMYK PDF. There are online convertors, but I've never used them, so I can't attest to their quality or capabilities. But if you have Adobe Acrobat, you can use it to turn a RGB PDF to a CMYK PDF. With the PDF open in Acrobat, do the following:

  1. On the Advance menu, click Print Preproduction, and then click Preflight.
  2. Click the arrow next to PDF Fixups to list the conversion options for the document.
  3. Select the Convert to CMYK Only option and then click the Analyze and Fix button. You'll have to wait a few seconds for Acrobat to convert the color mode for photos and images in the PDF document.
  4. You can now save your converted file and it will be a CMYK PDF.

After all that, it's just a matter of creating a new product, uploading the files, and then ordering a galley proof of the cards. Review that galley proof closely before you make the card publicly available for sale. You don't want the problem I had with a typo on 17 card backs and had to redo the deck while it was on sale. That meant several folks got a deck with the misprint on it.

As to the quality of the cards, they are very good, and include the thin black film between the front and back layers prevent folks from seeing through the cards. I've used them many times and haven't had any issues, I do recommend the DTRPG and DTCards cards if you need a deck or two.