Rounders: Your Guide to Rounded Corner Cards for Your Board Game

Why round corners on your board game or card game cards? There are a few reasons. Empirical evidence suggests that cards are easier to shuffle with rounded corners.  By far, the main reason to round corners is the longevity of the cards. Look at your old collection of sports cards… see anything that stands out?  Unless they were sleeved from day 1 (and NO one did that back then) they have boxing, peeling, bends, creases, separation, and color loss at the corners.  I know I want people to play my games for years; and like everyone else I strive to create the “evergreen” game.  That just can’t happen if players get the wrong idea about quality due to the breakdown of your components, namely your cards.

So when quoting your game be sure to specify rounded corners.  Some companies give you choices, most notably 3mm (about 1/8 inch) and 5mm (a little less than ¼ inch).  The difference in those radii are shown below with a peak at the ship cards from Ventures in the Void. Standard poker size cars are 2.5 × 3.5 inches / 64 × 89 mm, and bridge size playing cards are 2.25 × 3.5 inches / 57 × 89 mm. Both “standard” types of cards have a corner radius of about .25 inch / 6mm.

Corner Size Board Game Cards

It’s up to you which you prefer.  Remember to account for radius corners when designing your cards!  This does affect your “live” area which I talked about the last entry.

Some printing companies don’t ask what radius you prefer as they already have a die cutter that cuts standard sized cards with their standard radius.  Ask up front how your company handles radius corners. It will be MUCH cheaper to use a die the printing company already has rather than have a custom die created.

Tarot Cards

Card Prototyping

scissors-311690When creating prototypes it is not necessary to hand round the corners on your cards, but you CAN. By far the cheapest method is to use scissors or a precision blade/rotary cutter. I DO NOT RECOMMEND THIS! Cards that are not identical in size cannot be shuffled properly –  so keep that in mind.  What I DO recommend, if you are set on rounding corners anyway, is to purchase a punch online that says it does 1/8 inch or 3mm corners or ¼” or 5mm/6mm corners.  Be sure to line up the card with the guides each time and you should get uniform and nicely rounded cards. Sorry, for precision you cannot punch more than one card at the time.  Remember before taking this on that 100 cards have 400 corners… and if you get tired by the end mistakes can happen.  Not so bad if you are printing yourself, but having to go back to a quick print place for two cards is really going to ding the wallet.

 

I do not support or advertise for any specific retailers – but the easiest way to find a corner punch is either in the scrapbooking section or your local hobby and crafts store or search “1/8 inch corner punch rounder” in your favorite search engine and switch to the “shopping” tab.

Have any prototyping secrets for board game cards?  I’d love to hear them!

 

Why Would I Want My Board Game To Bleed? Printing Terms for the Board Game Designer

Why WOULD you want your board game to bleed? Because white edges are ugly. If you have already looked around at some self-publishing avenues, you have no doubt found printers that have templates for you to download and use.  Some commercial “final” game printers have some as well to help you along in the process.

Now you have a template and art. You open the template to prepare your files only to find 3 sets of lines, sometimes more!  What do you do with this? What do these lines mean?  If you’re lucky, they are even labeled – but what do the terms mean?  Check out the info graphic below.  (Bonus: Sneak Peak at Ventures in the Void Beta Ship Card Art!)

Printing Terms for Board Game Cards

 

Ok.  The first term and line you need to be concerned with is the trim area or actual size of your document.  It is, indeed, the ACTUAL SIZE of your finished piece.  So for a bridge card that is 2.25”w x 3.5”h.  For a 24×24 game board it’s 24”w x 24”h, a letter size document is 8.5”W x 11”h.  It is the literal size of the piece.  Remember to take rounded corners into account and do not design your cards with information that extends to these areas.

The next most important of these is the live area, safe zone, or DNE (do not exceed) area. Why?  This is the area that you need all your important bits to fit in.  No text should EVER exceed, or go beyond your specific printer’s “safe zone.”  What the printer is formally telling you is:  We can’t say for 100% certain that anything outside of this zone will be on the final card.  That sounds scary and a little crazy, I mean you’re paying them to print your stuff – shouldn’t they print it how you want it?  The short answer is: Sh*t happens, don’t go over that line.  Long Answer: In a perfect world every printing press and cutter is perfectly calibrated. In the real world, things shift and get “off.” The difference between the safe area and trim or actual size is a buffer to ensure everything important actually ends up on the finished piece. You will undoubtedly see requests from printers (usually on the template page) that says something to the effect of: please do not design your documents with thin lines along the outer edge.

Bleed is the same as the area between the “safe zone” and the trim line – except on the outside.  This prevents your cards from having an unprinted white edge if the cut is slightly off.  Industry standard is an eighth of an inch all the way around.  In the case of rounded corners, the bleed is still squared off.  Below is an example of an Adobe® program work space – the red line is the bleed, the black boarder on the white box is the actual/trim size.

Example Image Showing Bleed and Trim Lines

To recap – all your important stuff must be within the live area or safe zone.  Only backgrounds should be outside the safe zone and should extend PAST the trim line all the way to the bleed line.  Think of the area between the safe and trim lines as the danger zone (DANGER ZONE! – Archer) and the area between the trim line and the bleed line as your insurance zone.

Safe Insurance Danger Zones for Board Game Cards

I’ll cover rounded card corners in the next installment.  Do you have any particular questions about bleed area or printing? Let me know below!

Paint With All The Colors Of The Wind: RGB, CMYK, PMS, 4-Color Process, Spot Color – Make Your Board Game Gorgeous

We’ve covered which type of printing process and paper to use for your prototype and final game, now were going to bridge the gap between art and production and talk color.

Below is a quick primer on the color jargon you’ll run into.

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RGB: Red, Green, Blue – refers to LIGHT. Used exclusively for electronic viewing since monitors display images with light.  100 percent red, green and blue results in WHITE.  Request RGB design and illustration for web graphics, online previews of your components, and the headers for your KS page. If you print RGB, most modern printers can deal with interpreting RGB into their CMYK outputs, but it can still result in a muddy output. It’s best practice to use RGB for web and CMYK for print.

CMYK: Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Black – conventional printing colors. Also used as a generic name for 4-color process, the 4-colors refer to cyan, magenta, yellow, and black.  100 percent C, M, Y, & K is BLACK. Request all production graphics in CMYK so they will reproduce as expected. On a quote, 4-color process will appear as 4/0 for single sided or 4/4 for 4-color process on both sides.

PMS: Pantone® Matching System, “PMS” is followed by 3-4 numbers that indicate the specific color. PMS is used for precision color when a specific color is important. On quotes you will see this listed as 4+1 or 4+2 or 4/4 + Spot Color, indicating 5 or six colors used in printing.  That means Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Black + PMS 187 is 4 color process plus fire engine red.  You can also order prints in 1 color and indicate a PMS color rather than black (1 color process is usually black) – a great trick to have color printing by save printing costs.  PMS can also be used to add metallic colors to a print job.  Spot color is another term for PMS because technically PMS is a brand.  TIP 1:  If a specific metallic gold or silver is not that important to you, you may be able to save money on printing by asking the printer what they have in stock and using the “house PMS metallic gold.”  TIP 2: When looking at a PMS color chart like the one shown below, pay attention to the C after the numbers – it’s what it will look like on coated stock.  You guessed it, the C stands for “coated” – coated refers to gloss, matte, and dull finishes applied to paper.  UC is similarly “uncoated” like the paper in the copy machine.

PMS Color Charts

PMS Color Charts

Have questions about color?  Hit me!

Paper For Your Board Game – Explanation and Sample Quote Request

So, we’ve talked about digital vs. offset printing, now let’s talk about paper. Specifically: how not to overpay for paper.  I’ll talk about both prototyping and final game production in terms of paper.

General Words on Paper

Paper jargon is hard to follow. It’s true.  Paper thicknesses are referred to in “weight”, #(pound), Lb. (pound), GSM (grams per square meter), and by terms like Text/Bond, Index, Pt (point), Cover, and chipboard. And of these, only pt actually refers to thickness!  The rest are literal weight or strength.

To get an idea as to how the range works: Bible paper, or Onion Skin is around 45gsm or 9lb and a traditional paper chess/checkers board is 60pt chipboard covered in 80lb gloss text.

“Cover” refers to cover stock, what people call “card stock”  and is the generic name of the stock (stock= paper) you want for cards and play mats. “Index” is a thinner cover stock, not really necessary for anything and not all that common.

“Text” refers to thinner writing papers, what people use in copiers, notepads are made of, and stationary is printed on.

“Chipboard” is used as to supplement printed products but not for printing. Cardboard chits/tokens, game boards, the backer for stacks of money are all chipboard.  (Example: the backer for yellow legal pads) For the chits/tokens and board they are covered in a lamination process by a text weight paper that is good for printing. This comes in different thicknesses measured in points. 60pt = .06 inch.

Pay close attention to the “text” or “cover” designation – both 80lb text and cover exist but are vastly different in thickness.  GSM will ALWAYS increase with thickness while lb/#/pounds (refers to strength) do not necessarily except when within the same parent “designation”, i.e. text or cover, index, etc.

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Prototyping

For your prototype you want to go cheap but sturdy for cards, boards, instructions, and any play mats that are needed.  An 80lb gloss cover will do nicely.  It gives you weight and simulates an offset coating.  If you have lots of small text I recommend 80lb dull cover – this is still a coated stock but the text pops a little more, making it more readable overall.  This will create cards that will shuffle and feel just a hair thinner than your final cards.  If you want to spend more, ask for 14pt C2S (coated two sides) – it will give you that thickness but you’ll pay for it.

Final Production

Your box wrap and board wrap (the shiny top that is printed) go with 80lb gloss text, it doesn’t need varnish or aqueous coating to look great – which saves you money.

Board base and chit/token base go with 60pt chipboard.   80pt or 100pt just add weight to the game (thus increase shipping) and cost more to produce.  The board should be wrapped in a text weight linen finish (usually black or blue) uncoated stock – this is usually dictated by the manufacturer.  Chits may be produced single or double sided, if double sided you will be paying for double the paper and ink as well.

Cards are trickier.  You can stay with 80lb cover or move up to 100lb cover in dull or gloss. This is your cheapest route.  You can upgrade slightly from that by adding a varnish or aqueous coating in matte or gloss or even reticulated (textured).  You can get playing card stock in 270gsm (87lb-93lb) which has a colored core paper and is actually two papers laminated together.  You can upgrade to linen finish playing card stock (usually from France or Germany) which is the most expensive.  It’s up to you.

A note about saving money on cards: Depending on the quantity, it may actually be cheaper AND get you a better card quality by going with the 80lb cover with the reticulated varnish instead of the linen finish playing card stock.  NOTE: this suggestion works BEST with cards that are “full coverage” – that is not a lot of white on either side.  Having more ink coverage reduces their opacity – though since you aren’t running a casino this probably won’t even be an issue.

cards-166440_1280

How do you ask for quote?

(1000 sets of 52, unique front, common back) 2.25″w x 3.5″h, .25″ radius corner, 4/4 full bleed, on 80# gloss cover, white.  Trim and packaged in collated decks.

This is a quote request for a normal poker playing card deck.

Unique front assumes that all or almost all your cards are different. Common back means the backs of all your cards are the same.

Replace 1000 with your quantity.

Replace 52 with the number of cards in your deck.

Replace 2.25″w x 3.5″h with your size, .25″ with the corner radius you want or state “standard radius corner”

4/4 means four color process on both sides – 4 inks (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Black “CMYK”) on front, 4 on back and full bleed means they can’t “gang” the prints, that the color goes all the way to the edge so they must leave .25″ between prints to allow for cutting margins. If you are printing with black only you would list as 1/1 or 4/1 if just the back is black and white and the front is color.

Last replace 80#…, white with the stock you’ve chosen.

Next time we’ll talk about color.  PMS, CMYK, RGB… so many colors!

 

Do you have a paper question or quoting question?  Ask below!

Digital vs Offset Printing – What You Need to Know

Digital, Offset, RGB, CMYK, Bleed, Trim, Lbs, GSM, Cover Weight, Text Weight, Index Weight – what does it all mean?!

This is the first of series of posts that will serve as a quick Printing 101.  Today we’re going to talk about digital and offset printing.  What’s the difference?

Offset printing is done on a traditional press (as in “Stop the presses!”). It uses a series of plates – one for each color and varnish and is best for large scale, high quantity printing.  Offset printing, sometimes called “conventional printing”, uses actual ink that will soak into the paper a fraction. Pressmen can adjust the delivery of each plate to achieve the desired colors and come very close to “true” color as intended in the original file.  For instance, the orange and purple of a very popular shipping service is 100% offset – it’s why the colors on those proprietary envelopes and boxes are always EXACTLY the same color even though the different materials have a different absorbency and the press had to be adjusted to achieve that outcome.

Offset Press

Offset Press

Digital printing uses heat and polymers to adhere toner to paper. This process is quicker, and better for small runs. While color has come a long way in the past five years, digital printers still have trouble with pure secondary color orange and primary red.  The prints are still beautiful and vibrant – just not a 100% match to your digital art.  Some printers will have what they refer to as digital presses – these use toner but use larger press sheets (thus reducing the cost) and can apply varnish or coatings.  Varnish and coatings are very important in things like cards, playmats, and tokes as they extend the life of the finished piece and give a sense of quality.

Toner for Digital Printing

Toner for Digital Printing

If you need 500 flyers for a convention or to distribute at your local gaming and hobby shops you want to go digital.  If you need the instructions printed for 5,000 games you want to go offset. Offset has the added advantage of tweaking colors to reduce cost – for instance it’s cheaper to print black only for a black and white document.  This isn’t just something they made up – they only need 1 plate instead of 4. They only need the (very well paid) pressmen to “hang” one plate, clean one plate, and operate one station instead of 4.  It legitimately costs them less to run black and white. With digital you are generally going to get an estimate for the same price either way.  Some places will give you a “discount” for asking about black and white rather than take the time to explain the info above.  So ask!

This info and the following posts will be especially helpful for prototyping. Try to spend as little as possible until you are actually trying to impress people with your game.  Your playtest copies and be printed at home on a laser or ink-jet printer (choose black and white unless color is necessary for the game play!) or at work (with permission!).  Unless you want 10 or less copies on plain letter sized paper, please stay away from the “big box” retailers and quick print places.  They charge nearly a dollar per color copy, single sided, letter size.  See if you can find a local print shop.  Almost every town has one or two because local businesses need them!  Here you’ll get a good deal and possibly even ideas about how to print your final game or money saving tips.

Have you had good or bad experiences printing your prototypes in the past?