DIY Trading Cards, Part 1

I've always loved trading cards. There is something about the combination of the art, collecting, chase cards and the form factor that I really like. The price of cards keeps going up so I haven't been able to keep up like I want to. I still always end up buying a box of something when I go to a comic book convention.

This led me to see if I could make my own trading cards from home. Here is my guide for Do-It-Yourself trading cards. I'm going to write the first couple articles as though you are doing a one-off, single card. This will simplify it a bit. In later articles we will look at some specialty cards, packaging, building a whole set and finishing touches.

First, I will talk about designing the cards. This is probably the most difficult step since there are so many possibilities, and I can't tell you which path to take.

The first thing, obviously, is to have a subject matter. It can be friends, family, coworkers, vacation, anything.

First, you'll need to design the front of the card. Here are some files to get you started. I have included the native GIMP file and also saved to Photoshop.
017_Kevin Harbin.xcf (4.61 MB)
017_Kevin Harbin.psd (6.39 MB)

The dimensions are important, 750 px X 1050 px. This will give you a 2.5 in X 3.5 in card at 300 DPI. I've tried with 600 DPI and I didn't think I gained anything.

I like to keep the front and back of the card on the same file. This is partially because for this type of card I use the same image on the front and back and this allows me to make sure I use the same picture in the same place. The layers that start with 'ft_' are for the front of the card and 'rv_' for the back.

Play around; find a style you like. Maybe you want to look more like baseball cards from the early '90s. Go for it; Google search is your friend. One design note: (which you will see I don't actually follow for my reverse cards) the border on the left side needs to match the border on the right side. This will help hide cutting problems later on. If you actually use the same color all the way around, you can hide even more.

A couple of little things you can do to make it feel like a real card are using a logo and numbering the card. This will help tie the cards together.

The back of each card can either be unique for each or have a standard bit about you and what you're doing. Again, totally up to you.

I always save a copy of my front and back as PNG when I'm finished.

Next Up: Making It Physical