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Custom Units & Army Cards Fan-created HS army cards for units, glyphs, and equipment


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Old May 2nd, 2014, 05:46 PM
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Xorlof's card printing tips

Since I've printed out thousands of cards for others, I've often been asked what I do to get the results I do. I've not taken the time to document things, until now. I'll get into more detail later on some of the missing pieces for those who want to exactly replicate my process, but here's a first cut which right now amounts to "good source images+very good paper (so important)+good printer".


1) Get the best quality source files

As a general rule, PNGs > PDFs > JPGs, but there are exceptions. If not comparing with a PDF, the easiest check of quality is to zoom in on and see how clear the text it is. If comparing with a PDF file, ignore the text and look at the rest of the card.

I'll try to always include the highest quality files available in the "X Minus 2 Customs Card Printer" (X-2CCP) software.


2) Prepare the image file

Some of my "secret sauce" in printing cards cheaply involves how I prep the cards. I also have a very developed process for preparing card images for printing. I'll have more to write about this later, but for now I'll mention that to save paper it helps to print as many cards per page as you can. (Duh?) This also saves costs when paying someone else to print them because they usually charge per page.

Might I again suggest the X-2CCP to fit 3 cards per page with no fuss or muss?

Any tweaking or editing of the card images should be saved to a lossless format (such as PNG). I pre-process all cards so the source image is exactly 300 dpi. For reference, a Heroscape card is 4.85 inches wide, 4.58 inchs tall, which at 300 dpi works out to a 1455x1364 pixel image.

If you are having someone else print the cards for you, save them as a PDF before taking it to the person/company printing it. It helps ensure there are no surprises in how it gets printed out.


3) Use quality paper

This is way more important than some people realize, so I'll spend some time on it. Even if you're having a professional shop print your cards, for best results, you probably want to use your own paper.

Printer companies sell good quality self-branded paper that you can be reasonably sure will work in home printers. However, for the best paper, look to paper companies, not printer companies. Georgia Pacific, Stora Enso, International Papers, etc. Paper companies have various lines of paper certified for use in digital presses (i.e., glorified laser printers). That's where I suggest you start looking. Don't trust the paper company's subjective statements about their products ("excellent stiffness"). Request a sample from the company, which they will usually send you for free.

You're looking for a few things in paper--type, weight, whiteness, thickness, stiffness, and coatings.

Type: Cover stock is what you want. They are available with the characteristics we need to mimic the original cards. It should be coated (more on that in the gloss section).

Whiteness: Ideally, you don't want paper that's too dull in color. But there absolutely can be such a thing as too white for our purposes, mostly because our source material. Customs card images are not always composed in a way that a pro would do it. Print a sample or two and see if it looks natural. Select sample cards that have the brightest areas you might generally ever print. You'll know if you're using too white of a paper.

The whiteness to be one of the lesser concerns when selecting paper.

Weight and thickness: Generally the heavier weight the better, but you have to make sure it will go through the printer. Thicker feels nicer, but again, you have to be sure it goes through your printer.

The original Heroscape cards varied in thickness depending on the wave. IIRC, the thickness of at least one wave of the WoTC cards is an area where they actually used better materials than Hasbro.

Stiffness: Stiffness is good. Thickness helps with stiffness, but two card stocks of equivalent thickness can have vastly different stiffness. For example, a quality playing card is stiffer than plain card stock of equivalent thickness.

Coatings: You want coated paper! Coated paper is smoother and images printed on it look nicer. Paper is listed as C1S or C2S, specifying whether the coating is on 1 side or both sides. The coating used determines the amount of gloss on the paper. Heroscape cards have a bit of gloss. I'd call it the "right" amount of gloss. More gloss (like photo paper) is too glossy and reflection from lights can be distracting. Less gloss and the images look dull.

While not related to the coating that came with the paper, after printing the card you can also apply an additional coating for extra protection of the image and quality/uniformity of gloss. These come in UV, aqueous, or varnish varieties and can only be applied to coated paper. I don't have much experience with them, but am thinking of experimenting with an aqueous coating.


3a) What paper do I use?

I use International Paper Carolina Coated Digital C2S Cover Stock, 12pt/165lb. It's great! I tried lots of paper before settling on that paper and have received lots of positive comments about it, but it's not perfect. I've lost my notes on the other papers I tried, but here's my assessment of how the paper I use stacks up in the criteria listed above.
  • Type: It is a coated cover stock paper. Good.
  • Whiteness: 94. This is plenty bright.
  • Weight and thickness: 165lb basis weight. 259 grams per square meter. 12pt. I would actually use the available 14pt paper if I could find a source for it that doesn't require me to buy it by the pallet. I have tested it with the printing equipment I use, and it works. The results are AWESOME, superior to original Heroscape cards. The samples I have of it make me *really* wish I could find a good source for it. (PLEASE PM me if you find a good source!)
  • Stiffness: I wish the 12pt stock was a bit stiffer. It's got good stiffness, but doesn't have a premium feel for stiffness. While my 12pt paper is actually a bit thicker than the Hasbro paper, it also a bit less stiff.
  • Coatings: The paper is coated on both sides because I print 2-sided cards. You can buy the same paper with a coating on only 1 side, but the cost savings is minimal. It has a good amount of gloss. Laser printers impart a bit more gloss during the printing process. The result is good. If printing with an injet you might want a touch glossier paper than this, but I think it would hold up just fine on its own.

4) Printer to use

A good home or office printer can produce an image that is stunning. There is probably one of two issues you'll experience with this though:
  • if using a color laser, you probably are going to have to use thin stock so the result won't feel as nearly nice as a "real" Heroscape card, and/or
  • it can get really expensive. Ink is expensive and toner for small color laser printers is also often expensive. Do the math. You may actually be saving money by paying a print house to do it for you if you can find someone who is competitively priced.
I have access to reasonably good printing equipment that I can pay to use at my work, but I hire a pro because of the above issues. But using your own printer has its own advantages and appeal.


5) Print settings

If printing at home, you want to select the highest quality print output for your print job. Selecting "Photo" print or the highest DPI print is generally a good first start. You may have to do color tweaking. Experiment with different settings. Read your printer's manual to learn what they do. Save ink and don't print full cards for these test prints until you've got everything just right.

If hiring a company to do it, always give them a PDF file and make sure you tell them to print the file at "actual size" with no scaling of any kind. This ensures accurate sizing. Bring extra paper, just in case they goof. I do two-sided printing and if I'm not in a hurry I actually prepare 5 different PDFs with varying front to back offsets to assist them in making sure both sides are lined up. Much more on this later.


6) Cutting cards

(nothing in this section yet)


The sections of this post aren't complete, but I'll try to fill things out more later. Hopefully all areas will get to the level of detail as the paper section...

Feel free to ask questions!

There is nothing more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity. --MLK

Last edited by Xorlof; May 2nd, 2014 at 06:01 PM.
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Old May 4th, 2014, 12:49 PM
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Re: Xorlof's card printing tips

Subscribed. You've got some top-tier cards, so this is an awesome resource! So much I had never even considered...
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Old June 26th, 2014, 01:29 PM
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Re: Xorlof's card printing tips

Great thread. Some more tips based on my experience:
Quote:
Originally Posted by lefton4ya View Post
TIPS for anyone taking to printer (Staples, OfficeMax, OfficeDepot, or local independent printshops):
  • Save all pages you want to print in a root folder of the drive.
  • Buy your own paper in the office part of the store then take to print part of the store and pint on your "own" paper. Paper costs less than $1 a page and printing on your own paper costs 50-60 cents/page, verses printshop cardstock is $2 a page, so saves at least 50 cents/page. Plus they usually do not stock the bets paper that you can buy.
  • Buy 70-80 lb (175-220 gsm) semi-gloss. Glossy is fine but will might look too shiny compared to official cards. 50-65 lb (140-170 gsm) paper works OK, but won't be as thick as official cards. Sometimes it is advertised as index/cover or poster/catalog paper, but just look closely for the paper weight.
  • Make sure when they print they do not crop/resize by unchecking boxes like "fit picture to frame" or "fit to window" in print dialogs. If you don't actually show them by watching them on the computer when printing, in my experience they do it wrong and the cards are slightly smaller and lower resolution than normal.
  • If double sided on cardstock, office max and staples both have had issues in the past, with printers jamming, paper shredding, and people working there too ignorant to know how to flip pages correctly. Some printers are incapable of doing double-sided on anything more than 54 lb weight, and each office store has different printers, so if you really want double sided you might need to shop around testing 1 page at a time.
  • Always ask to print one page first, check how it looks, then if it is good print the rest. Every one of my times I have been it takes at least a couple pages to get right.

Enjoy!
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Old March 3rd, 2015, 03:25 AM
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Re: Xorlof's card printing tips

@Xorlof Great tips on paper use. Being a photographer, the paper used in a print is often over looked and can make a huge difference in the final out come. Using the right paper or canvas can make a great image even greater.

Do you happen to have a link to where I can pick up the paper that you use(Carolna Digital C2C Cover Stock). Im having a had time sourcing it.

thanks
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Old January 6th, 2016, 06:51 AM
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Re: Xorlof's card printing tips

Want to resurrect this great thread. I should be printing some of my precompiled 3/page PDF of all C3V/SoV as well as some C3G cards using X Minus 2 Customs Card Printer this week, but will be taking to local printshop as they are the best price, quality of paper and ink, and service.

But here are some of my tips on printing, taken from my Combine any 3 cards 3/page with GIMP Script-Fu thread.

Quote:
Originally Posted by lefton4ya View Post
...
Download or export the cards you want to combine in the best quality you can get in any format (PDF/PNG/JPG/BMP), preferably at 300 DPI, all about 5x5 inches. C3V/C3G/GreyOwl template cards are all 5.37*5.09 inches (1610*528 pixels) while MSE exports are 4.85*4.58 inches (HQ 300dpi is 1455x1364 pixels). For custom downloads on this site, PDF files are usually the best quality, but a few of the JPGs are better.
...
TIPS for anyone taking to printer (Staples, OfficeMax, OfficeDepot, FedEx office, or local independent printshops):
  • Save all pages you want to print in a root folder of the drive.
  • Buy your own paper in the office part of the store then take to print part of the store and pint on your "own" paper. Paper costs less than $1 a page and printing on your own paper costs 50-60 cents/page, verses printshop cardstock is $2 a page, so saves at least 50 cents/page. Plus they usually do not stock the bets paper that you can buy.
  • Buy 70-80 lb (175-220 gsm) semi-gloss. Glossy is fine but will might look too shiny compared to official cards. 50-65 lb (140-170 gsm) paper works OK, but won't be as thick as official cards. Sometimes it is advertised as index/cover or poster/catalog paper, but just look closely for the paper weight.
  • Make sure when they print they do not crop/resize by unchecking boxes like "fit picture to frame" or "fit to window" in print dialogs. In my experience, if you don't actually show them by watching them on the computer when printing, they do it wrong and the cards are slightly smaller and lower resolution than normal.
  • If double sided on cardstock, office stores all have issues, with printers jamming, paper shredding, and people working there too ignorant to know how to flip pages correctly. Some printers are incapable of doing double-sided on anything more than 54 lb weight, and each office store (even different Staples/CopyMax) have different printers, so if you really want double sided you might need to shop around testing 1 page at a time.
  • Always ask to print one page first, check how it looks, then if it is good print the rest. Every one of my time I have been it takes at least a couple pages to get right.
  • I highly recommend finding a local independent printshop over Stapes/CopyMax for multiple reasons: They are cheaper (some have setup fee but if you print a bunch at a time they are always cheaper if you average per page), they have better quality paper and ink, they have printers and workers capable of printing double-sided, they are usually more friendly and care about the work, plus its always better to support the independents.
  • For more tips, including more info on which paper to get or printing at home, see Xorlof's card printing tips

Enjoy!
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