Print and Play Tutorial Part 2

Automating Card Creation

This is a guide for creators and wannabe designers alike who want to leverage the power of templates in Photoshop to create their own set of cards. This 3 part guide will go through everything from designing card templates to producing a print and play set. Let's dive into part 2!

I'm assuming that at this point, the main ideas for the game and its gameplay have been fleshed out, so that the next step is to produce cards. Obviously, producing handwritten cards is the fastest and easiest way to create a prototype of your game. If the scale of the game is under 30 cards, then it's possible to just write and draw everything out by yourself. If you notice that your game is going through many major revisions quickly, then it might be best to set up a template workflow to help with development of the game.

In order to start templating, you must identify the variables that change on the card. These are values like the name of the card, cost, HP, attack, type, etc. Keep track of every card in an Excel document or Google Sheets document. Our team used Google Sheets so multiple people could work on a single document.

 A simple example of the variables on the cards and each row represents a different card

A simple example of the variables on the cards and each row represents a different card

This document should contain only text because it will need to be converted into plain text format or CSV. This is so Photoshop can read the input and create the cards. (This part can be difficult, especially if your original Excel file is organized elaborately like ours was. This example is a simplification.)

 The plaintext version of the lexicon. This part can be annoying if your original spreadsheet document has a lot of organizational fluff like colors and formulas.

The plaintext version of the lexicon. This part can be annoying if your original spreadsheet document has a lot of organizational fluff like colors and formulas.

When you have the base template ready, it's time to use the power of automation. Assure each variable is a separate text layer so that Photoshop can replace these with the values that is defined in the CSV file.

Go to the file menu: Image > Variables > Define

This menu will help you map the text layers into the columns of your lexicon. Check "Text Replacement" and enter the name of the variable as it is in the spreadsheet. Do this for every layer.

 Image > Variable > Define.

Image > Variable > Define.

The next step is to define a data set. Go to the file menu: Image > Variables > Data Set

Choose to import your CSV file (any error here will relate to formatting issues of the CSV file). Each data set will refer to a row in the CSV file. The "Name" will refer to the columns of the CSV file. If everything went well at this point, checking the "Preview" box on the right will allow you to see the changes in your file.

 This window will show you which values are being populated into the text layer.

This window will show you which values are being populated into the text layer.

Another menu should be available when these settings are defined. The "Apply Data Set" menu is used to quickly preview each row of your CSV. After generating each card and saving it as a separate PSD file, you can manually go in to each file and customize them. 

 Image > Apply Data set... (the data sets will show up if a valid file is imported)

Image > Apply Data set... (the data sets will show up if a valid file is imported)

In the next post, I will show you how to produce multiple files with the data set. We'll also finish up by generating a print and play set.