Creating your base template
It's common to see people online complaining that they don't have the design skills to create a card game. The main misconception is that people think they don’t understand art. Although art and design are closely related, it's possible to design things well without applying any fancy art on top of your game. It's usually better to start off with a good design before you deal with art so that it's easy to apply the theme or art on top of the design when the game is at that stage. In this guide, I'll share with you what I have learned and help you design a card template for board games. This tutorial will be using Photoshop. I am aware of other tools but I suggest using Photoshop as it is an industry standard.
Let's start off with what all cards have: a margin. All cards will have a margin, even if the card is a full piece of art. This is because cards need to be printed and will have a cut line that needs to be obeyed. Understanding margins will make creating print and plays easier.
Let's take a look at a standard template. The bleed is the card border and is usually just black. This is because card cuts are imperfect so creating a uniform look that all of your cards obey will help create a professional feel and keep things fair so you cannot identify a card by a specific border imperfection. The red line is the cutline. The whole card should fit within this line. The dotted green line is the margin and that is necessary to give all important information a designated space. If information overflows out of this space, then the cards may look inconsistent. More importantly, parts of the cards might be cut off due to the tolerance of the cut.
Now that we know where information can go, we will figure out how to make this information clear. Compartmentalization or, in layman's terms, "separating information to keep it clear and distinct" is very important in card design. Players will look at cards to gain knowledge of the game state or state of their hand. The easier it is read the card, the faster it is to acquire the information and the better the player will feel about the game. While knowing where to place information may take design skills or experience, even newbie designers can learn by simply playtesting their game. Produce a few of the cards by hand and pretend to play the game. Keep in mind what you can and cannot see. Figure out what information the player needs to know. As the designer of your game, you should be the most aware of what information is crucial. Draw boxes around each piece of information and start separating it.
Create the template in Photoshop and make sure all values are separate text layers.
In the next part we'll use Photoshop's data set feature to automatically generate cards from your lexicon.