CRAFT! – How to make AWESOME MTG Tokens

Previously on CRAFT!, we talked about making a tiny Minecraft pig with papercraft, and today’s post is about another game that’s near and dear to geeks everywhere.

That’s right. Matt Booker plays Magic: The Gathering.

Sometimes I even go to FNM at the always awesome Underdark Comics and Games. I actually have a few things I’d like to talk about on this subject, and the first of those is how to make custom token cards!

Those of you that don’t play, stick around. I think you’ll at least find this amusing.

This technique should work for putting any image on any token, but I’ve got a particular example that I want to show for the guide.

Bloodline Keeper \ Lord of Lineage is easily, EASILY my favorite vampire WOTC has made. Yes, even more than Vampire Nighthawk. Just look at the flavor on this thing, and all the stuff it does! It just begs to be put in a deck and built around.

And you know what else it begs for?

Bitchin’ tokens.

And while Swetlin Velinov did a nice job on the official Innistrad Vampire token card, I wanted something more out of the ordinary. Regular readers here on MattBooker.info know I have a… particular sense of humor. I like to have that show through when I can, even if it’s in the midst of a heated battle of wits between two card slingers with store credit and prizes on the line.

But what’s so funny about vampires?

There’s always Twilight. :D

Now, I couldn’t just tape a picture of Edward Cullen’s head on a vampire token and have it be funny.

Hmm…

No, no. I’ve got something better. These are creatures on my side of the battlefield, after all, and I want them to be funny but also kind of badass. Let me just google, ‘twilight badass funny’. I’ll be right back.

Huh.

Bing is the other way around.

Lets try something else.

How about, ‘Punching Edward Cullen.’ That’s funny AND badass.

ONE PUNCH! TWO PUNCHES! AH, AH, AH!

Yup. That’ll do.

That particular image is ‘Down for the Count‘ by Jonathan ‘poopbear’ Hoffman. The image gets used a lot without credit to him, and that’s not a good thing. I can understand why the internet likes it, though. Just look at it. It’s awesome!

His DeviantArt page says, “By the way feel free to use this image for icons or whatever. If you are reposting it somewhere I would greatly appreciate it if you gave me credit. Thanks!”

A MTG token is probably under ‘whatever’, so this should be okay to use. I don’t have a Deviant Art page and his website isn’t working, or I’d message him to say thanks. So in case Jonathan sees this, thanks! :D

So now that we’ve got an image that we want to make a token out of, let’s get to making it. MattBooker.info CRAFT! guide initiation sequence, begin!

 

Want to support this blog? Check out The Witching Well, our illustrated eBook!

 

Step 1 – Find Images

We’ve already done this, but just to quickly recap: Find the images.

Official WOTC Token

Down for the Count by Jonathan Hoffman

Something that does need mentioned in this step, though, is that you should find the highest resolution (largest sized) of the image that you can get.

Google has a feature called Search Tools in the same row with Web, Images, Shopping, and More. It’s context sensitive, so if you’re searching under Images, you get options like Size and Color. There’s a few others, but to find the largest resolution of image you’d look under Size.

This is one time where size does matter.

Pick ‘large’ and if you don’t find one from there, go to ‘Medium’.

The smaller the initial images are, the worse they’ll look when we’re done editing them, so try to find the largest possible ones.

 

Step 2 – Download Images

This seems like an obvious step, but there can be some tricky bits involved. This time, downloading each image is easy. Go to the link for the token, right click on the image, and save it somewhere on your computer. Go to the DeviantArt link and click on Download Image, then right click and save it somewhere on your computer.

Easy.

If you’ve found the largest image through Google, you can also click on ‘view original image’, then right click and save it.

Again, easy.

But what if you’re on one of those pesky sites that has a script that activates whenever you right click, telling you that the image is copyright of somebody?

Well, obviously you should respect the copyright…

But c’mon, we’re not mass producing these things. Or at least you darn well better not be. The whole point of this is to have something to use for your deck that’s unusual, not the stuff everybody else has. So is it really that bad to use that image for a few tokens in your personal deck?

Let me consult with my lawyer.

“No way, man. That’s stealing!”

"And you thought I couldn't tie a real tie."

But you kill for money!

“How do you think I became a lawyer?”

Ah.

“Oh and I’m copyright Marvel Entertainment.”

Well, crap.

“And probably Disney. I dunno.”

Alright, alright! Respect the original artist’s copyright. If you can, email them and ask them to use the image. If they’re not a jerk, they’ll probably be cool with it, and might even ask for a picture of what you did.

But what if a website has some stupid pop up script that says nothing about copyright? Or what if you just don’t feel like right clicking to save the image?

“Wait a minute…”

Shhh. Just roll with it.

How do you download the image without right clicking, assuming it’s entirely okay for you to use that particular image?

Print Screen.

It’s a button on your keyboard. Probably. Mine says ‘Print Scrn’ and is also the ‘SysRq’ button. What it does is tell your computer to take a screenshot of the current page. It temporarily stores it in the ‘clipboard’, which is the same place used when you ‘cut’ or ‘copy’ text.

And if you’ve got an image editing program, it might also have an option to do screen captures, which is basically the same thing.

And that leads us to the next step…

 

Step 3 – Open In Image Editor

Here’s where the tough stuff starts, depending on if you even have an image editing program, and how familiar you are with it.

Because there are so many options (from high end stuff like Photoshop, cheap but awesome stuff like Paintshop Pro when it was still owned by Jasc, or powerful but free stuff like GIMP), I’m only going to outline the jist of how to do this.

The basics should be pretty much the same between programs, though. The names for the tools might be different, but their functions should be the same.

Got it?

Good. Unless you said ‘no’, then, well, try it anyway. It’s not as hard as you might think.

So you’ve got your image editing program up, and you need to get your images in there. The easiest way is if you’ve found the image on a place where you can save it. All you have to do then is open the image via your image editing program.

But what if you for some entirely ethical reason decided to take a screenshot, and that screenshot is sitting in your computer’s ‘clipboard’ area?

Just open up your image editing program, and hit CTRL+V on your keyboard (That’s the ‘paste’ shortcut on a Windows PC. Apple users may have to perform a similar action involving Starbucks coffee and a sweater vest.), or go into the options and look for ‘Import from Clipboard’ or something close to that.

Do that for each image and then…

 

Step 4 – Layers

One of the great things about image editors is the use of layers. If yours can’t use them, get a different image editing program. Sorry, MS Paint users. :)

This quick tutorial isn’t meant to teach you about all the stuff you can do with layers, but I will give you the basic jist. Ready?

Layers let you stack levels of stuff on images. They mean exactly what it says in the name. For our tokens, we’re going to use the official card as a frame, and replace the art with the picture of the Count punching Edward Cullen.

The easiest way to do that is to cut the art out of the frame, and then put the new image on a layer below it. That way you can move the image around however you want and it doesn’t bother the frame.

So to start doing that, we need to mess with the current layer on the official token. It’s probably in there as a layer called ‘background’, and certain programs like Paint Shop Pro won’t let you put stuff below that. Your program might.

If it does, create a new layer below it.

If it doesn’t, first tell it to ‘promote background to layer’ or something to that effect, then create a new layer below it.

Yeah, I know that’s kind of vague, but it’s not me being halfassed. Honest. How am I supposed to know what program you have, or what it calls these options? They do basically the same thing, though, so poke around and you can find it.

So you want a layer with the official token, and then an empty layer below it where we’re going to put the new art.

An image is like an onion.

 

Step 5 – Remove Art From Token

In this step, we’re going to need a ‘point to point’ or ‘freehand’ selection tool. Even if you’ve never used an image editing program, you’ve probably selected a group of icons or text or something, and that likely used a rectangular selection too.

Basically, you left clicked and drug the mouse, and a rectangle formed. It got bigger the more you moved the mouse away from the initial point, and then whatever was in that rectangle was selected.

Well this is similar, except instead of an automatic rectangle, you draw the outline of the shape and whatever is inside that gets selected.

Instead of left clicking and dragging, you make a series of left clicks that each make up a point in the shape. It’s like playing connect the dots. :)

Some programs call this a lariat or a lasso, but any version worth its salt’ll have it.

Got that?

So get that tool ready, and zoom in close on the image.

Make sure you are on the correct layer, with the official token image.

Next, start outlining the circle around the art with a series of left clicks. To finish, most programs have you right click and it will connect the last dot with the first dot.

It's got the angles.

That’s the start of an outline. Notice how it looks like crap?

Don’t worry about it. The reason we got high resolution images and zoomed in was so that when these get printed out to normal size, little things like those jagged angles won’t look like jagged angles.

Bigger is better when image editing. Resizing afterward helps smooth out stuff like that.

Once you’ve got it outlined, tell the program to delete the selection.

Much smoother.

The checkered area is the empty layer below.

“As your fake lawyer, I feel I should warn you about something.”

What is it?

“This token card is copyright WOTC. Do you have permission to alter it?”

I… I do not. But I’d really, really hope that Mr. Rosewater and company don’t have a problem with a guy that doesn’t even go to professional tournaments making a handful of funny vampire tokens with their card frame. This guide is aimed at FNM and kitchen table players. What Spike is going to be caught using these?

Unless StarCityGames.com gets with poopbear, er, Jonathan Hoffman, and they put out professional quality tokens of this. Then I could see pro players picking them up.

“Pffft. Like Bloodline Keeper would Top Eight a pro tourney.”

Shut it! This card is awesome.

Anyway, if this really bothers them that much, I’d hope they contact me politely instead of casting a lawyer.

 

Step 6 – Resize New Art

If you’ve got a good image editing program, it should have a resize feature.

Actually, it will probably have a few different resize features. If it does, play around with each of them until you find the one that works best. It’s probably the one that’s set to default. The main ones you want to stay away from are things that just do a ‘pixel resize’, as that will give you jagged looking images.

Depending on what size of image you found for the new token art, you’ll need to try different sizes until you find one that looks good for the next step. Just take a guess and go from there, but make sure you always go back to the original size before trying to resize the image again. Each time you resize it, the image quality goes down, and reverting back to the original before each try will keep it the best quality.

For this particular token I’ve shown you what images to go get, so I can tell you exactly how much the Down for the Count image needs resized.

It needs to be resized by 50%, making the image 700 by 453 pixels.

 

Step 7 – Paste and Align

Now go back to the official token image, and select the empty layer.

Then, paste the resized image into the empty layer. Your image editing program should have various shortcuts for this. CTRL+V is usually for pasting the selection as a new image, so it might be something like CTRL+E. You can usually find the options under the EDIT menu, and then PASTE AS.

Once you’ve got it pasted in there, you can move it around without bothering the frame since that’s on the layer above. Align it to where you think looks good.

Edward Cullen is a 0/1.

For the example that we’re using, the image is bigger than the frame, but the shape of the frame actually helps emphasize the action in the image.

 

Step 9 – Add Black Border(Optional)

This step is optional, as the token will look good without a rounded frame around it. And depending on where you got your image for the token, it might not need one.

All magic cards have a rounded frame around them, usually just called a border. Most modern cards have black borders, so that’s what I’d recommend adding to this token.

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, go take a look at Auriok Champion. Inside of the border, a Magic: The Gathering card is basically a rectangle with content that varies depending on the color and the card.

For some reason, most sites that host images of cards don’t have the border on there. I’m not actually sure why, but that does make it inconvenient if you want to print this with a border.

To make things more convenient on you, I went ahead and just built a border to use with any tokens you might make. Right click here, and save the link to your computer.

It’s probably not exact to an official border, but it’s looks good. It’s also sized exactly to fit with the images we’re using in the guide today. If the tokens you’re using for frames are a different size, you’ll have to resize the border to fit.

To put the border on the images, open up the file in your image editing program, then save it as the name of whatever token you’re going to be making. That creates a copy, so you’re not messing up your original.

Next, you’ll need to go back to the other image that you’ve been working on and merge the layers together. The wording on the command varies on the program, but you can probably find it under your Layers menu, or even just right clicking on a layer to see a context menu.

By merging them, you can then select all (usually CTRL+A), then copy (usually CTRL+C). If you hadn’t merged the layers, you’d only copy the current layer.

Once that’s done, go over to the border image and make a new layer above the current one.

Then paste the copied image as a new selection into that empty layer, and move it around until it lines up with the border.

Bordering on Awesome.

The border that I linked to uses a gray inner rectangle to help guide you in aligning the image, but there’s room for overlap, so align the frame to what looks good to you.

 

Step 10 – Resize Image For Printing

Again, this is going to vary depending on what program you use, but they’re all basically the same when it comes to this, blah blah blah.

“Was that a vampire joke?”

What?

“You know. Blah!”

Yes… Yes it was.

Your image editing program should have various options when you resize an image, and one of those should be Print Size.

Insert Penis Joke Here.

Because we’re going to put these in card sleeves, we need to print it to a size that will fit. To do that, the image needs to be somewhere between 2.5 inches wide and 3.5 inches tall.

Just enter the width of 2.5 inches and your image editing program should automatically fill in the height. As long as it’s less than 3.5 inches tall, it should easily fit standard size card sleeves.

 

Step 11 – Arrange Print Layout

Now that you’ve told your image editing program what size you want to print the image, you need to tell it how to print it.

We don’t want to waste a whole sheet of paper just printing one token, so take a look in your program’s printer options. It’s probably something called ‘Print Layout’ or ‘Print Setup’.

On mine, it shows the open images on the left and a blank white area on the right. That blank area represents a sheet of paper, and once you select a printer it will display the proper margins.

From there, I just drag and drop the image to the blank area. Each time I do, it makes a new copy of the image to print, and they can be arranged to better fit.

Those skills you learned in kindergarten are about to come in handy.

Your program may vary, of course, but it should be able to do something like this.

 

Step 12 – Print!

This step is probably obvious, but there’s a bit more to it than just clicking the print button.

You also have to pick out the right kind of material to print these on. You could do regular printer paper, but your token would be a bit flimsy. A way to get around that would be to slip it in front of a regular card in a sleeve, but that does make the tokens feel a bit thick.

When you’ve got a 60 card deck with 15 sideboard cards and 8 token cards, and you’re trying to fit that all of that in a standard sized deck box, thickness counts.

The way I prefer to do it is to get some blank card stock. This isn’t as thick as an official card, but it’s sturdy enough to make tokens out of. You can find it in printer friendly sheets at most stores that sell office supplies.

Using that method, they do still need card sleeves, but they’re stiff enough in hand to feel right.

“You’ve got a lot of experience with that, do you?”

Why yes, my deck does have a lot of girth.

“No… See, I meant you like to put your hand on other men’s stiff–“

Bad Deadpool! Bad! Don’t make me roll up the newspaper again.

“That thing’s like ten times as big as me! I’m only 4 inches!”

That’s what she said! Ha! Gotcha.

“You realize that would mean it’s proportionately huge, right?”

“Thanks for the compliment, my man.”

Moving on…

After you’ve got the tokens printed out, just cut them out of the card stock sheet and put them in sleeves.

Here’s the result.

I keep transformable cards in clear sleeves.

Or close to the result. That’s actually one of the original tokens that I made. For this guide, I went through and did all the steps again, but I didn’t need to print out any new ones. You can see the Down for the Count art is a bit smaller, but it still looks awesome.

In case you’re wondering, I’m not linking you to the finished result. The point of this guide is to show you how to make them, not to do it for you. Learn by doing!

Did you like the guide? Did you hate it? Leave a comment and let me know!

Don’t forget to subscribe on the main page if you want to stay up to date on updates, and feel free to use the social media buttons below to redfacetwitplus it with your friends.

~Matt Booker

9 thoughts on “CRAFT! – How to make AWESOME MTG Tokens

  1. That’s great, I wish Wizards would just release novelty decks with crossovers. The only thing missing from the token is an ability to deliver hits as follows . . . “One hit, ha ha ha, two hits, ha ha ha, three . . .”

    Also, I got your video for Risk Legacy. I think that’s an intriguing take on the game. Like Risk 2021 meets MTG. The only thing I see wrong with it (which was is the same thing the commenters) is the time consumption. All Risk games are terrible about setup and time of game. I haven’t even played regular Risk for almost three years.

    Also, on while on the subject of Sesame Street, I saw this on CBS Sunday Morning. I thought you would find it of interest.

    http://www.startribune.com/local/blogs/211217921.html

  2. I just need to know what the best type of printer is and would it be possible to just print over an old land card or something?!?!

  3. You can use any kind of printer you want. An added bonus of having them in a card sleeve is that it adds a layer of glossy shine, thanks to the clear plastic. Even if you’ve got a crappy printer, the tokens look more professional.

    I would recommend not using a wax printer. They produce glossy results, but the colors aren’t as vibrant and they shouldn’t be used for things that get handled as much as cards.

    An inkjet or a color laser printer would be fine, though.

    As for printing over a card… The printer would have to be able to lay down very thick layers of ink/wax/paint just to obscure the details and colors below. Sort of like how a blue pen on yellow paper makes green ink.

    I would recommend just sticking to the method described in the guide. A card stock token in a sleeve is durable enough for regular use, but thinner than a regular card so it’s easy to tell the difference. That helps when sorting out afterward, so they don’t get shuffled into a deck, and thinner tokens means more can fit in a card box with a deck. There’s also what I mentioned about the sleeve making the card look better.

    If you want to use them without card sleeves you can either try to find thicker card stock, glue multiple layers of card stock together, or glue them onto the face of an actual card. Those are probably not going to look as nice, though.

    There are other methods, but they require a lot more effort and start getting close to counterfeiting. These are tokens, so just stick to things that are easy and fun. :)

    ~Matt Booker

  4. Thanks for the link! I’ll stick with my method, but that seems to be a good option. :) The fan made sets seem really cool.

    ~Matt Booker

  5. there is a much easier way to make great looking tokens in all theyre glory! for mine i use a program called magic set editor (its free and is used to let you make your own cards but i use it for token making) with this all you have to do is imput image into a pre rendered card, copy the card then paste into word pad or something resize then the rest is history! its a great way to make tons fast!

  6. Thanks for the details on this. This seems to be the easiest and most straightforward way to pull it off. Thanks!

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