working with bad images :: intro

The deciding factor for many people when they're wondering if they should join your TCG or not is the quality of your cards. Your template plays a big role, but this tutorial will deal with the quality of the IMAGES on the cards.

How many times have you seen a TCG with a nice template, but dark, fuzzy, or just plain DIM images on the cards? Did you join it? Probably not. Here, I'll explain how to make lower-quality images look great so all of your cards will be attractive.

This tutorial was written for Paint Shop Pro 7. The same effects can be achieved with Photoshop or other programs; simply look through the menus for similar options.

working with bad images :: objective

I'm going to turn this nasty, dark, grainy screenshot...

...into this card!

working with bad images :: process

step one: crop that sucker
Crop the screenshot to a size that's roughly proportional to your template. It doesn't have to be perfect.

step two: resize
Resize the image, again according to your template. Mine is 55x75, so I've resized it to 59x75. Again, it's isn't perfect, but it's close enough. Remember that the edges will be covered up by the template.

step three: unsharp mask
Effects -> Sharpen -> Unsharp Mask...
Try these settings: [radius 1.30] [strength 50] [clipping 5]
You should get something very much like this.

step four: adjust contrast
Effects -> Enhance Photo -> Automatic Contrast Enhancement...
Try [bias: lighter] [strength: normal] [apperance: natural] to get this.
(Of course, feel free to play with the settings to see what you prefer.)

step five: adjust saturation
Effects -> Enhance Photo -> Automatic Saturation Enhancement...
Try [bias: more colorful] [strength: strong] to get this.

Do NOT be afraid of oversaturating, especially if you are using anime images! Anime is supposed to be bright and colorful, and the finished card will look nice. Trust me, I've made thousands this way.

step six: tweak!
If you aren't satisfied with the results (I'm not), you can continue playing with the settings until you're happy with the image. I sharpened it a little more and did some more adjustments on the contrast.

step seven: finish!
Finally, place the image into your template and see how it looks.
It isn't perfect, but it's certainly better than it would have been if you used the image as is.

working with bad images :: tips

Naturally, the best advice is to avoid crappy screenshots, but sometimes that isn't possible, especially when dealing with minor characters or shows that haven't been released on DVD yet.

If you're not happy with the final result, this process is simple enough that you can try again (really, it is!) until you ARE satisfied.

And, of course, applying this process to pretty images yields even BETTER results.