Article #11.3 – Demystifying Game Components (part 3)

Major Category: Art & Graphic Design



What is it?

Any single piece of art that is going into your game (see Graphic Design below). These are painted electronically 99% of the time (yes, it’s still called painting, even with a stylus), and when they are not, they need to be converted to an electronic medium for printing.

How is it made?

An artist you hire draws/paints art according to your specifications.  See our article on Finding an Artist for more specifics on this topic.

What are my options?

Black and White, Full Color, Partial Color – Obviously most games have everything in full color.

Beyond that, it’s all genre; find and choose a style you like and fits your game, then find the artist that can do what you need.

What are my size limitations?

You should have all art painted at the exact dimensions you need (ideally measured in pixel count) for the art’s primary place in the game, and at the final size needed or larger (you can scale art down with little loss, but scaling up more than 10 to 20% will begin to destroy its quality. Make sure you measure size while viewing and saving at 300dpi.

All art needs to be made 3mm wider and longer than the final game component, as the outer 1.5mm is subject to be cut off by the die cutting.  Having the extra 1.5mm on the outside (called Bleed) you’ll never accidentally have a cut component have white-space on the outside (very unprofessional).


Commission art at the size needed measured in pixels while at a 300dpi (dots per inch) resolution; as all art files need to be 300dpi to print with a full level of quality; the standard 72dpi that your art program’s default is good for electronic viewing but breaks down and looks pixelated when printed.   When you convert from 72dpi to 300dpi your image size (in inches/mm) shrinks tremendously – hence, commission it at 300dpi so you don’t risk losing everything.

Artists paint art in layers, there may be 1, 2, or 100, the electronic layers make design modifications and corrections much easier than traditional pigment and canvas. Request your artist to submit .psd files to you; they are Photoshop’s layered format. By doing so, you can very easily extract single images from their backgrounds, as they’ll be on a different layer. You can also easily export a .psd as an

Where possible, save files as .png’s; they are “lossless” and have transparent backgrounds; and though they are flat (1 layer), they are far smaller files than .psd’s. If you have to save as .jpg’s, that’s fine, just be sure to adjust your design program’s export settings to 100% quality and be aware that it will insert a background (not transparent) upon exporting (saving).

As 3mm bleed is required on the outside of the art, 3mm bleed is also suggested for the inside (between the die line and the nearest important piece of the art; this is called Inner Bleed). By having that extra 1.5mm safety on the inside, even if the die cut misses its mark by a whole 1.5mm the art/text/piece still looks professional. See example.

Be aware that art is electronically painted in the RGB (light) color mode, but will be printed in CMYK (pigment) color mode. Light has more, and brighter, colors than pigment can achieve; so upon conversion from RBG to CMYK your art will darken and lose a lot of contrast. But fear not, EVERYONE prints in CMYK, so it doesn’t look as bad as you think; nobody else will notice.

When headed to the presses I suggest importing every final art file you have (ie: Fully designed cards, fully designed player boards, etc.) into InDesign, then exporting as a PDF. InDesign will automatically (and with great quality) convert your files to a CMYK mode. This is required by your printer/manufacturer (both PDF and CMYK) and the printer won’t do it for you.

In printing, full color is noted as “4c”. 4c/4c = Full Color, both sides. 4c/1c (or similar) = Full Color on main side, reverse side black. 4c/- = Full Color on one side, reverse side no printing (white, or greyish cardboard color).

Additional Information:

RGB = Red, Green, Blue; the primary colors, it’s what we see.

CMYK = Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Key (which stands for Black); the colors of printing pigment, it’s the best we can reproduce to print with. Notice that you Inkjet printer has 2 cartridges: Black & Tri-color (C,M, & Y).

Lossless = No quality loss on export. .jpg’s are such small files, they can lose quality/integrity over time and multiple saves.




Graphic Design

What is it?

The assembling of the above Art into a final layout, including the addition of text, symbols, charts, and frames, that will result in a final printable product.

How is it made?

Depending on the item, some projects are designed in Photoshop (or Gimp), while others require Adobe InDesign.  The pieces are layered on top of each other, text is added, and a final item is exported in PDF format.

What are my options?

Artistically your options are endless, limited only by you and your designer’s imagination.  So find a designer you like.

What are my size limitations?



Find a game who’s graphic design (not art, but graphic layouts) are appealing, with text that matches the genre, is well centered, well spaced, looks clear, readable, and not too “busy” to the eye.  Contact the designer, and ask them for their graphic designer’s information.