2015 TSR: 1000 vs. 1000… Plus A Peek Behind The Curtain

This isn’t going to be a typical “Custom Card” post… I’m going to share customs of two players with something in common, and then I’m going to (hopefully) answer a reader’s question about how I make the templates for my custom cards.

First, let’s get to the two new customs….

On July 24th, Michael Conforto made his major league debut and became the 1,000th player in Mets history! Pretty cool, right?
2015 TSR #302 - Michael Conforto

On August 1st, Gerardo Parra was acquired from the Brewers and became the 1,000th player in Orioles history! Pretty cool, right?
2015 TSR #301 - Gerardo Parra

…Wait a moment!

I have this terrible feeling of deja vu!

When I found out about Parra, I had to go back and look up the articles about Conforto.  They can’t be talking about the same thing, can they?

Yes, they could.  The Orioles first took the field in 1954, the Mets in 1962, and yet they both hit the 1,000 player mark within a few days of each other.  What are the odds?

I have a feeling it worked out this way because of a few Orioles who held on to roster spots for a little while, most notably a pair of guys named Cal and Brooks.  The Mets record-holder for career games is Ed Kranepool with 1,853, and that’s fewer games than Cal, Brooks, Mark Belanger and Eddie Murray put in with the O’s.  David Wright’s 1,516 games is second on the Mets list, but if he’d played for the Orioles he’d fall behind Boog Powell, Brandy Anderson and Paul Blair.

And for those error collectors out there, the Conforto card is missing the “Notable Newbies” logo at the bottom. The corrected version appears to be a lot more rare, so if you happen to stumble across that version in a virtual pack, you may be able to sell it for a boatload of Bitcoins and put your virtual kids through virtual college.

…And now…

It’s time for the promised “peek behind the curtain”.  I’ve had a few people ask me how I go about making templates for the custom cards.

What I’m about to discuss is not so much a “how to do it” as much as it is “how **I** do it”.  I’m sure there are multiple ways of handling all this stuff, but I’m going to go over what works for me after several years of making customs.

I should also point out that I am not in any way a professional graphic designer, I’m just a guy who likes to play with his copy of Paint Shop Pro 9.  Some of what I’ve learned came from tips here and there, but most of my education came from sheer trial and error… “Hmm, I wonder what this does…”

Now the first thing to explain about my templates is that I use the heck out of layers. What are layers, you ask?  They’re essentially virtual, transparent “sheets” that are stacked up on top of each other… Think of a stack of acetate sheets, each with something painted on them.  When viewed from above, it might look like a single image, but each sheet has its own graphics on it, and the sheets higher up in the stack might overlay some of the lower-down sheets.

My template currently has somewhere between 40 to 50 layers built into it, most of which are hidden at any given time.

For instance, with a custom like this one…

2015 TSR #153 - Ben Zobrist

…Zobrist and O.co Coliseum are actually two different images, each their own layer.  Then (working from the bottom to the top), there’s the white border, the green and yellow stripes and “Athletics” wordmark, and finally the black text  (“BEN ZOBRIST” and “IF/OF”)

Here’s an “exploded view”, to give you a better idea of what I’m talking about.

2015 TSR Exploded image

I have a different layer for each team’s border.  Changing the team name and borders is as easy as hiding one layer and making another one visible.  Before this set made it’s debut on my blog, I had made up layers for each of the 30 teams, plus some of the other subsets.  Each team’s layer started out as three different layers;  the team name on top, a set of generic colored stripes on the bottom, and in between I created an empty layer to play with while I “painted over” the parts of the colored stripes that I didn’t want to show through.  When I was satisfied with what I had, I merged the three layers into one,  saved the template, and repeated the process when I did the next team.

Here’s another exploded view showing a few team-specific layers.

2015 TSR Exploded image 2
When I first started doing these sets, my designs were simple enough that I would just modify the team name on the fly.  I’ve since discovered that it works a lot better to set up all of the team-specific stuff up front, and then I can pick and choose the ones I want.   I’ve also found that, by doing this work up front, I’ve been able to fix some unforeseen issues before I “went live” with the design.

The downside is, of course, that it’s a lot of work up front.  It’s OK for me, because I take this stuff a little more seriously than I probably should… and I have no life.

Getting back to the layers, the final layer is the player name and position.  Sometimes these get a little tricky because when you change between names like “CLIFF LEE” and “JARROD SALTALAMACCHIA”, sometimes it throws things out of whack, alignment-wise.  Because of that, I create a “Guide” layer that I make visible only when I need it; just before I merge all the layers and save the image as a JPEG, I make the Guide layer invisible.

To show you what I’m talking about, I made another version of the Conforto card while leaving the Guide layer visible.
2015 TSR Conforto with Guide
This guide has many extra lines in it because it was used right from the beginning to make sure everything lines up properly; you’ll notice that there are marks up at the top roughly where the team names go, and above the “M” in Mets you can see the very top of a green extension of the vertical stripe.  That’s there so I can easily position any new wordmarks I’m adding to the template.

Each time I make a custom, I do the following:

  • Paste the image of the player as a new layer at the bottom of the stack
  • Resize the image so it fits and I’m happy with the “cropping”.
  • Find the layer for the player’s team (or “Highlights”, “All-Stars” or whatever) and make it visible.
  • Make the “Guide” layer visible.
  • Modify the player name and position, and then align the text using the marks on the Guide.
  • Hide the Guide
  • Merge all the layers
  • Save it as a JPEG.

So, that pretty much covers today’s session of “Custom Card 101”.   Again, I wouldn’t be surprised if other people do this entirely differently.

If you have any questions, or would like to know anything else about my custom-making process, please don’t hesitate to ask.


7 thoughts on “2015 TSR: 1000 vs. 1000… Plus A Peek Behind The Curtain

  1. Wow, you have a LOT more patience than I do! Cool to see the behind-the-scenes view of how you make your customs…

    • Well………. I started the year with that intention (even if I didn’t “publish” each and every one), but time and decent images of certain players makes it a challenge. I will certainly try, I’ll put it that way.

  2. I’ve made some custom cards in the past and recently, but I’ve taken the lame “easy” way and just used MS Publisher in the past, and now WPS Presentation (basically PowerPoint). It limits me in the creation of the actual graphics but the basic concept is the same beyond that – layers for the photo, border, name, logo, etc.

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