Last week I gave a step-by-step guide to creating custom counters for Houses of the Blooded. Specifically, these counters are going to be used to track the in-game currency called 'Style points.' Using a process called image transfer, I recreated some vintage French tarot cards using designs I found online.
At the end of my last post, I identified a few improvements to the process that I thought would make for a better product. As it turns out, I was wrong. For reasons beyond my current understanding, the image transfer method described in my previous post failed to produce results that I was happy with. So this week I'm trying a whole new approach, which I think has given me the counters I was looking for to begin with.
The image transfer method produced that vintage feel I was looking for in these counters. It also resulted in a pretty cohesive product; that is, it made a seamless (and seemingly authentic) card surface. However, the aesthetic itself wasn't the only consideration.
The issue with the image transfer method was that the damn image wasn't wholly or reliably transferring! It was smearing certain areas, ignoring others, or rendering some totally unidentifiable once they made it onto the card. In addition, the acetone, turpentine, and other chemicals I was using to release the ink to transfer the image made the card stock warp. They also made adding color to the cards (which I attempted to do) impossible. Markers, colored pencils, and even crayons failed to adhere to the treated surface.
So I decided to skip the middle man. Rather than trying to seamlessly transfer the image onto the card stock, I chose to settle for the illusion of a uniform surface. I restored the saved digital images of the tarot cards to their original "unmirrored" state. Then I reprinted them, this time on bonded parchment paper; this is the type of stuff you'd use for printing resumes. Then, as with the image transfer method, I cut each individual image down to fit on its own card. The images fit. The hues of both the parchment paper and the card didn't exactly match, but each gave off an antique vibe. So far, so good.
Next, I had to affix the cropped image to the card stock. Glue sticks just get messy, so I opted for double-sided tape. A few well placed pieces later, I had the image centered and affixed in a way that seemed to work. I tried a few more- five to be exact, to match the first experimental set- and set about shaping the cards themselves.
This part was fairly simple. Using scissors, I simply trimmed the card stock down an equal distance from both the top and bottom of the image- roughly 1/4"- then snipped the corners at a 45-degree angle. I did debate the merits of "rounded v. square" corners; historically, the square corners fit better. However, this is a fantasy game, and to me the rounded corners seemed to display more character.
The Artsy Anti-Climax
Feeling pretty confident that I had actually achieved a finished product I would be happy with, I decided to go ahead and affix the rest of the images to the remainder of the cards. I shuffled them a few times, trimmed down some stragglers to fit the deck, and even laid them out to see how they'd look on the gaming table. So far, still so good.
One of the improvements I had wanted to try in my original attempt was the addition of color to these cards. This would make them a little more stylish, and eliminate my concerns about the paper and the card stock varying in hue. Hoping to achieve a rich but faded appearance I'd seen on vintage baseball and playing cards, I broke out the colored pencils. The finished product wasn't bad per se, but it didn't have the look I had envisioned. I tried out another card, varying the colors I had used the first time. Still, the finished product just seemed to be a 'coloring book version' of a counter that I was happy with in the first place.
As the color hadn't added any value to the counters, I decided to keep the core deck as black-and-white images.
All told, this method took about the same amount of time as my original attempt. (That is, if you don't count the color variations.) The finished product still fits what I perceive as the culture of our Houses of the Blooded game, but we'll see what the group says once we get to use them. Mean while, I have time to hunt down some matching parchment paper and card stock and start the whole process over. By eliminating the visible color difference in the counter's components, I think the next batch will be just my style.