Tutorial - Cardsmithing M15... or the art of making custom cards!

edited August 2016 in Tutorials
Welcome to the Cardsmithing M15 Tutorial. I will try my best to help you navigate this process and make professional looking cards and have a little fun in the process.

So you've decided to make your first card, or you want to enhance the overall asthetic of your cards to make them more pleasing to look at. This is the place to learn some of the methods and tricks we use to make our cards look as amazing as we can! We're going to focus on the M15 Card Generator for this tutorial, as it is the most commonly used frame.


The first place to start is to decide what it is you want to make. There are currently no design tutorials, but that will change soon enough. For now let's just cover the basics...

1.) Individual Card Design - You have an idea for a card, and you want to see what it will look like.
2.) Set Card Design - You have an idea for a set and want to make a series of cards that fit together.
3.) Artwork Design - You have some art that you want to make a card for.
4.) Challenge Design - You want to make a card to fit a challenge or contest.

These are the four basic reasons people make custom cards. We will move forward with the premise that you fit into one of these categories and are now ready to make your card.

In order to get started you'll need to go out and find some pictures to use. If you don't already have the artwork you want to use, try visiting the first tutorial...

Selecting Artwork - http://forums.mtgcardsmith.com/discussion/441/tutorial-selecting-artwork#latest

Now that you have your art or know where to look for the art you want, it's time to move on!

There are currently 5 different frames to choose from.

1.) M15 Frame - Since it became available, the M15 Frame has been the prefered choice of many Cardsmiths. It gives your cards a more current look and has a simpler layout when compared to the Modern Frame.
2.) Modern Frame - For those who want an older look, or are looking for a different level of customization. The Modern Frame gives you some layout options that are not available with the M15 Frame, including the ability to have smaller text.
3.) Token Full Art Frame - A simple token generator, in case you want to make your own proxy tokens to use in a game of FNM. These tokens are game legal!
4.) Token Standard Frame - An expanded version of the Full Art Frame. In case your token needs a little more detail!
5.) Planeswalker - If you're looking to make a Planeswalker, this is the frame for you!

For this Tutorial, you will select the M15 Frame and load the artwork you want to turn into a card.

This is a required field. (most of them are, in my opinion!) I can't help you pick the best name for your card, that part is up to you, but it is a widely used practice to avoid using the name of an existing Magic the Gathering card. A lot of people find it confusing and even upsetting when this happens. How do you know if it's already a Magic Card name? The best tool for this is to use the advanced search options on Gatherer.

Gatherer - http://gatherer.wizards.com/Pages/Default.aspx

Wizards has a complete data base that you can use that has many search criteria. Card names are one of the search parameters, and that's the way I check my card names!

Once you settle on the name of your card, it's time to move on to the next section.

What order does the mana go in, and why should it matter? These are important questions that every Cardsmith should ask.

Magic cards come from the plane of WUBRG, or as some people like to call it, Wooberg. Woobergians have established that the proper order of mana symbols starts with colorless mana, since they only exist as numbers, and numbers always come first. From there, you only need to remember where the cards come from... WUBRGCity.

1.) # - Generic
2.) W - White
3.) U - Blue
4.) B - Black
5.) R - Red
6.) G - Green
7.) C - Colorless

Some people like to put the number last, and they have often explained it as their way of keeping "real" cards and "fake" cards seperated. There is nothing preventing you from putting the mana symbols in any order you want, but WUBRG is what you need to remember if you're trying to keep your cards as realistic as possible.

*Custom Casting Cost*
At this time you can create a custom numerical casting cost up to TWELVE! All you need to do is change the numbers inside the casting cost generator {these things} to any number up to 12 for those expensive Eldrazi!

One other thing to keep in mind... If the Name of the card and the Casting cost of the card are both long, maybe too long, one is going to cover the other, so make sure to check that on the PREVIEW page if you're not sure.

What is this? You can change the color of the card? That's preposterous!

This is actually a very cool feature. Using Hybrid mana but don't want the gold border? Switch the color! Did you make an Artifact with colored mana in the casting cost? Lose the color! Have a card with NO casting cost? Add a color! It's a very small thing, but it's the little things that make a difference when you need them!

We all know what these are, the Type tells you what kind of card you're playing and the Subtype helps define it even more. The nice thing about this is that MTG Cardsmith has already populated the Type section with all the MtG archetypes. Just drop down the menu and make a selection.

The Subtype is where you get to be more creative! Need a Merfolk Shark Mutant?
BOOM, you can make one!


  • edited August 2016
    This is where the magic hapens, seriously! All your spell functions, creature abilities, upkeep costs... All of that and more goes in this wee little box. The trick is not just getting everything IN the box, but also making it look professional... So let's get started!

    The first part of this section is the mana symbols. All the same mana symbols as the Casting Cost section, but wait... there's something new here... The Tap Symbol! What? Oh, you know all of that already?... Okay, simmer down... I was just kidding, the actual new thing here is the ITALICS button!

    In the past, and still some of us "old-timers" do it, you had to format Italics by yourself. Now, just highlight the part you want to be in Italics, and hit the button. BAM! Italics!

    Still not impressed? Okay, well here is one you might not be aware of...

    Have you ever had words split apart into different lines, or bleed into the border? It happens to everyone, but the key to avoiding it is to use the magical PREVIEW button! How is this possible you ask? Before you publish, you have to preview. Once you are there, you might just see one of the previously mentioned occurances. DO NOT PANIC! Make a mental note of the word that has either split apart, or bled into the border.

    Click the EDIT button.

    Now we're back to the Card Maker page. Lets say, for example the following sentence is our problem sentence.

    "Once upon a time, seven tiny mice went to a hockey game."

    If the word that is bleeding into the frame is "mice", all you need to do is put your cursor in front of the word "mice" and hit ENTER. Again... DO NOT PANIC! The sentence will still appear like one continuous idea, and you will not create a gap halfway through your idea. Once you hit PREVIEW again, you can go back and see what I mean. You do the same thing for words that split apart.

    This one little trick can make the difference in a card being mediocre or magnificent!

    Occasionally you might find you have too many words for the the M15 Frame. The solution might be using creative wording or simply switching to the Modern Frame. One thing we cannot do yet is modify the text size in the M15 frame.

    Or you might find that your last line of text is just slightly low enough to hit the bottom of the text box, and give you a slight bleed on the bottom. This can be easily fixed with a trick I've recently learned! Italics between the lines!

    Italics between the lines? What is that? Here is an example (sort of)< lowercase i>
    </ lowercase i>If you add italics between the lines as my example here illustrates, it will tighten up the space between those lines and give you some clearance on the bottom. The only real downside is a slight closeness in text, but some people might never even notice!

    Always try to give the Artist Credit, but if you cannot, try to at least put down where it came from.

    This might seem like a silly option at first, but bear with me. There's more to this than meets the eye. When I first joined MTG Cardsmith, I thought this was pretty silly, but I figured that they gave us this option for some reason, I might as well use it. Sure enough, someone got uppity about one of the cards I made...


    Of course, none of that mattered, but the interesting thing I learned was that I could use the Advanced Search feature on the site to look for just my funny cards, by typing in Corwinnn and checking the "Funny/Unglued" box. It was mildly amusing, and saved me some time.

    Still not convinced? Well how about this...

    Did you know, people who don't have accounts can't make "Realistic" cards? Once I spent almost an hour making a card just exactly the way I wanted it, only to click on the Card Category and find there was no "Realistic" option. I realized then that I had failed to log in, and then my very slow brain worked out the mechanics of this new discovery... I could search for "Realistic" cards and never see another anonymous card again!

    The Holy Grail of Cardsmith... it was here the whole time!

    I hope you found some of this informative, and maybe a little entertaining. Below you'll find some Frequently Asked Questions. Thanks for taking the time to check this out!

    How do I change the size of the text?
    Right above the Text Box, on the right hand side is the option to have regular text or smaller text.

    Can I edit a card that I've already made?
    There is no way to make changes to a card that you've already made, but don't despair! Instead of making the entire card over from scratch, you can use the Card Text feature just to the right of the card you want to edit! Just copy the Card Text and move it into the Ability/Effect area. It may not seem like much, but in this way, you can eliminate a lot of needless typing.

  • Feel free to post comments, questions or suggestions for this post!
  • edited July 2015
    This is


    Awesome job by @Corwinnn
  • Another awesome post with very helpful information.
  • Love it!

  • amazing....
  • @Corwinnn on the KoT blocks the mana symbols are swapped for three-color cards, they go [primary, third, secondary]
  • Nice to know! Thanks!
  • Wow, this is amazing! I knew about a lot of stuff, but this is going to help me ALOT later on! Great work on the guide. Also, I like the tap symbol part :P
  • this really helped. thanks
  • edited March 2016
    @Corwinnn, I think the links I posted below should be moved elsewhere so as not to get lost in the shuffle, because they provide some very useful information about card/set design in MTG:

    - TEN PRINCIPLES OF GOOD DESIGN pt.1 2010 by WOTC - http://magic.wizards.com/en/articles/archive/making-magic/ten-principles-good-design-part-1-2010-05-03
    - TEN PRINCIPLES OF GOOD DESIGN pt.2 2010 by WOTC - http://magic.wizards.com/en/articles/archive/making-magic/ten-principles-good-design-part-2-2010-05-17

    - NUTS AND BOLTS 2015: THREE STAGES OF DESIGN by WOTC - http://magic.wizards.com/en/articles/archive/making-magic/nuts-bolts-three-stages-design-2015-03-30

    - DEVELOPING COMMONS 2014 by WOTC - http://magic.wizards.com/en/articles/archive/ld/developing-commons-2014-10-03
    - DEVELOPING UNCOMMONS 2014 by WOTC - http://magic.wizards.com/en/articles/archive/latest-developments/developing-uncommons-2014-11-14

    - THE POWER OF LANDS 2015 by WOTC - http://magic.wizards.com/en/articles/archive/latest-developments/power-lands-2015-10-09

    Bonus - AN IN-DEPTH LOOK AT HOW EACH COLOR DESTROYS PERMANENTS 2014 by WOTC - http://magic.wizards.com/en/articles/archive/making-magic/acts-destruction-2014-08-11
  • @MrRansom - I couldn't agree more! I have an idea!
  • Is it possible to actually receive custom made cards? And, if not from this website, which website do i have to go to
  • @beez96 There are services that will allow you to print poker-sized cards (same as MTG) with unique fronts and the same or unique backs reasonably cheaply. I don't know the exact right material to use but it should be pretty standard card stock. The resolution this site produces it pretty close to the largest of any custom card maker (they are all limited by assets like background frames, icons, etc) and could probably be used to produce a quality real custom MTG card.
  • Is there currently a way to give planeswalkers phyrexian mana in their mana cost?
  • edited June 2016
    @Vandrek There is, but then afterwards you have tiny phyrexian mana symbols on your screen, so don't use a permanent marker.
  • @Corwinnn Tested and the same method can be used to get any kind of symbol in a planeswalker's ability box. Though a similar problem arises in that case.
  • edited June 2016
    ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ - That's how many times I just upvoted you @seaspray4TF3
  • could you compile this into a smaller version?
  • @Thatbadmccree - Yes, and here it is...
    Step 1 - Make cards
    Step 2 - Look at cards
    Step 3 - Make more cards
  • edited November 2016
    Some spells have multiple effects where the user must choose only one of them. The list of effects are marked by bullet points "•". I copied and pasted them into the text box but they didn't appear on the preview. How do I make them?
  • edited November 2016
    @Bigblu42 - The font that MTGCardsmith uses doesn't have the bullet points you want, so we improvise with "-" or "*" usually
Sign In or Register to comment.