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How to design and print custom poker chip labels

Discussion in 'Custom Poker Chips' started by Cin0s3, Oct 12, 2005.

  1. Cin0s3

    Cin0s3 Well-Known Member

    Mar 21, 2005
    Likes Received:
    Worcester, MA
    How to design and print custom poker chip labels:

    Member Article by: Cin0s3

    Hello my name is Jason Eppenstein and I am the owner/operator of http://www.pokerchiplabels.net. I have written an article about poker chip labels to help people understand the process of designing and printing them. I will try to cover all of the steps that go into the process such as what chips are the best for labels and what size labels will fit each type of chip as well as what software is the easiest to use for design and printing. There will be a list of all related links at the end of the article so you don’t need reread the whole thing.​

    I try and group chips into 3 categories as far as how a 1” label will fit. The first type of chips are Nexgen Poker Chips which come in 3 flavors (8000, 8001, 8002) all 3 versions have a recessed 1” center and are perfect chips for labeling. There is also a composite chip that has a Texas Hold’em mold which also has a 1” recessed center.

    The next category which most composite chips fit into is the ones that have a 15/16-7/8” center with a recessed ring around the center of it. Examples of these chips include Suited, Dice and Tri-Colored chips. While the center is only 15/16” you can still use a 1” label with these chips but it leaves you with a decision to make. Seeing as the label will hangover 1/32” off the center edge you will either need to fold it over or leave it as is. Despite many concerns if you do not fold it over it will not make the label susceptible to pealing unless someone is deliberately trying to peel it. Personally I think that folding the labels over is a better solution; folding it over gives it a much better look on the chip as it hides the edge of the label giving a more stock look ( example: http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v513/rosmo/IMG_1540red.jpg ). For folding them over you can use the key that comes with most aluminum cases as the first notch fits in the valley quite well or a good fingernail will suffice.

    The final group of labels is the faux clay chips which include the Super Diamond chips as well. A lot of people are concerned with the faux dice having a textured center that the label will not stick. In my experience the labels will stick just fine they just require a little more pressure during application to insure that they get stuck properly. These chips also have a shallow groove around them the label has to be pressed into. The only drawback about putting labels on these chips is the extra time required to get them on there right. Examples of diamond chips with labels:


    Also I would like to bring up custom clay chips here as well, if you have blank clay chips and want to label them I don’t recommend using a 1” paper label to do it. Spend a little extra and get a custom size vinyl label. I will be providing information for that below.
    In summary if you haven’t yet purchased chips I would highly recommend the Nexgen chips if you plan to label them. If you have already bought chips then don’t worry as a 1” label can be fitted to almost any chip (not all but most).
    This is probably the most important step in the whole process, you will need to decide what kind of theme you want, whether to add denominations or not and whether or not to personalize them to the extent where you wouldn’t be able to resell them in the future. Your design can be as simple or as complicated as you want it to be, in the end they are your chips and your decision. If you are seeking advice on how to improve them I know most poker forums can be great resources for feedback.

    You will need a drawing program to actually start your design it can be something as simple as MS Paint or as high end as Photoshop. I personally use Paint Shop Pro as I have been using it for many years and am very fluent in it. Demo versions of Photoshop and Paint Shop Pro are available from www.adobe.com and www.jasc.com respectively. The demo versions are both full functioning for a period of 30 days and are probably (IMHO) the 2 best programs to use.

    Once you have chosen a program the first thing you want to do is become familiar with how to use it, most art software includes tutorials on getting started with them if you have not used them in the past. Once you are ready to start designing start out with drawing a circle, I usually start out with a 300x300px image. Now you need to decide how the background will look. Will it just be plain white? Will you try to match the background color to your chips or totally contrast with it? They are all a matter of personal preference and questions you will need to answer for yourself. I can however say that trying to match the colors to the chip perfectly will be nearly impossible given that you are printing on paper and can not match the color depth of a poker chip. There are ways to get around this such as putting a border around the design that perhaps matches the edge spot color of your chips. If you would like to try color matching I would recommend finding a website that has color charts on them that you can print and put a chip against the printout to try and match it, a simple Google search for “hex color codes” should yield plenty of results.

    I am going to try to avoid giving explicit instructions on how to curve text on your design as most of this can be better covered in the help files of the program you are using. I would rather like to talk about fonts for your design. For most of my design I try to use a bold or blocky font as they are much easier to read when you are printing on a 1” label. Usually 28pt is a sufficient size for your casino name. If you are planning on adding denominations I would recommend a larger font of about 48pt for them after all the goal of putting denominations on your labels is to avoid questions of what they are worth so let them be seen. If you want add cents signs on you design most fonts include the symbol but some do not, to make a ¢ sign all you have to do is hold down the “Alt” key and press 0162 on your number pad, the numbers above your letter keys will not work so make sure your num lock is on.

    If you plan on adding a graphic to your chip I think the best placement for it is dead center on the label, this is just a guideline not a rule as different designs will lead to different graphic placements.

    When your design is complete and ready for printing you will want to square it up ( http://www.qtimls.com/chipdes/process.jpg ) and create a 10% bleed around the design of the edge color.

    If you are gung ho about printing the labels yourself but don’t have the skill, desire or time to make the design yourself I know most of the guys selling custom labels will do the artwork for you for a fee of $10-$20 for a basic design. Prices will vary on the complexity, time and number of revisions required to get your design right though. If someone quotes you a price try and remember that they are quoting you a price on the work you have explained to them not the 20-30 different revisions you may want to the design after accepting the work. Also consider that the normal fee for custom artwork would normally cost you $60-$100/hr if you were to talk to a graphic arts firm. So these guys are doing some great work for a very nominal fee.

    1” paper, glossy or vinyl labels are available from a couple websites for about 30¢ a sheet for paper and higher for gloss and vinyl. The 2 sites that I buy them from both require a minimum purchase from as small as 20 sheets (www.data-labels.com) to 50 sheets (www.onlinelabels.com). Both sites have excellent labels but they are not the same. Data-labels.com uses a heavier stock than onlinelabels.com and so I would recommend them for labels that will not need to be folded over or are not being applied to a recessed chip. If you are printing on a good laser printer then a paper label is more than capable of providing a great look and feel on your labels. The only reason I don’t recommend glossy labels is if you are looking for a glossy look you will not achieve it with these labels if you are printing on a laser printer unless there is a lot of white in your design. The reason for this is a laser printer uses a fine powder to print called toner, once this is applied to a glossy surface it totally covers the gloss finish. If you are after a glossy finish I would just recommend spraying them with some Krylon Gloss, more information on this will be covered in the label protection part of this article.

    If you are looking for round labels that are not 1” or ¾” you can go to www.rippedsheets.com for a custom size label. This also includes special shapes like cogs or scalloped or any other classic inlay shape that has been used on Paulson chips in the past. Expect to pay around $100 for 2000 labels (not sheets) for this kind of work, but if you are labeling clay chips or any other chip that you want an exceptional label for it is the best way to go as you can get much better label stock from them. I have used them twice in the past for shaped labels and round labels and their customer service is excellent and very helpful as their website can be confusing.
    Printing software:

    Although I currently use personally written software to do my printing now, I have used Sure Thing Office labeler in the past and would highly recommend it over the MS Word template and Acrobat template I have seen in the past. A 30 day trial is available at www.mvd.com be sure to get the “Office Labeler” version as there are a couple different versions available. You can get the template file that you need for the 1” labels from either data-labels.com or onlinelabels.com on the screen where they list the labels there is a link for template files.​

    When you are ready to start printing the first thing you want to do is get your software aligned to your printer. I will be using STOL (Sure Thing office labeler) for these instructions. Click file then open and locate the template file you downloaded for the 1” labels. Now make sure you have the arrow tool selected and click any objects that are on the design where our label will go and delete them. For instance there may be a square that says Name or enter text here, if not then you should just see a grey circle this is what you want to have before moving onto the next step. Now lets run the print alignment function by clicking file/Calibrate Printer, click the “Print calibration sheet: button. Be sure to print this on a plain sheet as there is no need to waste labels yet. When it is finished printing take the sheet and fold it in half both ways and see how it aligns with the grid on the sheet. If the fold lines do not match dead center on the fold lines adjust the Horizontal and Vertical offset to the numbers that the fold lands on either + or -. Then print another sheet to insure that they now line up, if not keep doing this on plain white paper until you get it right. Once you have it right take one of the printed sheets and put a sheet of labels on top of it and hold it up to the light to see how it lines up to your labels. If it is off some try adjusting the numbers again until you get it fairly close, we will be making more precise adjustments later.

    Now that we have the printer somewhat aligned lets close the alignment dialogue and go to File>Page Setup. On this dialogue you will see a box for changing Bleed. Set this number to 0.100 this will give us the room we need to bleed the design over the size of the label to allow for slight misalignment. Now click ok to close that dialogue box. You may receive a couple of warning messages when you hit ok, just click ok on them and ignore them.

    Now at the top of the program under the menus select the picture tool (5th button from the left) and draw a square that is a bit larger than the circle in the center, a file open dialogue box will open locate one of your chip designs and click open. You can now use the regular arrow tool to stretch the design so that it extend just a bit past the circle the same amount on each side. You should end up with something like this:


    Now lets print a test sheet, so make sure you have plain printer in the printer and hit the print button on the left. When this box opens select the “Pages” radio button, make any printer settings that you need and hit print. Now lets put the sheet of labels over it and hold it up to the light to see how the alignment is. If it is off a lot, go back to the printer alignment function and make any adjustments necessary. If it is only off a little bit you want to go into the Page Setup dialogue and adjust your top and bottom margins to get it right. When using the margin adjustment be sure to only adjust it 1 or 2 hundredths of an inch at a time.

    Now that we have everything aligned lets try printing on a sheet of labels and see how it goes. You may have to make some more adjustments afterwards but you should now have the hang of what you have to do to get them centered.

    I can not stress the importance of having extra sheets of labels to allow for misaligned sheets. I print 1000’s of sheets a week and have about a 3% waste and I have printed millions of sheets but you have to consider all the things that happen to the labels as they are traveling through your printer, anything can knock them out of alignment.

    Be sure to only print one sheet at a time until you feel that the labels are being printed right.
    Protecting your labels from wear:

    Now that your labels are all printed and looking good you need to decide if you want to spray them with some sort of gloss or matte finish Protectant. I recommend either “Krylon Protect it” which can be found at most craft stores. Try and find the low odor stuff as this stuff really smells bad.

    When you are ready to spray make sure you are in a well ventilated area and have some breathing and eye protection before you begin spraying. Either lay your sheets flat or tack them to an unfinished wall. You want to apply the spray with 2 light coats of finish. Use steady strokes with the can that over spray the sheet so you don’t leave buildup on the sheet. Read the manufactures recommendations for drying time. Be sure to let them dry at least an extra day or 2 to insure that they are fully dried.
    Before applying the labels to your chips you should take some time to clean your chips with a light cloth using some light soapy water or some rubbing alcohol. Whether your chips are new or used it is important that any finger oils or manufacturing mold releasing oils. Applying the labels is a fairly simple tedious task that can be done by anyone. Simply peel the label off and center it to the chip and apply some pressure to insure that they stick well.​

    As you can see doing this yourself is really not that tough but can be aggravating getting the labels lined up. In the end there really is no money to be saved doing this your self but at least you will have the satisfaction of knowing that you did them yourself. If you are using an inkjet printer expect to blow through a full set of color cartridges for about 1000 labels. Printing can also be done by professional printing places like Kinko’s or Staples or any other places like that, expect to pay about a $1/sheet for short run jobs (less than 500 sheets).​

    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 25, 2006

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