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Using Photoshop For Chip Design: A Beginner's Guide

Discussion in 'Custom Poker Chips' started by Poboy, Nov 2, 2005.

  1. Poboy

    Poboy Well-Known Member

    Sep 10, 2005
    Likes Received:
    Columbus, OH
    Manufacturer: Adobe www.adobe.com
    Retailer(s): Most electronic stores; trial program can be downloaded for free
    Average Price: ~$700, can be had for less if you're a student - check college campus/online stores, http://www.campustech.com/c/campust/store?mv_arg=ADOBE
    Member Article by: Poboy

    - Before considering Photoshop, it is a good idea to contact your potential manufacturer(s) for file requirements. Chipco for example accepts only Illustrator files. -

    Designing an inlay/chip in Photoshop 101
    Photoshop is an excellent program that is readily availabe (a version comes free with many computers) and is quite suitable for designing mockups or even final artwork for custom inlays and chips. While it has lots of features and many different ways of working, in this article I'll teach you a few basic steps to get you started in designing your own custom chips.

    I would like to preface this article by saying I am not a graphic designer and not an expert in Photoshop. I took a few courses in computer graphics in college, one basically covering Photoshop. I picked up some just by messing around, trial and error kind of stuff. There are more ways than one to get things done, and this article is not written as a step by step guide because different artwork would of course require different steps. So, I hope to help you to learn the basics of manipulating images. If any other Photoshop users have any other tips or tricks, please feel free to chime in.

    So, with caveat emptor in place, here’s my simple guide to designing an inlay in Photoshop.​
    The design.
    Before we can get started, the first thing is to determine what the sources of your design are. Some possibilities are scanned images, clipart images lifted from the web, or images totally generated by yourself. I’m going to describe using either scanned images or web images because that’s what most people use. It is a good idea to have all the images you plan to use saved on your computer before you start. For this article, we'll be using an image of the earth.
    Photoshop layout.
    I have Photoshop 8, so most of you should have a higher version than I do and I’ll assume most of the features and layouts will be the same. I don’t know what the official names are for all of what follows, but I think most of the names are correct.

    On the left of the screen when you open Photoshop, you have the toolbox.

    These are the tools you use to actually make the graphics. There are tools for making ellipses, gradients, a paint bucket to fill in large areas, etc. If you leave the mouse on a tool, a little description pops up. Most tools have more than one version, which can be seen by holding down the button when choosing the tool. These multiple option tools have a little triangle to show there are more choices. The two tools I find to be the most important for me are; the Magic Wand tool, and the Lasso tool. When making shapes in Photoshop, the program works by making a ‘selection’ of the shape shown by a dotted line that moves (the marching ants line). In order to manipulate shapes you will be making a selection, often with the magic wand or lasso tools.

    The magic wand selects areas of the same or very similar color (how similar can be chosen by adjusting the tolerance of the tool). The lasso tool can be used to make a selection by drawing marching ants around in whatever pattern you desire. When you have a selection, but would like to include another part not adjacent, you can hold down < shift > and select the other area to add. If you want to remove part of your selection, hold down < alt > and make a selection around the area to be removed.

    Across the top of the Photoshop window is the toolbar.
    These are the File, Edit, Image, Layer, Select, Filter, View, Window, and Help menus. The ones I use most are the Edit, Image, and Select menus. In the Edit menu, you can choose a variety of Transform tools to alter the size, shape or orientation of an object. The Image menu I use mainly for color corrections or changes. The Select menu I use often, but for only one option - Select Inverse.

    Directly under the toolbar, is the tool options bar.
    Here you have further options for the tool you have selected in the toolbox. Do you want to change the tolerance of your magic wand? It's up here. You can align objects horizontally and vertically as well.

    Next, on the right hand side are the palettes.
    If you go to the toolbar, under Windows, you can select which palettes will appear on the right. In mine, the middle third of the right hand side is the History palette, the bottom third is the Layers palette, and the top I have the navigator window. Other windows I open or close as needed.

    The history window is important. It is basically a multiple Undo. If you change something, then redesign a little, add a new color, then transform - and then decide you hate it, you can go back to where you started. There is a limit however to how far you can go back, so be careful.

    The Layers palette is crucial because Photoshop is all about layers. If you want to create an object, make a new layer first and put it in there. That is the best way to resize or edit a particular object without altering anything else. Next to each layer name is an eyeball. Click the eyeball and the layer disappears from view (it’s still there though). That makes things easy when you have a lot of little pieces making up your image. Also, if you have two objects in separate layers but you want to move them together, you can link them. Next to the eyeball is a little empty square. Click it, and you’ll link whatever layer you are on to whatever layer you clicked. The layers can be rearranged by dragging them up or down, sending pieces to the front or back.​
    Making the Graphic
    Starting a new file
    The first thing to do is open a new file. I like to use a 3” x 3” file, @600dpi (dots per inch). 600dpi is a high enough resolution for either a 7/8" or 1" inlay, or ceramic chip. Your file can be resized later, but having it bigger means it’s easier to work with and you don’t lose any resolution by resizing to the right size later on in the process.​
    Creating the inlay
    If my inlay is going to be white, the first thing I do is use the paint bucket tool to make the only layer you start with, the background layer, black.
    That way, when I make my circle for the inlay, I don’t have an invisible white on white situation. A note about color selection: at the bottom of the toolbox, you’ll see two overlapping squares, white and black. The one on top is the color you’re using. There is a little bi-directional arrow above and to the right of the color squares. Click the arrow to switch colors. Double click the square to change the color.

    Then, go to the Layers palette. In the upper right corner is an arrow. Click it, and select New Layer. Name it something so you don’t get confused later when you have 12 layers. Then, choose the ellipse tool. Hold down < shift > to draw the ellipse with the mouse to make a perfect circle. Fill in white with the paint bucket tool. Name the layer Inlay circle​
    Adding an Image
    Next, I open the image I’m going to use in my inlay. I want both windows, the inlay with my white circle file, and my image to be visible in Photoshop.

    Start with the image of the earth. We want just the earth, not the black background. To get rid of it, use the magic wand tool to select the black background. Then, go to Select in the toolbar, and choose Select Inverse. It now gives me the opposite of the black background, namely the earth. Then choose the move tool in the toolbox. Click inside the marching ants, then drag the earth right over to the other file, the one with the white inlay.
    Re-sizing is probably necessary, so go to Edit > Transform > Scale. A box appears around the earth. It can be resized either by dragging a corner. To insure a perfect resize, you can choose percentages for the Height and Width in the tool options bar. The dragged image created its own new layer, so rename it to remember what it is. At this point any adjustment is possible with the Edit > Transform tools.

    Let's say we want the earth offcenter, such that part of it needs to get cut off around the edge of the inlay. To do that, I position it where I want it, then go to the Inlay circle layer. Magic Wand around the circle, then go back to the layer with the earth. Hit delete, and anything around the circle is…deleted.
    Adding Text
    Now it is time to add text. To type in text, choose the text tool in the toolbox. It will automatically make a new layer. To make the text curve with the inlay circle, look in the tool options bar for a T with a curved line under it. Click it to open a dialogue box. In the Style drop down box, select Arc. Change the bend value to match the inlay (some fine tuning with Edit > Transform > Scale may be necessary).
    Adding the chip body
    To add the chip body, switch to the inlay circle layer and use the magic wand to select the circle. Then in the toolbar, choose Edit > Copy and Edit > Paste. This will create a new layer called 'Inlay circle copy' just above the Inlay circle layer. In the Layer palette, Rename the copy layer to 'chip body' and drag it under the Inlay circle layer. Now, click the eyeball for the inlay circle layer to hide it. Choose Edit > Transform > Scale on the chip body layer. Use the tool options bar to enlarge the circle copy to 115%. Now magic wand the chip body and paint in whatever color you want with the paint bucket.

    To add in simple edgespots, you can use a rectangle tool. Make a new layer, just above the chip body layer. Size the rectangle, when you make it, to be roughly double the actual length you want the spot. Move it into place, and color it in. To copy the edgespot, hold down < alt > and drag. Each will be it’s own layer. You can Edit > Transform > Rotate to angle them. Now link all the edgespot layers. In the layers palette menu, choose Merge Linked. That puts all your edgespots on one layer. Then, to remove the parts sticking out, select the chip body layer. Use the magic wand to select the chip body. Select > Select Inverse. Then switch layers to the edgespot layer and delete.

    That’s a basic chip design in a nutshell.
    If you feel like experimenting a little more, another handy tool is the Layer Style, which can be found under Layers in the toolbar. These styles include drop shadows, bevel/embossing, and others. They are applied to whatever layer you currently have selected. Just be careful not to make your design too cluttered.​
    Sending your image off

    Your file is now several layers thick. Save it as a .psd file as is. Then in the layers palette, choose Flatten Image and save with a different file name. Ask whichever chip company how they want the graphic - size, file format, etc. Don't forget to mention you made the image in Photoshop. One file format that would be good is a .TIFF file. It can be opened by both Illustrator and Photoshop. Also, some formats are 'lossy' meaning resolution is lost in transit. TIFF is not lossy. The safest though, is still to ask before sending.
    To post on the web, Flatten Image, then go to Image in the toolbar. Choose Image Size. You'll get a dialogue box with the dimensions, color palette (RGB), and resolution. Monitors display at 72 ppi (pixels per inch), so any extra resolution just makes your file bigger. Change the resolution to 72. Then save the file as a jpeg, which will open another dialogue box with choices for image quality. Medium (~5) will be fine for an image just being looked at on a screen. Another advantage to making your file no better than it needs to be seen on a monitor, is that it's harder for people to steal your idea.

    Good luck with your designs.​
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 25, 2006
    2 people like this.
  2. CaptLego

    CaptLego Super Moderator
    Staff Member Lifetime Supporter

    Mar 21, 2005
    Likes Received:
    Thanks for the article. It really helped me:


    :) :cool:
  3. Wylecoyo

    Wylecoyo Super Moderator
    Staff Member Lifetime Supporter

    Jun 3, 2005
    Likes Received:
    Starboard Bridge-Wing
    That is by far my most favorite custome design EVER! The only problem is I cannot seam to find the group buy thread anywhere.:)
  4. HanahanStan

    HanahanStan Well-Known Member

    Sep 10, 2005
    Likes Received:
    in a world famous southern town Hanahan
    Thank you for this.
    I have been pulling my hair out trying to figure out photoshop. Going to print it out and give it a try.
    May the poker gods visit you frequently

  5. Magus 23

    Magus 23 Well-Known Member

    May 31, 2006
    Likes Received:
    Northern Virginia
    I haven't used it myself (being an Illustrator/Photoshop guy), but there's a stripped-down verison of Photoshop called Photoshop Elements. It might be a more affordable solution for people who aren't going to use the more complex features of Photoshop regularly.
  6. BlakeC27

    BlakeC27 A Chimp and a Chair

    May 22, 2006
    Likes Received:
    Playing The Board.
    Thanks for this, very useful for Photoshop newbie like myself.

  7. alexeberlin

    alexeberlin Well-Known Member

    Apr 14, 2007
    Likes Received:
    United Kingdom
    very, very helpful.Thank you
  8. pmaison

    pmaison Well-Known Member

    Mar 8, 2007
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    Nice job. This is very useful for all of us designnewbs....thanks a lot
  9. palmimports

    palmimports Well-Known Member

    Apr 26, 2005
    Likes Received:
    Daytona Beach Florida
    while the new posts section is down- may as well spend some quality time in some areas often less frequented---

    Just to add to this excellent post:

    when using photoshop or AI- keep you document size identical to your image size-- in other words do NOT place a 1.250 inch round artwork file on a document/page size of 8.5 x 11 inches-- make your document size AND artwork file identical.

    For a 1.250 inch diameter poker chip label- make your document size 1.250 inches and your artwork file 1.250 inches.

    THis way- the printer can resize the artwork effortlessly-- many RIP and print programs intepret the document size onto the printed media- so whereas if everything is the same I can place 20 images across the vinyl- if your document size is 8.5 inches wide- I can only place 3-4 images--

    Some will argue this point- but trust me its right-- always work in RBG.

    CYMK is designed for offset printing equipment- NOT desktop printers or even wide format printers. Even though the printer uses CMYK ink it is- in essence- an RBG printer.

    While MOST times cmyk or RBG will work jsut fine- the best choice is adobe rbg 1998 as your working space for color.

    Also keep in mind that for vinyl prints/inlays/labels- whatever you want to call them- make your artwork FULL Bleed-
    this means that the artwork extends past the actual diameter of the chip slightly--

    A cut area is placed around your artwork- at the precise diameter of your inlay size- so if youre using, say an 8 stripe abs chip with a diameter of 1.250 inches-- if you make your artwork file 1.260 inches and keep anything critical to be printed INSIDE the 1.250 inch area-- preferably inside 1.240 inches- especially text- this will produce the most accurate print/cut for your given artwork file.

    BLINDFURY Member

    Dec 29, 2007
    Likes Received:
    IF I only had a clue, but this is very helpfull tkx.:laugh:
  11. All_In

    All_In Active Member

    Nov 16, 2011
    Likes Received:
    :) Thanks, this topic really helped me out not even in making poker chips but also in other things where I can use adobe PS, btw well done CaptLego
  12. spikeithard

    spikeithard Well-Known Member

    Jan 31, 2012
    Likes Received:
    Building new CPC set
    Hey anyone fluent with Gimp photo editor? Dont have photoshop and cant seem to even DL the trial version. (I suck with computers)

    If anyone can help me with basic instructions on using Gimp to design a chip label that would be great


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