Creating a Professional Looking Prototype
You’ve play-tested your basic prototypes, and now your ready to make something that looks good, either for larger play test groups, for reviewers, or to pitch to a publisher.
Tools: Some tools are very helpful when creating presentation prototypes. A Rotary paper trimmer will allow you to cut larger items than your rotary cutter or stacks or items quickly, A 1-inch punch allows you to create tokens easily, Spray Glue and Grey board or Chipboard sheets allow you to make tiles very easily (and are fairly cheap from Amazon).
Art: If you haven’t done so already, go back to your prototype files in and add art. Search online for art under Creative Commons 0 or 3 (CC0 or CC3), as this artwork is free to use. Simply make note of the original creator of each piece in case you are asked as this is generally all the creators require. Add the art to your template shapes so it appears behind the text. You may need to change your text color, or add shadow to the text so that it still shows up. Put only basic, or solid colored art on the shape backs, as this will make it easier for cutting and aligning. Select all your shapes that are the fronts, and hide the boarders.
Creating Card and Tile Backs: In whichever program you used to create your printable files, make a new page copy with the shapes. Delete all current information from inside the shapes and select everything on your page, group it together, and rotate them horizontally. This now creates a back for your shapes, and you can insert the back image. On printing, these will now be aligned with the front.
Printing: If you already have artwork at this stage, try not to print the files yourself. Convert them into PDF’s and send them to a local printer. For good quality art this will generally cost you less than using your own printer ink and card stock. Ask them to print onto Gloss or Matte paper for the best results and ignore the printing part of each section below. For cards tell the printer you are making cards and ask for the price on them cutting them out for you as well.
Cards: Print your cards onto card stock, flip you sheets over, and print the back of the cards onto the same sheets (check your specific printer settings to see how to print reverse). Print some test pages first, as this may take a couple attempts to line up properly. Some printers also need you to change your paper settings in order for this to work. The 2 sides will not line up perfectly, but should be close enough that all important info will be shown on the front side.
Cut out all the cards according to the shape lines on the back, so they all look the same from that side. To cut these quicker, cut one side and the top off all your sheets of cards then stack them in piles of 5 or 6 sheets (this will line all the sheets up properly). Using a Rotary Paper Trimmer (which will lock down on all the sheets, holding them together) cut out you cards. Once you have your cards cut out, place them into card sleeves. This will both make them look better, and make them easier to play with for a presentation.
Tokens: To make Tokens, print your template described in Cards above, and punch out tokens using a 1-inch hole punch. These can be found at most craft stores.
Tiles: Tiles can be created a few ways, and I will describe the 2 methods I have used. Start by printing off your sheets. If your tiles have both a Front and a Back, cut all the front Sheets top and One side off. Cut all the Back sheets top and opposite side off. This will help ensure everything aligns for later cutting. When gluing, make sure to be in a well-ventilated area that is above 10C (50F). If the temperature is too cold, the glue will not set properly. Leave glue to dry for a minimum of 1 hour before cutting.
Method one – Multiple layers of card stock: Spray glue each printed tile sheet to 2 blank sheets for card stock. Make sure the Cut side of your printed sheets line up with the edges of the blank sheets. Use plenty of spray-glue in this process, or you may end up with tiles that separate. Once both front and back have a total of 3 layers, spray-glue the black sides of these together.
If you only have 1 printed side to your tile simply spray-glue it to 5 additional blank pieces of cardstock (pre-cuts are not needed). When ready, cut out using a Rotary Paper Trimmer.
- Pros: Other than the Spray-glue, you do not need anything extra. This can be helpful if you live in a rural area and items are harder to find, or cost more to ship in.
- Cons: This method takes a long time, is harder to ensure front and back are aligned, and has a higher chance of the tiles separating over time.
- Recommendation: Only use this method if only one side of your tiles is printed on, and the opposite side you are leaving blank for now.
Method two – Chipboard or grey board core: Spray glue the front and back sheets of each printed tile sheet to opposite sides of a chipboard/grey board sheet. Make sure you are gluing them so the cut sides of your printed sheets are on the same edges of the core material.
If you only have 1 printed side to your tile simply spray glue it to a sheet of core material (pre-cuts are not needed), and if you want you can even spray glue a blank sheet to the other side for appearance.
- Pros: Significantly faster than the other method, and makes it look like a professionally manufactured tile.
- Cons: Can be a little more expensive due to the extra material you will need.
- Recommendation: Try to use this method whenever you are able to.
That brings us to the end. I hope this information helps you in the next prototype you make.