Tuesday, May 4, 2010

1970 Topps Baseball Custom Card

With so many collectors generating their own cards, I think a common repository of vintage card styles, typeface recommendations, and color combinations would save a lot of time fiddling with details in an image editor. This post shows how I built a 1970 Topps card front.

Several components work together to make a nice custom card.
  1. High-quality photo or illustration of player, facility, or some other subject
  2. Desired year and company to mimic (1950 Bowman baseball, 1972 Topps football, etc.)
  3. Image of card set border, properly sized and colored
  4. Typeface match (or near match) for front and back text
  5. Writing and statistics examples for front and back text, including language or style
  6. Photo editing effects to match the card style

Most cards start with a player photo, such as this shot (of me) with bat and Mariners cap.

Next, you need to match the borders. You could do this one of two ways.
  1. Scan an existing card and remove the inner picture.
  2. Create a pattern that matches the card's border color and texture

I'll do the first, by scanning an existing Wes Palmer 1970 Topps baseball card. Notice the border includes several pieces, such as the grey edge, white inner edging, player name, position, and team name (DODGERS in white, though color varies by team).

Removing the inner picture gives me just the border, still with text and position.

I can now resize my photo and crop it to fit the 1970 Topps dimensions. (The "frame" blank space is 674 x 895 pixels, leaving some white for the inner border.)

First real challenge? Update the player name. 1970 Topps names use an unusual typeface, with curves and loops that look very 1940s. I created a clip of just the words ("Wes Parker") and fed it into a great site called "What the Font?" to match the typeface to known computer fonts.

What The Font? (search results for "Wes Parker" name text)

According to What The Font, the closest match is Kaufmann Bold. If you don't already have it installed, the site can sell you a TrueType version for $29. (It's possible a lower-priced version exists, but I couldn't find a good one.)

I already own Kaufmann, but if you don't want to spend money for this kind of project--which I completely understand--check your computer for one that has a similar, "scripted" look. The goal's to make a card you like, even if it doesn't match exactly. (After all, I'm creating a Mariners card, and they didn't exist in 1970.)

I blocked out "Wes Parker" by copying the blank grey section between the name and position and then pasting it over the text. This leaves an uneven look to the lower-left corner, but is OK for a quick custom card.

If you use a grey pattern (instead of a card scan) adding the name is much easier, since you don't need to block anything out first.

Kaufmann Bold at 72-point in solid black mimics 1970 Topps. Feathering the edges (prior to pasting it in) would match my name more exactly. As-is, my name looks a tad thinner than Parker's because the ink on real cards bled slightly out after printing.

I left "1ST BASE" alone, since that's what I played in little league. What The Font didn't find an ideal match for the position text, but a font called Advice Dog is pretty close. (The "1" in its "1ST" is slanted at the upper left, instead of using a square corner.)

Now it's time to add the MARINERS team name in white. What The Font had trouble analyzing the card's "DODGERS" title because of the stadium background, so I used "ORIOLES" from a lower-contrast Jim Palmer card.

What The Font recommended Aurora Bold Condensed for the team name. I don't own that font, so substituted the similar DINEngschrift in white, 96-point type. (As you might guess, fonts figure prominently into how real your card looks.) I also added some photo pixelation and underexposed the image to make it look older.

Quick summary:
  • 1970 Topps #5 Wes Parker card border
  • Name font: Kaufmann Bold, 72-point black
  • Position font: Advice Dog (could have better match)
  • Team font: Aurora Bold Condensed, 96-point white

Again, feathering the team text simulates minor ink bleed after printing, but I skipped it and called this card front done. A completed version would include the back, with illustrations, stats, and a bio.