Would you like to know what my two favourite card design tools are? My process and the tools I use have both evolved quite a bit since I started, as I discovered new ways to become more efficient while designing cards. I now have a couple of firm favourites – these are the two tools that I’d really hate to be without!
How I started
When I first started designing cards I drew my illustrations on paper, scanned it in and then cleaned it up and used it in a card design on GIMP. GIMP is open source software that is similar to Photoshop, but free. It stands for GNU Image Manipulation Programme and is in no way as kinky as it sounds… I definitely didn’t have the money in the early stages to invest in Photoshop, and GIMP did everything I needed.
This process was fine in the beginning, but it did make designing new cards feel like quite an undertaking. Apart from the drawing, tidying the scan up took ages, and if I needed to change the drawing in some way I usually had to start again, as trying to edit it on screen using a mouse often took longer than just redoing it.
After a while I started doing a lot of custom cartoon portraits and it was especially difficult to make changes to these. I needed a better system!
My absolute favourite card design tool
Last year I finally decided to invest in an iPad (with Apple Pencil) and it is now without a doubt my favourite card design tool.
It took me ages before I went ahead (because these things are expensive!) I asked loads of other people who had iPads whether it was worth it (they all said yes). I also did a lot of research about the different types of iPads and which would be the best one for me to get.
Eventually I just went for it and got the iPad Air and it was honestly one of the best business decisions I ever made (the other one involves my printer – more about that next time…). To be rather clichéd, the only regret I’ve had since is that I didn’t do it sooner.
I bought the Procreate app and Apple Pencil to go with my iPad and together they’ve completely revolutionised my drawing process! I can just pick up the iPad and start doodling any time and then AirDrop the design straight to my Mac. Any edits or changes are easily done in the Procreate app and I can copy designs and use layers to create different versions. Can you tell I LOVE this tool?!
My other favourite design tool
My other favourite card design tool is still GIMP. Once I’ve done the illustrations, I use it to create the actual card designs and I’ve got no plans to change this. While Photoshop may be more powerful, there’s nothing I need that GIMP doesn’t provide. So I’d really begrudge spending £10 to £20 a month on a tool that I use in exactly the same way as a free one!
I’ve set up card design templates with the correct sizing for my cards and my logo inserted on the back of the card. I just drop the illustration into the template, add some text and then play around with the layout. Now that I’m not actually trying to edit the illustrations in GIMP it’s a much quicker process to lay out the card designs. If I need to adjust an illustration I just go back to my iPad, quickly make the changes and AirDrop it back to be inserted into my GIMP template.
So there you have it – my two favourite card design tools – my iPad Air (together with Apple Pencil and Procreate) and GIMP. Both make the digital side of designing cards a breeze. Now if only I could find a tool that could come up with all the ideas for me now too 🤔