How Not to Make Custom Tokens and OriCas: Part 1

What do you do with about a hundred penny supers from THSF? Well, you can use them to wipe your tears when you open your last pack and there’s not a Valk or Brio in sight. Or, you can make some custom cards/OriCas/tokens.

Which is so much harder than it sounds.

The Idea:

Making OriCas (Original Cards) or Custom Tokens has always been a concept that’s interested me, but it’s never something I’ve been to eager to pay for. However, I’ve got some free time these days and pile of penny supers from my team’s THSF boxes. I’ve seen a few tutorials on YouTube over the years about stripping super and secret rare cards of their ink with acetone, but the process of getting the new artwork on the blank card was always a mystery of me. It just so happened that I came across a site that listed “transparent sticker paper/transparent window decal” as a method of printing new artwork and getting them onto cards. A quick search on Amazon led me to a variety of products to choose from for fairly cheap. I decided to grab a pack of 8-sheets during my next order, just to test the waters.

The Prep:

My list of required items if quite similar to that of the Wikia, but here’s what I ended up needing:

  • Transparent Sticker Paper – Link points to the one I got, but read on below regarding my experience before you jump on this method.
  • Acetone – I initially used Nail Polish Remover, but I got a bottle of more concentrated stuff from a pharmacy and it was much easier to strip cards with that.
  • Rubbing Alcohol – Not essential, so any brand/concentration should do.
  • Cotton – In my experience, any sort of it will work just fine.
  • Bulk Penny Supers – Account for 2-3x more than you expect to make; not every one is gonna be perfect when stripped.
  • Cellophane tape – preferably clear if you intend to follow my method exactly.
  • InkJet printer – Mine is a generic HP 3-in-1 and was not well suited for the job. I suggest finding one that has a transparency printing mode or at the very least, handles glossy paper a bit better.
  • A sharp blade – Cutting the printed paper is very difficult for me with scissors. You might have better luck if you’re more dextrous than I am, but a good knife was a great help.
  • Sharpie markers, for when you forget to put a title.
  • A flat surface that wasn’t made from dead trees. I initially used a board of wood, but the nail polish remover ate through even that. On my second attempt, I used a ceramic plate and it proved to be a much better surface.
  • A whole lot of patience.
  • Gloves – I actually didn’t bother to get gloves. Acetone caused a slight burning sensation in my fingertips, but I haven’t found any blisters or other issues yet from handling it bare-handed. If you’re going to do a lot of these, definitely pick up some latex gloves.
Here's my stack of supers.
Here’s my stack of supers.
Here's my chemicals.
Here’s my chemicals.

The Method:

Stripping the Cards:

Step 1
Step 1
  1. Use the tape to stick the entirety of the 4 edges of the cards to your flat surface. I took great care to ensure that the tape’s end lined up exactly with the edges of the borders of my cards. I went along with this method primarily because it ensured there was zero risk of letting the acetone come into contact with the back-side of your card and damaging it. That is, of course, provided you use tape of a decent quality. For me, I was even able to put so me acetone on the card that it formed a puddle and the edges of my cards have no wear to show for it.
  2. Dab some acetone onto the cotton.
  3. Begin to rub the cotton onto the surface of the card. I found that using an excess of acetone (enough to form a puddle) meant stripping away the ink, especially in the frame of the card, much easier. With the nail polish remover, I found myself having to put a great amount of pressure on the cotton to strip off the ink, which lead to a lot of cards being damaged by my nails or even just scratched up by the rubbing action. I found that with the purer acetone, I was able to suffice with much less force and only really needed to apply it for the darker parts of the card. In either case, I would really advise you to minimize the time you spend with the acetone in contact with the card as much as you can. I found that when I let the acetone remain in contact with the card too long, even the holofoil layer would be eaten away, effectively ruining that card. Letting this process drag on also affects the risk that acetone will seep below your taped boundaries and eat up the edges of your card. Note that I found frequently flipping over the cotton to a clean side made the process a lot easier.
First try - for this one,  I only taped the four corners and ended up with a great deal of edge wear from the acetone. Would not recommend.
First try – for this one, I only taped the four corners and ended up with a great deal of edge wear from the acetone. Would not recommend.
My second attempt with the improved taping scheme - this is a card that I consider workable.
My second attempt with the improved taping scheme – this is a card that I consider workable.
Another usable stripped card.
Another usable stripped card.
I also tested this method with a Secret Rare. I didn't have many extra ones so I didn't do many Secrets, but I found them to be significantly easier than Supers to strip of their ink.
I also tested this method with a Secret Rare. I didn’t have many extra ones so I didn’t do many Secrets, but I found them to be significantly easier than Supers to strip of their ink.

Congrats! If you’ve followed these instructions, you should have a blank YuGiOh card. With this method, the outer edge stays largely in tact, but I haven’t found that to be a problem.

Here are some pictures of my stripped cards:

The Design – Round 1

So, after stripping about a dozen cards, I ended up with about 5 I considered fit for a finished product. I knew going into this that the art of Shiki Ryougi from Kara n Kyoukai: 7 was going to be my first attempt. I pulled a high quality image of an existing YuGiOh token off of Google Images and got to work in Photoshop. For the size of the image, I ended up using this template. Swapping out the art and aligning the image wasn’t very difficult, so after doing that I wanted to test the printing process. However, I decided that I really wanted an authentic looking card, which would mean that certain sections of the card needed to be transparent for the holofoil to be visible through. I painstakingly cut out the background of the picture in question and put it in its own layer, which I put at 80% opacity in Photoshop, giving it a transparent look. Fairly satisfied with my work, I decided it was time to test my first card.

Here's the version of the image I would have been printing at the time.
Here’s the version of the image I would have been printing at the time.

The Printing – Round 1

Printers are the spawn of the devil itself, there’s really no question. I usually keep my printer at home in check and don’t have much difficulty with it during normal printing. However, that couldn’t be further from the truth when printing on any kind of specialty paper. The problem largely stems from how paper is fed into my printer. Pages in my printer are pulled up and flipped over before being printed on and the mechanism that pulled paper from the loading tray isn’t able to cope well with specialty paper, which is usually significantly less able to be gripped than regular copy paper. As a result, it was a nightmare to get the printer to reliably print anything onto the sticker paper. I ended up trying about eight times before I got the full art of the card printed and useable with nothing cut out or overlapped. I ended up using the knife to cut out the card as well as salvage an “entire” version of the card from two printings that got cut off. In the end, that version that was printed as intended was just blind luck as it would seem.

First Trial - It's immediately obvious that the printed artwork is far too transparent and the actual image isn't very prominent. Uh oh.
First Trial – It’s immediately obvious that the printed artwork is far too transparent and the actual image isn’t very prominent. Uh oh.
So, from the same batch, I had the idea to layer two prints on top of each other to create a darker and more prominent image. I ended up using a secret rare for this, but that turned out to be a mistake because of how overpowering the holofoil is. In addition, you can see how the fine text is almost unreadable because of small errors in placing the second layer.
So, from the same batch, I had the idea to layer two prints on top of each other to create a darker and more prominent image. I ended up using a secret rare for this, but that turned out to be a mistake because of how overpowering the holofoil is. In addition, you can see how the fine text is almost unreadable because of small errors in placing the second layer.

So, with round 1 being a complete failure, it was back to the drawing board. In part 2, I’ll try to overcome some of the problems that I encountered here and make the best cards that I can with my resources.

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