Pokemon TCG – How are Pokemon Cards Made?

Have you ever wondered how Pokemon Cards are made? In a video created by the Pokemon Company International and Millennium Print Group, which initially leaked a few months ago, fans of the Pokemon TCG can now learn about each stage of production – from design to the final product. It is believed that the video was intended for employee eyes only, but was somehow leaked onto the internet.

How are Pokemon Cards Made?

It takes 10 months from design to store shelves, with it taking three weeks per language to complete each expansion. At the very start of the project, the product development team receives the card list of the Pokemon, which leads to a final expansion card list being created. The team then has a templating meeting, where they turn raw translations into the final English card text. They then receive card assets and cross-check them against the original Japanese cards for consistent, concise and unambiguous text. The scripting team then creates a layout file with the card frames and illustrations

How are Pokemon Cards Made?
How are Pokemon Cards Made?
How are Pokemon Cards Made?

The design team then begin typesetting cards, adjusting the card text and icons. After typesetting, the cards are printed off with enlarged images and then routing begins to determine where the cards will fall in the set and categorised.

How are Pokemon Cards Made?

Design preparations for the full arts of the set are then completed before card textures are created. For each individual foil card, the designers break down the shapes of the Pokemon and add the texture to help enhance the shapes and angles. 

How are Pokemon Cards Made?

Edits are then made for the English, French, Italian, German, Spanish and Portuguese versions. Cards go through another round of revisions and once the team are happy, the first draft of card files are sent off to the printer. While waiting, the team move on to the packaging design after receiving the preliminary character art and begin drafting the look and feel of the packaging. 

How are Pokemon Cards Made?

After this, the expansion is named and the logo development begins, with designers coming up with several names and whittling the list down to the final choice. In the image below, you can see all the names that could have been chosen for the 2018 Ultra Prism set. Do you think they made the right choice? 

The expansion art files are then proofed by development leaders and finalized, choosing several designs. The final sign off is approved by all departments, including Legal, Finance, Product Safety, Production, the Design Director, TCGO and the Design Manager. The approved packaging files are then sent to the printers also. 

At the printing department, the card files are then processed, which includes sizing and colour balancing, with a proof copy created. The colour of the print is then thoroughly checked and any adjustments to the logos are made. The process is then repeated for booster pack wrapping and any other packaging.

How are Pokemon Cards Made?

A week later, the printed card sheets are proofed, with experts meticulously examining each card with a magnifying glass and an array of other tools. After that stage is completed, the plating process begins, which is where printing plates transfer the image to paper, with one plate per colour and up to 8 plates per printed sheet. This is where the team quality controls each plate, to make sure no errors make it to the final product. 

Before printing begins, the laminating foil is added to the paper, creating a staggering 15,000 sheets per day. After the full quota is filled, 3,300 sheets per pallet are prepared for printing. This is when the $8.5 million, 120-foot-long printing press is loaded. This incredible machine then prints 220,000 double-sided sheets per day which equates to 26.62 million cards printed every single day.

How are Pokemon Cards Made?
How are Pokemon Cards Made?

While the cards are being printed, the registration, ink density, card fit and colour is checked, further ensuring quality control. Any changes are then made, including colour adjustments. Then, the process moves into further quality control checks, including checking the white plates, colour density and checking the fit to make sure everything lines up tightly within the card art.

How are Pokemon Cards Made?

Once the press sheet is approved, the sheets then go into cutting tests to make sure everything matches up on both sides. Once the team are happy, they feed the sheets through the slitting machine to create the individual cards. As the cards are fed through the machine, each sheet, now in piles, are checked by a quality control checker. The corners are then cut for all cards and checked to ensure sizes are within the preferred gauge.

How are Pokemon Cards Made?
How are Pokemon Cards Made?

The next process is the TCGO code cards for online play, which creates and prints unique codes for all of the cards. A camera then reads every code and are matched to a master list. If a code doesn’t work, it is removed from the product line. 

As we all know, in the past, packs could be weighed to ensure a foil. Now, the Pokemon Company International varies the weights of the packs, regardless of the foils inside, to prevent cheating. 

The booster pack wrapping is then printed onto clear finseal and then laminated to foil. The machines print 2.5 million booster wrappings per day inside a humidity-controlled environment. The cards are then sorted for boosters, ensuring the right amount of foil and non-foil cards are included and are then sealed in the booster wrapping and weighed to ensure the right amount of cards are in each pack. The booster boxes are then hand packaged before being put into a plastic wrapping machine and placed into cases and labelled for shipping.

The final stage is creating themed starter decks for the expansion, with printing of the boxes starting, which uses 10 printing plates in total. The plates are then embossed to provide texture to the cardboard, with the machines creating 1,800 stamped impressions on the card per hour. The components are then sorted and packed, with the machine building each deck by dropping cards into separate compartments. The compartments are then inserted into the starter deck boxes.  

The promo cards are then dropped into the plastic shells, with the decks dropped onto of it. The coins are dropped into the plastic shells also, along with any manuals and damage counters. The shell and its content are then sealed, inserted into the retail case containing 8 starter decks and wrapped. Several cases are then boxed up, labelled and are ready to ship. From here, thousands of boxes are sent and stored at a warehouse, waiting for the release of the set. 

It’s definitely educational to see each process of the Pokemon TCG and does show how much work goes into the game we love. The leaked video on how Pokemon cards are made was shared on the Pokebeach YouTube channel, which can be viewed here

To keep up to date with all the upcoming sets, as well as all other Pokemon TCG news, make sure you follow Ludkins Media on Instagram or Facebook

Mathew Parkes – Ludkins Media Editor-in-Chief

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