Card Art Design, Bleed Zone, & Drift

card art safe zone and cut lines sm2The number one rule of card graphic design is that you need the art to extend farther than you might think. This is basically a bleed area because of the possibility of a miscut or “drift.” This is mostly important when making art for the card back or the card frames. Similarly, nothing important should be outside of “a safe zone.”

I will show exactly what I have in mind below.

Poker Card Template

The Game Crafter is a printing company that can print your deck of cards and make a tuck box for it, and their template for card art is the following:


Note that it is resized — companies will generally want the image to be for cards that are full sized at 300 DPI, which can look quite large on the computer screen.

There will be a sheet of card stock that several cards will be printed onto at once. The red line is where they would ideally cut the card, and the safe zone is basically the card border. They might not cut it perfectly, though.

The yellow block represents their recommended border area, and it extends to the edge of the template, beyond where they hope to cut the card.

Card Art Example

card back with full bleed

Here is an example of a card art, specifically a card back. Note that the art extends past where they hope to cut the card from the uncut sheet. (The card art was designed by Theresa Guido.)

card back with template information

The above image can help show you how the art extends past the ideal cut lines and the most important parts of the art are within the blue safe zone.

Regular card_Regular red

The above card is an example of a card frame — a general card art design before the unique art and text are added. These are used for the card fronts of card games, with a special area for the title, rules text, etc. Again, note that the border is extended beyond the ideal cut area. (The design is by Amit Ghadge from Crimson Studio.)

Perfect Cut

card back cut

Here is what the card back will look like if it is cut perfectly.

Cut with Drift

card back with drift

There is a good chance the printer will cut some cards off center, which is a mild miscut, and is also known as “drift.” This is an example of how extreme that can be and yet it might be considered adequate by the printer. If the amount of drift is too extreme and unacceptable, it is known as a miscut.

Even so, you still see all the most important detail of the art in this case because the most important art is within the safe zone.

Cut with Drift & No Bleed Area

card back with drift no safe zone

Just to see what happens if you don’t extend the art beyond the expected cut line, this is an example of a card with drift when there was no bleed area. The white space could be quite a bad thing to end up with in a professionally designed card game.

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