Last updated: January 15
PnP board game crafting is a hobby where you learn most of it with practice and your brain, so the simplest thing to do is find technique videos that achieve what you want, and think / practice your way through the fine details.
But I do have a very clear recommendation on getting started.: it’s the Dining Table Print and Play Youtube Channel, followed by the rest of Jake’s videos. The two to watch first are Tip: Use a Steel Ruler! and Tip: How to Use a Rotary Cutter. These two form the basis of everything I have done. I recommend printing a few sheets of paper with horizontal and vertical lines for you to practice your cuts from those two videos alone, and from there, you can look at his channels for things like making cards, boxes, or even double-layer recessed boards.
I have a lot I can say about materials, and absolutely will not be comprehensive. (Edited to add: looks like I was somewhat comprehensive.)
Rotary Cutter: Get the Fiskars. Get spare blades. They’re pricey but you don’t want to deal with dull blades.
Steel Ruler: You saw above. Get a steel ruler with a cork backing. Once in a while an 18” ruler helps out when cutting large pieces of poster board, but it is otherwise unwieldy.
Self-Healing Mat: Another must. They’re great. Michaels has an OLFA brand one that is great for measuring.
Hobby Knife: Soon you’ll move from rotary cutter to X-Acto knives. You can get an X-Acto-branded knife, but check out this video which talks about ways to upgrade your knives. I 100% agree with the concerns, and bought the Excel knife (and also a 100-pack of blades.) No regrets.
Circle Cutters: I can’t find a good one. I think the Fiskars circle cutter kind of sucks, but the presenter in the hobby knife video kind of liked it. I’ve relied on a couple of circle punches for things like tokens, eg but nothing for circles larger than 1” in diameter.
Rounding Corners: OK, so you can get corner rounders to protect playing card edges. The cheap ones you get at Michaels will not work well if your asset has any thickness. They’re great for paper and that’s about it. I invested in a heavy-duty one. It was $60, but I don’t regret it for the value it provided. (I round everything I can, all the time!)
Adhesives: I use a few. Because I live in an apartment with standard air ventilation I can’t use a spray adhesive. I rely heavily on Elmer’s Washable Purple School Glue. It’s nearly perfect, though the one problem is that you often have to do minor repairs the following hour or day. Always double-check, and learn to apply the glue with a small knife in corners.
Plain double-sided scotch tape is great under some circumstances. For something nicer, I use double-sided sticker tape. I don’t use it often, but for example, it worked great with the double-layered Century Spice Road boards. (Those boards are also made with sticker paper, discussed below.)
I haven’t yet mastered spray adhesives and can’t do it anyway what with the limited ventilation in my apartment building. But even when I was in a house, I couldn’t trust that a spray wouldn’t show a wet blotch through the other side. Eh.
Paper and Cardstock: Obviously I use standard 20lb laser printer paper for most of my work. If I could get cardstock to go into my color laser printer I’d do it, but I can’t.
Poster Board: I use four different kinds: First, I reuse my cereal boxes and other chipboard. They work just great. I’ve never had real issues with gluing to the glossy side. There other are two poster board thicknesses you can use, the normal poster board you can get at any pharmacy (or craft or office supply store,) which has a little weight to it. I often use those for playing cards. That’s not the best way to make cards, but it works and I am satisfied. A thinner poster board can be used as an easy way to make bands to keep cards together. If you don’t know what I mean, don’t worry about it. My favorite is this 1.3mm-thick board which seems to be available at art shops. It’s strong. It takes glue very well. My dice tower is made from it, and I’ve used it for other things. The only down-side is that one side of the board has a watermark on it, ugh, go away watermark.
Oh, right – I’ve used a fifth kind for large game boards, the important thing is to find something thick. And use new blades.
Foam Core: Great for inserts. Don’t use it for making boards. Paper doesn’t stick to it easily. Stay with thick cardboard.
Sticker Paper: This is a great way to get artwork on top of cards and solves the adhesive problem, but two things: first, change your printer settings to print to sticker media. You literally have to choose the sticker paper media type for your printer when printing. It changes the printer’s fuser’s temperature so the color adheres to the paper (ref.) Second, you’ll probably want to use a fixative on these to help preserve the color.
Fixatives: They’re great. I wish I could use them in my apartment. Then I’d print on sticker paper more, especially when I want something nice looking. Like adhesives, it’s easy to over-spray, but it’s worth practicing.
- I bought some +1.25 glasses from the pharmacy which basically act like a magnifying glass on my face. Great for being more confident about precise cutting.
- Every once in a while, but rarely, I rely on cheap calipers to measure thickness. I needed that to design the dice tower, for example.