How to get into the board game design industry

This post has been written to answer how to get into the board game design industry and what you can do to potentially get through those elusive hidden board game industry doors.

Getting into the board game industry is both simple yet difficult. When you know how and where to look, it Is simple.

When you do not know where to begin, getting into the board game industry is difficult, or at least finding the hidden doors is hard.

Boardgame design is experiencing a creative renaissance and there is no better time to join this growing fun and creative business. Nobody could blame you for wanting to work for a board game company at this time.

Getting involved in the industry is fun, creative, and rewarding!

how to get into board game design industry - header

What does it really mean to be In the board game industry?

Many board game designers are individuals and small teams with board game design being their passion. Their companies and side projects may run secondary to another main source of income.

In other words, their board game companies are paid hobbies that may bring them additional income and fulfilment.

These are all people who have got into the industry and make up for a large portion of the creators behind board games and the creative board game development.

Many of these smaller independent games design companies might be friends, partners, husband and wife teams etc which make up the board game ‘in’ crowd.

To get into the board game design industry, these smaller teams started to create games for the love of making games and published their own.

The smaller studios and tabletop game developers often grow their companies from a side passion to something that can earn money and allow them to continue to make board games.

Of how to get into the board game design industry and get involved with the big publisher to sell your game – that’s a battle in itself and are 2 very different doors into the industry.

Details below, if you are looking at working in the tabletop gaming industry, want to work for a game publisher or sell your game, idea or product then this helpful post is for you.

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how to get into the board game design industry and work with smaller publishers and designers

If you are just starting out, looking to change career, or launch a passion project you can start creating your board game now.

There is no harm in starting small on a hobby project and working your way up to the bigger companies later if that is what you want to do.

There is also no shame in working with smaller companies and staying with little studios. By being part of a small team or going solo, you can get hands on experience with game design and development on many levels and in many “departments”.

As with various creative roles in the smaller outfits, it is a great way of being shown the ropes when you are part of a small unit.

But, even getting involved with smaller studios can be a challenge if you don’t want to go solo or you are just starting out.

Here are some tips on how to get into the board game industry and work with smaller developers and publishers.

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Steps on how to get involved with (smaller businesses) in the board games industry

1 ) Have an interest in board games! This should be a given, but if you want to create some games, great! If you just want to make quick money, consider other careers.

2 ) Start creating games. Make it all about the game and the enjoyment of creating games. If you are stuck for ideas consider making a personal game project with a pencil and paper. You can make a fan game to, like this website shows – how to create a HeroQuest style game.

3 ) Take an interest in other games that have been created. Ideas rarely come from nowhere! Show interest in what types of games you like to play.

4 ) Sign up to board game forums and become an active member

5 ) Hang around with board game creators! You can attend various meetups and casual board game events

6 ) Network work extensively

Network with games companies - into the board game design

That list of steps is a simplified way of what you can do to get into the tabletop gaming business and work with the smaller studios and independent makers.

There are many ways of accessing the industry and at varying levels.

And to be involved – is to be involved!

Enjoy games and meet people that also enjoy creating games, make connections In the gaming field.

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how to access the board game industry and sell your game (small scale)

If you want to get serious and commercialise your game, meeting the right people is both important to this goal and challenging.

But how do you make these all-important contacts?

It is a case of where to be and where to look.

The most simple first step to making some initial contact in the industry is by going onto forums, looking at board game directories, and seeing what companies you find on Google.

This is the most straightforward, but in my opinion – not the most effective solution for making contacts in the board game industry.

Meeting face-to-face and showing what you can do is better. You can build up a rapport and discuss board games there and then. Be it at a show or a networking event.

So ‘where’ to meet these contacts and get into the board game design industry.

Get involved with the board game industry by attending shows and conventions

One of the best ways of getting involved with the board game industry is by showing up to conventions and shows and saying “hi”. Go to the boardgame stands, say hello and talk about your passion and see where it may lead!

Going to conventions and shows will also broaden your view on the industry as a whole. You get to meet companies that focus on party games, board games for the family, adult games, card games, poker games, RPG’s, science fiction, fantasy, games for young children!

There are too many to list.

Going to shows is a big way to build those all-important contacts.

Another way of getting into the industry, is through self-proclamation!

how to get into board game design industry - publish your own!

Self-publish your board game! “I am a board game developer”

I am a board game designer! Therefore, I am part of the board game industry!.

Another way to get into the board game design industry is by creating your own games and products. You may have already created your own game or aspire to create a game. By actually creating a game or products around gaming you can say –

“You are part of the board game industry”

To what capacity? That can be left to interpretation.

Creating a game and building a board game design career

The main focus of this article is on how to get into the board game design industry and creating your own games is early access to this.

I do not wish to deviate too much into the intricacies of creating a board game in this article. Creating board games is a skill in itself that deserves more than just a few sentences.

You can read more on creating a retail-ready game here if you want to focus on board game creation and selling your own products.

If you would like help with creating your game, you may also wish to look at the board game design services page or get in touch via my contact form.

Creating your first game or board game product is a great way of getting into board game creation. You can learn a lot from even just making a prototype. You can either pitch your prototype to a company or look at selling it yourself.

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Getting involved with the big board game publishers (selling to and working with)

Getting into the board game design industry is challenge number 1. Eg create a game or fan game) and show what you can do. Set up a business.

But.

Working ‘with’ or ‘in’ the BIG board game companies is a separate challenge in itself, and tough inner circle to break into.

Because it is hard to get into, it certainly doesn’t mean that it isn’t worth it. Especially from a financial or publicity standpoint.

Here are few listed benefits as to why getting your board game into a larger board game can help your and your board game development career.

The benefits of getting your game in with a big company (selling your game)

  • Larger market penetration and industry coverage. The larger board game companies – publishers and distributors are more likely to have the retail and business channels to sell more copies of your board game in higher volumes. They might be good to approach after you have also (potentially) created a Kickstarter, if crowdfunding is a path you take.
  • Great marketing for your board game. At first, getting your name out there can be a huge advantage for the future and for growing your board game design business.
  • More revenue – Having more revenue isn’t the same as having a higher margin (making more money per individual unit) The the big retailers are likely to shift larger volumes of your game than just you on your own.

More on the example below.

Selling your game through a larger board game company vs do it yourself – rough example

Although “do it yourself” is a great way of getting into the board game industry, you will have to out a lot of energy into multiple avenues of the business. As opposed to the bigger business may be able to sell your game in larger volumes.

Do it yourself method

You sell 100 units, throw all of your time and energy into distribution and logistics – earn £3 (profit) unit for example per game. You take away £300

Selling your game through a large publisher or distributor (getting involved with the companies)

As an example, you sell 10,000 units through a board game publisher or distribution company and earn £2 per unit. (rough example – NEVER a guarantee)

Per unit, that is less.

The publishers will take a larger cut – BUT – you earn £2 x 10,000 = £20,000. The bigger companies have access and possibly bigger selling power.

Not only will you be more likely to sell higher volumes through a board game distributor or publisher. It will allow you to focus more on board game development and design. If that is what you want to do.

To get involved with the large publishers can be difficult if you are starting out in your career. The next section focuses on how to get into the board game design industry and work with the big board game companies.

“The easier you make it for the businesses to sell your game and increase ‘their’ revenue. The easier you will make it for yourself.”

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How to get your board game into the big companies, publishers and retailers

If you are board game designer and developer or an aspiring creator! You may have ambitions to get your game into the big publishers and distributors.

As with any businesses, and contrary to popular belief, most companies and buyers are risk-averse. If working with you and your game proves to be a potential risk with weak financial returns, they won’t sell your game.

To get involved with the big companies in the board game industry, make your game retail-ready and full or promise.

The easier you make it for the businesses to sell your game and increase ‘their’ revenue. The easier you will make it for yourself.

In other words, earn more revenue for them and earn more revenue yourself.

Sell your game - into the board game design

Getting yourself and your board game ready for retail

In order to get into the board game industry, I have written a couple of design-focused entrepreneurial tips that will help you in creating a game for retail in mind.

Creating your game and playing it is one thing but creating game that gets the attention of the bigger businesses is another.

Ways you can pitch a retail-ready game.

* it should be noted that reading posts and saying “is that all” it takes is not the best mindset to start on. Creating games and creating games ready to be sold is a big time consuming effort and can be a labour of love many.

Tick boxing alone, will not guarantee the success of a game. Use your initiative, use critical thinking, and be prepared to try and try again to crack that industry!

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How to work for a board game company (in house, freelance)

To work for a board game company you need to prove that you can work in a relevant field in the board game industry and also work as part of a team!

There are various skills, roles and departments for budding games designers to consider :

  • Boardgame designer
  • – Graphic designer and artists
  • – Illustrator and artists
  • – Concept artist
  • – Writers and board game editors
  • – Story writing
  • – 3D modellers
  • – Sculptors (traditional and 3D)
  • – Moulders and casters
  • – 3D printing services
  • – Prototype makers
  • – Card designers and printers
  • – Logistics and warehouses
  • – E-tailers and retailers
  • – Play testers
  • – Sales
  • – Administrative positions!
  • – Translators

Also, being a creative director, producer or MD.

To answer “how to work for a board game company“, be it freelance, contract, or in-house, you should consider working on skills that will lend itself to the game company you wish to work for or with.

As with the list of skills and roles above, this is a glance at some or the roles and departments available that you can work in. If you wish to work in a more permanent position at a company or a board game publisher you should network and look on job boards to find the ideal position for you.

You may also need to be prepared to move location for most jobs if you wish to work in-house.

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What is the ‘best’ way of getting work in the board game industry?

There isn’t a single and clear cut path of how to get into the board game industry, each journey and career will be unique to the individual.

To choose which is the best way, as based on opinion, experience, and observations on how to get into the board games business. I would say the following are some of the best and most prominent ways of getting into the tabletop gaming industry.

1) Have a passion for tabletop games or/and creating games

2) Meet the right people for your game niche and share passion, knowledge, and skills with games and creating games.

3) Attend trade shows and make contacts. Network with other board game creators * ( personnel and favourite/ best method)

4) Look on jobs boards in the creative industries and dedicated board game communities. Facebook and Board game geek

5) ‘Niche’ on a certain skills and keep scouring the communities equipped with a portfolio or examples of what you can do!

6 ) And above all else – the best way on getting into the board games is to keep trying if you are passionate about board games!

We found these contacts mostly through trade shows and events.

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How to get into board game design industry | A firsthand account

I wanted to discuss my first-hand account of how I became involved in the board game industry and how you may find my story interesting or helpful in your creative journey!

Game example - into the board game design

I was involved In creating a party game at my previous job. It was created as part of “Product Development – innovation engine” which was a weekly process that was rolled out from 2016.

I and the team at the time realised that a game might be popular. It was inspired by something a colleague had seen on TV. I was sceptical initially but I was won around. (good job!)

We spent a few months designing and developing a party game.

The game was a commercial success and we went on to develop more products and expansion at the request of a large board game retailer. This opened a very wide door to more investment.

From there other retailers also requested the game. It grew in popularity in the UK.

We found these contacts mostly through trade shows and events. They were a mixture of board game distribution companies, smaller retailers, and high-street shops.

That was my first-hand experience in working commercially in board games and 1 first-hand example of how to get into the board games industry.

Off my own back.

I then started to find more contacts at conventions and shows. Many of the these people I networked with were a mixture of small independent game designers to larger-scale board game developers.

And to this day, I am always looking for ways of building new contacts and ways I can help independent board game developers create their game.

That was an (‘is’) part of my professional journey.

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An example of how to start early – get your children to start making games!

This is an example of somebody that has the will and drive to create something they love! This person was undeterred by pessimism, cynicism, and the knowledge of money!

Just the want and the like of creating their own game. I think there is a lesson us adults we can learn here.

* For confidentially, I cannot mention in detail about the parties involved.

I wanted to draw your attention to this prototype by a budding game designer. ( my part was in the visual and creative design + getting it ready to look at )

The client started first by drawing a rough game on post-it notes and mapping out the game.

Self-publish game - into the board game design

They had already playtested and worked out the mechanics before contacting me. They just wanted to figure out “how to make it”.

From the rough prototype. I came up with visuals, character vectors and ideas how it would look and what was going on.

I had the joy of designing the box art, the game cards, conceptualising and creating the dinosaurs, the caveman, tokens, and the board!

This is an example of what you can do if you decide to go down the self-publish route.

Create a pitch ready prototype!

how to get into board game design industry printed!

Having something physical to show looks both professional and that you are serious and passionate about the board game industry. This will be your early steps of how to get into the board game design industry

People are often tactile and like to look by touch also.

Design services

How to get into the board game design industry – The final answer

To consolidate and simplify the answer, there are a couple of main routes on how to work in the board games industry.

The main path is by making the right contacts at shows, conventions, and events – meeting the right people in senior positions at board game companies will put you at a strong advantage.

Another alternative way of getting into the board game industry is by creating and publishing your own game and making yourself part of the industry.

The final point for you to get into the industry is by looking at niche board game job boards or job boards in creative industries. Look on Facebook and Board Game Geek also

With many creative businesses – a big part of it is, who you know, what you can do.

Love (or like) what you do!

that is how you can get into the board game industry. Persistence, passion, and having a lot of good relevant business contacts in the business. And trial and error, luck and determination.

If you have found this post helpful, feel free to share. All the best in your board game creation career.

In your journey into getting into the Boardgame design business you may also find some of the following articles helpful.

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Other helpful topics to help you get into the industry

How to commercialise and sell your board game

Steps on creating a successful retail-ready party game

Getting to grips with drawing on a computer with a graphics tablet (creating digital artwork)

Product design – Stem cardboard products

Packaging projects for the high-street

How to create STEM or learning product you can sell

Creative board game services (Design website)
into the board game design

Freelance vector illustration and character design for your board game

– Table top, card and board game design services

External Website for getting into tabletop board game development

How to create your own private of fan type game for yourself (inspired by HeroQuest)

The games and images in this article are all copyrighted, please do not use or distribute. Handy tips – how to get into the board game design industry and how to work for a board game company.

“NETWORK!”

How to get your packaging printed in China | 9 insights for Designers, Entrepreneurs & Startups

How to get your packaging printed in China in simple steps. This topic covers how to get your packaging printed in China from the concept to sending your design to a Chinese factory and getting printed proofs!

This post has been written based on past experience, in working with factories from overseas. My packaging design and artwork has featured on boxes in the UK and across the globe. If you would like to see some more samples of my packaging feel free to have a look!

Getting your packaging made in China
Getting your idea made!

General information about this post :

– The pitfalls
– What to expect when working with the factories.
– The typical stages
– Other details experiences

This article discusses my professional experience in getting packaging artwork printed with Chinese suppliers – all experience told from a design perspective.

I hope that this post will help you make an informed decision and how to go about getting the results you want from your suppliers.

You can get your artwork printed in China from a reputable factory or supplier. The challenge is finding a reputable factory and supplier and when you can’t speak the language, it can be difficult.

1 ) How to get your packaging made for your product (Chinese Factory)

If you are a business, an entrepreneur or someone looking to get a product manufactured for the retail market you will need packaging for your product, unless you are intending to sell only online using brown boxes. If you would like to read or see some of my eCommerce design you can view it here.

To be taken seriously, you will need to have professional packaging made.

Working with Chinese suppliers can be a great cost saving measure but you will need make sure you select the right one.

Mass production packaging
Mass production packaging

2 ) Why do companies get packaging for their products manufactured in China?

There are many reasons for a why a company may want to get a product or a piece of the packaging made in China if you are from a western country such as the USA or United Kingdom.

By far most common reason for getting products manufactured in China is to save money on production, printing or manufacturing fees. From a business perspective, this is great news – but it isn’t always as ideal or as cheap as it actually sounds. If you pick the wrong supplier it can cost you time and money and can even lead to trouble further down the line.

3 ) How to supply your packaging design to a Chinese factory

This isn’t as tricky as it sounds from the designers’ perspective but be prepared to teach the factory how to suck eggs. DO NOT Assume they will understand what you want. And DO NOT assume that things will be created ‘as is’, on occasions factories may ‘help’ and tinker with your work without your consent.

Stay vigilant on the process

Very vigilant…

Frustrated Designer… Frustrated factory, Frustrated business… etc

When you create a design you will need to annotate and make it as clear to follow as possible, be it using spot UV or any extra features this will need to be told in FULL.

I would also strongly advise on sending rough mock ups or drawings to help communicate what it is you are setting out to achieve. Visuals often make one of the best lines of communication when having your sample made with a Chinese supplier or factory.

Getting angry at the factory won’t accomplish anything.

It won’t fix the problem.

And it wont make you wealthier and it wont speed up the process. The ball is in your court in the end and it just needs to be right.

Send them visuals and explain EVERYTHING.

4 ) How to find a Chinese packaging a supplier

There are hundreds, possibly 1000’s of businesses online that are looking to print your packaging in China alone. You could go onto a website such as Alibaba to find a supplier or through Linkedin.

I still hear from suppliers coming through my Linkedin account.

By the far, the most effective (not cheapest) way is by hiring or contracting someone to work as a middleman or woman to work between you and the suppliers.

Communication is key in getting your design correct otherwise you will get something you didn’t want from the factories.

I would argue that getting a good supplier from one of the factories should be a top priority. A bad supplier will result in bad results – funnily enough!

Here are some key points when finding a factory or supplier to work with:

– *Find someone you can trust*
– Work with a factory that offers a quality service
– Get as much written down in the beginning as possible
– *Try to get prototypes or samples from factory supplier before mass production.

5 ) What to expect when having your packaging or product made in China

It all comes down to your supplier, communication and how you supply the artwork. It’s best to have everything ‘exactly’ as is when supplying artwork to factory and also be prepared for a bit of randomness when it comes to how they may produce the work.

Be vigilant and make sure to get ‘proofs’ from the factory.

I have written a couple of quick steps for you to follow when producing your packing:

– Find a reputable supplier, if you have somebody that is fluent in Chinese this can help tremendously

– See if you can get proofs or past evidence of packaging and material samples. What they sometimes say you will get and what you actually get is not uncommon in my experience.

– Getting digital proofs of your artwork through photos, and flat-screen image is a must.

– Delays can happen due to miscommunication from either or both parties.

Don’t let the factories take the initiative.

– The factories are generally better at giving you want you want if you send a 3D mock up or illustration.

– They are often very good at the cardboard engineering stage but not so much on the creative side.

– The factories can improve as with any working relationship with the more work you send them.

Weather can affect how and when your packaging may arrive.

– The Chinese factories can damage the packaging during ‘packing’ if they are rushed. Try not to rush them if you can help it.

– When supplying artwork, leave nothing to the imagination.

6 ) How long will it take to see your design once it is printed and shipped from a Chinese factory?

When having packaging printed In China, I have often seen a sample come back within one month, they can be very quick! Occasionally 3 months, depending on the weather, suppliers workload and method of transportation.

Shipping from China!
Shipping from China!

7 ) How to get packaging printed in China | The realities

When it is good it’s great and you will generally save money. When it isn’t great, as with some things in life, it can be a complete nightmare!

Working with new suppliers can be the most problematic as neither of you are familiar with working with each other, you don’t know each others strengths, habits, communication etc.

One of my mistakes when working with a new Chinese supplier is ‘assuming’ – assume NOTHING. Below are some assumptions to avoid based on past experience.

– Point 1 – Don’t assume that they know what is in your head.
– Neither should you assume that a single colour should go all the way around the packaging eg – if you leave white bits on the fold … they will print it as is.
– Don’t assume that they will offer the same level of service twice, they may be busy or rushed – or just – won’t offer it for some unknown reason.
– And don’t assume that the factory understands what is to be made when you supply the artwork. You need to make sure what you want is as clear and as transparent as possible – in the end, if you are the designer, or manufacturer, the buck ends with you.

Make it easy and clear, and talk about everything you can. Don’t assume their knowledge.

Get it right you will have a great piece of packaging. Get the communications wrong and you will be in for a whole load of pain.

8) Great reasons for having your work made In China

I feel that I have covered many of the perks scattered through the post but it may be easier to bullet point why it is a good idea to have your packaging and product created in China in a quick to scan list.

– Getting work printed In China or overseas is often cheaper than getting work printed in western countries such as the UK or United States
– There is an abundance of suppliers of products and packaging manufactures on websites such as Alibaba
– It’s easy and quick to get wholesale and bulk quotes for your product
– Using a factory in China will help you save money if you are looking to reduce overheads.

9 ) The ‘challenges’ with getting things printed in China

For its many perks and plus points for getting packaging and products printed in China it also comes with its shortcomings and challenges. I have listed a couple of points below based on first-hand experience and industry observations.

Copyright theft: the factories are notorious for stealing and selling your product ideas as their own. Not every factory is like this, but it is not uncommon. I have witnessed Chinese factories use my previous employer’s artwork and pass onto a competitor. There are other random knock off’s I have stumbled upon ranging from copies of renown books, bad copies of Hollywood films etc.

Stealing Kickstarter’s: I have seen factories steal Kickstarter campaigns and undercut the creators. Worse, the factories release their copy to the retail market before true creators have made it themselves. Sad stories really.

The decrease in quality: This isn’t something that always happens but on occasions, the suppliers I have worked with would do little things like: use less glue, ship scuffed or damaged work, rush on the packaging if you have blisters inside your box etc.

I also think this was a case of reducing expenses and overheads, but that is only my opinion.

As with anything, there are always challenges that can come when producing products. I have also worked with printers in the UK which have ignored specifics such as bleed and just printed it as is. Although one bonus as with most things online, is that you can check reviews

Getting packaging and artwork printed in China

Thank you for reading this post on how to get packaging and artwork printed in China. If you would like to know more about getting your work printed feel free to get in touch or view this post about packaging design

I have over 10 years commercial design experience and over 8.4/5 years working with retail design and producing packing through the Chinese factories.

You may wish to read more on :

How I designed a novelty flash drive product
Packaging Design
Creating a Killer Kickstarter Page
How to have your brand tell a story

Speed tips for Photoshop layers!

Speed tips and shortcuts for Photoshop layers!

If like me you need work layers in Photoshop any time saving measure is a bonus. I have a compiled a short list of shortcuts for making the best use of Photoshop’s layers for both the Mac and PC – Enjoy!

(Swap CMD for CTRL on Windows)

Photoshop Layer Icons
Photoshop Layer icons
Photoshop Layer UI
Layer Graphics

Change the layer order,
move it up and down :

  • Cmd+[ Move Down
  • Cmd+] Move Up 
  • Cmd+Shift+] = to move it to the bottom of the stack
  • Cmd+Shift+[ = Move it to the top of the stack

Direct select a layer

With move tool selected (V) hold Cmd to highlight the layers directly from the art board. This will also highlight groups.

Duplicate a layer 

Ideal for copying a layer! Cmd + J to copy a selected layer! Or you can drag the selected onto the ‘New” icon! OR right click and duplicate – A personal fave.

Colour Coordinated

In addition to organizing you layers into folder and groups, why not colour coordinate the layers so you glance at groups? Brown for dirt, green for sea etc. Right click and select a colour.

New Layer Cmd+Shift + N brings up the new layer dialogue.

Cycle Through Blend Modes

Need to see what a multiply, saturation, or overlay will look like on the fly?

Shift + (Minus or plus, top right of the keyboard)

Layer Opacity
With the layer selected you can quickly change its opacity by pressing >

Shift + (Minus or plus, top right of the keyboard)
Shift + 22, 30, 23 (a number from the top row) typing the number in quick succession will change the layers opacity percentage. Hold shift and then press “22” the layer will be 22% “30” = 30 %.

Very handy for digital painting or retouching.

Group Layers

Select your layers and press Cmd + G to group them together. If you are not grouping your numerous layers… you should start. For sanity’s sake.

The original text for this was created and added to blogger in 2016 (Jimm Odell Blog). This has since been tweaked and added to this blog – the professional blog.

Tips For Creative Brief : suggestions on writing a simple brief | Client to Designer

Vector icon for writing a simple design brief.
No fuss, suggestions for writing a brief.

Designer to Client

Hey, maybe you are looking for some ideas on writing a creative brief and dont know where to start? Maybe you need ideas for writing the details for the next website some early pointers for a rebrand? This post has been written to give you, ‘the client’ some rough guidelines for setting a brief. Imagine answering the following…

Purpose & Plan

What is the purpose of the project? Is it to expand the business, launch a new product range or to promote something that you are already offering?

You will need to have some sort of a plan and end goal in mind for the project. If you don’t know what it is that you business needs, that’s OK… maybe you would prefer an initial chat first? Do take into account, without a plan or and end goal, even a loose one, you will end up going around in circles and costing yourself time. Maybe ask yourself some of these questions :-

  • What do I want to get out of it? Profits, more followers, leads etc
  • What will my return on investment be? (RIO)
  • Can this be achieved for the budget?
  • Should I do this now or should work on something else first?
  • What is the competition doing? 
  • How can do it differently/better?

Listed a above are some general open ended questions. If you are stuck and would like some initial design consultation and help with project planning get in touch.

Budget

The budget is important to consider as this will affect the amount of time that will be allocated to your project – factoring in deployment, build/design, concept and whether anything else needs to be considered. Below, are 2 methods to factor in – there are many others but for the sake of the article and to give you and idea I have picked 2.

Cascading, fluid, rolling. This method, is far more open-ended financially but allows for plenty of creative and innovative freedom, a designers dream more often than not as this can offer up great results. A draw back with this free flowing approach is that money can keep on going into a project, regular checks on the amount spent so far are a good approach and ball park figure should be offered in the beginning, especially with smaller business with tighter purse strings. So the pros and cons of this.
Pros :
– Offers great results, project continues until a project is at its best
– You dont pay for surplus time in case the project was over estimated on a fixed rate.

Cons
– Can be scary for start ups or businesses that have a very tight budget

Fixed price, this method usually suits both parties, or so I have found, a draw back with this is that sometime contracts and prices need to sometimes be re-evaluated should there be substantial changes to a project specification. In the beginning, a ‘fixed estimate’ will be discussed. beginning, factoring in changes (or tweaks) additional requests will increase the price as more time will be required. But you will also need to have an idea of what you need for a project for a budget.
Pros :
– Allows for more careful budgeting and price conscious projects
– Avoids ‘surprises’ when the bill comes.
– Stipulates clear objectives.

Cons :
– Projects can be underestimated and will need to be reevaluated for the time required.
– If additional features (feature packing) are added part way through it will can unsettle expectations on both parties.

Time Frame

Take into account when you need a project to be completed, things can take time to finish, the designer may be working on several projects at once and they may not all be yours. Also, waiting to hand over all relevant information at the last minute will end in disappointment eg, sending all the photo’s over for flyer an hour before a production deadline or as the designer needs to leave will not make the best of it… Get the relevant information such as, text, photo’s, FTP details etc over in decent time. It is neither fair and shouldn’t be expected that designer will drop everything including free time, family life and other projects to do your work. The earlier, the better! Besides, doing everything last minute just increases risk of failure for a projects.

Target Market

If this is a design project that is yet to have a brand established have you considered who the target market will be? Is this for children, adults, professionals, tourist, artists, trade and so on.

Branding

Do you have an existing brand guidelines for your company? If you have any existing logo, colours, fonts, do’s and don’ts this may be required for the project to be completed.

Deployment

Depending on the desired project, how do you intend to deploy the project? Will this be a small web banner, a flyer, will you be using a printer, will this be a for screen, will it be for print? It is worth considering how this may evolve in the future be it for print or screen. It is easier to scale a large file down or resize a vector than it is to resize a 60 px 60 px logo onto a bricks and mortar shop.

Limitations

Is there anything in the that the designer can’t do? Will it be for a certain target demographic, politically sensitive, have to fit on some something small, needs fit x y z etc etc

I hope this gives some food for thought, if this all looks a bit scary. It isn’t! Its fun and can be a great journey. If you would like to ask a question please feel free to do so.

Simple techniques to reduce ‘banding’ ( Posterization ) in Photoshop | Tricks

Simple techniques to reduce ‘banding’ ( Posterization ) in Photoshop ( *updated )

Posterization or ‘banding’ as it is known in Photoshop is a bane to many graphic design professionals or those working in print.

However, ‘banding’ is not limited to just print.

Banding, or posterization can also occur with screen-based imagery but it tends to be more pronounced and commonplace with print-based media in my experience. There is nothing more frustrating than seeing your lush and smooth gradient onscreen only when printed to see the same artwork with segmented bands across your gradient.

Over the years as a professional in-house designer, I have come across banding on more than one occasion. One of the worst culprits for showing banding is when working with greyscale or black. It was a challenge that used to drive me up the wall.

After much trial and error, here is a quick overview of some simple techniques I used to employ to reduce banding in Photoshop.

Some of the simplest techniques to reduce banding or posterization in Photoshop is by either applying ‘noise’ to your brush ( in your brush settings F5 ) or creating a separate ‘noise’ layer and overlaying this on top of a gradient layer to disguise the banding. This will give the illusion of smoother better blended artwork and remove the ‘stepping’ from your gradient. These techniques for handling banding can work especially well when working with mono-colour gradients such as black and white. There are also other tricks I have used in conjunction with this method written below.

It often took various attempts to get it correct before sending it to print so don’t become too disheartened if your first try isn’t quite on par with what you expect.

Simple techniques to reduce ‘banding’ | how I handled it

I often ran into banding situations when creating super smooth blends with colour.

It often took various attempts to get it correct before sending it to print so don’t become too disheartened if your first try isn’t quite on par with what you expect.

*Simple tip! If you have a local home printer or high-quality photographic inject printer, use this to test and measure your artwork.

I found these methods I have written below to make a world of difference when it came to creating a prototype or print production. All these methods I have actively used when working in Photoshop.

Some may call these hacks, others tricks but I like to regard them as ‘techniques’ for fixing a problem in print.

You may need to try various levels and settings, brushes and overlays to cure your banding problems. One solution may be enough, but you may wish to employ more than one if you are struggling to get the result you want.

Here is a detailed overview of some of the simple techniques I used to reduce banding.

Simple techniques to reduce 'banding' ( Posterization ) in Photoshop example banding
Look in the top left of the brush, and notice how you can see the steps/rings on the outermost edge? This is much less obvious in the lower part of the black blob where I have switched the noise on. This is an example of where I have used noise! Take note of the speckly grainy edge of the soft-brush. This brush helps the ‘steps blend better!

Simple techniques to reduce ‘banding’ ( Posterization ) in Photoshop – tricks

Simple techniques to reduce 'banding' ( Posterization ) in Photoshop - how to smooth...
Silkly smoote !!

Before jumping in with the simple tricks you can use. Let us start with the basics. Or if you can’t be bothered reading about banding and when it occurs, you can jump straight to the tricks and hacks for dealing with it.

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Banding & Posterisation in Photoshop – When it occurs

If you don’t wish to read about when “banding” has occurred for me, feel free to jump to the next section.

The dreaded banding aka Posterization in Photoshop.

Drawing, digital painting, and creating renders in Photoshop have been a core part of my past and present career.

I have seen the issue of ‘banding’ arise over and over again, so have had to find techniques to better deal with it.

This issue rears its ugly head when it comes to working with radial and linear gradients and tones of black and grey inside Adobe Photoshop.

When working with black as part of the colour palette, I have witnessed these scenarios of when banding tends to happen :

  • When rendering characters like Rufus the rat as ( black and grey ) ( illustrated below )
  • When trying to gain soft curves of light-darker areas
  • When light grey curves around to dark grey
  • It was more common when working with black
The methods above were used on this character – Copyright Satzuma LTD – Rufus Rat.
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Trick 1 ) ‘RGB?’

Controversial, I know. But when waging a battle to reduce ‘banding’ in Photoshop, any tool at your disposal can help.

RGB ‘can’ offer a greater degree of flexibility in the beginning when trying to wrestle with artwork to remove banding such as playing with filters or seeing how the art works on screen.

But remember, that once you tinker with filters and have done what you need to do with trying editing your artwork remember to turn your artwork back to CMYK if this for print. CMYK is a common colour format preferred by most UK printers.

Sadly though, CMYK can…
1 ) Offer a more candid look at your colours at the end of the process.
2 ) Make your colours look like a sadder version of RGB.

‘tangent alert’ Using RGB in the early stages is my preferred method for some projects, not all. It depends on the project.

“Isn’t this madness? You won’t see the genuine colours of your artwork!”

Well unless, your screen is calibrated exactly and you’re using pantones, guaranteeing what you see on the screen to print can be tricky anyway. Besides, I work across both mediums of screen and print, hence working with either CMYK or RGB ( digital )

Trick 2 ) Think of the ‘Bits’

I have tested this method in Adobe Photoshop CS5 and CC with similar results from version to version of Adobe Photoshop. There has been some improvement when working to problem-solve banding.

64-bit – 32-bit – 16-Bit RGB to CMYK

The difference has shown to be marginal but still of noteworthy impact when trying to reduce banding in Adobe Photoshop.

Although the steps are unnoticeable between 8-bit, and 16-bit at reducing banding, this can be enough to tame mild banding.

However, at 32-bit, the latter offered tighter rings and hues around the banding and showed to reduce some of the posterization in Photoshop – 32 bit helped the bands to better blend and higher still should only improve upon this further.

Below is a screenshot from the menu option in Photoshop, when with banding.

*Note : Also the colour profile listed below is on an iMac. This is by no means a significant contribution to the final outcome with reducing banding but may be worth noting in case you are reading this as a Windows PC. Although, I am of the opinion that this should make no difference whether on a Mac or PC. But your screen type might.

Beating posterization in Photoshop.
Caption of colour modes

Trick 3 :  ‘Ultimate Trick’ – Brush & Noise

Assuming that you are running into this issue whilst using a soft-edged brush tool in Photoshop, I would advise turning the noise’ on under the brush panel ( as shown throughout – press F5 to bring this window up)

With noise ticked in the ‘brush setting window’ this helps in the blending steps with greys as shown below.

Based on my experience, this improved the overall smoothness and graduation of the tones from light to dark regardless of bit mode or any other trick and hack for beating banding. Texture can help with the blending, and noise can help with texture. You can also dabble with the filters if you are using large radials (That would be a different article ). 

Example
As you can see below, the black brush at the top has rings that appear like tide marks, (banding). The blend below has far fewer rings as I had the ‘noise’ ticked on my brush. The speckled effect will be less obvious once you take your artwork to print. And shouldn’t look grainy.

But, be mindful not to be overzealous with noise. You may need some trial and error to get the balance right and run some text prints for good measure.

Example of Noise and brush in action

techniques to reduce 'banding' ( Posterization ) in Photoshop example of success.

Trick 4 ) Big to small – experiment with scale

Another trick for tightening banding is by shrinking/scaling down your completed artwork, illustration, or photo.

This works well if you use some of the tricks above to blend and tighten any remaining bands before shrinking your work to hide evidence of banding.

Do this.

When you have applied the ‘noise’ to help blend your artwork, then shrink the image to hide some of the messier details.

This is method not only disguises banding when painting or retouching but also gives the appearance of tighter line work and detail in both photography and illustration. This is a principle I have adapted since being taught this trick in college.

In principle, all you need to do is the following.

Start with your artwork at 100%, and then scale the artwork down to 75%.

If you intend to use this technique, do remember to factor this into the sizing of your artwork with a 25% drop in size!

Eg, if you want your artwork to be 150 cm wide for argument’s sake, consider starting at 200 cm to scale down. Or if you want something to be 750mm wide, start at 1000 mm.
Or if you want to 75 px wide start at 100 px.

In other words, knock a 1/4 quarter of the size but remember to factor in scale back at the end. If you don’t, you may end up with an image that is too small.

  • Step 1 piece of art = 100%
  • Step 2 scale art to = 75%

In theory, nothing is stopping you from playing with lesser scale-backs and scale-downs.

How can this work with hiding banding?

When you print the document some of the details and blemishes are hidden away from the naked eye.

This approach can also hide some of the rings in banding. With an added element of noise, you can combine this to scrub out the bands

Otherwise your hard could look like a dirty spill stain!

Simple techniques to reduce ‘banding’, the final tip

Using a combination of the above has helped me to kick banding into touch. My favourite by far is my experience with noise without going over the top with artwork to make it look fizzy.

You may also find this post interesting :- working the black in print. Or how to edit the text in a card game.

Simple techniques to reduce ‘banding’ – Credentials

My name is Jimm ( Jim ) and I am designer with over 14 + years of experience. I have had to deal the banding. My old college course and grit and experience is what has helped me to deal with banding.