How Are Pokémon Cards Made? Interesting Details

August 1, 2022 · Your Playmat
piles of pokemon cards

Plenty of Pokémon players would love to lift the shroud of mystery and look at how and who made their favourite Pokémon cards.

It takes a whole year to release a new set of Pokémon Collectible Card Games (TCG) for Chasing Creatures, Inc. Creating Pokémon cards is a complex and meticulous process. Game data designers, illustrators, game testers, and even marketers strive to create one of the world's most popular children's and adult playing items.

How And Who Makes Pokémon Cards?

During a visit to Creatures Inc.'s Tokyo office in 2018, Kallie Plagge, GameSpot's reviews editor, spoke with TCG Game Director Atsushi Nagashima and freelance illustrator Mitsuhiro Arita about the process of making Pokémon cards. When asked about his work, Creatures Test Room Manager Satoru Inoue explained how cards are tested, how the team is dealing with balance issues, and those cards that are not working appropriately.

There is not much filming or information about the exact process of creating and making Pokémon cards. This may be because Pokémon printers want to keep undeclared Pokémon cards private and don't divulge secrets. What you will find in this article is mainly personal speculation and research. The information Kallie verified is the same as seen in the many videos on youtube and comments on the internet. 

How To Make A Pokémon Card?the process of making pokemon card

In general, the procedure is as follows:

  • Several layers of paper are glued together to create massive, high-quality cardboard;
  • Then, several layers of different colours are used to print the drawings of each card on paper. This is mainly done with CMYK colour combinations. In other words, combine blue, red, red, yellow, and black to create all the colours your art needs.

But let's go further and try to find out more details, from designing to printing the Pokémon cards.

Step One – Art And Style Are Vital

Creator, and lead designer of the Pokémon trading cards game says that variety - in art styles and types of cards - is the most important thing when designing new cards. It’s good to come up with a mix of cards with various features; some must have good trade potential, while the other cards should attract the player's attention through the picture and visual side.

"We really try to take care to stay loyal to the video game that we're basing the card series on," adds Nagashima. "At the beginning of what we call 'series,' based on the newest video games that came out."

For instance, only Pokémon native to the Unova region were catchable in the Black and White video game series; hence only Unova Pokémon were featured in the first Black and White TCG expansion. That expansion included cards like the full art Reshiram and Zekrom cards to represent the notion of opposites, a significant subject for that game generation.

While it wasn't difficult to include the Black and White principles, Nagashima said that it could be challenging to introduce new game mechanics to TCG, like Mega Evolution in Pokémon X and Y.

According to Nagashima, Mega Evolution would require too many steps before being eventually played if it were executed the way it does in video games. A deck of 60 cards just didn't have enough space to accommodate this.

EX Pokémon cards include fully developed Pokemon that can be used just like Basic Pokémon cards right away. So, Pokémon card making is quite a thorough process that requires some preparations.

Step Two – People Need Recognizable Characters

Naturally, the TCG designers always consider the well-known Pokémon from the games and TV shows to maintain consistency with the other two sides of the Pokémon brand.

For instance, Nagashima stated, "We'll make sure that the Pokémon that were really featured strongly in that video game, or they had a large role in the tale, are at the core of whatever that initial set of cards we're constructing.”

Step Three – The Balance Is Above All

"On occasion, before making a Pokémon card, we begin with the game data we are certain the environment would require. We need Pokémon that have this much HP, are of this type, and have this kind of retreat cost, so let's start there and look for Pokémon that could suit those criteria," Nagashima stated.

To ensure that the set is balanced, we do this kind of research. A Pokémon card may be made to suit a set of stats, but not just any set of numbers. A Snorlax with little HP would be absurd, wouldn't it?

Step Four – Choose A Pokémon That Are Not So Popular

Since many Pokémon aren't prominently featured in the video game or anime series, Nagashima added, "We always strive to keep this in mind with the card game. We think many youngsters just have entirely different favourite Pokémon depending on their experience with it." "We believe that the trading card game is the finest venue for highlighting certain Pokémon that would not otherwise have the opportunity to do so."

Step Five – Test Everything

The "Pokémon Card Game Laboratory", or simply the play testing area at the Creatures, Inc. headquarters, is where playtesters utilize unpublished cards before the Pokémon card creators even have official images. Nearly every single Pokémon card ever released is housed in file cabinets that line the length of this long, rectangular room with wide glass walls. A game of Pokémon cards may be appropriately played at the center of a few rectangular tables that can seat up to 20 people each. At Creatures, Inc., 19 testers are employed full-time.

"Typically, they perform five days a week for seven hours each day. That does include the work spent creating new decks and the like, according to Inoue”.

“We also have frequent meetings between them... and the game data creators where they will discuss what their thoughts are”. "In general, everyone will provide play reports based on data and their opinions," Inoue stated.

The Pokémon card testers aren't just randomly picking and playing cards; they have a plan. Data will be provided by the design team so that testers at least know what to anticipate from each card in a set.

Step Six – Make An Art Of A Card

Pokémon card-making art is technically done concurrently with playtesting, although it isn't finished until long after play testing starts. A single Pokémon card goes through the process, from receiving a request to completion, in around seven weeks.

Arita, who made the renowned holographic Charizard Pokémon card from the very first basic set, provides a thorough explanation of the procedure:

"In general, the procedure is as follows:

  • I'll first get the Creatures' order for which card to draw;
  • Then they'll give extra information regarding that Pokémon, or even items for a specific theme, such as a season or region. For example, they could also wish to provide information on a particular location in the Alolan region, whether they have a specific position or assault in mind that they want me to do;
  • I gather that information and start working on initial drafts. So I'll produce several preliminary sketches before moving on to the line art, the non-coloured black and white version. Then go to the final colourful version."

Each of those three phases has a check and approval procedure that takes some time.

"When developing new cards, we pay close attention to what we term the meta environment in the games," Nagashima added. "We make new powerful Pokémon cards regardless of that, but being a trading card game, it's constantly continuing from what came before."

Despite the thousands of hours spent testing and balancing them, players occasionally surprise card designers with how they use a particular card or deck.

"It does happen on occasion." No matter how much testing you perform, once it's done, it's done.

"Out in the woods, you'll see things you didn't expect to see," Nagashima added.

You didn't think these cards would be utilized for such a long time or that this deck would be viable.

Uncut Sheets Of Pokémon Cards

uncut pokemon cards

Despite their rarity and wonders, how uncut sheets of Pokémon cards – in which complete sets are placed on sheets of cardboard before being cut up and packaged – leave the factory is still a mystery to this day. As a result, not all secrets of making Pokémon cards can be revealed.

In addition to valuable information about how cards are created, you should also know how your cards can be protected. To do this, you can use special sleeves for cards. They will protect your collectibles from fingerprints or dirt and enhance their appearance. Get a Pokeball for your Pikachu on the card to protect it for years.


Why Are Fake Pokémon Cards Made?

This problem happens with any product on any market. Since the business of the manufacturer is always aimed at increasing profits, you can always use someone else's name for your own benefit. Original Pokémon cards are more expensive, so they will be faked since there will be a buyer for any product. 

Are Metal Pokémon Cards Real?

Yes, such cards are real and were issued in 1999 along with a set of food at Burger King. However, now it is impossible to buy such cards in the store; rare metal cards can only be purchased from collectors.

What Material Are 1st Edition Pokémon Cards Made Of?

Most Pokémon cards are made of cardboard, but some can be made of different materials, such as plastic or metal. To figure out if your card is the first edition, you'll need to look at the bottom right corner of the card. If the symbol in this corner is a star, your card is the first edition.

Can Mistakes Be Made When Creating Pokémon?

Mistakes can occur in any brand. And there are similar oversights in the Pokémon game. This does not mean anything if you become the owner of such a card. Since this card does not become more expensive or unique due to the error, it is still the same card from the Pokémon game, but with a misspelling. You can continue to use it in your tournaments. Errors do not affect the characteristics of the character in any way.