Page 1 of 6

Photoshoppers Needed

PostPosted: 21 Mar 2013, 20:24
by skibulk
This Guide is Outdated. Please watch the tutorial videos instead. Here's the latest: processing kit & scan sample.

This guide outlines how to process raw card scans into high quality images for for the CCGHQ project and MTG community. Extreme developed the process. I have revised the process to accommodate multiple image sources and to safeguard photoshopping errors. For information on scanning, read Extreme's written scanning how-to and watch my short scanning how-to video.

Please Read Thoroughly

Please take the time to read this guide word for word. It is the product of years of experience and tradition carried out by the CCGHQ team. Please respect that over 22,000 cards have been processed using these techniques. If you would like to propose any change, post your recommendation for the CCGHQ team to review before adopting it.

Getting Started

| Open
Recommended Skills

Adobe Photoshop and photo editing experience is recommended, but you can still help if you don't have either. We'll find a place for you, even if that means using GIMP to do dust and scratch removal. Just notify us of your availability. Specific recommended knowledge includes the clone stamp tool, the actions palette, keyboard shortcuts, the slice tool, the perspective crop tool, levels adjustments, and color balance adjustments.

Your First Mission

Download the Photoshop actions, templates, and scan sample using the links below. Process the linked scan sample and post your results to this thread for review. Once your samples are approved, more scans will be provided.


Unzip the contents of to C:\CCGHQ\Processing\. The included Photoshop action files assume this directory and it would require some work to change directories. The following files must also be installed to preform the tasks in this guide. Strongly consider assigning keyboard shortcuts to the Photoshop Actions for efficiency.

Load this actions file into Photoshop:

  • \Resources\Scripts\CCGHQ - Skibulk.atn

Then copy these files:

  • \Resources\Scripts\CCGHQ-Tags.js
  • \Resources\Scripts\CCGHQ-M15-Masks.js

And paste them into this directory:

  • \Program Files\Adobe\Photoshop{YOURVERSION}\Presets\Scripts\

Files and Folder Structure

The Photoshop actions file, {CCGHQ - Skibulk.atn} saves copies of the card images after each step. If you make a mistate, these copies will allow you to simply step back rather than start over. Keep the versioned image folders until after your work has been officially released by the CCGHQ Team.

The \Input folder holds raw and semi-processed images. The slice step saves to the sub-folder \Sliced. \Cropped images are saved after the Crop step. \Cleaned images are saved before the masking step. \Masked images are saved after the masking step. Color Corrected images are not saved to conserve disk space and because it's easy to re-apply color.

  • \Input\Scanned\
  • \Input\Sliced\
  • \Input\Cropped\
  • \Input\Cleaned\
  • \Input\Masked\

The \Output folder contains three subfolders: \4KHQ, \XLHQ, and \FULL. These folders will hold the processed images once completed. \4KHQ contains 600DPI versions of the images, \XLHQ contains 300DPI images, and \FULL contains ~200DPI images. The actions save your work to these folders, but they must be further organized into the next level of folders: \cards, \tokens, \fronts, \backs, and \crops. The tagging and output steps explain further.

  • \Output\4KHQ\cards\
  • \Output\4KHQ\tokens\
  • \Output\4KHQ\fronts\
  • \Output\4KHQ\backs\
  • \Output\XLHQ\cards\
  • \Output\XLHQ\tokens\
  • \Output\XLHQ\fronts\
  • \Output\XLHQ\backs\
  • \Output\XLHQ\crops\
  • \Output\FULL\cards\
  • \Output\FULL\tokens\
  • \Output\FULL\fronts\
  • \Output\FULL\backs\
  • \Output\FULL\crops\

The \Resources folder contains files used by the actions.

  • \Resources\Borders\...
  • \Resources\Masks\...
  • \Resources\Scripts\...
  • \Resources\Templates\...


This guide uses a few technical terms specific to Magic: the Gathering. You need to understand these terms to understand the references made in this guide.

^ This is a solid black "Border".
^ The card "Frame" is the space inside the border.

^ This is a "black-colored" card, indicated by its black frame.
^ This is also a "creature" card, indicated by the word "creature" to the bottom left of the artwork. Creatures cards always have a box with 2 numbers in the lower right corner.

^ This is a "white-colored" card, indicated by its white frame.
^ This is also a "non-creature" card. Compare to previous image.

^ This is a "Planeswalker" card, indicated by the word 'Planeswalker' just under its artwork.

^ This card has a slightly different design than the the previous cards. Note that the large black area across the bottom where the artist and copyright information is printed. We categorize cards with this layout as "M15".

^ Some M15 cards have oval stamps at their bottom center. These holographic stamps are only present on rare and mythic rare cards.

^ This is an "Emblem" card, identified by the word 'Emblem' at the top of the card.
^ Emblem backs usually feature advertisments.

^ This is a "Token" card, identified by the gold and black 'plaque' at the top of the card.
^ It is similar to an Emblem, except that the word 'Emblem' is not used.
^ Token backs usually feature advertisments.

^ This is an "Insert" card front. They usually contains rules tips or game trivia.
^ Insert backs usually feature advertisments.

Step 1) Slice & Export

| Open
Some versions of Photoshop remember the last used image format/quality setting when exporting, rather than using the recorded settings in the action set. The exported slices should be 100% quality JPG files. If they are not, manually "save for web" any image to your desktop as a 100% quality JPG. Delete the exported file and retry this step.

Slice each card in the scans. The thick black borders around the cards will be discarded later, so it is okay to cut through them. Use {Actions > CCGHQ > Slices - 9up} to automatically create nine slices. Use the slice selection tool to adjust the boundaries (it's under the crop tool). Use {Actions > CCGHQ > Slices - Save} to export the slices to their own documents as 100% quality JPG images.


Step 2) Classify and Name the Slices

| Open
Classify by Authors and Types

Scans are usually provided by multiple contributors. We need to keep track of which images came from each contributor so that color correction may be applied correspondingly in step 4. In order to track the origin of each image, add the contributor name to the file's IPTC Authors property. Later, you'll separate the images into folders for regular cards ("Card"), tokens & emblems ("Token"), insert fronts ("Front"), and insert backs ("Back"). In order to track these card types, add the type (with a capital first letter) to the file's IPTC Tags property. The Author properties and Tags properties will allow you to easily sort the images using your file system. File properties may be added to multiple images at once, just select the images you want to edit and right click the group. Click on the Author or Tag column in Windows Explorer to sort by that column.

Renaming Lists

We will provide a card list containing all regular cards, tokens, fronts, and backs using gatherer and abugames. We recommend batch file renaming software that supports renaming lists to accurately apply file names. Add the images to your application and sort the files according to the list. If you're using Advanced Renamer, select {Add method > List} and paste in your card list. Turn on image Thumbnails and use drag and drop to sort the cards. Verify the new file names and apply. If any images are missing, remove lines from the list according. It may be helpful to open and match the order of their image spoilers.

Download Advanced Renamer

Naming Conventions

Name each slice the same as the card title.
IE "Ajani's Pridemate.jpg".

If there is more than one version of a card (commonly for land cards and alternate artwork cards), append a number to the name. IE "Forest4.jpg".

For double cards, use an underscore to separate the names.
IE "Fire_Ice.jpg"

For Inserts which have no name, a list of names will be provided.



Step 3) Crop & Dust

| Open
Do not rotate the images before cropping.

Planeswalker Cards

For 8ED planeswalkers, you'll always use a template. M15 planeswalkers only need to be templated when their artwork extends over the card frame onto the border (See the axe in the M15 template). For regular M15 planeswalkers, skip ahead to "Cropping M15 Cards". The PSD template files are located in \Resources\Templates\.

Transform the card scan so that the frame aligns to the guidelines in the template. Cleanup dust and scratches. Layer artwork that extends over the frame, onto the border. Mask the scan using the embedded pixel mask. Layer the holofoil stamp and center it over the guidelines provided. Layer the collector’s number, artist, and copyright information and knockout its black border using Photoshop’s “Blend If” sliders. Refer to this video if you don’t know how:

Output Instructions:
  1. Save as /Input/Masked/CARD NAME.PSD
  2. Hide the black border
  3. Merge all layers (don’t flatten them)
  4. Apply color correction
  5. Play the action "Output - Planeswalker"
  6. Play the "Output - CROP" action

Author/Tag Dialog

If you forgot to add an author or add a tag to your image in the previous step, a dialog will be presented by the cropping actions. For tagging a handful cards, this dialog allows you to quickly add a missing author or tag.

Cropping 8ED Cards

Cut away the black / white card border. Use perspective crop at high zoom (in CS6 it has a separate tool). Be very precise when cropping in order not to cut away any data from the card frame. Use {Actions > CCGHQ > Crop (8ED)} to enter perspective crop mode at high zoom automatically. This action also applies a temporary adjustment layer that makes it easier to distinguish between card border and frame. The adjustment is removed after cropping. The image is saved to the "Cropped" images folder.

Cropping M15 Cards

M15 cards are cropped like 8ED cards with a couple differences. A different action is used: {Actions > CCGHQ > Crop (M15)}. To crop the bottom edges, align your perspective crop with the bottom edge of the card frame, as if you were going to crop off the artist and copyright text. Then lower the crop using the bottom center handle of the crop box to include the artist's name. Do not lower both corners of the crop box separately, as your edge could become crooked.


Do not apply the Dust & Scratches filter, Gaussian Blur, or Sharpening to the images. Doing so often removes details in the card's text and artwork.

At high zoom, pan for noticeable dust or scratches and clone them out carefully. Touch-up the entire card including artwork, frame, and textbox. Be careful not to clone out portions of the artwork! If a spec has printer's moire pattern inside, it is part of the card. If you are not certain that a mark is dust or if a scratch cannot be easily corrected, do not clone it out. You may find it helpful to compare images to their Gatherer counterpart. We aim for likeness to the original cards and a dusty or scratched card can be better than a beautiful card that doesn't look like the original did. Ask for a better scan if you have a badly scratched image.



Step 4) Apply Masks & Adjustments

| Open
Do not apply Auto-Levels or Auto-Color to the images.

Masking (M15 Cards Only)

The black artist/copyright zone along the bottom of M15 cards is problematic. To create consistent and refined results, we place every card over an idealized border image. When a cropped M15 card is placed over this border image, the black zone often contrasts the border. To work around this, use {Actions/CCGHQ/Masking (M15)} to isolate the white text and knockout the black zone.

The artist/copyright zone has different shapes on different types of cards. The Photoshop action will ask which mask to use. Then a selection will be applied to the holographic stamp, and manual adjustments will be required. Move or extend the selection around the stamp. If there is no stamp on the card, just leave the default selection and press enter. The artist and copyright text selections will also require manual adjustments. The action applies a feather to text selections, so extend them a few pixels beyond the edges. Lastly, the script will knockout the black background of the text and prompt for manual adjustments. Photoshops's "Blend If" sliders are used to preform the knockout, so please refer to this video if you're unfamiliar with the technique:

Color Correction

Our contributors use scanners with varied makes and models. Each of these scanners have unique hue and brightness levels, and as a result, each group of images will require different color adjustment settings. There are two options for color correction. Color profiling is preferred. Otherwise manual adjustments are applied. Never use both on the same image!

Color Correction Method 1: Profiling

Description coming soon...

Color Correction Method 2: Manual Adjustment

This section is out of date and needs to be updated with new action references. Curves adjustments should be used instead of levels adjustments.

It's easiest to establish the settings for each contributor, then apply the adjustments to all of the their images at the same time. In order to do this, you'll manually record the adjustments as actions. Save your adjustment settings in a text document for future reference. If any processing mistakes are made, you will have to re-process the card(s) in question using these settings.

A) Levels Adjustment - Highlights | Open a multi-card raw scan that contains a bright white patch in the artwork, preferably within a white-colored card. To begin recording the levels adjustment, double click {Actions > CCGHQ > Modern - Border & Save 600DPI > Levels}. Hold Alt on a PC or Option on a Mac and drag the hilight slider. Loss of image data (clipping) is indicated by color. You only need to pay attention to clipping that occurs inside the card art, frame, and text. Drag the slider until you see clipping in about 4% of these areas.

B) Levels Adjustment - Shadows | Open a raw scan that contains a black-colored card. Use {Actions > CCGHQ > Modern - Shadows (Black Cards)} to crop away the border of one card, to add the black border template image, and to grayscale the scan. To begin recording the levels adjustment, double click {Actions > CCGHQ > Modern - Border & Save 600DPI > Levels}. Use the shadow slider to match the blackest areas in card frame to the blackness of the border template. Squinting your eyes and/or viewing your monitor at an angle can help you see if both match.

C) Color Adjustment - Hue/Saturation | Open a multi-card raw scan that contains a range of reasonably bright colors (Red, Green, Blue). Apply the levels adjustment from A and B by double clicking {Actions > CCGHQ > Modern - Border & Save 600DPI > Levels}; then click "OK". To begin recording the color adjustment, double click {Actions > CCGHQ > Modern - Border & Save 600DPI > Hue/Saturation}. Match approximately the color of the physical cards. If you don't have the physical cards, reference the corresponding card image gallery or Gatherer.



Step 5) Border, Output, & Upload

| Open
Use {Actions > CCGHQ > Border & Save 4KHQ, XLHQ & FULL} to add a black (or white) border and save variant image sizes.

Apply {Actions > CCGHQ > XLHQ to XROP & CROP} to all regular cards, including planeswalkers. Do not apply this step to tokens and inserts.

Use Advanced Renamer to apply the following file extensions by folder:

  • \Output\4KHQ\ => Leave as ".jpg"
  • \Output\XLHQ\ => ".xlhq.jpg"
  • \Output\XLHQ\crops\ => ".xrop.jpg"
  • \Output\FULL\ => ".full.jpg"
  • \Output\FULL\crops\ => ".crop.jpg"

Organize the images into their corresponding sub-folders: \cards, \tokens, \fronts, and \backs. This is a painless task using your file browser to sort the images using the IPTC tags that you added earlier.

Lastly rename \Output to "\The Set Name". You may use \Resources\Scripts\Input-Output-Folders.bat to automatically create empty folders for the next set.

Approved team members are granted FTP access to upload the completed images. Reply to this topic when you have completed processing, your work will be reviewed, and Huggybaby will release and announce the set in the MTG HQ Pics Downloads and Status List thread.

Re: Scan Processing Tutorial (Join the Team)

PostPosted: 06 Aug 2013, 21:40
by skibulk
On Scanning:

I can't stress enough that dust doubles processing time. I just finished scanning a set of French Homelands, and I would like to share a technique that I have developed, which produces significantly cleaner scans. Watch my video. Jump to 3:50 if you only want to see the simple technique.

On Processing:

It's been 5 months since I posted this and I think only one member has used this tutorial. Extreme has stated that he may be retiring as our card processor in the not-so-distant future. While I have done some processing myself, I am too much of a perfectionist to do the job efficiently. I will continue to scan cards and vectorize card assets, but we still need people to join the processing team.

We have 8 Chinese sets, 1 German set, a slew of German Promos, and 1 French set yet to be processed. Extreme already has too much on his plate to get to these...

Re: Scan Processing Tutorial (Team Members Needed)

PostPosted: 07 Aug 2013, 11:42
by extreme
Folks, that time is nearing fast. I'd hate to leave the project without a single ray of hope for the future :)
Let me restate the advantages:
-err... eternal respect of the community ? lol. Scratch that :)
-I can only think of this: access to the 600 dpi processed scans of pretty much EVERYTHING except Proposal and some Summer cards. Stuff that is not (and probably won't be) released, basically, accumulated in many years of hard work from many people.

Re: Scan Processing Tutorial (Team Members Needed)

PostPosted: 07 Aug 2013, 13:05
by skibulk
And It's not fair to ask one person to do all the work, as Extreme has done in the past (Thanks though)! Anybody willing and capable of doing this work for an average of 3 hours per month is eligible. A team of four Photoshoppers could easily keep the English portion of this project afloat at that rate.

@extreme - While you may not be processing in the future, I do hope you will stick around as an advisor / consult? Also, the scans that haven't been released yet are only of incomplete sets, right? (like Summer Magic, 4E Alternates, 10E Alternates, foreign sets)

Re: Scan Processing Tutorial (Team Members Needed)

PostPosted: 07 Aug 2013, 15:40
by Goblin Hero
We need volunteers. I've stickied this topic as global announcement.

Re: Scan Processing Tutorial (Team Members Needed)

PostPosted: 07 Aug 2013, 19:29
by extreme
skibulk wrote:@extreme - While you may not be processing in the future, I do hope you will stick around as an advisor / consult? Also, the scans that haven't been released yet are only of incomplete sets, right? (like Summer Magic, 4E Alternates, 10E Alternates, foreign sets)
I'm not disappearing off the face of the Earth, of course I'll still be around, I might also do some work here and there, but I certainly won't be able to process pretty much everything, as I did so far.
The stuff that is scanned and hasn't been completely processed yet only includes foreign sets - Chinese, German, a few Spanish Salvat decks and a French set scanned yesterday by skibulk. Partial sets include some 10E alternates - maybe Nyth will finish scanning this - and a few summer magic scans collected from ebay - certainly not a whole set. To my knowledge there is no alt 4th scan with the exception of the back. Anyway, I will leave everything in order and training is available ;)
Now for the small print: I think 3 hours / month is a bit of an understatement - especially for beginners - but let's not scare the potentials away :)

I also want to heartily thank (not in any particular order) Goblin Hero, without whom we would not be here, Huggybaby for his energy and fun throughout the (almost 10) years, PresetM for most of the early scans and everybody else who contributed. It has been quite an adventure, with a lot of friendly, nice and helpful people along the masses of silent leechers and dumb requesters :) Guys, it has been fun !
But wotc prints way too many cards these days. Good for them, it's amazing how this game can continue year after year.

Now I'm off to be a rock star, baby !

Re: Scan Processing Tutorial (Team Members Needed)

PostPosted: 07 Aug 2013, 20:22
by skibulk
extreme wrote:I think 3 hours / month is a bit of an understatement - especially for beginners - but let's not scare the potentials away :)
I'm saying that's if we have multiple photoshoppers. Four people can averages 14.4 hours per set release. The core and expansion releases will take longer, and the preconstructed decks will take shorter. Here's my math:

Code: Select all
Yearly Release Schedule
  1 Core Set
+ 3 Expansion Sets
+ 2 Duel Decks
+ 1 Premium Deck
+ 1 Commander Deck
+ 1 Variable Set
+ 1 Year's Promos
= 10 Sets/Year

Contributor Hours
  04 People
x 03 Hours
x 12 Months
= 144 Hours/Year
extreme wrote:Now I'm off to be a rock star, baby !
But we are already your groupies. Best of luck to you and thanks for everything!

Re: Scan Processing Tutorial (Team Members Needed)

PostPosted: 07 Aug 2013, 20:42
by extreme
That's surprising, it seems correct, but it sure feels like being more when you do it solo.
But that's only the English sets, don't forget :)
Thanks, so I assume you'll be one of the 4 ? :)

Re: Scan Processing Tutorial (Team Members Needed)

PostPosted: 07 Aug 2013, 20:54
by skibulk
extreme wrote:That's surprising, it seems correct, but it sure feels like being more when you do it solo.
But that's only the English sets, don't forget :)
Thanks, so I assume you'll be one of the 4 ? :)
I don't place high value on Modern foreign sets since we're given MQ images on Gatherer. Classic sets I would like to have, but those aren't pouring in right now. And the foreign Promos I care about, but there aren't many of those either.

I'd rather not be one of the four. I already put in a lot of time vectorizing card assets, among other things. If people want the images, and we know they do, we will get helpers. I'll bet that once we're two or three sets behind, volunteers will crop up.

Re: Scan Processing Tutorial (Team Members Needed)

PostPosted: 08 Aug 2013, 04:12
by Huggybaby
Yes, I think I told extreme already, that if we get far enough behind, help will show up. That's the way it seems to work. But I know one thing for certain, without help, we won't be releasing anything.

When this project started, we didn't have Gatherer images, and now we do, and not only that, we have more than one excellent utility to download them automatically, thanks to our contributors. So we can always play using images. But I know for a fact that there are a large group of people who appreciate more.

PS extreme should link to his music, it's excellent. He plays keys tastefully, with sounds and notes expertly chosen to compliment each arrangement, and this is where his nick comes from: ... xtreme.htm

Re: Scan Processing Tutorial (Team Members Needed)

PostPosted: 08 Aug 2013, 09:53
by extreme
sorry guys, I'd love to, but I'm not very comfortable with my identity made public here.

Re: Scan Processing Tutorial (Team Members Needed)

PostPosted: 09 Aug 2013, 03:12
by woogerboy21
Having done many of the steps listed in your photoshop automation files (only manually as well as in other programs such as gimp) I sat down tonight and tried using your steps. One thing I noticed is that Skibulk and Extreme have different automation tasks. For instance, Extreme has a step that applies a Gaussian Blur of 0.5 but I didn't see that in skibulk's? Am I overlooking this in skibulk's or do you guys prefer people that would like to help to follow one automation script steps over another?

Re: Scan Processing Tutorial (Team Members Needed)

PostPosted: 09 Aug 2013, 08:39
by skibulk
Well I re-wrote some of the actions for my local file system. And some of the steps were slightly redundant, so my set is tweaked a bit. I also added an automated version of the Planeswalker framing. I seem to have missed the Gaussian Blur step! Extreme knows best, so go ahead and use his script, or add that step back into mine. I've also added a temporary levels adjustment before cropping and slicing, to make the edges of the cards more visible. Afterwards that is deleted. I think I'm renaming the cards earlier too, because that makes all of the versions afterwards named correctly as well.

Re: Scan Processing Tutorial (Team Members Needed)

PostPosted: 09 Aug 2013, 14:31
by woogerboy21
Whom would we contact to submit a processed image for review to see if you guys would like someone to help process the images? (Or were you wanting something like a complete set processed for review?)
Also, are you guys interested in the steps for GIMP?

Re: Scan Processing Tutorial (Team Members Needed)

PostPosted: 09 Aug 2013, 15:21
by Huggybaby
For now send a sample to extreme.

We're always interested in new and improved documentation. We'd love to have instructions for using GIMP, unless for some reason it can't do the job Photoshop.