Designer Diary 3 - Digitizing and Analoguing

This is the third in a series of blog posts about the making of the new PostCurious game, The Emerald Flame. There is quite a bit of hand-drawn art in this game, and the process for creating it involves a lot of back and forth between digital and traditional media. This is a look inside that process.


To start off with an example, writing a letter for the game might look something like this:

  1. Write a letter by hand in a notebook (a quick sketch of the idea, a proof of concept)

  2. Type up the letter (make it easy to iterate)

  3. Print it out for playtests and continue making edits digitally (easy to reproduce while continuing to iterate)

  4. After a good number of tests, write out the semi-final letter by hand (make it look more realistic… and pretty)

  5. Scan the handwritten letter and edit digitally (Once again making it easy to reproduce and clean up before printing.)

I usually try to get something to look as close as it can to what the final product would be without putting in a ton of time, but for a game with heavy visual components, that can be difficult. For this plant puzzle for example, I needed to draw artwork very early on because the whole premise depended on it, but I colored it in Photoshop for expediency, so if I ended up making changes I wouldn’t have lost too much time.


For another puzzle I needed a certain degree of accuracy right off the bat, so after an initial sketch I laid it out digitally, then made a pencil sketch based on the digital drawing to make sure it looked consistent. The digitally pained sketch was used for about half of the playtesting, and when it was clear the puzzle was ready I was able to begin the final art for the later tests, knowing it would be important to vet the finalized drawings. Otherwise, a change that might seem insignificant to me might totally throw someone off.

There are also certain puzzles that require a level of precision that would be difficult to reach drawing by hand, so I start those digitally. I try to be meticulous about measuring and laying things out perfectly, because I always get frustrated encountering “Does this fit or not?” scenarios. Instead, I want to evoke: “Look, it fits!” Basically, there should not be much room for ambiguity. When creating the final art for this piece, I was careful to follow the existing lines — the inking might look looser, but it remains precise. As I continued to test the puzzle, this piece saw a fair amount of digital editing as well. Here's a look at a map of Prague Castle, from source material to final product.

For any novices interested, here are a couple tips for doing this kind of thing:

  • Make sure you’re always designing at 100% scale and in at LEAST 300dpi.

  • If you’re doing something scale dependent, there may be a cycle of scanning, printing, rescaling, reprinting, etc. It’s better to do this and get it right. Make sure your final product fits correctly.

  • Always make sure you’re printing at 100% scale - something can get really thrown off with the “fit to page” box checked.

  • Remember to be in CMYK mode and leave ⅛” bleed if your graphic goes all the way to the edge.

  • Scanning white paper and slightly upping the contrast can allow you to erase the white background and combine images more easily.

  • If you don’t have a scanner, try downloading a scanning app on your phone. It may work better than taking a photo.

  • The “multiply” layer filter in Photoshop changed my life.

  • If you find yourself needing to trace things, get a simple lightbox. I cannot overemphasize how useful it's been.

How do you do your artwork? Any tips to share?

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