How to Template: Introduction and Templating Tools

How to Template: Introduction and Templating Tools

Pichoro​ ​ ​
Articles by Pichoro​ ​ ​


Hello! Thanks for joining me. When the website staff discussed creation of an "articles" feature here at the Magic Set Editor website, I felt like it was perhaps time to do something that has long been sought after - a tutorial on templating. So, I'm going to start with what I perceive as the beginning, and walk through how to template, from starter topics to more advanced topics. At times, I'm going to refer to lots of existant templates for examples. I may also create some examples as necessary.

Following is a list of topics I intend to cover during the life of this article. This is in no way meant to be a final or all inclusive list of topics, nor is it meant to be an index for what order things will come in. I'm all ears for feedback, or requests for future articles or what you'd like to see next.

  • Tools of Templating
  • Template Headers
  • Fields Types and Their Limitations
  • Various Methods for Field Placement in Styles
  • Field Rotations
  • Statistics
  • Booster Packs
  • Keywords
  • Automatic Text Replacements
  • Fonts
  • Masking
  • Symbol-Fonts
  • Export Templates
  • Installers
  • Extra Styling Fields
  • Include Packages

Templating: Tools You'll Need

I'm going to begin with the tools and special computer settings you'll need in order to template. You'll of course need a functioning copy of the latest version of Magic Set Editor, but there are many other pieces of software that I use on a regular basis.

The first tool I use on a regular basis is Notepad. Notepad is the most basic text editing tool that can safely open MSE template files, edit them, and save them in a format that can still be understood by MSE. There are other programs that can work with MSE files, and some other users may recommend those programs over Notepad. Personally, I continue using Notepad for two huge reasons. First, Notepad is reliable. Notepad's settings or functions have never damaged a template file I was working on - the damage is always done by a mistake I've made. Second, it is simple. It is easy to use, and available with all Windows computers.

The next tool I use will be a controversial one as well. Despite it's limitations, I still utilize MS Paint for a number of simple templating functions. In particular, I find MS Paint very useful for making minor alterations to masks, minor resizings that do not need to be a particular size, just in a range of sizes, and for creating sample renders for templates that span multiple images and need pasted together. However, MS Paint lacks many higher level image editing functions, including the ability to deal with transparencies in images. That leads me to my next tool recommendation.

My next recommendation is a high end image editor. In any template, you're going to want the ability to work with images and keep them clean and uncompressed to maximize quality. You're also going to often want the ability to work with transparencies in images. Lots of options for this exist, including commercial, freeware, and open source options. They include Adobe Photoshop, Corel Paint Shop Pro,, and GIMP. My personal setup utilizes an open source option, GIMP, most of the time, but I also have an older version of Paint Shop Pro installed for batch editing some images. There are individuals that prefer each of the different programs. They all feature strong image editing capabilities, and can function perfectly well for the creation of a template. You should find one that you are comfortable with, and learn to use it as well as possible.

You'll also require a method of both opening and creating ZIP archives. Many users utilize an additional program for this, such as 7-Zip or Winrar. It is my recommendation that if you are a Windows user, you simply utilize the standard ZIP compression tools integrated into Windows. They are accessible by right clicking on the file. If you right click on a file or series of multiple selected files, you can create a ZIP archive by choosing "Send to" then "Compressed (zipped) folder". If you right click on a ZIP archive, you can choose "Extract all..." to open the ZIP extraction dialog, or you can simply double click to open the file in a Windows Explorer window if it has a .ZIP file extension. Being able to accurately handle ZIP archives is important because MSE utilizes ZIP compression extensively. Set files and installer files are both ZIP archives, and templates can be ZIP archives as well.

My final two suggestions aren't tools so much as they are settings that I highly recommend having in place. First and foremost, I recommend you set your computer to show full file extensions, even on known file types. In Windows 7, this is accomplished in the following manner. Open a Windows Explorer window, and navigate to C:. Choose "Organize", then "Folder and search options". In the dialog that opens, switch to the "View" tab. Uncheck the box next to "Hide extensions for known file types". You may also wish to take a moment while you have this dialog open to switch "Hidden files and folders" to "Show hidden files, folders, and drives", but that option is less important. When you click "Apply", it will reveal file extensions for every file on your hard drive. This can be dangerous as well - you'll need to be careful when editing file names to not destroy a file's functionality by changing its extension incorrectly. So you may also consider creating a new folder in which you'll work on MSE templates, and carry out this option just on that folder. If you do so, you'll want to confine all MSE activity to that folder, including your set files, set symbols, renders, and your MSE installation.

The final suggestion is that you give yourself full editing permissions on your MSE installation if it is within a Program Files folder. You must be an administrator or have the help of an administrator to do this, and you should do it even if you are an administrator to stop annoying "permission required" popup boxes whenever you try to edit anything. To do this on Windows 7 or Vista, navigate to your MSE install folder's location, but do not open the install folder. Instead, right click on it and choose "Properties". Switch to the "Security" tab. Click the "Edit" button. In the "Group or usernames" list box, choose "Users". In the "Permissions for Users" list box, checkmark the "Modify" box in the "Allow" column. This will automatically check the "Write" box further down. When you click "Apply", a dialog will open notifying you of changes being made to give you modify and write access to all files inside of the Magic Set Editor folder. Let it run undisturbed. Afterwards, you'll be a much happier templater.

I'm going to stop there for the time being. Please feel free to comment, ask questions, make suggestions, or make requests. Next article, I plan to discuss the beginning steps in creating a template, basic guidelines that should be known in file naming, and a discussion of the various pieces of information in a header of a template file. Thanks for reading!

Thu, 2010-12-30 20:09
Pichoro's picture

Feel free to reply to this comment to make any comments. Thanks!

Thu, 2010-12-30 21:45
Anuttymous's picture

Ahh, yes!! Thank you! I will read this immediately-ish.

Anuttymous the Gathering
Anonymous + nutty = A-nutty-mous (no mice involved)
Ask me if you need any help

Sun, 2011-01-02 17:49

Some good words for the beginning...and now i am looking forward on the upcoming Articles so i can start some templates for "descent - journey into the dark"


Sun, 2011-02-06 08:07

Many, many thanks for doing this series. Having had to pester you multiple times during the refining of the single template I made (and that was just a modification!) I know that this will serve everyone well in the long run. Very, very cool!

Sat, 2011-04-09 03:39

Thank you for starting this project! I'm interested in making a template for a card game I'm designing, so I'll be looking forward to future articles!

Fri, 2011-04-29 13:53

Really can't wait for this to continue! I have learned a lot by looking at the style sheets and making small mods, but I really really want to learn how to make the full cards. My design guy alread has card layout ideas, we just don't know how to make the actual card lol. Thanks for all the hard work!

Tue, 2011-07-05 00:04
airiswano's picture

are you still planning on continuing this, or are you working on it now? or have you given up on it? i would really love to be able to do this, but i have absolutly no clue of how coding works or anything like that, but i have ideas in my head that are begging to be put on the computer. please continue, i really want to share new games with the world.

Don't lose your imagination, it is the human experience.
For the love of god, can I just finish a set already?

Tue, 2011-07-05 22:11

Hmm like wise I would love to make my games template to create cards but the knowledge I seek is beyond my reach for now...

Tue, 2011-07-05 23:03
Demonic Overlord

How do you make pop-out images?

Tue, 2011-07-12 22:30

I have the tools specified. Where do I go from there? how does an MSE template file look syntax-wise? What is it's logical typical structure? Thank You!

Thu, 2012-02-02 22:43

This Web site sucks edit

Thu, 2012-02-02 23:04
Noahlotr's picture

Well that wasn't very nice.

Fri, 2012-02-03 02:53
DrewAirStar's picture


Missiles ready for launch... Turn the key on my mark. 1-2-3 MARK!!!

Thu, 2012-02-23 12:52

Please finish A sad 'frowny'

Tue, 2012-04-03 17:57

I hope you can finish this. I am looking for tips on making my own Template, for helps with making my own Card Game/Possibly making a new type of Yu-Gi-Oh! Monster that uses Slifer's red carding (like Xyz or Synchro)

I am slightly vexed about the one-sidedness of these forums, but I must admit you have some real bright people here! Thanks for all the help you've given me, and please contact me with anything about Yu-Gi-Oh... my speciality!

Mon, 2012-04-09 06:50
Nemo Nemon
Nemo Nemon's picture

Hi everyone,

since five-four years I use this fantastic program to create cards for my personal games (I am an amateur game designer). I ask to the community and to programmers if it would be possible to have a template-builder, a program that does not require programming to change the number, the size and the position of the fields of a normal Magic template. It would be great to insert new symbols freely and easy. Is it possible?

Game design.

Sun, 2012-05-06 02:10
Sieghart's picture

Yes, it would be very good if we could template the cards with ease, through a program with a friendly interface. Thumbs up

Rest for now, then perform the great work that is ahead of you.

Sun, 2012-05-06 23:34

i agree with all, ive set my pc up now i need to know how to make a template. PLZ FINISH

Mon, 2012-06-04 17:37
G597's picture

Please, don't leave it unfinished! I must know how to template!

Visit an image-based challenge

Tue, 2012-07-10 02:03

ok so is there a back of card template?

Mon, 2012-07-16 22:55
Friendly MSE Designer
Guitarweeps's picture

No, and it will not be supported because we do not encourage proxying.

Check out my updated set hub.

Fri, 2012-09-14 19:33
Lord Indy
Lord Indy's picture

While we all appreciate everything Pichoro has done, I don't see why this article is still on the welcome page for MSE like it's something to boast about. It's been well over a year and the only thing here is what programs you need; now I've never done any templating but even I can tell you what programs you would likely need just by looking at the files used in MSE.

Nemo Nemon also offered a very good suggestion concerning the creation of a GUI template editor. Obviously the MSE team has enough on their plate with this program, and a template editor would likely be more complex, but it's a very good idea and maybe someone will discuss it further. Kudos to Nemo. While native support for card backs would also be appreciated, I can seem the problems with this idea; besides, theres plenty of ways around that problem if you get creative.

Lord Indy Elsdragon The Merciless Protector

Sat, 2012-09-22 15:56

when is the rest of this tutorial going to be finished??

Sun, 2012-10-21 23:46
Sieghart's picture

maybe never =(

Rest for now, then perform the great work that is ahead of you.

Thu, 2012-10-25 12:05

well how are people supposed to make there own games with MSE and there not be a templating tutorial this place sucks censored big time anyway ban me if you want but it won't matter i am not going to be here anymore

Thu, 2012-10-25 12:09

sorry for the language but i am really annoyed about this i ask for help on templating and nobody will help it is somehow a crime to ask how to or something thats the way it looks it is a real shame that there is no guides i know how to set it up but i can't make sence of the coding i have no experiance i would like to see an easy guide for noobs so newbies to this stuff can actually understand something about what they want to learn

Thu, 2012-10-25 17:29
Pichoro's picture

My first response is to say "Sorry, I'm not staff anymore." For a variety of reasons, I decided the best course of action I could take was to step down and leave the staff at the time to run things. I no longer feel any need to complete something like this because, well, I have no obligation. Coming here and cursing and being rude doesn't increase my desire.

But even on top of that, you're over reacting and taking things the wrong way. Of course it isn't a "crime" - you're not being punished. You sound like my high school students, all up in arms if things don't go perfectly their way. Relax, you're going to be okay.

Fri, 2012-10-26 18:27
Lord Indy
Lord Indy's picture

Wow calm down dav1d93. Apparently you need to be reminded that this is "magic set editor" (making other sets is far beyond its job to begin with), that it is provided FREE of charge to you (so you are entitled to nothing), you could always do your cards manually in Photoshop (one by one, for hours), and that being blatantly rude to people is extreamly reprehensible. This guy makes me feel bad about even my suggestion this article be removed from the mse homepage. Sorry on behalf of us ungrateful memebers Pichoro.

Lord Indy Elsdragon The Merciless Protector

Sat, 2012-10-27 01:21
Friendly MSE Designer
Guitarweeps's picture

I am sorry for your disappointment but as stated this program was created for creation of magic cards. All who contribute here do so voluntarily with pretty much no perks. It takes a lot of time to do tutorials and I certainly can't fault people for not taking the time away from their personal lives, work, school, and family to do so with no benefit. There is no reason to swear and get up in arms about it. I am not going to ban you but if you come back with an attitude than you can consider it done. You can try instead to come with any specific questions you have cause we do have people who can answer those.

Check out my updated set hub.

Mon, 2012-12-03 16:21
Card Builder 1
Card Builder 1's picture

MSE is one of the better magic card creators out there. It is sometimes "Buggy", but it is better to get good free buggy ones rather than a non-buggy fifty dollar one. @dav1d93, you ought to be more grateful. Game-creation is not easy. Look at Kazuki Takahashi. He had to do many television SHOWS to create a base for Yu-Gi-Oh! and he is STILL having trouble with updates. Just go along with the forum. No need to get angry.
Sorry about you question, I know how it feels to be ignored.

Sorry @Guitarweeps, Pichoro. He's just really angry. *rolls eyes*.

Blue eyes white dragon and makindi griffin attack!!!

I am Blue, White, and a priest.

Mon, 2012-12-03 17:04
Friendly MSE Designer
Guitarweeps's picture

Don't necro cardbuilder1. This discussion is almost two months old now. just leave it be. Only comment if you have something to add regarding the templates guide.

Check out my updated set hub.

Wed, 2012-12-12 19:51
Card Builder 1
Card Builder 1's picture

Sorry, didn't pay attention to the date. I'll delete it for you if you want.

Will somebody complete this? It has been almost two YEARS now.

If anyone needs more help, I am sorry to say: I.. am.. not.. an.. administrator...
BUT, templating is easy for magic. Simply add your custom files, and add the names of the colors you want to have, add file names, dependencies etc. to the style file, and DONE. Sorry about no in depth stuff.

Blue eyes white dragon and makindi griffin attack!!!

I am Blue, White, and a priest.

Wed, 2012-12-12 21:42
Sewn-Eye's picture

There's only one administrator on this forum, so I'm not sure what you're trying to get at. Are you suggesting that you'd be able to help finish this tutorial if you were administrator?

Trust me, any help anyone can provide would be greatly appreciated, I'm sure.

"Too wary to charge, too prudent to serve. Not anymore."
—Sedris, the Traitor King

Wed, 2012-12-12 22:55
Pichoro's picture

If you've been able to easily and accurately add colors to Magic, you should post about it. I can do it, but I wouldn't call it easy. A happy smile It's usually very frustrating, even though I've done so many times now. Never exactly gets "easy"...

Wed, 2012-12-12 23:11
Card Builder 1
Card Builder 1's picture

@Sewn-eye; no I am not saying that, I am saying that I am not help. This reason: Because I am giving help to those whom have not seen this before.

@Pichoro; same here. It.. is.. not.. easy (in the sense of difficulty).. but frustrating.

Go and edit the "style" programming file and add "(your color name here)" to all blocks containing White, blue, black, red, and green colors. Also add the custom letter with the block, if needed.
Add dependencies, if needed, and your done for the template. Add also custom mana and you have. The symbols MUST match. If that is all, you are welcome.

Blue eyes white dragon and makindi griffin attack!!!

I am Blue, White, and a priest.

Wed, 2012-12-12 23:25
Pichoro's picture

That doesn't mention any of the game file and blends file edits, which are the hard part. And yes, I would call it an "exercise in frustration". I've done it 7 times now for magic-new-extra, and every time, I still feel like I'm right on the edge of breaking it and having to start over.

Mon, 2012-12-17 23:54
Card Builder 1
Card Builder 1's picture

I actually meant the extra-like templates, Pich.

@Pichoro, did @Rikkie, after his comment in the "The Foil and Overlay Thread (0.3.8)", make that "how to make combine foiling possible on other styles" thread? sorry if this is off topic.

Blue eyes white dragon and makindi griffin attack!!!

I am Blue, White, and a priest.