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Aligning Edge Spots in Your Poker Chip Design

SALVATORE APODACA - Thursday, June 02, 2016

One of the most common elements in poker chip design is the aligned edge spot.

This of course is a carryover from clay poker chips that are made using strips of clay resin during the molding process. This isn't something a ceramic poker chip designer or printer has the luxury of doing but they can easily simulate it. Graphic designers often use math or software scripts to match the elements of the face of a cylinder to the circumference's matching design. This can work well but how does someone achieve a match without the use of math skills that not every designer is skilled at or wishes to employ?

Well, it's simply done with the use of grids or graphs. Adobe Illustrator is an excellent vector design program that every designer should learn to work with. It has two tools that work extremely well together for a poker chip designer. The Polar Grid Tool and the Rectangular Grid Tool can both be found under the Line Tool by simply clicking and holding. 

First you'll have to decide on how many edge spots you might want, how they'll look on the face and the circumference, what color you plan for them to be, etc. For now let's concern ourselves merely with learning how to use both these tools to get the desired result of matching meeting points between the face and the rolling edge of the chip.

Choosing the Polar Grid Tool in your document. You can actually download Illustrator vector templates for our poker chips here under our Design Guide. You'll want to click in the upper left corner of your artboard like below. You'll be confronted with a dialog. You'll want to make it the size of your poker chip. In this example I am using a 39 millimeter template. So fill it in with 39 mm for both the top measurements. Leave the Concentric Dividers option at zero. Then depending on how you plan to set up your edge spots you'll want to fill in the appropriate number of Radial Dividers. This is the most important number and you'll want to remember that number.

I'll use 48 here because it will work well for the example. When click "OK" you'll probably end up with highlighted transparent guides. I always give those guides a stroke weight of about .25 pt. You can actually make this a lower number if you prefer but it's important to give it a color that you'll be able to tell apart from your design palette much like the standard guides in Illustrator. Also make sure the Polar Grid is centered perfectly on your artboard and in a top layer on its own. Then you'll want to lock it down so it doesn't move.

This is your guide for your edge spots on the face of the chip. You can place them however you please but usually you'll want to keep to a specific pattern so that the printers can easily align this to your rolling edge artwork. The typical edge spots will be placed at specific points on say a clock. I used 48 for this reason. It's divisible by 12. So at 12 o'clock on the design you can place two edge spots next to each other. They can take up two grid segments each. I usually use one of the rectangle tools. For a 48 segment grid this would usually be a 5 mm square placed along the top at 17 mm on the x axis and another one placed at 22 mm on the x axis (both positioned at 2.5 mm on the y axis). Remembering this can make it easy in future designs but sometimes our customers or designers will have or want some oddly shaped edge spots. In that case you just have to use the grid for the appropriate alignment.

You can also use the pen tool to build your edge spots. The basic idea is to make sure they line up with your grid segments as shown above. You can copy these to the six o'clock position on your design by rotating and copying them then moving them to the 36.5 mm position on the y axis. Then if you select all four edge spots you can simply rotate 90 degrees and copy for the remaining edge spots.

Once you've got these lined up you can go ahead mess with their shape however you like by using the pen tool or pathfinder tricks to make them look more authentic or original. It's really up to you. And it's not really that necessary at this point to do the trimming of the squares to fit the circular design of the chip. We can always do that trimming for you or it can be done using a layer mask. It's not that important. What's really important is to make sure the edge spots align with your grid segments.

The next part is where this will all fall into place. You can open the Illustrator template for the 39 mm edge on our Design Guide page or you can create a document that is 125.5 mm high by 3.3 mm wide in Illustrator and fill it with a base rectangle of the same size. This is the rolling edge of the poker chip. Now instead of using the Polar Grid you'll want to use the Rectangular Grid. Keep in mind that you'll want to match the number of segments that were created in the previous example. We have 48 grid segments for the face of the chip. The Rectangular Grid is a little trickier. You can use the outer rectangle as a frame or not - it's your choice. I usually check it. But you always want the number for vertical dividers to be one less than the Polar Grid radial dividers. That's because that outer rectangle is counted as one vertical divider. So you will always have to use one less vertical divider. In this case we use 47 in order to get 48 rectangular grid segments.

Make sure it's centered on the artboard, there is a stroke weight for the guide lines and it's in the top layer but don't lock it down just like you did with the Polar Grid. Now you can use those grid segments to set up the aligning edge spots. It's very simple from that point on. 

There are all kinds of cool tricks you can use this for in your designs. For instance, if you wanted to wrap a snake around your poker chip you could use this to achieve that quite easily. In this case it's a simple 8 spot alignment. Do remember though that if you want these alternating edge spots to align to the second face of the chip you'll need to make a second chip face and do a vertical reflection of those original edge spots. That's the trick of alternating edge spots. 

And even more important you can always ask us to do your artwork for free when you place an order with us. Also if you have questions regarding this or any other poker chip design dilemmas please feel free to send me an email to

Salvatore Apodaca
Old West Poker Supplies LLC

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