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The Magic Set Editor: Making Your First Custom Magic the Gathering Card

Updated on June 18, 2013

Introduction to the Magic Set Editor (MSE)

If you're a serious player of Magic the Gathering, then you've undoubtedly thought, at one time or another, "Hey, I just had a really neat idea for a card." If you're like me, you have ideas like that a lot. I've lost no small amount of sleep due to lying in bed at night thinking about sweet ideas I had for cards, mechanics, and sets.

I'm not the only one interested in the prospect of making custom cards. There are entire forums set up for doing just that, and there are some really nice tools that have been developed for this purpose. By far the most popular of these tools is the Magic Set Editor. You can read more about it, and download it at the link that I've just given -- don't worry, it's entirely free.

What this set editor allows you to do, is create your own custom cards. You can make a single card, or you can make a thousand-card set. It's entirely up to you. But the tools you're given to work with will allow you to accomplish a lot. This article's purpose will be to guide you through creating your first card in the Magic Set Editor. The beginning steps are rather straightforward:

  • 1. Download and install the Magic Set Editor
  • 2. Select 'New Set'
  • 3. Select 'Modern Style'

The astute among you will see the style window, and will already be asking "Hey, can I can make split cards and Planeswalkers too?" The answer is yes! However, right now we're just setting up the default settings for our work space, so for now select the modern frame. Later, you'll be able to change the frame for individual cards that you are working on.

Part One: Card Basics

After selecting the modern style, the program will start up, and your work space will look like it does in the image above. The card you are currently working on will be shown on the left, while the list of cards in your project can be found on the right. Right now, both of them are blank. You can begin by filling out the basic information on your first card, and once you have a field or two filled in, it will automatically be added to your card list on the right.

Adding information to a card is as simple as selecting the area that you want to edit, and then typing in the information. Right now, the following information is necessary:

  • The card's name
  • The card's converted mana cost
  • The card's type and subtype
  • The card's artist
  • The card's power and toughness (if applicable)
  • The card's rarity
  • The card's static abilities

This sound's like a lot of information to think about, but it's really not that complicated. How to edit the basics of a card is really intuitive, especially if you've been playing the game for a while. The one thing that might be important to know is that when entering a card's mana cost, you can use letters for the colored mana symbols: U for Blue, W for White, B for Black, G for Green, and R for red. Simply put a number for the colorless portion of a mana cost.

To change it's rarity, you just have to left-click on it's rarity symbol and pick one from the drop-down menu that will appear.To cause the card's power and toughness box to appear, click the dotted-line box that is in the lower-right corner of the card.

As you do this, you'll notice that the card changes when you give it certain attributes. For example, the color of the frame will change depending on the symbols in its converted mana cost. Certain other text and attributes can cause it to change as well. For example, giving it the card type "Artifact" or "Land" will change the style of the card's frame. The Magic Set Editor is an adaptive program that makes a lot of things easy for you. It's basically the opposite of an Adobe product.

Part Two: Card Abilities

Okay, so presumably you had no difficulties in giving your card Flying, or Trample, or Indestructible, or Haste. Perhaps you even gave it an Enters the Battlefield ability. That's wonderful; you already know enough to make a number of interesting cards. You actually already have enough of a skill set to recreate some of the best creatures in the game, such as Dark Confidant, and Snapcaster Mage. Not bad!

There's still a lot for you to learn though. What about activated or triggered abilities that require a cost, or keyword-abilities and actions?

Actually, you can just type them like you would any other abilities. The one exception to this is that you'll have to know how to type certain symbols in the card's text. Like with it's mana cost, W, U, B, R, and G will represent the five colored mana symbols while a number will represent the colorless mana symbol. You'll also need to know the Tap symbol: the letter T (and if you were curious, the Untap symbol is represented by the letter Q.)

So to put this into application, let's say that we wanted an artifact that let you tap that artifact in order to add one blue mana to our mana pool. For that, we would type:

T: Add U to your mana pool.

The Magic Set Editor will automatically converted the letter T and the letter U to the Tap and blue mana symbols, respectively. It's fairly intuitive about when to do this, but if it ever misses one, or converts one that you'd rather not be converted, select the text and hit Control + M. This is an important keyboard shortcut to learn.

Keyworded abilities are made easy by the fact that the Magic Set Editor has a built in library of most of the abilities throughout Magic's history. When you type one of them, it will immediately adjust the text for you by converting its mana costs into icons (where appropriate) and adding reminder text.

For example, Cycling is an ability that requires a cost. If we were to type "Cycling 1U" then the program would immediately convert the number 1 and the letter U into a colorless and blue mana symbol. It would then also add in the proper reminder text, resulting in the following text appearing on our card:

Cycling 1U (1U, Discard this card: Draw a card.)

This can be exactly what we want in some cases. If we are designing a set, sometimes we want reminder text, particularly at the common and uncommon levels. It can make our cards look more professional. However, when working with particularly wordy cards, especially at the Rare and Mythic Rare levels, we often will choose not to have the reminder text. In these cases, we can right-click the text, and remove it. We also have another keyboard shortcut for this purpose: Control + R.

In any case, our card is finally coming together at this point. It just needs some artwork!

Part Three: Artwork

No card would be complete without artwork. Here, I've arbitrarily picked a piece of artwork that I had saved to my hard drive. I saved it because I thought it was amazing. If you like it, consider letting the artist know, I'm sure he'd appreciate that. I hope he doesn't have a problem with me using it for an educational purpose, but if he does, I will happily replace it with something else.

Anyway, to give your card artwork, just double click on the card's art box, and a dialog window will open up. There, you can select how to crop your artwork so that it fits the card. A good rule of thumb for doing this is that larger artwork is always better. Zooming in on a portion of an image is fine if the artwork is of a high resolution, but stretching will never look good.

What you should absolutely never do is uncheck the "Fix aspect ratio" box. Magic Set Editor allows us to do so, because it likes to give us free rein in as many areas as possible. But your card will look better if you leave this option alone.

When you hit okay, your artwork will be applied to your card.

This is the card I made while creating this article.
This is the card I made while creating this article.

Part 4: Completing and Saving a Set

When you are done working on a card, perhaps you'll want to make more. You can do that by right clicking on the list of cards on the right and selecting Add Card. You can make as many cards in a set as you'd like, and once you have more than one, you can simply left click on them to change which one you are currently editing. Using the arrow keys will also work.

When you're ready to export them to images, go to the File menu, and go to "Export -> Card Image" for a single card, or "Export -> All Card Images..." to export your entire set. If you choose to export one card, you'll be asked to give it a file name. If you choose to export an entire set, you'll only be asked where you'd like to save it. Either case will result in your work appearing in the selected location in .jpg format, ready to be shared on the internet.

The card that I've created is shown on the right. Perhaps you'll be inspired by it to make something of your own.


That's going to be all for this article, but we're not through with the Magic Set Editor yet.There's still a number of great features that I haven't touched upon yet. As I've already said, the editor is capable of creating Split cards and Planeswalkers. It's also capable of creating Flip cards and tokens. More than that, however, it's capable of doing a lot of interesting things with textbox watermarks and set expansion symbols. It even has useful tools for set analysis if you're planning something grandiose.

I plan to write a follow-up article that will explain some of these more advanced features. So if you liked this one, consider following me here on Hub Pages. It should be up soon!


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      CMAN 2 years ago

      Can you save the images in super high res? if yes please show us how. With MSE

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      BeeBa 24 months ago

      Is there a keyboard shortcut for export image?

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      Pantelis 11 months ago

      Is there a way to rotate the image you put on the card? I am trying to fix it by rotating the image BEFORE puting it on the card but it keeps selecting the orientation I don't want it to

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