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Panini Behind the Scenes: Cards . . . Before They Become Cards

October 28, 2010

Look, I don’t know how else to really bring this up so I’ll just come right out and ask: Have you ever wondered what trading cards look like before they’re trading cards? You know, before they’re all UV-glossy and rectangled and emblazoned with printing technology or autographs or memorabilia or all three?

Well, at just the right angle under just the right light, they look a lot like a ream of color copies. But upon closer inspection, well, they are a ream of color copies.

Indeed, just beyond my left shoulder, past Scott Prusha and just two caddy-cornered cubicles over, I can see our “routing area,” the common collecting place for “proofs” that will soon enough become some of the most collected cards in the country.

At the moment, the table is filled with approval routings and “test RIPs” from Plates and Patches Football and Timeless Treasures Basketball.  Approval routings, as their name suggests, are essentially early, copy-paper drafts of trading cards that require the initialed approval internally from members of the Panini America photo, editorial and design teams. Once they have that, they’re sent to the appropriate licensing office — primarily electronically but occasionally via expedited air shipping — for the most important seal of approval.

“Test RIPs” (sometimes called “match prints”) are laminate color-proof files that provide anyone looking with the closest representation possible of what the final printed card will look like.

In any event, enjoy the following gallery of images from the routing table that were snapped earlier this morning. And stay tuned for more behind-the-scenes looks that you just won’t find anywhere else.  

13 Comments leave one →
  1. October 28, 2010 2:41 pm

    Cool man

  2. October 28, 2010 2:45 pm

    Good product development stuff!!! Keep it coming!!!

  3. October 28, 2010 3:00 pm

    Love the behind the scenes stuff. Keep up the great work Tracy!

  4. sean watko permalink
    October 28, 2010 3:01 pm

    thanks for letting us get a nice look into the process

  5. October 28, 2010 3:17 pm

    are you guys hiring designers?

  6. Chris Ryker permalink
    October 28, 2010 5:45 pm

    now this is a Blog that i would really read! LOVE the behind the scenes stuff!! Keep up the GREAT work Tracy!!

  7. Bill permalink
    October 28, 2010 6:51 pm


    Why then do companies keep inserting Press Plates made of metal, if they are not actually used anymore?

    • October 28, 2010 6:56 pm

      Oh, printing plates are still used to actually print the cards. A match print simply provides a color-correct visual of what the cards will look like after they’ve been printed — using plates.

      Does that make sense?

  8. October 28, 2010 7:43 pm

    Fantastic!!! Love this kind of stuff.

  9. October 30, 2010 3:40 am

    I know it is odd, but as a graphic designer I love proofs, they are the design before it becomes “official”. Do these color proofs ever get put on to the market like the old uncut sheets of baseball cards I would love to have a couple for my collection?


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