As an artist, I really enjoy looking relaxing pictures from time to time. I sometimes even have them as my desktop background! Here, let me share some of my favorite desktop backgrounds with you.
Ahhhhh… I just love the sweeping hills of the one right there… better than the hills used as the Windows … Ecks-Pee background! OH! And that beach view! Sooo relaxing looking, it almost feels like I’m there, feeling the cool sea breeze blowing across my face. And who doesn’t find that green-blue-yellow splotchy painting calming?? Yes… such beautiful pictures…
…but wait a second…
I dunno about you… but something about these look familiar. A little TOO familiar, if you get my drift. …!!! WAIT A FLIPPIN’ SECOND!
Card images sourced from pkmncards.com
OH MY GOODNESS, they’re the background artwork for many Pokémon TCG cards! You’ve just been bamboozled!
Hahah, ok ok, jokes aside… yes, that’s what’s going on here. Turns out a recent Twitter post which was brought to my attention by CinnamonBiscuits (who also told me about the bootleg cards I talked about recently) had discovered the source of many of the backgrounds on the earliest cards. Then coincidentally, Alveinhero on the PA! Discord Server posted a link to a Flickr account with a TON of related background. Between those two sources, I decided to look into this further and share the conclusion of my investigations with you. Huzzah!
First off though, the Twitter post in question:
Last night I managed to find a bunch of source images used as backgrounds in Pokemon cards, here's a few of them. pic.twitter.com/NMJ6VaSqOa
— Fanamel (@FanamelT) March 26, 2021
So these backgrounds come from a digital stock photo and artwork collection called Datacraft Sozaijiten, or sometimes simply Sozaijiten. The name “Sozaijiten” (素材辞典) clearly spells out its purpose, as it translates to “material dictionary”: specifically, it’s a Japanese-produced collection of stock pictures produced by Image navi corporation, broken up into over 245 various volumes of shared concepts released on CD-ROM format. For example, Volume 1 is “Stone Textures”, Volume 10 is “Flowers”, Volume 20 is “Wild Flowers and Cherry Blossoms”, and so forth. Furthermore, it seems as if new volumes are constantly being produced every now and then, as in 2008 there was only 207, but in 2013 it was up to 235. Given this it’s most likely that the original artists working on the Japanese release of Base Set back in 1996 only had access to the earliest Sozaijiten releases, as most of the backgrounds seem to pull from the first 30 or 40 volumes.
Nifty, huh? Well, what’s just as nifty is seeing which Pokémon TCG cards used what Datacraft Sozaijiten backgrounds. And that’s what this page aims to do: if a card used a background image pulled from a Datacraft Sozaijiten volume, it will be listed here along with an raw example of that background, just so you can see what you’ve been missing after all these years. Move aside, Ponyta! Take two steps to your left, Wartortle! We’re here for the background images!
List of Cards using DS Backgrounds
To keep this list simple, we’ll just be focusing on basic card data—name, set and collector number, with a link to Bulbapedia for more info—along with a cropped picture of the card’s image and a low-res copy of the original Datacraft Sozaijiten image, so as to not overstep copyright.
- That said, use of Datacraft Sozaijiten images are included on this page under Fair Use principles, specifically for the case of news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research.
- Card images are usually sourced from pkmncards.com and from Bulbapedia, if I didn’t scan them myself. It may even link to a Bulbapedia article if the original source is somewhat obscure and/or was never released in English
Without further ado:
|SET||№||Name||Card Art||Original DS Image||DS Source||Notes|
|(multiple)||(multiple)||Trainer Cards||Vol 003 – Metal and Rust Textures
|I’m convinced that this was used to create the Trainer Card background. Does this mean OTHER card backgrounds were built from DS images?|
|Base Set||20/102||Electabuzz||Vol 007 – Lights & Crystals
|Similar to the background used in the background for Promo Pikachu #4, but it’s actually a different shot of the same bolt and thus two different pictures.|
|Base Set||26/102||Dratini||Vol 006 – Seasons and Nature
|Base Set||27/102||Farfetch’d||Vol 009 – Paints and Pastels
|Base Set||31/102||Jynx||Vol 007 – Lights & Crystals
|Base Set||36/102||Magmar||Vol 004 – Flames Sparks & Waters
|The background used in Magmar’s picture was flipped vertically. The example DS image therefore is likewise flipped vertically for ease of comparison, but note that that’s not how it normally looks.|
|Base Set||38/102||Poliwhirl||Vol 004 – Flames Sparks & Waters
|Base Set||41/102||Seel||Vol 004 – Flames Sparks & Waters
|Base Set||42/102||Wartortle||Vol 006 – Seasons and Nature
|Base Set||60/102||Ponyta||Vol 006 – Seasons and Nature
|Base Set||75/102||Lass||Vol 009 – Paints and Pastels
|Some kind of extra sprinkle filter was added to the background, but I can’t ascertain what it is.|
|Base Set||76/102||Pokémon Breeder||Vol 006 – Seasons and Nature
|The background image was squished vertically so it could fit within the narrower art frame of Trainer cards.|
|Base Set||91/102||Bill||Vol 008 – Walls & Soils
|The top 2 and bottom 4 rows of bricks were cropped to fix within the art frame of the Trainer card.|
|Fossil (Tropical Mega Battle Phone Card)||30/62||Zapdos||Vol 007 – Lights & Crystals
|Technically this card is a unique version of Fossil Zapdos, printed on a phone card as part of the Tropical Mega Battle. The card itself is based on the Fossil version of Zapdos, but uses different artwork.
The artwork was also rotated 180 degrees relative to its original stock photograph; I’ve likewise rotated it for comparison purposes.
|Team Rocket||59/82||Machop||Vol 004 – Flames Sparks & Waters
|This one mixed BOTH images together into one. That said, it’s hard to tell how exactly they merged the two. I THINK the used a Lighten filter on one of them in order to merge the two, but, I’m maybe 70% sure on that.|
|Vol 007 – Lights & Crystals
|Team Rocket||82/82||Potion Energy||Vol 013 – Leaves and Leaf Veins
|The leaf graphic is used both in the potion container depicted, as well as in the dark, faded background which you can only barely see the lead veins.|
|Gym Heroes||28/132||Lt. Surge’s Raichu||Vol 007 – Lights & Crystals
|This is another mixed picture.|
|Vol 003 – Metal and Rust Textures
|Neo Genesis||41/111||Miltank||Vol 006 – Seasons and Nature
|Game Boy (Laboratory)||D23||Magnemite||Vol 007 – Lights & Crystals
|This card—like all Game Boy cards—never got an actual physical release, and therefore only existed in Game Boy form. However, images of the Game Boy-only cards appeared in a Japanese Pokémon Card price guide; presumably the Game Boy artwork was based on these pictures.|
|Game Boy (Promotional)||P02||Moltres||Vol 007 – Lights & Crystals
|Black Star Promo||4||Pikachu (First Movie Promo)||Vol 007 – Lights & Crystals
|Similar to the background used in the background for Base Set Electabuzz, but it’s actually a different shot of the same bolt and thus two different pictures.
The background was also color shifted to blue.
Use of Datacraft Sozaijiten backgrounds petered out after Neo Destiny, especially as other artists came in to draw Pokémon artwork as well as create their own backgrounds using computer programs like Bryce and other landscape generation tools. But despite those changes, use of DS photos in Pokémon TCG card artwork absolutely continued on. This page therefore will continue to document every use of Datacraft Sozaijiten photos for card art, even if it only was used once in a particular set.