Boosting Anki’s Power With Media Enhancements 3: Graphics

Anki Graphic Enhancements

While audio may be the biggest upgrade to the learning environment of an anki deck, graphical enhancements are the biggest upgrade to the aesthetic experience, as well as providing significant practical benefit.  So how exactly should you set your visual cards to achieve maximum results?


Pictures are useful on the answer side for illuminating a definition, but they can also be used on the question side. I’ll admit that I first did this just because I liked how it looked, but I discovered that the context it provides is actually quite valuable. Sure, this sometimes gives hints that can give away the answer, but I think it’s worth it. Connecting the word to the entire situation it’s in makes me feel like I truly understand the word more than I can with just a sentence.

To get a picture from a manga or other book with pictures, the first step is to get it onto the computer. If you have a raw scan on your computer, that’s the easiest way, but you can also do it yourself. I actually prefer a camera to a scanner for this, because it can get the pictures close to the spine without damaging it. It’s important to hold the book flat and the camera directly above the panel so that it isn’t distorted.

The picture may need nothing but cropping or it may need more processing. If it just needs cropping, you can skip some steps by using the sreenshot-a-rectangle-into-the-clipboard feature of the Mac OS and then paste it into an anki card. Mac users can use cmnd-ctrl-shift-4 and there are various solutions on Linux. In Windows you can easily use the snipping tool to crop any screenshot and just copy and paste it directly into anki.

If the manga has furigana you will want to erase that, and if you got it into the computer using a camera without a good white balance you might want to correct the color. I use Gimp for this.

To make it greyscale, use the Desaturate option in the Color menu; set it to “Average”.

To erase furigana, use the eraser tool. You’ll probably want to make the image display larger (typing + zooms in) and the eraser smaller.

If you decide a workflow where you crop in Gimp works well for you, that option is found at “Tools > Transform > Crop”.

Note: An easy option for Windows users when using the snipping tool is to use the pen option, choose the background color of the text (usually whitish), and just write over the furigana as you would with an eraser tool.

To get a picture from a show or game, you can take a screenshot, or for shows I would suggest subs2srs which I will be writing about in the next and last article in this series. If you try to take a screenshot of a show, you may be surprised to find that the movie portion of the screen is a solid color. Some movie players have a screenshot option, and Gimp has a screenshot feature located at “File > Create > Screenshot…” that is not subject to the same problem.

More text

Sometimes you don’t have a picture to provide that context, but you do have some more text that can. This simply requires adding two new fields to the model the same way that an audio field was added in Part 2.  Another way these fields are useful is when you want to SRS a phrase out of the middle of a horrendously long sentence you can put the other parts of it in these fields.

Colors and fonts

When you’re learning Japanese you’re learning a lot of new complicated symbols and it’s a good idea to not make it any harder than it has to be with a hard to read color scheme. What colors people find easy to read can vary a lot, so fiddle around with the colors until you find what’s easy for you to read rather than taking someone else’s answer. But also pick something you think looks nice, because you’ll be looking at it a lot and you want to enjoy the experience as much as possible.

Fonts matter for about the same reasons. When you go to change the font, there are a ton of fonts in the font list and only a few of them include Japanese characters, and some of those are Chinese fonts that may look nice but aren’t always quite right. Japanese fonts included with operating systems include at least one of the words Gothic, Mincho, Hiragino, Osaka, or Meiro except that Hiragino Sans GB is Chinese. Mincho fonts are serif, resulting in a more brush-like look, and Gothic fonts are sans-serif, resulting in a more pen-like look, though both are computer styles rather than handwriting or calligraphy styles. The fonts in my screenshots are Hiragino Kaku Gothic ProN for the expression and context fields, and Hiragino Mincho ProN for the definition field; these are the two Japanese fonts included with iOS.

The background color is set in the Card Templates panel of the Card Layout window
(Note: You can also access this menu by clicking on the pencil and pad icon to the left of the magnifying glass.)

(Update 5/7/2013): This post shows how it looks in Anki 1. Anki 2 will look slightly different.

Colors and fonts for each field are set in the Fields panel

Putting it all together

The remaining thing is how to organize different items on a card. Personally, I like to have the answer like the question but simply add the furigana and definitions/grammer notes. I have the “Hide question when showing answer” box checked in the Card Layout options and format the answer the way I would like the whole thing to display.  In order to get the spacing right when there are fields like Context that might or might not have content, {{#Field}} and {{/Field}} tags are used around linebreaks; these hide everything between them when Field is empty. Here are my formats:




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Is there anything else you’ve done to spice up the appearance of your cards?

Written by: Cayenne
Windows OS notes by Adshap

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Anki technical guru. Learning Japanese because it's a fun game.


Boosting Anki’s Power With Media Enhancements 3: Graphics — 6 Comments

    • I’d be happy to:

      Background: 234, 236, 211 (#eaecd3)
      Expression/Reading: 0, 0, 0 (#000000)
      Context: 0, 85, 0 (#005500)
      Explanation: 85, 0, 0 (#550000)

      I wasn’t sure whether decimal rgb or hexcode would be more helpful so I gave both.

  1. Thanks for the tips. I can use this to take screen shots with my iPhone. I may not do this too often because I find it to be a little too time consuming; however, your colors and fonts are FKNスゴイ!

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