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How to Custom Playing Cards that Will Astonish Your Players

Time: 2024-03-29 Hits: 27

customized playing card

As an avid card game enthusiast and a professional in the printing industry, we appreciate the fine art of custom playing card printing. Whether you’re a game designer, a marketer, or simply someone who enjoys the allure of unique decks, understanding how to create custom playing cards can truly set you apart. Not only does this allow for personal expression, but it also offers an opportunity to tailor your game to your audience, creating an unforgettable playing experience.

Custom playing cards are not just tools for gaming; they are canvases for creativity and personal expression. When we help our customers to custom print their playing card deck, we realized the importance of understanding the various elements that contribute to a well-designed set. From selecting themes that resonate with your audience to choosing the right card stock and finishing touches, every decision plays a crucial role in crafting a deck that captivates and delights.

In this guide, we’ve share our insights and tips on how to create a custom playing card deck that not only looks stunning but also feels great in the hands of players.

Most Popular Playing Card Themes

One of the first decisions to make when embarking on the journey of custom playing card printing is selecting a theme. The theme of your cards can resonate with your target audience and set the tone for the entire gaming experience. From my observations, some of the most popular themes include classic historical figures, fantasy and mythology, nature and wildlife, and even modern pop culture.

For businesses, themes aligned with their brand identity can serve as a unique marketing tool. As a personal project, I’ve found that custom decks with family pictures or significant life events make for cherished keepsakes.

For instance, a deck themed around Greek gods can captivate fans of ancient mythology. But a deck featuring famous landmarks can appeal to travelers and history buffs. It’s important to consider the interests and preferences of your intended players when choosing a theme. Because this will make sure your custom deck’s success and popularity.

Types of Playing Card Decks

When we talk about custom playing card decks, it’s crucial to recognize the different types that exist.

Poker-size playing card

custom poker size playing card

Poker-size cards are the industry standard, measuring approximately 2.5 x 3.5 inches. They are widely used in casinos and are favored for their versatility in various card games. When designing a custom poker-size deck, consider the ample space it provides for artwork and text. This size is excellent for intricate designs and detailed imagery, making it a popular choice for custom playing card printing.

Bridge-size playing card

bridge playing card printing

Slightly narrower than poker-size cards, bridge-size cards measure around 2.25 x 3.5 inches. They are preferred by bridge players due to the ease of holding more cards in hand. When designing for bridge-size decks, remember that the reduced width may impact how you layout your design elements. These cards can be ideal for more straightforward designs or when text legibility is a priority.

Tarot playing card deck

tarot playing card printing

Tarot decks are not only used for fortune-telling but also as a form of playing cards in some cultures. They are typically larger, often 2.75 x 4.75 inches, providing even more space for artistic expression. Designing a tarot deck offers a unique opportunity to delve into symbolism and storytelling through imagery. Each card can be a canvas for conveying deeper meanings and narratives.

Educational card deck

custom educational card deck

Educational card decks are a fantastic way to combine learning with play. Whether you’re teaching language, math, or historical facts, the cards can be customized to fit any educational content. When creating an educational deck, clarity and readability are paramount. Engaging illustrations and clear typography can make learning more enjoyable and effective.

Playing card puzzles

playing card puzzles

Playing card puzzles are a delightful twist on traditional decks, where each card is a piece of a larger puzzle. When assembled, they reveal a complete image or message. This adds a layer of interactivity and can be a clever promotional tool or simply a fun challenge for puzzle enthusiasts. The design process for playing card puzzles requires careful planning to ensure that each card aligns perfectly with its counterparts.

Playing Card Dimensions

Size does matter when it comes to playing cards. The standard dimensions for poker-size playing cards are 2.5 inches by 3.5 inches. Bridge-size cards typically measure 2.25 inches by 3.5 inches. Tarot cards are 2.75 x 4.75 inches. But, custom playing card printing allows for flexibility in size, which can be used to differentiate your deck or accommodate unique design elements.

From our experience, it’s important to balance creativity with practicality. While a larger card may provide more space for intricate artwork, it might also be unwieldy for players with smaller hands. Thus, when deciding on dimensions, consider the end-user and the context in which the cards will be used. Besides, remember that unconventional sizes may need custom printing solutions, which can affect production costs and timelines.

Playing Card Numbers

playing card numbers

The number of cards in a deck is another aspect to consider. The standard 52-card deck is usually for poker card, while standard tarot card deck is 72 cards. Depending on the game mechanics or the purpose of the deck, you may need to adjust the count. Some games require fewer cards, while others, like trading card games, may have hundreds of unique cards.

In custom playing card printing, the flexibility to choose the number of cards can be a boon for game designers looking to create a novel experience. However, keep in mind that more cards can mean higher production costs and may necessitate a larger box or storage method.

Custom Playing Card Design Ideas

Playing card front

playing card front

The front of a playing card is where most of the action takes place. This is the canvas where you’ll showcase the card’s value, suit, and artwork.

A well-designed front can communicate a game’s theme and dynamics at a glance. For example, a deck for a children’s game might feature bright, simple illustrations. But a strategy game could require more detailed imagery and icons.

When designing the front, consider the balance between form and function. The artwork should enhance the gameplay, not hinder it. Make sure that the card’s value and suit are easily readable and that the overall design aligns with your theme and game mechanics.

Playing card back

playing card back

The back of the playing card is equally important, as it’s the side most often displayed during gameplay. It’s a prime location for branding and should be consistent across the entire deck. In my designs, I aim for a balance between aesthetic appeal and neutrality, as the back should not give away any information about the card’s value or suit.

When creating the back design, it’s also essential to consider the possibility of marked cards. A well-designed back should minimize the risk of players identifying specific cards based on wear or unique markings.

Playing card shape

playing card shape

Who says playing cards have to be rectangular? Exploring different shapes can add a playful and innovative touch to your deck. You can experiment with different shapes like circles, hexagons, or even custom silhouettes that tie into your theme.

However, unconventional shapes can present challenges, such as storage, shuffling, and handling during gameplay. Before settling on a unique shape, evaluate whether the novelty adds to or detracts from the player’s experience.

Playing card guest book

A novel idea in the realm of custom playing cards is the creation of a “guest book” deck. Each card can feature a space where players can write messages or sign their names. This concept works wonderfully for events or in settings where the deck will be used by a variety of players over time.

This approach requires careful design to ensure there’s ample space for writing without compromising the card’s functionality. The guest book deck can become a cherished keepsake, full of memories from different players.

Playing card introduction booklet

playing card booklet

An introduction booklet is a perfect addition to any custom deck, especially if the cards feature complex artwork or are part of a larger narrative. This booklet can include explanations of the symbolism, artist bios, or rules for unique games that can be played with the deck.

When designing an introduction booklet, remember to consistency with the overall deck design. The same fonts, color schemes, and artistic elements should be present to create a seamless experience. High-quality printing is crucial here, as the booklet often includes detailed images and text.

Playing card package

playing card package

The packaging of your custom playing card deck is the first thing players will see, and it can make a strong impression. A well-designed package can convey the theme, quality, and attention to detail that went into the deck. Options range from simple tuck boxes to elaborate cases with magnetic closures or even wooden boxes for a premium feel.

When designing the package, consider the unboxing experience. The process of opening the deck should be delightful and build anticipation for the game to come.

Playing Card Paper Stock

The choice of paper stock is critical in custom playing card printing. It affects the feel, durability, and overall quality of the cards.

art paper c1s paper black core paper
Art paper C1S paper Black core paper

Card deck

The paper stock you choose for your cards can make or break the deck. It affects the feel, the shuffle, and the durability. There are various options available, from smooth to linen finish, and each has its benefits. We recommend a heavyweight card stock, for example 310gsm/310gsm black core paper or 250gsm/300gsm/350gsm art paper to print card decks. It provides a professional feel and ensures longevity.

Introduction booklet

The introduction booklet should be printed on high-quality paper that reflects the premium nature of your custom deck. We often recommend 80gsm or 100gsm offset paper for the booklet, which allows for easy reading and handling. The weight of the paper should be less than that of the cards but still substantial enough to convey quality.


For the packaging, we often recommend a thicker card stock, for example 157gsm art paper mounted 2mm gray board. Depending on the level of protection required and the aesthetic you aiming for, we can provide the best paper stock option.

The package needs to be durable to withstand handling and storage, but it should also feel like a premium product. We think the texture and finish of the box material to be just as important as the design printed on it.

We recommend considering the intended use of the deck when selecting paper stock. For example, a deck meant for frequent use in a bar or cafe should prioritize durability, while a collector’s deck might focus on a luxurious finish and feel.

Special Finishing Touches

Adding special finishing touches can elevate your custom playing card deck from ordinary to extraordinary. Here are some popular special finishes apply in custom playing cards.

lamination spot uv foil stamping varnish
Glossy/matte lamination Spot uv Foil staping Varnish


Lamination-Lamination adds a protective layer to the cards, making them more resistant to wear and tear. A matte lamination can enhance the feel of the cards, making them more pleasant to handle, while gloss lamination can make colors pop. It’s worth considering which effect aligns best with your deck’s design and intended use.

Foil stamping-Foil stamping is a luxurious touch that can elevate the design of your cards and packaging. It involves applying metallic foil to specific areas of the design, adding a reflective and textured element. Foil stamping is ideal for highlight intricate details on card backs and to add a touch of elegance to the packaging.

Spot UV-Spot UV is a technique where a clear gloss is applied to specific areas of the card or packaging, creating a subtle contrast. It’s a fantastic way to add depth and interest to a design without overpowering it. We often use spot UV to emphasize logos, text, or key design elements.

Rounded corner-Rounded corners are not only aesthetically pleasing but also practical. They help prevent the corners of the cards from fraying over time, which is a common issue with standard square corners. Most clients choose rounded corners for decks to make sure they stay in good condition longer.

Varnish-Varnish is another finishing option that can protect the cards and add a tactile quality. A satin varnish strikes a nice balance between matte and gloss, giving the cards a smooth finish that’s not too shiny. Applying varnish to both the cards and the packaging to protect the printed surfaces from scuffs and moisture.

These details not only enhance the aesthetics but can also improve the tactile experience and perceived value of the deck. However, it’s important to use these finishes judiciously, as overuse can clutter the design and detract from the gameplay.

Playing Card Artwork

The artwork of your custom playing cards is arguably the most significant element. It’s what captures attention and immerses players in the game world. When working on the artwork, following are some rules you need to facus on to make sure your card deck is printed in professional standard.

Bleed-When designing the artwork for your playing cards, it’s crucial to include a bleed area. This is an extension of the design beyond the cut line to ensure that no unprinted edges occur if the cutting is slightly misaligned. We recommend add at least 5mm of bleed to your designs to avoid any white borders on the finished cards.

DPI-DPI, or dots per inch, refers to the resolution of the printed images. For playing cards, a high DPI is essential to ensure that the artwork is crisp and clear. We recommend a minimum of 300 DPI for all card designs. This level of detail is especially important for intricate illustrations and text.

Vectors image-Vector images are ideal for playing card artwork because they can be scaled without losing quality. This is especially important for designs that include logos or icons. We often recomemnd our clients create their card artwork in vector format whenever possible, ensuring that every detail remains sharp and defined, regardless of size.

Color format-The color format for printing is typically CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow, and black). This is because CMYK printing processes use these four colors to create the full spectrum of hues. We always recommend convert the designs to CMYK before sending them to the printer to ensure that the colors on the final product match your expectations.

File type-The file type is another critical consideration. Most printers prefer PDF files, as it less likely to have compatibility issues. You need to save your designs in PDF format with all fonts outlined and any linked images embedded to avoid any printing errors.

Playing Card Printing Template



Creating custom playing cards is a complex but rewarding endeavor. It requires attention to detail, creativity, and an understanding of the technical aspects of printing. Whether you’re a seasoned designer or a newcomer to the world of custom decks, I hope that this guide has provided valuable ideas on your journey to creating a set of playing cards that will astonish your players. With the right approach, you can craft a deck that is not only visually stunning but also a joy to use, ensuring that your custom playing cards leave a lasting impression on all who encounter them.

Ready to create your own custom playing card? BookPrintingChina has 25+ years of custom card printing experience and has helped thousands of global clients printed premium quality card decksthat impress their target audience. Contact us to get a free quote now!

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