How Cards Are Made

Playing Cards are very complex pieces of art. Only a few people are truly able to explain how cards are made when asked. So we are going to dive into the process and reveal a lot about this process and hopefully broaden the horizons of those who truly seek an advanced knowledge in Deck Lore ( the study of playing cards ).

The Beginning


It all starts with an idea. A design that will capture the consumer and create an emotional reaction for them. This is perhaps the most difficult step in the process. Many of us would love to aspire to create a deck of cards but have no artistic ability at all. The USPCC provides the artist with a template and a PDF of guidelines for them to follow. During the creative process the artist will be faced with many decisions. Borders, no borders, should i use a lot of color, should I make the deck one way? This part is of course completely up to the artists responsible. Once the deck has been designed and meets all the USPCC requirements they will then be able to move on to the more complex aspects of the decks design.

Stock & Finish

Now we begin the process of choosing the stock and finish for the deck. This isn’t as simple as it sounds. The quality of the deck depends on a few things. The Ink to stock ratio can effect the stocks quality. If the design requires a lot of ink and you choose a thin stock then your stock could be over saturated and will break down quickly during use. It also effects how much snap the stock has as well as how soft it is. So if your intentions are to have deck that will last the consumer a long time and provide a stiff feel and a lot of snap. You would want to create the art around that making sure you use a small amount of ink and choosing a thick stock. If you want a soft stock but didn’t want the deck to break down quickly then you should use a design that has a moderate amount of ink while choosing a medium sized stock. Its a very complex process over all and most often the designer needs samples of decks to test out stocks. The tests samples are provided by USPCC. The second thing to be considered is the finish. The finish is the clear coating the cards get to seal the ink and stock for better performance an longer lasting cards. Now with all this in mind, you get to choose from many different finishes and Stocks.



NOTE: some known finishes and stocks were not listed due to them being mistaken to be so and there not. Also some finishes are only available for certain companies


So after you have all the specs chosen for your deck, its time to think about how your going to fund it. Printing a deck is a very expensive process. so here are a few good ways to fund a deck for those of you looking for answers. This site offers a very solid method to fund your deck and many other types of projects and the Playing Card community has seen some very successful decks come from this site. For further information on how kickstarter works, visit there site.

Investor: Another avenue is to seek out an investor. There are specific companies out there that are looking for the next hit in playing cards that will generally offer some sort of deal.

Diavoli: This is a company based out of Germany. The owner is always scouting for a good art concept and is usually quick to make a deal. The big down fall is he only provides you with 200 or so decks then he keeps the rest to sell. Not the best deal to make but if your really having trouble getting a deck made and your ready to make a deal. This might be your avenue.

Actual Cost

The way the USPCC works is the more you order, the cheaper each individual deck will cost for you to produce. The USPCC usually has a set limit on the amount of decks that have to be printed to place an order. Right now the limit is 2500. It usually fluxgates between 2500-5000 depending on how the market is responding to USPCC orders and what they have lined up.

The more decks you have printed, the better deal you get and the higher profit margin. More options also become available for the printing process as you choose larger orders. I'm not sure what those options are at this time but I will update that information when its available. There are two printing machines available for producing the cards. The sheet feed press & the web press. The web press required an order of 10,000 or more. Everything else goes through the sheet feed press.

The USPCC requires 700 for Printing plates & half of the money down to begin printing…


After you provide the USPCC with half of the money + the $700.00 fee for the printing plates, the fun begins. you will need to send them the files containing the face designs, pips, and back design. The USPCC creates the plates to be places in the rollers in the press. this is how ink will be transferred onto the card stock. There can be anywhere between 4-8 printing plates. lets say your using 4 colors in your deck. Each color need its own plate. All the colors are not applied at once. The sheets pass through the roller once for each color to complete the design. After the plates are created, the USPCC will send a proof to the designer. The proof is provided as a precaution for the designer to review the sheet and ensure that the cards will be printed as they intended. Now some time ago they used to print and uncut sheet as a proof, but this method has been discontinued. They now email a file for review on a computer as the proof. After the proof has been approved it will take the USPCC 4 weeks to start the actual printing process. Just before they print they will ask how many decks you want to keep uncut.

So once the printing process begins, they are feed, cut and packaged. There are many things within the printing process that raise questions but we will discuss that in other articles. Enjoy the at of playing cards!

Written by: Robert Butler