How do I turn my idea for a pack into reality? Where do I go to get cards backs printed with my custom design?
For customised fronts I cannot speak from experience other than by the artists’s hand printed via your friendly local offset printer. This will not produce “professional looking” (i.e. plastic-coated cards with rounded corners and “playable” with) cards. The mainstream card printers (such as Carta Mundi in Belgium) will require a large print run before printing an individual’s design becomes an economic proposition.
Producing small editions of hand-made playing-cards is possible. Simon Wintle has compiled some useful information together and has personal experience of some of these techniques which include desktop publishing, photocopying, hand-made, collage and copper plate engraving.
For those living in the UK there are some printers with the appropriate equipment to produce professional playing-cards. These are:
- Games and Print Services based in Canvey Island, Essex. This link gives details of their portfolio of backs and fronts to select from. They can also do completely customised cards and an estimate form can be filled in via their web page.
- Ivory Graphics, based in Cambridgeshire. Contact details are:Ivory Graphics Ltd.
Unit 2, 55 Thorby Avenue
For USA residents, there are many companies:
- help.thegamecrafter.com (you can print card deck as low as 1 item)
- Liceo Grafico, Contact details are:Liceo Gráfico SL
Calle Jueves, 9
If anyone gives them a try, please report back on your experience
Gunther Anderson (firstname.lastname@example.org) has offered the following thoughts:
I have no personal experience with publishing playing cards in any form. I’m daydreamed about it, but never pursued anything. So that means I couldn’t tell you how good or bad anyone is. Do, definitely, give a call to your local printers and specialty promotions companies, to see what they can offer you. Have a good idea in your head beforehand what you want, though. The questions they’re going to ask are:
- Do you have a special design for the backs?
- How many special faces do you have (i.e. only the “face cards” would amount to 12 special cards.)
- How many colors do you want for the backs? For the faces?
- What kind of artwork will you be providing?
- How many decks do you want? I’ve never seen anywhere that did runs of less than 300, and you only start to see good prices around 1,000.
As a hypothetical sort of deck, imagine I wanted to do a deck of cards with drawings about the work of Poe. My answers would be:
- Special back design, 2 colors (black and red, with white not counting).
- 54 face designs (52 cards + 2 jokers), 3 colors (black, red and green).
- I will be providing color-separated print-outs at 5X size (actually, I have no idea what sort of artwork they want, so I recommend asking, “Well, what would you like?”).
- Let’s do a run of 500, and watch me lose lots of money trying to sell them.
Another hypothetical deck would be pictures of 16 members of my immediate family.
- 1-color backs with a family crest,
- 16 special faces (JQKA in all four suits),
- in 4-color half-tone, which means, really, full color. I had better supply them with the separations myself.
Message received from Melissa Norsten, 11th November 2000:
Besides Liberty, there are several playing card maufacturers in the United States that will customize both the backs and faces of playing cards. Two smaller manufacturers are Apollo and Gemaco. Three larger maufacturers are Hoyle, Paulson and U. S. Playing Cards.
Minimums to produce vary with manufactuer. Some will go as low as 400 decks, while others will not consider an order less than 5,000.
The questions that you listed are a good beginning for the information that a manufacturer will need to provide a quote for custom decks. Most will prefer that the art is in digital form and can provide their specifications.
Kardwell International and GEMACO offer customised backs as one of their services.Kardwell International
Address: PO Box 775
Orient NY 11957-0775
GEMACO Playing Card Company
Address: 2925 N. 7 Hwy
Blue Springs MO 64014