Introduction: Popsicle Stick Playing Cards

Picture of Popsicle Stick Playing Cards

A while back, I made Clear Playing Cards. I really liked making them so, since then, I've been trying to plan other alternative playing cards. In this Instructable, I'm going to show you how to wood burn playing card sticks! They are pretty fun to make and are easy to read and hold. I think these can be fun for the novelty of it and fun for kids to play with. As a bonus, you can always easily make new playing card sticks if some break.

Alternatively, if you don't want to wood burn, you can just use sharpie markers to draw on your designs.

This was my first time trying wood burning. I'm pretty happy with how everything turned out :)

Step 1: Supplies

Picture of Supplies

Time to get started! I wanted to try doing this with regular popsicle sticks originally but decided to go with jumbo ones so I would have more space to work with (this is my first woodburning project ever). You can certainly adapt this for regular popsicle sticks if you want.


  • Jumbo Craft Sticks
  • Wood Burner - the bright red one you see in some pictures is the one I started with, but it kept getting too hot to use and I ended up buying a different one that Jessyratfink has (maroon one with black grip)
    • Tips: Dot Tip and Caligraphy Tip - I liked the dot for outlines and calligraphy for filling in letters and shapes, but you can use what works for you.
  • Pencil and Print off of the design you want to use - I've provided the PDF if you just want to use my design, and the Illustrator file if you want to use it as a starting point to do your own designs.
  • Clear Spray (optional)
  • Sharpie (if you don't want to use a wood burner) - if you use Sharpie markers, you can also use black and red to differentiate the suites.

You will also need a good area to work. I worked in my dining room (which is actually my "do crafts in" room) with the window open. I also wore a respirator and, sometimes, goggles because I kept getting close to my work and I didn't like breathing in fumes or getting them in my eyes.

Playing Cups:

  • Washed and dried soup cans (with the label taken off)
  • Cardstock
  • Duct Tape
  • Double Sided Tape (as you'll see later, I used sticky squares and they were a pain because they weren't strong enough to hold paper on a curved surface or the can, double sided tape will work much better)

Step 2: Create Your Designs

Picture of Create Your Designs

Before you get started, you'll need to create a design (unless you use mine).

I played around with a couple formats before deciding to go with a very basic card style (with the number large on top, and the suite slightly smaller below it). To experiment, you can use the jumbo craft stick in the file to figure out what will fit. Try not to get too close to the edges.

When deciding on the design (and the font) I suggest experimenting with "10" as it should take up the most room horizontally of all the numbers and "Queen" or "Seven" (if you are doing words). If you are going to do something long, like words, remember that you don't want it to stick up if you are going to use cans to keep the sticks organized.

After you've decided how the front of the card stick will look, you need to decide on a back design. I went with a celtic knot type image I found and altered. If you use my image, I actually traced down the center of the celtic design. I didn't want to spend a lot of time really altering the symbol in Photoshop, so I worked with it the way it is.

For my Joker, I just did the four suits in a square.

Step 3: Transfer Designs

Picture of Transfer Designs

Before you start transferring your designs, make sure your sticks are good to use. I suggest looking through and finding ones without blemishes or any issues. Any sticks that look different than the others are going to stand out and you are always going to remember what card is on that stick.

Now, to transfer your images from your paper to your sticks.

You can be very free with this, or you can be precise. If you want to have everything lined up perfectly, I suggest starting by drawing a line across a bunch of sticks at a set distance from the top of the stick. Use this as a reference for where to put the card numbers.

Once you have the number on, you can use that as a reference for where the suit will go. Just match up lines.

Now do this for all the cards!

When you are ready to do the design on the back of your card, make sure you put it on the back and on the opposite end of the stick. The goal is, you can look at the decoration on the stick and know that the card number and suit will be on the other end of the stick on the other side of the stick (see the first image for reference).

Step 4: Wood Burn Outlines

Picture of Wood Burn Outlines

Time to wood burn your designs on (or Sharpie if you prefer).

Make sure you are working in a well-ventilated area. Optionally, wear a respirator mask and goggles.

You can use whatever tips work for you, but I liked using the Dot tip (Picture 2) to do outlines (and sometimes I filled in some things) and the Caligraphy tip (Picture 3) to fill in areas when appropriate. The Caligraphy tip worked well for the diamonds and straight line numbers/letters. It also gives you a flatter burn fill in, where if you fill in with the Dot tip, you tend to get inconsistencies in the burn.

I also decided to do all the fronts of the card sticks first, and then did the design on the back when I was done. Make sure the designs are on opposite ends as shown in the first image of the previous step. I managed to only screw up one stick!

Step 5: Spray

Picture of Spray

When you are done woodburning your sticks, you can call it good, or you can spray them with polyurethane. I did a couple coats on each side. Make sure you let them sit between coats and before you flip them over to do the other side.

Step 6: Cups/Holders

Picture of Cups/Holders

You can certainly just play with these sticks as they are, but having cups to keep things organized for games can be helpful as well. You can use what you want, but here is how I decorated my soup can Playing Card Stick cups.

Reminder of supplies you need

  • Washed and dried soup cans (with the label taken off)
  • Cardstock
  • Duct Tape
  • Double Sided Tape (as you'll see later, I used sticky squares and they were a pain because they weren't strong enough to hold paper on a curved surface or the can, double sided tape will work much better)

You can have fun with this. I kept mine pretty basic.

Before you start, make sure there are no sharp pieces on the can sticking out. You will cover the top with tape, but that won't stop really sharp points. I used a needle nose pliers to pry off any pieces sticking out.

If you (or your kids) want to, I suggest cutting out a piece of paper that will fit wrapped around your can (plus a little for overlap) and decorate those pieces of paper. Once you are ready, carefully tape it to the can. If it won't stay well, use rubber bands to hold the paper on until you get the duct tape on.

Tape around the top of the can and the bottom. For the opening, I left about 2/3 of it hanging off and folded that inside the can. It can be difficult to do this without sticking the tape to itself. I also covered the bottom with the extra tape and put on an extra square of tape to cover any of the can left exposed.

You can also put an extra piece of tape inside the cup just for a little extra niceness.

That's it.

Step 7: Games

Picture of Games

Time to play games! Now, these sticks won't work for all games, but there are plenty that should be easy to plan. Some that I thought would work well are: War, Go Fish, and Poker (5 card and Texas Holdem).

Share any games you think would be fun to play with these sticks on the comments below!

Step 8: Just More Pictures :)

Picture of Just More Pictures :)


KEUrban made it! (author)2016-05-30

My version, hand-drawn with Sharpies. Thanks for the idea.

Penolopy Bulnick (author)KEUrban2016-05-31

Those are fantastic! Wonderful pennminship too :)

jessyho862013 (author)2016-09-01

nice thinking and nice job pen

Thank you :)

SuntEu (author)2016-06-25

Such an interesting concept! I wonder how this would change gameplay for faster-paced games like Blackjack or Spoons.

Penolopy Bulnick (author)SuntEu2016-06-27

Oh my gosh, Spoons would be crazy!

branika182 (author)2016-06-22

Such a cool idea! im soo gunna make these, been looking for some new ideas to use with my wood burner! thanks this is so great!

Thank you :) Have fun!

Ivy Stockstill (author)2016-06-21

This is one of the grooviest things ever! I've always been fascinated by playing cards and this is the best twist on a custom playing card deck I've seen.

Thank you :) I've become fascinated in playing cards since making the clear ones. I have more ideas I want to try too!

davefox (author)2016-06-21

My boys have never wanted to play card games because it was too hard for them to hold the cards. It took me a little over 30 minutes with black and red sharpies to make a full set of "cards". My boys loved them.

Penolopy Bulnick (author)davefox2016-06-21

That is awesome to hear! Do you have a picture of them? I'd love to see how they turned out :)

Antzy Carmasaic (author)2016-06-18

These look beautiful. I'm thinking that a crazy way to win a round of a game where you have to show your cards(such as poker), is to make a popsicle bomb of your cards, show it, and if you win, throw them on the table with a blast!

I'm loving this idea :D

Tronclay (author)2016-06-17

This is a really cool idea, I like it a lot. Only thing im wondering about is how you would adequately shuffle these... Do you have any tricks for doing it? Do you just put them all face down and slide them around to scramble them up?

I do not have a tried and true method right now, but my method was to lay them on the table (whatever side up) and just try to mess them up, then stick them card side down in the cup. You will probably see some as they go in, but you can mess them up a bit in the cup as well just to make sure you don't know where any specific card is.

I think trying to keep them all face down on the table might drive you crazy (maybe it won't). I would suggest not worry about that and just concentrate on mixing :)

tisaconundrum (author)2016-06-16

This would reduce card counting.

We can hope :)

ClareBS (author)2016-06-16

I love these stick-cards. They're cute and also look neat in the can where you can see which end is up. Great instructable too.

Penolopy Bulnick (author)ClareBS2016-06-16

Thanks! The cups are nice to keep them organized too :)

AndrewK150 (author)2016-06-16

I LOVE what you do ! I am writing a book on Casino Gambling Crossword Puzzles and I am wondering if you could supply some original images, pictures for the book and I can give you contributor recognition in the book. Check out my current book on Lawn Care Demystified by Andrew Keith - on Amazon's Kindle Books -

brandg (author)2016-06-16

I don't understand how you did the actual image transfer. You have one picture of pencil-shaded lines, and rulers and such, but at the same time, it looks like you're hand-drawing them as well.

In the past, I've done things like ironing a printed page onto a wood surface prior to burning, but I can't tell if that's what you're doing here or not.


Penolopy Bulnick (author)brandg2016-06-16

I rubbed graphite on the back of the paper and then traced the other side to transfer the image (where the printed image was). I'm not good at hand drawing at all.

brandg (author)Penolopy Bulnick2016-06-16

Ah! Good. Thank you.

rayj0007 (author)2016-06-16

Fun idea, thanks for sharing.

For wider sticks, you might look at a thing doctors used to use, they were called "tongue depressors". I don't know if they still use them, I haven't seen one in years. Maybe they just use them on children.

Yep, that's actually what these are! I found that actual tongue depressors weren't very cheap because they have to be hygienically stored and all, but these jumbo craft sticks are the same size and a fraction of the price :)

CathlynnEMT (author)2016-06-16

I might do a variation of this with stamps and ink for older Girl Scouts.

Stamps sound like a good idea. I'd love to see how they turn out!

PetrM12 (author)2016-06-16

Great idea!

Penolopy Bulnick (author)PetrM122016-06-16


breumer (author)2016-06-02

thats so cool !

Penolopy Bulnick (author)breumer2016-06-07


kludge77 (author)2016-05-31

I love this idea! Thanks for sharing!

Thank you :) It was really fun for my first time wood burning!

sscape (author)2016-05-30

Slightly larger sticks would make it easier for disabled or severly arthritic people to play cards. They could manipulate them easier than regular cards and hold them in a cup instead of trying to grip a fan of cards.

Penolopy Bulnick (author)sscape2016-05-31

Definitely! These jumbo craft sticks are better than normal popsicle sticks, but you could definitely go bigger!

lgooms (author)2016-05-30

these are cute. You could add an old maid stick.

Penolopy Bulnick (author)lgooms2016-05-31

For sure!

kylegilbert (author)2016-05-28

Clever idea. Love the simplicity, and the back design is perfect.:)

Thanks! That's my favorite part of the cards :)

Dreamchronic (author)2016-05-28

They're really cool you have my vote :)


Rhonda Chase Design (author)2016-05-27

These are great! So clever and so much work - They turned out awesome!

Thanks! I'm really happy with them :)

TamaraBerg (author)2016-05-27

Excellent. As always.

Thank you :)

creaky (author)2016-05-27

Very good idea! A great way to get kids to play and hold cards without having to deal with the cards.

Penolopy Bulnick (author)creaky2016-05-31

Thanks, I agree :)

donarx (author)2016-05-26

I was thinking that these could be laser engraved.

NeoTheThird (author)donarx2016-05-31

Good Idea, that would also make it impossible to memorize the backside of the cards, so you can't cheat!

About This Instructable




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