Introduction: How to Make a Deck of Custom Cards From Scratch

I needed to make some cards for a game that I'm designing. I needed a lot of them - a total of just under 200! I looked here to see if anyone had a method of easily making these cards, but all I could find were ways in which you had to either destroy or use another deck that you purchased - I didn't want to do that, so I pondered a bit and came up with the following method that creates custom cards without messing up a pre-made deck. These cards are entirely from scratch.

Step 1: Gather the Materials & Tools

Here's what you'll need to make the cards this way: 1) A program to draw your custom set of cards. (I actually used two different programs each has its own advantages) I used Microsoft Word and nanDeck ( Word is harder to position stuff precisely, but you don't have to learn a new programming language. NanDeck makes it easy to position stuff, but it took learning a new programming language.
2) A good quality color printer (I used a color laser printer at work) 3) Paper to print your cards on. 4) Glue stick (I prefer the 'color stick' variety - it's easy to see if you've got good coverage) 5) Optionally some clear spray paint to seal the cards with. 6) A Good paper cutter for trimming the cards out of the paper after gluing (It is hard to cut good strait edges with scissors).

Step 2: Draw the Cards

In this method the cards are made of three layers of paper glued together. This gluing stiffens the three layers and makes them feel like a professionally made card. So start with a rectangle that is 3 times as tall as you want the card. In the bottom third draw a solid black rectangle, this serves to block any light that could otherwise pass through the paper and reveal it's value. In the middle third draw the image of the back of your cards. If this image has a definite up and down remember to place it upside down. Then in the top third draw the values of the individual cards. The cards I made were 2.125" X 3.125" when finished (so the rectangle in the drawing program was 2.125" X 9.375"). This size will allow three cards per each 8.5 X 11 inch sheet of paper. Putting at least a small space between the cards makes it easier to trim the cards, if they are touching and you miss the line by a little you will make one card too thin and another too wide. The one that is too wide is not a real problem as it can just be re-trimmed, but the other is always going to be too narrow. I had originally made these cards with three separate pieces of paper, but alignment became a nightmare.

Step 3: Print the Cards.

Chose what printer you are going to use and print the cards. I suggest that you use a printer that has ink that is not water soluble. Sweat or other moisture from your hands or the glue can cause water soluble ink to run or smear.

Step 4: Trim Off the Bottom of the Paper

Trim off the portion of the paper that is below the solid black rectangles. It is ok if you accidentally trim off a small amount of the black rectangles (no more than a sixteenth of an inch) as this will make it easier to fold them. I suggest that you use a good paper cutter here as this will make a nice straight edge. I did not have a cutter the correct size for this so I used scissors.

Step 5: Fold the Paper.

Carefully fold the paper at the line between the solid black rectangles and the back of your cards. Then fold this so that it lines up with the top of the face of your cards. These folds should be done with the printed side of the paper facing away from you so that the back and the front of the cards will end up on the outside of the folded paper. I found the easiest way to do this was to stand near my sliding glass patio door, folding the paper on the door. That way I could see where to fold the paper. The more carefully you fold the paper here the better your cards fronts and back will be lined up.

Step 6: Glue the Paper.

Unfold the paper and spread glue on the back of the solid black portion. Fold this part back into place against the card backs and smooth out any air pockets or glue clumps. Then spread glue on the face of the black portions. Fold the faces over and smooth as before. To prevent getting glue all over your table or desktop, it is helpful to put a scrap piece of paper under the cards you are gluing. After the paper has been glued and folded I found that it is good to put them between the pages of a large book (I used a big Shakespeare Volume)and let them dry for at least 24 hours. This will help them dry flat. You should possibly put them a bit further from the spine though as I found my cards had a slight curl toward that part of the card when I took them out.

Step 7: Coat the Cards (Optional)

This step is not actually required, but I recommend it to seal the cards from moisture softening the glue and all your hard work coming undone. You can use either a clear acrylic or lacquer spray paint for this coating process. Spray a generous coat on one side, allow it to dry to touch, and then do the same on the other. Also, if you used a water soluble ink when you printed the cards this coating will prevent sweat and other moisture from messing up your fancy new custom deck of cards.

Step 8: Cut Out the Cards

Using a paper cutter trim away the excess paper. Once this has been completed on all of your cards, congratulations you now have a shiny new custom deck of cards!