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I want to print cards for my game, without using a commercially-available site. Basically, I'm looking for materials I could find in a store.

How do I make these cards in a work- and price-efficient way, making sure that they look nice afterward?

The cards should be able to be shuffled, much like poker cards.

I am building a Print and Play game, but so far I am not satisfied with the cards I was able to make. I tried printing them on thin paper and mounting on poker cards, and printing them on thicker paper. However both of these methods make the cards pretty much unfit for shuffling, since the paper goes off while shuffling. I saw that the game "Twilight Imperium" printed their cards on thin plastic. Is it possible to buy something like that and print directly onto the material?

tl;dr: Mounting paper-printed cards on playing cards does not work. Are there any good material out there that you can print on directly?

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So this is an arts and crafts question? – Chad Aug 8 '11 at 19:42
hm in a sort yes. art and crafts concerning board games. – tarrasch Aug 9 '11 at 7:19
Don't forget to cut the corners in a round shape if you make cards. It may seem only decorative, but it's not. It will prevent the cards from being destroyed too fast. – SteeveDroz Dec 2 '11 at 8:28
Related question… (I know you're not looking for this, but probably good for others who arrive here.) – Jefromi Dec 3 '11 at 16:27
up vote 3 down vote accepted

While one can't riffle-shuffle well, laminating 110# (110 pound) cardstock with Con-Tac brand vinyl does allow for hanafuda style shuffling, and works quite well. The resultant cards are tough, easily handled in play, and durable. (I did this for playtesting the Freemarket RPG.)

I've made decks of cards using 110# card stock, and it's HEAVIER than most cheap poker cards; it lacks the plastic coating, tho, making it less smooth to riffle shuffle.

90# high-linen high-clay bond makes great cards; it's hard to find. Same issues as unlaminated cardstock.

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You could use common card protectors like people use to protect cards from trading cards games (Magic, etc). What your stuff in there (printed cardboard, paper-glued-on-other-cards,...) then becomes pretty much irrelevant.

If not, what about photo printing services? Look for ones making postcards, you can probably easily fit 4 cards on a potcards and they ought to be rigid enough.

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Commercial Printing on postcard stock, you're better off spending less to get more cards from a playing card POD shop. Less cost per card, less effort to make them playable. – aramis Dec 2 '11 at 19:32
+1 for card protectors. The re-usability is key, in my opinion. That and the fact that you can replace the card text on the fly in a clean way. – rahzark Feb 10 '12 at 0:29
Especially if you are still playtesting sleeves are the way to go. Get a mess of Magic Land cards (or any defunct CCG) and just print on regular paper. Put a CCG card in the sleeve AND your piece of printed paper. Boom! Shuffleable, unmarked and easy to use. – aslum Nov 2 '12 at 6:00

In rereading this...

The materials to print cards are simple: Cardstock.

3 forms of cardstock are available readily:

letter sized or A4 sized (depending on location in the world) cardstock, usually in 50, 250, or 500 sheet packages.

Index cards

Business Card stock - usually in 10 sheet packs or 100 sheet packs.

All the above run through most laser printers just fine. Most go through most ink jets well, too.

When printing on a laser printer, the issue is that the toner will usually only bond well with one side.

On an ink jet, the issue varies by type of ink. Inks intended to be absorbed (often alcohol based) take some time to dry, and often, won't absorb into one side of a sheet of cardstock. Print a sheet, and set it aside, then print next. Wax-based inks usually leave a texture; they break off in shuffling, and are unsuitable for anything other than laminated or sleeved use.

One can "plastic coat" one's cards with a thin layer of hairspray or matte sealer. It lengthens the lifespan of cards, but is a messy process, and adds considerable drying time.

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The business card stock I've seen is all in 25 sheet packs... – Karl Knechtel Feb 11 '12 at 21:47
The pack I have to hand is 10 sheets of 10 cards each - Avery #28371, purchased at wal*mart. – aramis Feb 12 '12 at 9:54

I've done the following:

Print the cards on thick (but not really thick) paper and cut them out.

Cover the cards with clear packing tape.

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If the cards are smaller than the packing tape is wide, tape 1st, then cut, for better results. – aramis Aug 17 '11 at 6:27

Check out Artscow. I have a friend who has used them before for a custom deck and he was very happy with their work. Also, the price is very reasonable for custom print work.

ETA: I mis-read the question and thought that the OP was looking for commercial sites, when they actually were specifically not doing so. With that in mind, please look at my response to this question. Blank playing cards are not a perfect solution to the question (Difficult to print on directly. You would need to print on paper and paste it to the cards.) but the results would have the right weight/feel/ease of shuffling and would look nicer than doing the same with a standard deck of cards. Also, such products are commonly available at craft stores. Hope this helps.

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The OP asks for answers that do not include commercial sites. – Jadasc Dec 2 '11 at 16:10

Are you looking for this?

PlainCards® Offers 5 Choices of Printable Blank Playing Cards

You could also just buy some cheap decks from the dollar store and rubber cement standard-paper (cut down to size) or stick Avery labels onto them.

They might not shuffle too well, but get some "shufflable" card protectors and that solves that problem.

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Pasting to cheap decks results in shuffling damage. – aramis Aug 16 '11 at 15:26
@aramis Combine it with Card Protectors maybe? – Marcelo Dec 1 '11 at 21:38
@Marcelo at which point, there really is no need to paste it together. – aramis Dec 2 '11 at 1:34
@aramis Totally right. – Marcelo Dec 2 '11 at 15:10
Oh, one other thing: rubber cement often eats through paper after a couple years. – aramis Dec 10 '11 at 1:12

I would suggest that you take a look at this article: Making Cards: You’ll never use your old method again, it's basically a tutorial about making cards with linen cover stock.

Things you will need:

  • Linen cover stock (67lb)

  • Spray adhesive

  • Rolling pin

  • Craft knife (or rotary cutter)

  • Metal ruler

  • Cutting mat

  • Corner punch

  • Light table (or reasonable substitute)

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I used this to create a prototype of my card game,

  1. Print out cards on 6x4 photo paper (2 to a sheet)
  2. Cut the cards out
  3. Sleeve with playing card sleeves (penny sleeves if you're saving money; HMC or Dragon Shield for easy shuffling)
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I am having the same trouble.I have purchase 20 packs of plane backed playing cards with the idea of running them through my Canon printer. Alas the ink from the printer does not adhere to the plastic coating on the card. The only ink that I can recommend to stick to the plastic coating is a Nikko Oil Marker 1700 texter pen that you can buy on ebay about $7.00. The only problem then is that you have to carefully write on each individual card by hand. The only other alternative I fear is to get the cards professionally printed at great expense. Goodluck.

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