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?

  • 1
    So this is an arts and crafts question?
    – Chad
    Aug 8, 2011 at 19:42
  • hm in a sort yes. art and crafts concerning board games.
    – tarrasch
    Aug 9, 2011 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, 2011 at 8:28
  • 1
    Related question boardgames.stackexchange.com/questions/3236/… (I know you're not looking for this, but probably good for others who arrive here.)
    – Cascabel
    Dec 3, 2011 at 16:27

10 Answers 10


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.

  • 1
    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, 2011 at 19:32
  • 2
    +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, 2012 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, 2012 at 6:00
  • I'm not sure if you'd be happy with proxy cards but among close friends this is considered acceptable. A proxy card consists of a card protector sleeve containing, typically, a basic land card. A printed (or drawn) facsimile of the desired card is cut to shape and inserted into the sleeve, in front of the "proxy" card. This allows a mix of real and proxy cards in a deck without being able to tell which is which.
    – linhartr22
    Aug 21, 2017 at 18:31

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.


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.

  • The business card stock I've seen is all in 25 sheet packs... Feb 11, 2012 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, 2012 at 9:54
  • Cardstock tends to stick for me, so it's very hard to draw 1 card without drawing multiple ones. I think lamination is necessary, but I don't want the card to be too thick Mar 8, 2019 at 22:10
  • According en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Card_stock : card stock seems to be paper with a weight between 50# to 110# (about 135 to 300 g/m2). So what paper weight you would recommend ?
    – JanVdA
    Aug 16, 2020 at 9:20
  • @JanVdA 110# is my standard. It's also great for character sheets (in RPGs) when much erasing is expected.
    – aramis
    Sep 3, 2020 at 9:31

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.

  • 3
    If the cards are smaller than the packing tape is wide, tape 1st, then cut, for better results.
    – aramis
    Aug 17, 2011 at 6:27

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)


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)

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.

  • The OP asks for answers that do not include commercial sites.
    – Jadasc
    Dec 2, 2011 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.

  • Pasting to cheap decks results in shuffling damage.
    – aramis
    Aug 16, 2011 at 15:26
  • @aramis Combine it with Card Protectors maybe?
    – Marcelo
    Dec 1, 2011 at 21:38
  • 1
    @Marcelo at which point, there really is no need to paste it together.
    – aramis
    Dec 2, 2011 at 1:34
  • @aramis Totally right.
    – Marcelo
    Dec 2, 2011 at 15:10
  • 1
    Oh, one other thing: rubber cement often eats through paper after a couple years.
    – aramis
    Dec 10, 2011 at 1:12

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.


Playing cards are springy because the laminated layers are intensionally cross grained. That's why they shuffle so well, not because of the coatings. Doesn't matter how you coat or protect standard cardstock; it will never behave like professional cards. beam022 is right about the quality of that tutorial, and there are a few others that discuss how to get that cross grained strength and flexibility. It appears to be a real trick to get them right and still be reasonably thin. I completely respect the craftspeople who spin their own yarn, weave their own fabrics, and all sorts of other basic material. I admire the dedication and skill it requires. In all seriousness, if you start laminating your own cardstock, you might as well look into making your own paper so you can control that all important grain. If there were any other way to achieve the same results with standard paperstock (even laminated) then the specialized companies that produce gaming cardstock for casinos and collectable card games would have been out of business a LONG time ago. There used to be someone out there who was selling the real stuff trimmed to 11x8.5. That's what I was trying to re-locate when I noticed this discussion. I had come across a site years ago where the person had bought a truck load (as in a literal trailer truck) because the manufacturers don't sell it in smaller quantities. I was never sure if it was sold in rolls or sheets, but if it's sheets you can be sure they're pallet sized or larger. They're meant for professional printing presses which print entire decks on single pages with room to spare for the trimming and finishing processes. Anyway, the person was selling packs of 20 pages (11x8.5). I can't remember the exact price, but I think it was around $10 a pack. Blank cards will generally be coated like poker cards and won't print well, but they're well suited to permanent marker (think flash cards or a one-of-a-kind, lovingly crafted, hand-drawn deck). Hope everyone finds this informative and maybe even useful. (Yeah!! Found it!!) https://www.lybrary.com/how-to-make-your-own-playing-cards-a-11.html

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