Important Elements in Great Playing Card Designs

Playing cards designs are more than just looking fancy. Being practical is far more important to the players during gameplay. Font, color, size and style could make a difference.

We have been going through the journey of playing cards history in the previous post. However, there is more to cover about this seemingly simple game, like playing card designs.

With print-on-demand (POD) providers, one can easily customize his/her own playing cards, jigsaw puzzles, fanny packs, and other products. By uploading your designs or images and customizing the cards, you can have your unique decks for yourself or as a perfect gift idea. This could even be your first step into the online business…

But, wait! Design is more than just printing your artwork or ideas on the cards. It needs to be practical and not affect the gameplay in a bad way. In contrast, it would be better if your design can actually provide a certain enhancement to the games.

Overview of Playing Card Designs

You could have all the fanciness and creativity in your designs. But, to convert them into product items, some adjustments may be required. The designs of playing cards should be thoughtful and considered from the players’ perspectives. Your elegantly designed deck could be thrown into the garbage bin if the players find it difficult and troublesome in playing.

It is unrealistic to expect the players to change their habits to adapt to your exclusive playing card designs, even though you have strong reasons…


We start with the fonts since the card values are keys in any game. The values should be positioned at all four corners of any card. The font style, size, and color are critical and must be easy to identify. You can imagine what a disaster it would be when you misread it…

Players often hold a number of cards in hand, in a fan shape, while playing. This is the major scenario to consider in your design process.

Color contrast is so important in the font and background. A combination of dark text color with a bright background, or vice versa, makes the value more readable. Something too crazy may make players difficult to spot the right cards from the hand.

To make the values more distinguishable, you may opt for adding a stroke (or border) to the A to 10, J, Q, and K, if needed.

For good playing cards, the font and background color better have good contrast. Easy to read!
credit: George Becker


There are basically two main materials used in producing playing cards: paper and plastic.

Most common and cheaper option Cost more than paper cards
Not very durable Much more durable and hence worth the money
Easy to attach with marks after folding (you know, gameplay could be intensive and fierce) Don’t need to worry about folding marks and water with plastic cards. (So, you can feel free to drink while playing now…)
The most threat is water, as paper products are not really water-proof Its robustness makes it a great game card used in tournaments.
However, sweat may make the cards sticky, and therefore it is not ideal for magicians in showing tricks.


The font is not necessarily the bigger the better in card games. Designs vary subject to various games and scenarios.

Smaller Font SizeBigger Font Size
This is suitable for games that require holding many cards in hand.

For example, in Peasants vs Landlord (Dou dizhu), or Big Two, a player could hold up to 13 cards in the beginning.

A smaller font size would be easier to check out values in this case.
This is perfect for games where players are to inspect some face-up cards together, such as Texas Hold’em Poker.

The big font size makes everyone around the table easy to recognize the suits and values.

As players are often only holding a small number of cards in hand, bigger font at the corner also works well.

Tips on Other Game Card Designs

Game cards are more than just playing cards. They often involve a wide range of elements (e.g. value, function, magic, bonus cards) in the gameplay, more complicated than just A to 10, J, Q, K, and Joker, subject to individual games

  • However, the design concept remains the same in any game, the visual presentation, including text and graphics. Icons are commonly used here, e.g. light bulb = technology, rice sack/wheat = food, books = culture/civilization.
  • Numbers may be better presented in different colors/brightness (even different sizes). This can give players a more direct sense of the card value, once they pick it up.
  • Just as in the stock market, colors are the indicators to represent gains and losses. Green and red are often used to show the increase and decrease respectively.
  • One more tip: We normally add a “-” sign to negative numbers, but better consider attaching “+” to any positive values too. The “+” and “-” signs can help players instantly realize the card’s nature, working as effectively as colors.
Game cards could be complex. The goal is to help players recognize the card visually.
credit: Jametlene Reskp

So, the Ultimate Concept in Playing Card Designs is…

To sum it up, the point of designing playing cards is: Consider players cannot read at all! Aim for the players to understand the meaning/value of a card, without any text printed on it.

To define a great design of playing cards, players can still play the game, even if they do not really understand the language. The design and uses of icons are here to make a difference. German games are the best in this regard.