|There’s a lot I enjoy about creating new decks but my absolute favorite part of the process is dreaming up the deck packaging. It’s like some unique little holiday for your deck where you decide how best to wrap it and tuck it under the proverbial tree for your potential deck buyers. It may seem like a simple subject but there are all manner of tiny details that go into thoughtful packaging of your deck that start at material costs and work their way up to how well your deck is protected during shipping.
For me, I get a little crazy with packaging. I think it’s the comic book person in me. I used to love the special packaging or special editions of my favorite titles. Come to think of it, I was enticed to purchase cds I already had because I just had to have that special box set. As a result I am very particular about how my decks are packaged. This is something I’ve come to through trial and error over the years though. I had to learn the process of matching my packaging desires with my actual budget. So your budget is a good place to start.
What is your budget? Think about that and be very honest about it. Being hopeful about what you think you might be able to spend isn’t helpful. Set your budget and go by it. Some of you might have the resources to truly invest in the publishing expenses of your deck, while others have little to no budget and are just hoping to figure out a way to get it to market. So it’s important to know realistically what your budget is so you can decide what you can actually spend on your packaging costs.
What are your packaging costs? Make a list of everything that is going to go into your deck packaging per deck (break it down even to the cent) so you know what that expense is going to be. And I mean list everything. If you use a sticker to seal the end of deck box know the individual sticker cost. It might sound nick-picky but those little expenses add up over time. The more little expenses you have like that with your packaging, the more they collectively add up as well. I’ve made that mistake in the past by overlooking things like the shrink-wrap to seal up my decks, the labels for the boxes, etc because they were so small, only to find there was about a dollar worth of overlooked expense per deck. With a hundred decks that was one hundred dollars I was not expecting to have spent.
What all will be in your packaging? I usually divide this between limited edition and open edition decks. I worry more about what all is in the packaging for the open edition since those are budgeted for better sales. Generally speaking this includes a box for the deck, labeling, and a companion book. This is if you’re going plain. It’s your packaging, you can do what you want. If you want to make your own boxes to make the decks more collectable do it! Keep in mind the expense of the box materials and the time it’ll take to make them. Or maybe you just want to keep it simple, that’s great too. At the end of the day the thing that is most important is the deck itself, but it never hurts to have some nice packaging.
Where are you going to get your packaging materials? When you’re a DIY deck publisher the keyword is wholesale. You can find neat things at the craft store to aid in your packaging needs but ultimately that’s not cost effective. Often times many of those things you find at the craft store for retail price can be found through the same wholesalers they get them from. I’d advice looking into different wholesalers too. Places like Papermart.com are wonderful for supplies and seem like a place where you can get everything, but doing a little price checking per item you might find uline.com is cheaper on some things. If you’re doing plain boxes or custom deck boxes check your printer’s price. I love my printer but their custom box printing is a bit steep compared to other places, this is why I make my own.
Do you have a budget to have your packaging custom printed? Congrats! That is the easiest way to put some clothes on your deck. I’m currently working towards that goal myself as I move towards the ability to offer my decks wholesale for international distribution. Bulk rules apply here. Typically the more your order at a time the cheaper your per deck price will be.
So those are a few things to think about when you start to approach your deck packaging. We’ll chat about the many ways to get creative with your packaging another day. Till then, keep on keeping on. No, I don’t like that one. Stay calm. Enjoy autumn. That’s better! 🙂
|I simply adore handmade decks. With a handmade deck you can control all the variables. It’s unique, it’s personal, it’s all yours. Quite a few of the card readers who’ve tutored me over the years prefer to do readings from their own handmade decks. I have my own beast of a wooden oracle deck I add to as time has permitted over the years, but she is slow thus the nickname beast. So these are a few things to consider when making your own handmade deck and some ideas to get you started if you don’t know where to begin.
I think with most tips I give out for deck creating I start by saying get your ideas organized first. I don’t feel a need to be quite so gung-ho with that advice here. A handmade deck is a creature of trial and error to be honest. Even when you have in mind the artistic idea for it you never know how they’ll work with your chosen card materials until you’ve given it a test run. You can read my own experiences with testing materials here. I recommend sampling a few of the materials you’d like to use and see how they hold up to your art, however that art will be applied to it. Every material has its pros and cons just as each one will hold up to better or lesser degrees with repeated handling. This goes as well for the art on that material.
Your art. Not everyone is an artist and not everyone is confident in what they can create. Try not to let this hold you back too much. It’s your deck, you can make it look however you want, especially if it’s one of a kind. If you don’t feel you can draw your work out, collage it. If you do want to draw your own cards but get self conscious about how they look, don’t be so hard on yourself. I’m always giving this advice to my dad. She (here is where I confuse people, my dad is transgendered just for FYI) chokes a little when staring at all that blank space. She gets a little frustrated when she begins and things don’t look immediately right. Art is (I use this phrase a lot) trial and error and the process of getting to what you like is half the fun –for me at least. You might see it as a hurdle to be crossed. I’m just saying, relax, and see where it goes. You might surprise yourself. It’s most important it speaks to you and it can be as sparse or as detailed as you want to make it. Keep in mind a person who is an artist is probably having the same frustrations as you are. I speak from experience. Being the fussy perfectionist that I am I’m always going nine rounds with my artwork. So don’t get too caught up on this. Hit that wee arrow to continue.
|I’m very into O.O.A.K. items, especially personal creations. I had a phase where I was into making strange muslin dolls (mostly mermaids) that slowly glided into creating jewelry artifacts from some of my fiction. This latter one was fun because I was mostly recreating my cursed shears from a Snapdragon Tea short story. (The shears pictured at the end of the article for the curious.) Then I was into making custom boxes and versions of my various decks. After seeing the beautiful creation of my friend Kate’s Isis Oracle I decided it was about time I made my own handmade oracle deck just for me.
I was very eager to get this project started. I called it my Sunday Affair because I don’t get a lot of personal time to work on things I would consider a hobby. However, on Sunday I set aside a few hours that were devoted to me working on my deck. For the first many Sundays this work amounted to figuring out–not what I wanted the deck to be like–but what to even get started with to make the deck out of. First things were first: What was I going to use for my cards?
|Though this is the first article published here, I’ve written about ten articles so far and they stretch from one end of the design process to the other. I tend to write when an idea hits me but I also realize there should be some order to what I’m offering. So I thought it best to find a place to begin from and go from there. So we’re going to start with some basics.
I’ve been a graphic designer for a long time and one thing my clients really like about my work is my extreme attention paid to the little details. Before I begin a project I’ve pulled out my notebook and sketched out my idea, laid out my theme, and decided upon a color palette. You’d think that being my general nature I would have applied it to my first tarot project. Yeah, not so much. It was more of a passion project so I just winged it at first. There’s nothing wrong with that really, but it does help to go into project like this with some basic design ideas in mind. I learned very quickly that being thoughtful out the gate helps with the process in the long run.
First, give serious consideration to what card size or shape you want to use. There are standard sizes that I tend to recommend mainly because it will be easier to get your deck printed. Many deck printers have set sizes and templates for you to use. When you go with a non-standard size you move into the realm of custom printing and that generally means a more expensive printing process. It bumps up your packaging costs as well if you have to specialize it to fit the deck. If you have the resources though, hey, go crazy! That aside, packaging and future costs might not actually be on your mind right now. You’re in the honeymoon stage of just creating your cards. I love that stage. However, keeping your deck dimensions (and the costs associated with that) in mind at the beginning will help you better structure your card layout.
Another thing to consider is how your artwork will look on the different card sizes. The smaller the card the more compact your image is going to be. If your artwork is very intricate or detailed some of those details will be lost to some degree. I personally prefer a standard tarot card size, which is 2.75″ x 4.75″ or 70mm x 121mm. It’s an easy to handle card size and still large enough to avoid losing details in your art. This is my preference though and you’ll have to decide what you prefer.
Now that you have your card size settled upon, ask yourself: Are there going to be borders around my card artwork or am I going to go for a full bleed? A border is pretty self explanatory. Having a full bleed means your artwork extends to the edge of the card and beyond. When creating a card with a full bleed make sure to keep the important stuff within a set border space, create an area for a full bleed, and then the wiggle room for the cutting process. You want all important card imagery to stop before you hit the full bleed area.
Also, just a little side note to consider: With tarot decks I’ve learned that different people have different views on what they want design wise in their decks. I know quite a few tarot users who will cut off the borders of a deck if it’s just a solid white or colored border. It’s something to think about as you begin to design. Up to this point I’ve mostly used decorative borders that play into the artwork on the card. I like that unification of the cards. My first full bleed deck was my Attic Halloween Tarot and I still caved into my border-frenzy and made it with the option to get a bordered or borderless version.
Once you’ve gotten to this point and you’re beginning to format your finished art for printing, there are a few other details to keep in mind: Will your cards have words and numbers on them? You’ll need to pick out the fonts you want to use and keep in mind how legible they will be. I love a pretty font but not all pretty fonts are easy to read at card size. Research your fonts too. We have tons of fonts at the ready online but some of them are commercial and you actually have to have a license to use them. So I suggest going for commercial free or public domain fonts. Also, placement of your text on your cards is important. You want your design to flatter your art, not distract from it. Granted, this last tip is a bit of my obsessive compulsive order, though in my years of making and selling decks I’ve read many reviews of other decks to see how to better make my own. I’ve seen reviews of beautiful decks that get points taken away from them for fonts that are hard to read, clash with the art, or are poorly placed in the design. I like to approach the wording and lettering on my cards as an extension of the artwork.
I’ll finish this bit of tips with one last word of advice: Whether you’re making your card artwork traditionally or digitally it will eventually end up on your computer in need of formatting for printing. So remember to make sure your screen is calibrated. You want what you see on the screen to be what comes through in the printing process. There are a number of tutorials online to do this or programs that will do it for you. When in doubt as to if what I see on my screen will come out the same in printing, I like to make 4 x 6 inch prints of them through hour photo. Some photo machines aren’t calibrated as well as they should be but most are pretty spot on. I’ve found times when my work was much darker in the printing process than what I saw on my screen.
That is where I get my tips started and what I will leave you with for today my lovely deck makers. I’m staring down the path of a Buffy the Vampire Slayer marathon while I make spirit boards for the attic shoppe. Buffy and October just have a nice relationship to them. Have a good evening!