Card backs - let's revive this topic


To celebrate the fact that I can now post attachments (YES) here is the card back from our deck. I'd like to revive the discussion about card backs. How do you design yours? Do you think the back has to be reversable? Do you do any customisation (more than one design to choose from)? What do you think of awful, boring plaid patterns? (whoops, letting my own opinion hang out here).

To start this off:

Our design shows the four elements from the Renaissance "Ball Games Court" at the castle. The two versions of Death (each holding an hour-glass in his teeth, but one is an old man and the other a skull) are also from the facade of this building. The bird is a phoenix, not an eagle - to represent rebirth.

The palindrome around the edge is from the Old Town Bridge Tower. It was put there to protect the tower from harm by demons. Demons apparently can't do word puzzles so to stop them in their tracks you should show them a complex one - they try to figure it out until they become exhausted by the effort. This should mean that this card back will act as a handy ant-demon charm should you need one (must tell Buffy!)

The back is almost reversible - we think that during shuffling it won't be obvious which way up the cards are - you need to look closely to see.

No - we haven't got more than one card back to choose from. This would have been too complicated and expensive to arrange - but maybe another time (or if we hand-print a small run or something).

Okay - that's enough. Over to you!


Sorry - this is the first time I've done this. I think the attachment is here now.

I had to make it smaller than I expected so some of the details are VERY hard to see. You are always welcome to pm me if you would like a copy at higher resolution.


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i am in awe of it. wow. really beautiful! :)


Magnificent, Karen -- every detail of your beautiful deck has been attended to with such care, thoughtfulness and aesthetic appreciation.



I hadn't looked at your deck before, although from your posts I knew it existed; what a lovely deck! The backs are very Old World elegant. Add another deck to my wish list!

I actually emailed US Games about the ugly backs on their cards, haven't yet received a reply. Since a lot of their stuff is contracted to AG Muller, I don't know how much control they can exercise over this. I personally don't mind a plain back, but the crosshatched/plaid ones are just Ugh! As for reversible backs, I have no problem with them; I don't read backs myself, but I know it's important to some people. I tend to favor symmetry, however; if you place objects on the back, I would like for them to be centered, or balanced with objects of similar shape/size. Probably the prettiest back I know of is the back of the Cagliostro Tarot, a navy blue field with a central astrological wheel, the hub of the wheel showing the publisher's name, the wheel in gold/bronze.

You have to suit the back design to the overall aesthetics of the deck, I think. Your back design for the Tarot of Prague wouldn't be suitable for a cartoon deck, for example. Conversely, your Tarot of Prague would not be helped by a back that appears to be an afterthought, as so many backs are these days.

Again, your Tarot of Prague is a wonderfully elegant and balanced deck. Let me know when they are ready for sale; is there a waiting list? :)

Kind Regards.




That's a really pretty back for the deck. I like it!


Double wow! I had a simple graphic of my version of yggdrasil for the back of my deck, but since Llewellyn, at least, wants a reversible back along with the submission, I'm mulling over whether I want to simply mirror the original design or come up with something totally different. If I do it will probably be a single color design in straight cyan with mucho shading, since this cuts publication costs somewhat.

full deck

Backs are important

I really like this card back. It looks better than some actual cards even. I do not like those publishers decks that just re-use an image from the deck for the back. This is more the approach used by an art director who has no ideas or understanding of the deck. This sort of concept is not appropriate for a deck for use (Scarabeo!). This was another problem I had with the Scarabeo "Tarot of the Masters" and others.

Speaking as an art director, this is my professional opinion as well.


Many thanks for the feedback - which I've also passed on. I think
sometimes I don't make it clear enough that I work with my partner Alex - in the case of this back it's really his design (though my idea to use the four elements in the corners). He spent ages on this - it's actually a very careful blend of any number of elements from the facade we photographed
(which of course in the original weren't in the right proportions).

We're so fortunate in having imagery like this in Prague. We were simply stunned when we realised that there are two versions of Death - the skull and the old man - and we just had to incorporate them. It makes quite a profound statement, especially when it's combined with the phoenix.

Anyway - good news (which I'll put on the "Decks" forum once we've made a few tweaks) is that the online ordering is finally working, tested (to within an inch of its life - WorldPay put a small team on to it before giving us the go-ahead, scary but good really) and LIVE!

We will be mailing out decks this Tuesday as far as we can see - nderful!

To get back on thread, I'm glad that others agree how important card backs are - after all, we do spend time looking at them. I know that it's cheaper for printers to use standard plaid or grid backgrounds (though not much cheaper - really any two-colour background is going to cost the same to print, it's just a matter of design times and making some new separations) but it's such a shame. Maybe if we all start doing thoughtful backs we can shame the big printers into ditching the plaid!

If anyone else wants to put up their card back here, it would be great to see.