During the last week, I created the second iteration of my handmade Erotic Tarot Card Deck. After the first deck was sold to a collector, I thought about ways to improve my manufacturing process - specifically regarding its efficiency but also the ergonomic process flow.
In conclusion, the handmade Tarot cards I created through this second iteration of my process are very much to my satisfaction: They have immense haptic qualities while at the same time the visual art stands out in a fully authentic, highly accurate representation of my original works. The cards are soft and warm to the touch, shuffle very well and I believe will be most durable when in regular use due to their individual lamination. The cards are a bit heavier and thicker than common playing cards, adding to their extravagant appeal as a unique artifact. Also, I find that by adding a pencil signature and serial number on each card, this unique erotic Tarot Deck becomes all the more appealing because the serial number "2" will always characterize the cards as an intimate token of my work and set them apart from later instances.
My cards are 7 cm x 12 cm in size, have rounded corners and weigh 5.0 g each. Both sides of the cards are covered in unobtrusive clear film and each card bears a hand-written signature and serial number.
The material costs per set are: 15.70 EUR
The packaging and shippings costs per set are: 18.15 EUR
The labor for manufacturing the set is recorded at: 4 hours 56 minutes
The labor for packaging and shipping the set is estimated at: 1 hour
I provide a detailed break-down of the material cost and labor below.
My handmade erotic Tarot Card Deck goes at the price of 111 EUR
Full Process Description
In the following, I will present a detailed overview of my process, the materials and inputs used and the different manufacturing steps I employ to create my 78 erotic Tarot cards. I think that this description can be very insightful if you want to get a precise idea of my manual manufacturing process or if you consider creating your own playing cards.
Also, if you consider adding my handmade Erotic Tarot Card deck to your distinguished collection of rare and unique Tarot cards, the following part will tell you exactly what you will get.
Materials and Inputs
Please note that my material choices are derived from meticulous experiments and application tests I have performed in my artistic practice throughout the last two and a half years and are not intended as advertisement for any supplier per se.
For all the consumption materials, I will list the material costs and summarize the collected material cost at the end of this chapter.
The front of the cards correspond to my 78 "Coven of Corals" Tarot artworks which I created throughout the year 2021. You can read all about this artistic journey here.
For the back of the cards, I have designed an artwork based on the "Coven of Corals"-themed wrapping paper which I previously used in my Erotic Postcard Collection. I adapted the artwork in such a way that it is symmetrical both horizontally and vertically, which means that you cannot tell the orientation of a card from the back - which is important if you want to do a Tarot reading, where the orientation of cards is seen as carrying information. (Strictly speaking, you only need one axis of symmetry to hide the up/down orientation). In the first iteration of my cards, I used coloured cardboard for the back of the cards and printed the back design in black and white only. This time, I switched to a different paper for the back (see below) and printed the design in full colour. I also introduced a slightly darker, vertical stripe on the back - you will see why I did that later!
Print Template (6 cards per sheet)
For the front and back of the cards, I have devised a print template in SKETCH that accommodates 6 cards on a single sheet of paper. The two sheets are then glued together and cut afterwards. I have devised the template in such a way that 7 cuts are sufficient to cut all 6 cards, and the motifs on the back have a "full bleed" sizing, meaning that the print area for each image is slightly bigger than the respective cut size - so when you cut the paper, the image goes right to the edge of the paper.
As always, I use my EPSON ET-7750 5-colour photo printer, an incredibly economic device which yields astounding print quality. The printer uses ink bottles (not cartridges) which last very long and can be replaced quite economically. I will make a simple estimate that printing a complete set of Tarot cards incurs material costs and value depreciation corresponding to 1 Euro. It is certainly not 100 % correct, but I guess it is also not very far from the truth.
Printing cost per card deck: 1.00 EUR
With both front and back, I use DIN A4 sized paper, by far the most abundant paper format in Germany (21 cm x 29.7 cm), increasing my options to sample paper types and find economic purchasing solutions.
For the front of the cards, I use white, double-sided, matte coated photo paper (130g/sqm) by Photo Paper Direct. What I like about this paper is that it yields a very accurate, detailed representation of my artworks without any blur or colour distortion. Also, the paper has a very smooth and elegant finish - I also used it for the first handmade prints of my Erotic Art Book.
Printing a whole card deck of 78 cards requires 13 sheets of this paper.
Material cost: 1.79 EUR
For the back of the cards, I use off-white BIOTOP 3 copier paper (250g/sqm). This paper was recommended to me by a fellow artist and does have astounding print qualities indeed, given that it is marketed as copier paper. Also, it is very soft to the touch and feels like an elastic cardboard. Notably, this paper is significantly lighter than the coloured cardboard I used with my first iteration, while offering a similar level of rigidity.
Printing a whole card deck of 78 cards requires 13 sheets of this paper.
Material cost: 0.78 EUR
With the first iteration of my cards, I used double-sided glue film to join the front and back panels of the cards. With this iteration, I switched to a solvent-free glue stick. My motivation was to decrease the overall thickness and weight of the cards, to reduce material costs and also to make the process more convenient and less error-prone. When using glue stick, it is a bit easier to precisely fit the front and the back of the cards together because there is some 'wiggle room' before the glue dries. Also, it reduces a process step which requires me to fumble the protective layer off the glue film, a process which can be a bit unpredictable because sometimes it takes me ages to find a corner or an edge where the film can be removed. With the glue stick, it is all pretty straightforward and fail safe.
I use two glue sticks for an entire card set.
Material cost: 2.80 EUR
My cards are laminated from both sides, so the paper is covered with a protective film. I think that's a very important feature to protect the cards from water and dirt, makes them more durable and also more usable: After all, the protective film can make the cards shuffle more smoothly.
However, this step is also arguably the most complicated one and also the one I put the most research in so far. The big question is: How can I properly seal my cards, but at the same time make sure that the cards still feel nice to the touch and don't lose their visual artistic quality? Also, I am eager to find a process which does not require me to build a factory first, although I am getting close already.
Of course the first idea that comes to mind are readily available laminating pouches which are super convenient because you can simply slide the paper in there without worrying about alignment too much. Also, they are not particularly expensive. The hot laminator melts the laminating film so the paper is fully sealed.
I tried several process variants with laminating pouches where I laminate a full sheet of 6 cards and cut the cards afterwards. While in principle, this process variant is clearly the most efficient and convenient, the results are not satisfactory, for the following reasons:
- With laminating pouches, the thinnest film available on the market is 80 microns, which, if you add that to the thickness of the cards on both sides, is just a lot of plastic. So when you touch the cards, they do not feel like paper anymore, and they are cold to the touch.
- With clear laminating pouches, the result often looks somewhat cheap, in that the cards will have a shiny, reflective surface.
- With matte laminating pouches, the cards lose a lot of brilliance, saturation and visual clarity - so it is detrimental to their artistic value.
- Generally, when laminating a full sheet of 6 cards and cutting the cards later, there will be cutting edges - and the laminating film will be prone to come off at these edges, especially when the cards are shuffled a lot.
Luckily, I found a very good alternative to laminating pouches: Masking film - a very thin, clear, and self-adhesive film which is used either to protect art prints or to cover sections of a drawing in air brush art. This film is completely transparent and does not reduce the luminosity of the print at all. Also, it is soft, unobtrusive and warm to the touch, so the cards still feel like paper. This film comes in the shape of a roll so I need to cut it into shape. With the first iteration of my set, I used this film to cover the whole DIN A4 sized sheets before cutting. I then sealed the edges with a soldering iron. However, I find soldering irons somewhat scary to be honest and would not want to rely on using this tool too much.
So this time I cut the cards first and then laminated each card individually: I cut the masking film into tiny envelopes which I then folded around each card. This means that the long edges are sealed perfectly. For the short edges, I added some extra height to the envelope so it folds onto itself. Each card is then run through the hot laminator, making the film even smoother and sealing the top and bottom by melting the film. I manually cut the superfluous film from the top and bottom of the cards and I think the result is pretty neat.
Of course, my folding method means that there is a slight overlap of laminating film on the back of the cards. Visually, I compensated for this by introducing a dark stripe to the back design. Considering that each method comes with some sort of disadvantage, I figured that this disadvantages is a very honest one which can be easily assessed and understood by a card user.
The masking film comes in a 30 cm x 546 cm roll, I use 86 % of that for one Tarot set. This corresponds to material costs of:
Material cost: 9.33 EUR
I got a really cheap and simple hot laminator from a local office supply store, I did spent around 20 Euros on it. I think hot laminating devices are readily available in many generic versions and there probably is not much to distinguish the individual types. Mine has one (1) button, I really like that.
Previously, I used only a metal ruler and utility knife to cut my cards - which has many advantages. First, it is relatively cheap. While it makes sense to spend some money on a good ruler, I find that even the most basic utility knife from a DIY store does a very good job, as long as you replace the blades immediately when you notice they are getting blunt (the paper will bulge at the cutting edge). Second, it is very precise - and quick, too!
However, I find this process not very convenient ergonomically: Repeatedly applying pressure with the hand slightly angled strained my wrist a lot, specifically since the paper is relatively thick.
That is why I opted to acquire a cutting machine! First, I tried a "guillotine" style cutting machine, which did not prove very helpful for my application - particularly because it is very difficult to maintain a fine, straight cutting edge while moving the blade downwards. I returned the machine and got a rotary cutter instead which is very much to my satisfaction and makes cutting a lot more convenient. The design of the machine makes it very easy to determine the exact positioning of the cutting edge. The machine is the most basic variety of a rotary cutter offered by that supplier, but it is super reliable and very well designed in terms of usability. It costs about 30 Euros.
Corner Rounding Punch
About a year ago, I acquired a very simple corner rounding punch for a couple of Euros to step into the corner rounding game, and I liked it. It is a very small, handheld device, the trigger can be operated with the thumb. If you use it a lot, though (rounding the corners of 78 Tarot cards corresponds to 312 punches), it overly strains the thumb. Also, it will fail maybe 1 in 10 times, resulting in re-work.
I researched table-top corner rounding stamps with a lever, but these have apparently not entered the consumer segment yet: The only devices available are industrial tools in the price range of 1000 - 1500 Euros.
However, I spotted another small, handheld device which appears to have become a darling of worldwide corner rounding enthusiasts, the nifty Sunstar Kadomaru Pro (you had me at Japanese engineering). It is about two times the price I spent for my previous corner rounder punch, but up to now, it is 100% reliable and also much more ergonomic to use, because I can use the base of my hand to push down the lever instead of only my thumb. Five stars, easily!
This time around, I recorded the entire manufacturing process to get a precise estimate of the time it takes to finish the individual steps - I will list that data below. I use a point-and-shoot Sony DSC RX100 III camera which I bought on Ebay earlier this year. It is well known as the "Vlogger Camera" and does a phantastic job. I also use a Kodak ring light and a custom tripod which I made from a metal easel to allow for a 90° overhead shoot (you can buy such a device, too).
Below, I will list the material costs for all the consumption materials I use for one complete set of 78 Tarot cards:
|Photo Paper (front), 13 sheets
|Copier Paper (back), 13 sheets
|Masking film (30 cm x 468 cm)
|Glue Stick (2 pieces)
|Ink and Printer Depreciation
For postage reasons, I send my Erotic Tarot Card Deck via regular mail, with shipment tracking. The entire set weighs 420 g without packaging which makes it more economic to split it among two shipments. Here is a summary of my packaging and shipping costs:
|Paper packaging for card set
|Cardboard envelopes (2)
|Address label (2)
|Postage (international, 2)
|Shipment tracking (international, 2)
Total material and shipping costs: 33.85 Euros
Here is a description of my manufacturing steps in chronological order. I will state the time I need for each process step and provide a summary of the labor at the end of the section. Generally, I have attempted to structure the process in such a way that most operations can be conducted in bulk and that each individual step is easy, ergonomically convenient and generates a reliable outcome (did anyone say assembly line?). I illustrate the steps with stills from my process recording.
I print the 26 sheets on the corresponding paper types.
Duration: 60 Minutes
I use glue stick to join the front and back sheets of the cards. The joined sheets are then pressed and dried for several hours (the waiting time is not counted as labor).
Duration: 40 Minutes
I use a rotary cutter to cut the previously glued sheets into 6 cards each.
Duration: 27 Minutes
4) Masking Film: Subdivide into sections
As a prerequisite for creating little envelopes of masking film, I first divide the masking film into sections of 12 cm width using a pencil and a reference card.
Duration: 6 Minutes
5) Masking Film: Cut Stripes
Using a rotary cutter, I cut the masking film into 39 stripes of 12 cm width each according to the measurements drawn in step (4).
Duration: 5 Minutes
6) Masking Film: Cut Stripes into halves
I cut the 39 stripes of masking film into halves along the long edges, creating 78 sheets of 12 cm x 15 cm to envelope the individual cards with.
Duration: 8 Minutes
7) Signing the cards
Using 3B pencil, I hand-sign all the individual cards with a serial number "2" and my name "KRUPPA" on their back. In order not to break symmetry, I rotate the cards by 180 ° and repeat the process.
Duration: 22 Minutes
8) Laminating individual cards
Using the small sheets of masking film generated in steps (4) - (6), I laminate each card individually by wrapping the masking film around the card, covering the long edges.
Duration: 65 Minutes
9) Hot Laminating
I run the 78 cards through the hot laminator to smoothen the surface and seal the short edges.
Duration: 13 Minutes
10) Fine cut for short edges
Using a rotary cutter, I remove the extra film at the short edges of the cards after laminating
Duration: 28 Minutes
11) Rounding Corners
Using a corner rounding punch, I round the corners of each card.
Duration: 22 Minutes
Here is a summary of the labor I put into the various process steps.
|Masking Film: Measurements
|Masking Film: Cut sections
|Masking Film: Cut sections in halves
|Laminating Cards (individually)
In total, the labor corresponds to 4 hours and 56 minutes.
Packaging and shipping takes approximantely another hour.
Thank you for reading!
If you would like to become the owner of this card set, feel free to reach out via my contact form!