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21
Deck Reviews! / Pictorial Review: Designs by Kiran Kuruvithadam (Murphy's Magic)
« Last post by EndersGame on November 14, 2017, 10:06:35 PM »
*** MORE MARVELLOUS DECKS FROM MURPHY'S MAGIC ***

Murphy's Magic

Murphy's Magic was formed by Mark Murphy in 1998, and it is strictly a wholesale magic dealer.  That means: individuals can't purchase directly from Murphy's Magic, because they only sell in bulk quantities to authorized dealers.  So if you see something on their site that you like, you can't purchase individual items directly from them, but need to ask your local magic dealer.  But that's not necessarily a bad thing, because Murphy's Magic produces and sells an enormous range of magic products which they sell to magic dealers around the world, and they have a huge network of contacts in the retail industry.  Their website is a terrific resource with tons of information about their products, which include all things magical: magic kits, magic tricks, card tricks, DVDs, books, gags & jokes, puzzles, juggling, playing cards, accessories, and more.



Murphy's Playing Cards

But what really interests me is the fact that Murphy's Magic also produces their own playing cards. Under the leadership of the director of New Product Development, Jason Brumbalow, multiple decks of playing cards have been developed for Murphy's Magic. In this review series I'll be covering some of their specialty playing cards, including the Wonder deck, Tangram deck, and Papilio Ulysses deck, which is their newest release. But they also sell a wide range of playing cards from other publishers, and I'll also be reviewing one of the other decks they stock, namely the Blue Steel deck from Bocopo. All of these decks of playing cards are available from Murphy's Magic dealers, and since many retailers that sell magic or who specialize in custom playing cards often rely on Murphy's Magic for their products, this means that these decks should all be readily available from a variety of sources.




*** DESIGNS BY KIRAN KURUVITHADAM ***

Tangram Playing Cards

Tangram Playing Cards was a project created by KKD Playing Cards.  The acronym KKD refers to designer Kiran Kuruvithadam, who lives in Switzerland.  It was produced by Murphy's Magic, and is a relatively new release that has only recently hit the market. 

When I first saw this deck, the first thing I thought was: Why didn't someone think of this earlier?  Perhaps someone did, but this is the first deck I've personally seen which uses tangrams as a theme throughout the deck. 



Most people will already be familiar with the classic tangram, which is an ancient Chinese puzzle in which seven flat shapes (tans) are rearranged in to make different pictures, using all the pieces and without any overlapping.  Here are some examples of tangram puzzles:



Tangrams have also been called "The Seven Stones of Wisdom" (as mentioned on the side of the tuck box), because it was said that mastering the seven pieces of this geometrical puzzle was key to the acquisition of wisdom.  Many cardistry decks have explored geometric shapes (the famous Virtuoso being a well-known example), so a deck that works with geometric shapes inspired by tangrams is a very natural and obvious fit for cardistry.  We've also seen puzzles and games brought to cards before - for example the Knights deck by Daniel Madison and Chris Ramsay has a chess theme, and this deck was a partial inspiration behind the Tangram deck - but applying the tangram puzzle to a deck of playing cards is both clever and new.



Called the "Sea Edition", this deck of playing cards employs the greens and blues of ocean colours throughout.  The box cover features the basic tangram design where all the seven pieces have been placed into a square, above an aquatic horizon.  As an extra thematic touch, the area surrounding  the square is not plain white, but is a tiled arrangement of tiny tangram pieces in white and grey shades.



The card back continues the aquatic theme, with the rectangular shaped main panel representing a green-blue pool made up of geometric tangram shapes, with two fish being the prominent points of interest.  Each fish (a tangram puzzle of its own!) has a trail of aqua water drops behind it, implying movement, and this also can accentuate swirls and patterns when doing flourishing manoeuvres.



As you'd expect, the court cards are completely customized, with the characters being composed entirely from the seven tangram shapes, with a mirror image of each as part of a two-way design. 



Pips have been customized and created in a similar fashion from tangram pieces, to create a thoroughly custom and geometric look for the entire deck.  They have been deliberately over-sized to ensure they are still recognizable. 

This is especially evident with the signature Ace of Spades, which has been created entirely from the seven standard tangram pieces.



The deck includes two Jokers which feature tangram shapes formed into a sail-boat.



Cardists will immediately be drawn to this geometric design, but the good thing is that most non-cardists will immediately recognize the tangram shapes as well.  This ensures that this is a very accessible deck that will speak to a variety of people, making it easier for cardists to showcase this deck even to those unfamiliar with strongly geometric designs.



Two extra cards come with the deck, one containing an actual tangram puzzle that you can cut into seven pieces.  The other card has pictures of more than 20 tangram challenges to try, including sea-creatures like a turtle, crab, and angel fish, and land animals like a mouse, rabbit, monkey, and rooster.



This deck was printed by industry giant USPCC, so the cards handle smoothly as you'd expect, and should prove durable.




Papilio Playing Cards (1st & 2nd edition)

Papilio is the Latin word for butterfly, and KKD's Swiss designer Kiran Kuruvithadam came up with the first version of this deck in 2016, the original version of which was funded on Kickstarter.



Kiran's goal was to create an entirely custom deck inspired by the elegance of the butterfly, with custom illustrated court cards and custom pips in keeping with this theme.  Fully customized Aces highlight the elegance of the butterfly theme, with pip designs inspired by butterfly wings.



The beautiful mirrored back design has a very recognizable and strong overall pattern, which is the hallmark of a well-designed card back.  Yet close observation also rewards the viewer with all kinds of wonderful details, with an abundance of butterfly wings throughout. It's both elegant and beautiful, and there is a strong circular shape in the card center emerges during twirls.



Despite the customization, the overall design was based on a standard deck, because Kiran's intention from the outset was to come up with a design that was not only fresh, but also familiar.  A deliberate attempt was made to ensure that the cards would be easily recognizable, and this is one of the strengths and appeal of this beautiful and elegant deck. 

I especially like the look of the court cards, which use metallic ink and a limited colour palette to create a very elegant look, that is both fresh and familiar.  Creating court cards that look somewhat standard and still customized is difficult to pull off well, but it's definitely worked here.



To ensure a relatively standard look, the number cards are almost completely traditional, but as a nod to the deck's butterfly theme, each has one customized pip which takes up the butterfly theme.



To ensure that the deck would be suitable for playing card games and for use in card magic, it also follows the classic formula of a 52 card deck with two matching jokers. The Jokers both feature a butterfly larva in a the form of a J.



Two gaff cards are also included, to offer extra appeal and potential for this deck in the hand of magicians.  Kiran has a background in magic, so magicians will be glad to know that because this deck was designed by a magician, careful thought has gone into ensure that it can function well in a performance, and offer clarity and good handling.



The second edition was produced by DiFatti magic in a print-run of 2500, and only made some minor changes (e.g. thinner white borders, redesigned tuck box, addition of metallic inks). 



See an official video trailer for version 2 of the deck here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=969Wcg0ga4U


Papilio Ulysses Playing Cards

This third edition of the Papilio deck, Papilio Ulysses Playing Cards, has just been produced by Murphy's Magic.  It was printed by United States Playing Card Company with a print-run of 3000, and this new edition of the deck now features aquatic/mint green as a central colour, which is already obvious from the new look of the tuck box.



In real life one might expect to spy the Papilio Ulysses in outdoor greenery, because that's where you'll find the creature that inspired this deck, the Papilio ulysses being a large blue swallowtail butterfly found in countries like Australia and Indonesia.



The side of the tuck box offers an inspirational phrase related to the theme: Alis volat propriis, which is Latin for "Fly with your own wings". 

The main change with this version is that the black of the card-backs has been replaced by an aquatic/mint green.  This has been printed with beautiful metallic ink which reflects in the light, and catches the eye much like the brilliance of the attractive butterfly wings that inspired it.



The pips on all the Aces pick up the butterfly theme, with intricate shapes that capture the delicacy of wings.



Touches of the aquatic/mint green colour have also been added to the court cards in places, to ensure a consistent look throughout the deck.



With touches of metallic gold combined with flashes of aquatic/mint green, the court cards look absolutely gorgeous!



Just as with the previous versions of the deck, the Papilio Playing Cards have been deliberately designed to look recognizable and functional.



However there are small elements that add sophistication and style.  Like the earlier editions, the number cards are basically standard, with the exception of a single customized pip, with a gorgeous and intricate butterfly-wing style design.



Besides two Jokers (each of which also has a dash of aquatic/mint green), two gaff cards are included: a double backer, and a duplicate 7 of Hearts.  There's a nice 7 of Hearts reveal on the tuck flap which gives added possibilities for magic routines with this extra card.  Overall this makes this version a more `magician friendly' deck than the previous versions, and reflects the designers own interest in magic.  The pips of the Aces have also been enlarged, making them even more suitable for ace-production routines.



To ensure a good handling experience, printing of all versions of the Papilio were by the United States Playing Card Company, makers of the famous Bicycle brand.

To see more, check out the official video trailer for Papilio Ulysses: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R6xw2w3k_Bg


*** CONCLUSIONS ***

What do I think?

Usable: Many custom playing cards that are published are especially geared towards collectors, and end up remaining in shrink-wrap or collecting dust.  That's not what you'll find happening with these decks from Murphy's Magic, because it's obvious that these are decks of playing cards that are designed to be used.  Whether in the hands of a cardist, magician, or card gamer, these decks are definitely created with the idea of people using them and playing with them.  Not only do they look beautiful, but they are also very functional.  Even though they all have some degree of customization, it is not to the point that the cards are rendered unplayable or unrecognizable to the average person.

Magician-friendly: Some of these decks are especially ideal for use by magicians.  That's evident by the fact that additional cards for use as gaffs have been included with the Papilio Ulysses deck, for example, which also has a card reveal on the tuck box.  The pips on this deck in particular have a hint of customization with a single pip featuring wing-style artwork, which adds enough to make the deck look sophisticated, yet without taking over the whole artwork for a totally customized and very unfamiliar look.  The Blue Steel deck is also a very practical working class style deck that is straight-forward and simple, and yet adds a small element of class beyond a standard Bicycle deck.

Cardistry-friendly: Some of these decks are especially ideal for use by card flourishers.   The bright colours and inspiring circular design of the Wonder deck will immediately grab the attention of cardists, who will see its potential for all kinds of flourishes, with the possibility it offers to create hynoptic and mind-bending moves.  The Tangram deck not only has card backs optimized for twirls and spins, but has the added advantage that the card faces have been designed purely with geometric shapes, a style that lends itself particularly well for cardistry.  While traditional pips and colours could distract from the movement of the card faces, the design of the Tangram cards actually promotes and accentuates and flourishes due to the creative design.

Wide range: I have previously reviewed more than half a dozen different decks produced by Murphy's Magic (link), and one thing I also appreciate about them is the wide range of diverse styles they offer.  Some of their playing cards offer a high degree of customization while remaining fully playable and usable for card magic, while others are geared completely to cardistry, and yet others again are more traditional and conservative in style.  If there's a style you're looking for or that suits your needs, they're almost certain to have something that will work for you, given the wide selection of decks they've created and that they offer.

Card quality: The decks I've seen from Murphy's Magic have all been of good quality.  While their tuck cases can be quite spectacular (e.g. Run deck, Revolution deck), the decks featured in this article are more standard.  The cards themselves are all printed by United States Playing Card Company (USPCC), who have earned a solid reputation as an industry leader through producing cards under their Bicycle brand.  Their cards are consistently of solid quality, and feature excellent handling, due to their air cushion style embossing and magic finish/coating.  As a result they handle smoothly, shuffle well, and work well for spreads and fans.

Affordable: With a recommended retail price of around US$10, these decks are typically cheaper than the usual deck of custom playing cards being produced these days.  Most custom decks that are produced with the help of crowd-funding tend to cost $12-15 at a minimum, sometimes even much more.  These decks from Murphy's Magic are not only practical, but they're also in a reasonable price range that makes them a more attractive for people looking for a customized deck that handles well and yet won't break the bank like some collectable playing cards will.



Recommendation

So are the decks of playing cards from Murphy's Magic for you?   If you're looking for practical playing cards that you can actually use for playing card games, performing card magic, or for card flourishing, you'll almost certainly find something that fits the bill, especially given their wide selection. 

With good looks and good handling, these decks continue Murphy's solid contribution to the custom playing card market, and I can continue to recommend them very positively.



The decks reviewed above are all available at your favourite Murphy’s Magic retailer. Want to learn more? Murphy's Magic: www.murphysmagic.com

Here are direct links for all the decks featured in this review:
- Tangram: http://www.murphysmagic.com/Product.aspx?id=60809
- Papilio Ulysses: https://www.murphysmagic.com/Product.aspx?id=60808
- Wonder: https://www.murphysmagic.com/Product.aspx?id=60594
- Blue Steel: https://www.murphysmagic.com/product.aspx?id=57513
22
Playing Card Plethora / AVALON Playing Cards by Natalia Silva
« Last post by intlgrrl on November 14, 2017, 09:50:35 PM »
https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/393497409/avalon-playing-cards/comments

 I'm really loving the artwork for this deck. Very different for this card designer!
23
Playing Card Plethora / Re: Your thoughts on quality/handling of NPCC decks?
« Last post by EndersGame on November 14, 2017, 07:10:48 PM »
I have just finished posting a seven-part series of reviews on decks from Noir Arts - links are below.  I've written detailed thoughts about the card quality and handling of the NPCC decks in the final article, so look there to read my own finding and thoughts on this at length.

Ender's pictorial review series: Dark art and more from Europe's artistic Noir Arts playing cards (NPCC)

Part 1: Playful decks - Geistreiz, and Carnaval De Muertos Playing Cards
Part 2: Light/Darkness decks - Indictus, and Dominus Playing Cards
Part 3: Design Imperator decks - Chivalry, and Midgard Playing Cards
Part 4: History/Culture decks - Branle, and Nipponia Playing Cards
Part 5: Dark Art decks - Memento Mori, and Bone/Ebon Playing Cards
Part 6: Memorable decks - Chernobyl Memorial, and Animagique Playing Cards
Part 7: Wrap-up - Other Decks, and Final Conclusions
24
Hi Don,

Ok, yes I see your point. They are

Split Spades Lions 1st Edition Blue  $40usd
Split Spades Lions 1st Edition Red  $40usd
Split Spades Lions 1st Edition Black  $40usd
Split Spades Lions Silver Edition  $30usd

I would sell the 4 decks together for $125usd.  All four decks are new and sealed. Shipping from Canada. Please enquire about shipping costs.  Please PM me if interested.
25
Hi guys,

Our latest playing card project, Sumi Playing Cards is now Live on Kickstarter.

A homage to Irezumi, the traditional Japanese tattoo art form, the Sumi Playing Cards faithfully emulates the iconic elements of ukiyo-e, fantastical mythological creatures, and Heroes of the Marsh to forge a visual playing card masterpiece like no other. A masterpiece bursting with symbolic significance at every twirl of the cards.

We have passed the HK$135,000 mark. With the unlocking of the third stretch goal, the Sumi Artist and Grandmaster deck will now include a foiled sticker seal. We will be announcing our 4th stretch goal tomorrow. Stayed tuned for the next Sumi Playing Cards update on Kickstarter.













Link to the Sumi Playing Cards:
https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/cardexperiment/sumi-playing-cards?ref=6uzs9b

26
Deck Reviews! / Pictorial Review: Other decks & Final conclusions (Noir Arts)
« Last post by EndersGame on November 14, 2017, 09:02:39 AM »
***  Unique Playing Cards from Noir Arts ***

The name Noir Arts already indicates that this publisher of playing cards appreciates art, which is confirmed by their tag line: "We are Arts!  Unique playing card designs".  Based in Ukraine, the people involved with Noir Arts have been producing beautiful playing cards for the local Ukrainian market under the label Noir Playing Card Company (NPCC) already since 2005.  Noir Arts was officially formed in 2014, when they expanded to begin producing playing cards for the worldwide community.  Under the leadership of Roman Kotiv, they began by designing their own decks, and soon began cooperating with talented independent artists and design studios from around the world.   Noir is French for "black", and so quite a number of their decks are more dark in theme, but you will also find more playful decks in their portfolio as well.  They have a diverse portfolio of custom playing cards with varied styles, but what they all have in common is that they are artistic.

In addition to creating an impressive range of playing cards under their own design, Noir Arts  offers a printing and fulfilment service under their original name NPCC, to create and print custom decks of playing cards for other designers and creators.  In this series of reviews, I have been showcasing some of the custom playing cards Noir Arts has produced, to give an overview of their work and style, and a glimpse of the artistic talent that is evident from their portfolio.  This is the final installment of this series, and so I will wrap up these reviews by offering some lengthy concluding comments about their card quality and handling, plus a more detailed comparison with other publishers.  But first, a brief overview on other decks and services that Noir Arts has.




*** OTHER DECKS & SERVICES ***

More Specialty Decks

The previous reviews don't make up an exhaustive list of decks that have been produced by Noir Arts.  A few other projects they have been involved in to varying degrees include the following:

The Chess and Chess Limited Edition decks (2014) have cards inspired by the game of chess.  This project began with drawings by George Sikes and Eric Siddall, and features cards that can actually be used to play chess, when used with a custom game board.



The Demon and the Demon Limited Edition decks (2014) picture demons from the underworld, with artwork by Egor Klyuchnyk.  For this project, Noir Arts partnered with Anomaly World Studio.  This was one of the very first Kickstarter projects successfully funded and produced by Noir Arts.



The Defunctorum Nox and Defunctorum Dies decks (2015) were a pair of black/Night and white/Day decks, with a style typical of dark art.  Published as an add-on to the original project was a Defunctorum Cruor Edition (= Bloody), and while this deck is more macabre, the addition of extra colours makes this arguably the most stunning of the three.



 The Asylum, Back to the Asylum and Asylum Inmate decks (2015)  are designed to have court cards that look like they were made by asylum inmates.  Many will find the blood stains and the graphic nature of some of these cards quite disturbing.  This series of decks was originally created by Serbian artist Milan Colovic, and after an initial campaign for Asylum that was run by Ed Nash's Altius Management failed to deliver and even ended up in legal hot water, Milan was finally able to make the project a reality with the help of NPCC.



The HorRoar! deck (2017) is a newly released horror-themed deck which was produced in collaboration with Ace Collectable Cards.  It brings together  vampires, werewolves, ghosts and witches on cards which have a black background with touches of moonlight.  With jet black cards, the use of vivid red and white for the pips and backgrounds of the characters ensures a look that confront you with the shocking unpleasantries of the horror genre, so this is certainly not a deck for everyone.



Noir Arts is continuing to add to their portfolio on a regular basis, an example being the Matra Collection, which is a series of three decks dedicated to Hindu deities.
 
Souvenir Decks

In addition to the higher quality poker-sized playing cards featured above, NPCC also produces locally branded souvenir decks for the Ukrainian market.  These are typically bridge sized decks, and their content means that they will mainly be of interest to locals.  They are also budget quality style decks, with no embossed paper-stock, so they won't handle or last like a premium deck of cards - but this is also reflected in a much cheaper cost.

You can see some examples here, here and here, although do realize that many of these decks are branded with the names of the client companies they produced these for.

I managed to check out one of these many decks, entitled Forts and Castles of Western Ukraine  (Фортецi та замки захiдноi Украiни), which was a 54 card deck similar to what is shown here.



The card-backs of this particular deck have a busy design with a medley of crests, but the card faces look absolutely beautiful, with water-colour style images of various forts and castles from throughout parts of Ukraine.



The face cards and the Aces are marked with the Ukrainian letters that correspond to the Ukrainian rank names, with К for the King, Д for the Queen, В for the Jack, and T for the Ace.



One particularly nice thing about these souvenir decks is that even the number cards have their own full sized artwork, so every single card in the deck is colourful and entirely customized - making it beautiful to look through.



As mentioned already, the card quality of these souvenir decks is cheap - while they have very clean edges, the cards feel quite thin, smooth, and paper-like.  These characteristics are of course fairly standard for a souvenir style deck, and since they come at a very low price-point, it's not reasonable to expect anything different anyway.  All things considered, these are attractive products, and well done.

Printing Services

As well as produce their own decks, Noir Arts offers a fulfilment/printing service for people wanting to make their own decks under their label NPCC, and this will especially prove to be of interest to many creators of playing cards.  NPCC advertises themselves as providing "all-in-one solution from design to final product".  Not only can they assist artists and creators in bringing their designs to print, but they can also take care of the complete fulfilment side of things, including packaging and delivery.

From the all the decks I've covered in the previous reviews in this series, there's no doubt that Noir Arts has a wide range of skills when it comes to special features on cards, which includes all the usual glamour options like custom seals, embossing, foil (130 colours & patterns), and metallic inks.  They also can provide the kind of add-ons common in many crowd-funded projects, such as wooden dice, boxes, metal coins, poker chips, certificates, and more.

So how much do they charge for printing an order of their higher quality custom playing cards?  A friend of mine recently had a quote for printing a deck, and it turns out that this can depend on a very large number of factors. These include the card design (colours, number of inks, colour of metallic inks, difficulty of embossing pattern), tuck features (card-stock, shape of custom seal, number and colour of foils), and the quantity being produced.  Fulfilment is a separate cost and NPCC uses and recommends registered ai­rmail with tracking worldwide; obviously shipping costs and exchange rates can also fluctuate.  Even so, the final cost of production and fulfilment should in most cases end up well under $10 a deck.

Often designers and creators turn by default to industry leaders like United States Playing Card Company (USPCC), or the cards produced in Taiwan by Legends Playing Card Company (LPCC) and Expert Playing Card Company (EPCC). Make Playing Cards (MPC) is another popular choice, especially for producing decks of playing cards in lower quantities.  It's good to know that there are other alternatives to consider, and undoubtedly this will be of real interest to many designers.




*** CONCLUSIONS ***

Overall

Unique: Many of the Noir Arts decks of playing cards feature a very unique art-style that you won't find in many other places.  I especially liked the playful Geist deck, which is a good example of this.  The dark art style of some of their decks will be disturbing to some, but it is certainly unique, and creative in its own way.  But the level of innovation goes far beyond the style of the artwork - the tuck boxes are also very unique and stylish, and make the Noir Arts decks stand out from the average deck of custom playing cards.

Dark: Quite a number of the Noir Arts decks feature dark themes, with skeletons and blood featured in several of these decks.  Perhaps isn't surprising given that "Noir" means black, and that they appear to have a fondness for the dark art genre.  This is especially evident in the Light Versus Darkness series from Nicolai Aaroe, and in other decks like Memento Mori and the Bone/Ebon series.  Some people (including me) will find some of the playing cards they produce rather unsettling and unsavoury.  Fortunately it's a simple matter to avoid those decks if you are so inclined.  Just be sure to do your research and know what you're getting in advance, rather than make a purchase only to get an unfortunate surprise when you open the deck.

Non-dark: Fortunately not all the Noir Arts decks are in the dark art genre, and they have also produced plenty of decks that are bright and cheerful as well.  The Geistreiz deck is a good example of a vibrant deck that has its own distinctive style, and where the bright red/pink and blue colours ensure that it feels energetic and playful.  Similar comments could be made about decks like the Carnaval de Muertos deck, which is very lively and cheerful - despite its darker subject material.  And there are plenty of decks in the Noir Arts range that wouldn't be considered dark or bright, but are simply attractive decks in their own right, like the Chernobyl Memorial decks, and even the Animagique ones.

European flavour: Noir Arts is based in Europe, and many of these decks have a real European style and feel about them.  Even though the designers of the artwork featured in these decks are sourced from around the world, there is a very definite flavour that fits with the Noir Arts vision and style, and it's hard to imagine some of these decks being produced in America!  I find that refreshing and appealing.  It can only be good to have more competition in the world of custom playing cards, both in terms of the creators as well as the producers.  If the playing card industry was limited to contributors from a certain demographic or culture, it would eventually feel somewhat stale, so having creations from other parts of the world injects different flavours and influences and ensures welcome variety.

European source: These decks are produced in Ukraine, which for many of us may seem somewhat of an unexpected source for custom playing cards.  I have no idea about the standards of manufacturing in Eastern Europe, and can only judge by the goods themselves, which generally speaking are quite satisfactory.  The decks were all individually shrinkwrapped, and came packed in a cardboard box -  my only complaint here is that in my experience the shipping of the package from Ukraine took a long time.

Partners: In producing decks, Noir Arts partners with a variety of artists whose talent they have sourced from around the world.  Some of their decks have similar themes and styles since they are by the same artist, like the ones by Nicolai Aaroe from Denmark.  Others like their Carnaval De Muertos and Mantra decks have been designed in house by Ukrainian artists.  But a range of different artists from around the globe is represented in their portfolio.

Tuck boxes: One thing that really impressed me from the outset is the high quality of Noir Arts' remarkable tuck boxes.  From pictures I'd seen online before seeing their decks in person, I was expecting something merely average, so I was quite blown away by how good they looked in reality.  They make significant use of foil and embossing, but it isn't just pure bling - it's also very stylish and well-crafted.  To my surprise, these were among some of the nicest tuck boxes I'd ever seen!  The seals are also heavily customized, and these are often oversized and feature unique shapes and styles that fit with the overall themes of the decks.  My favourite is probably the luxuriously gold foiled and jet black Dominus Obscura tuck box, but the matching Indictus tuck boxes are also terrific.  The Memento Mori tuck boxes are very lavish, and the design of the new Midgard decks also looks very classy.  The limited edition of the Chernobyl deck has a faux rust look which is especially eye-catching.  Many of the tuck boxes feature full interior printing - in some cases with luxurious foil!  Certainly it has to be said that the quality and looks of the Noir Arts tuck boxes is outstanding, and makes an immediate impression of luxury and quality, which in many cases even exceeds that of some of their bigger name competitors.  Whatever you think about NPCC, they certainly do make killer tuck boxes!

Printing/Fulfilment service: The fact that Noir Arts offers a printing/fulfilment service for crowd-funding project creators will be welcome news for designers of custom playing cards looking to get their projects into the hands of the public, as an alternative resource to consider besides the usual big players in the industry.  It depends of course on what you are looking for.  While not the best choice for card magic or card flourishing, I think the quality is quite satisfactory for those making a custom deck just for collectors or for playing card games.  And unlike LPCC/EPPC, which have 54 card decks as a standard, the NPCC decks typically contain 56 cards (like USPCC decks), so having two extra cards adds extra possibilities for designers.



The cards

Reputation: An important question for consumers in the custom playing card industry will be what the Noir Arts cards are like.  From comments I've seen in forums and elsewhere, NPCC's reputation hasn't always been exactly stellar.  They haven't usually been considered an industry leader alongside bigger names like USPCC, or even Taiwanese printers like LPCC and EPCC.  From what I can gather, this reputation is largely a result of their earlier products, which don't measure up to the quality of what they have been producing in the last couple of years.  I'd be the first to admit that their older decks aren't of a standard that most readers here would be happy with - they don't always fan or spread evenly, and can be a little clumpy or sticky; some early decks didn't even have embossed card-stock. However it's not fair to judge Noir Arts' current output based only on their initial offerings, especially if they have made efforts to improve.   It takes a long time to earn a good reputation, and the only thing NPCC can do is produce quality playing cards today, and hope that new customers and consumers will give them a chance to prove themselves with their current level of quality.

Improvement: I've had opportunity to look at a very wide range of decks produced by NPCC, and it has to be admitted that the quality of their decks from 2015 and earlier is inferior to their later decks.  The Chess decks from 2014, for example, weren't even embossed, and while the GeistReiz decks from 2015 had embossed card-stock, they don't handle quite as smoothly as the newer decks.  But with decks produced in 2016 and onwards, starting with the Chivalry decks, NPCC seems to have started to sort themselves out.  All the decks from 2016 and 2017 that I've used were more satisfactory, and close to the quality of decks I've seen from MPC.  It seems to me that they really started hitting their stride in 2016, and it's from that point on that the tuck boxes and card quality really seems to be of a standard that we'd expect as a bare minimum in the custom playing card industry, making them a legitimate contributor in the marketplace.

 Card Quality: For the cards themselves, Noir Arts uses only high quality cardstock - German black-core linen 310gsm card-stock, which is also the top pick used by Make Playing Cards (link).  A couple of their earlier decks (Animagique, Asylum, Branle) have a very different and almost plastic-coated feel, because Noir Arts was briefly experimenting with a different German card-stock that wasn't quite the same level of quality.   But all the decks I've seen from recent years feature quality paper card-stock.   Card connoisseurs will know the importance of embossing and coating, in order to ensure smooth handling and shuffling, and Noir Arts has told me that they continue to work on improving the formula they use for coating their cards, to ensure the optimum amount of slip and durability.   They also aren't afraid to innovate, and in the case of their amazing Branle Tesoro deck, they've even used double foil for the backs of the cards, as well as on the tuck box, besides an inlaid synthetic gemstone on the inside.  The cards are all embossed with an air cushion style finish.  Many of the card backs have thin borders, but the printing registration is consistently even - even better than USPCC decks in my opinion, which can sometimes be off center - so the backs like very nice.  Quite a few of the decks use metallic inks, which adds to the visual appeal. Overall the card quality seems quite decent, and the printing is good.

Card handling: The first thing that immediately strikes you when you hold a deck of Noir Arts playing cards in your hands is how smooth the edges are - even smoother than decks produced by LPCC/EPCC, which I didn't think was even possible!  It's the smoothest I've ever felt in a deck. At first I wondered if they were laser cut, but apparently that is not the case.  A straight laser cut would mean that the edges aren't bevelled and that the cards can't be weaved together in a faro shuffle, but the Noir Arts decks do have a modern cut and it is certainly possible to do a faro shuffle without too much difficulty; especially when worn in a little.  If you're an experienced card flourisher, you'll immediately notice some differences in how they handle compared with USPCC or LPCC/EPCC produced decks, because they have a different feel and response.  The cards have a real snap and spring, and feel firm, with a stiffness somewhat similar to the Diamond/Master finishes from LPCC/EPCC. And like decks from LPCC/EPCC, the cards seem slightly clingy, which means that there is a slightly higher degree of friction between them.  I didn't find them as clumpy initially as some people have reported, but the higher degree of friction is certainly evident, and they're not as smooth as other high end decks.  I suspect this is a combination of two factors: embossing and coating.  My impression is that the coating they use doesn't match the quality of the coating used by USPCC and LPCC/EPCC, and this means that their performance isn't as good.  This does has some advantages, because it makes them especially excellent for doing cuts and moves involving packets of cards, which stay together well, and it also makes doing very clean double lifts easier.  While they fan and spread reasonably evenly out of the box, it's not anywhere as slick as other high end decks, and it does deteriorate over time.

Card durability: One concern I've heard about from others is that NPCC cards aren't durable, and that the handling deteriorates over time.  To be fair, the quality of their decks has improved over the years, as they've worked at upgrading their printing processes, so newer decks will perform better than older decks.  But are the newer decks satisfactory?  While the paper stock is good, it seems to me that the finish needs more work, and the combination of embossing and coating doesn't quite live up to the high standard necessary for card flourishing or card magic.  Some people have reported some clumping happening when handling the cards initially, but this wasn't my experience. I did find that while they performed fairly good out the box, a bit of breaking in did make faros and fans work even better.  But after a few hours of use, fans and spread were no longer as consistent, unlike what you see with USPCC or LPCC/EPCC decks.  The cards do quite a bit of spring and snap, which normally indicates that they should go the distance, so the paper stock certainly will last, but with heavy use, you can expect to see some clumping and sticking of cards.  They certainly outperform cheap department store decks, so I wouldn't consider it poor quality, and it certainly fine for playing card games, and standard shuffling and handling.  But they don't quite live up to the exacting standards required by cardistry or magic, where consistency and durability are essential.

How do they compare?  The big question for a lot of people will be how NPCC produced decks compare with the bigger and well-known names in the playing card industry, especially USPCC, LPCC/EPCC, and MPC.  Are they a legitimate option to consider besides the usual contenders?  Using the common letter grades of common academic grading systems, I'd personally ranks USPCC and LPCC/EPCC as A-grade publishers, and MPC as a B-grade publisher.  Not everyone would agree, but in my own opinion (link) I think LPCC/EPCC ranks slightly ahead of USPCC both in terms of card quality and because of their level of innovation and the quality of their tuck boxes, so in the final analysis I'd consider LPCC/EPCC an A+ grade and USPCC an A grade.  The fact that USPCC decks don't always have consistent registration where borders can sometimes be slightly wider/narrower than the opposite side also accounts for making them my second choice.  But on the whole, project creators who use either source are unlikely to be disappointed.  MPC decks on the other hand don't handle quite as smoothly or evenly, and the general consensus of most creators/collectors is that they aren't quite as good, which is why I'd consider them a B-grade.  I'd rate Noir Arts decks about the same as MPC - they just don't handle as consistently or sweetly as USPCC/LPCC decks.  Like MPC decks, Noir Arts decks aren't a reliable choice for cardistry or card magic.  For the average person, they'll be quite satisfactory, and they'll outperform the typical "cheap" deck, hence the B-grade rating, but it's not top of the line.  However, Noir Arts produces absolutely stellar tuck boxes, and in my book that means they deserve a higher rating than MPC, so I'd upgrade my final rating for NPCC to a B+.  So in order, in my final analysis I'd rank these publishers as follows: A-grade: LPCC/EPCC (A+) and USPCC (A); B-grade: NPCC (B+) and MPC (B).

Who are they for? If you're getting these decks mostly as a collector, and because you like the tuck box, then I don't think you'll be disappointed.  For use in card games they also should be fine.  They'll not make the grade for most magicians, since they don't handle as sweetly as a USPCC or LPCC/EPCC deck, and because you can't count on consistent fans/spreads with heavy use.  Card flourishers will likely find NPCC decks inadequate, unless all you do are packet style cuts.  In short, I don't think the Noir Arts name should automatically make people stay away, because it depends on what the intended purpose of a deck is.  If it's an artistic deck for collectors, and the cards aren't likely to see much use, then I think Noir Arts would make a good choice - their skills in making superlative tuck boxes especially recommends them.  NPCC would not be my first choice for a deck designed firstly with card flourishing in mind, and even for card magic, but if it's a collector's type deck or even a creative or artistic deck designed to be used for playing card games, their quality should be just fine.  A fair assessment requires us to remember their roots, which is evident from their name: Noir Arts.  They are good at doing what was originally the genesis of their company, namely art.  If I'm hoping for a "real looker" that looks luxurious and impressive on the shelf, or in a card game, seeing the Noir Arts name associated with that would be an assurance of quality.

Where to get?  You can purchase Noir Arts decks from their webshop here.



*** Recommendation***

So is Noir Arts (NPCC) for you?  I came across Noir Arts and NPCC quite by accident, when exploring aspects the world of playing cards, but I'm very pleased that I did.  They have produced some stunning decks of their own, using the artistic talents of creators internationally.  In addition they provide what seems to be a good printing service for their many customers around their world.  Knowing that this is a source that can be used to produce playing cards and fulfil crowd-funded projects will mean that many designers of custom cards will want to take note of this option they might otherwise not know about.  As for the overall quality and handling of the cards, their quality is improving, although it doesn't match the best in the business like USPCC and LPCC/EPCC just yet, but is on par with second-tier publishers like MPC.  The Noir Arts tuck boxes, however, are typically much more exquisite and impressive than MPC, and are first-rate.

While not geared towards producing playing cards that will satisfy the highest quality and exacting standards demanded by cardistry or card magic, Noir Arts is certainly focused on creating decks with a more artistic look, which they present in very impressive and high quality tuck boxes.  Their playing cards cards have an air-cushion style finish and are of a quality that works well for playing card games or for collectors who admire an artistic style of deck.  If that's what you're looking for, then do check them, their range, and their services out!



Want to learn more?  Noir Arts: www.noir-arts.com

Web-store: https://shop.trycelery.com/page/shopnoirarts
Printing: https://noir-arts.com/npcc-info/



For reference, here are links to the entire series of seven articles:

Dark art and more from Europe's artistic Noir Arts playing cards (NPCC)
Part 1: Playful decks - Geistreiz, and Carnaval De Muertos Playing Cards
Part 2: Light/Darkness decks - Indictus, and Dominus Playing Cards
Part 3: Design Imperator decks - Chivalry, and Midgard Playing Cards
Part 4: History/Culture decks - Branle, and Nipponia Playing Cards
Part 5: Dark Art decks - Memento Mori, and Bone/Ebon Playing Cards
Part 6: Memorable decks - Chernobyl Memorial, and Animagique Playing Cards
Part 7: Wrap-up - Other Decks, and Final Conclusions
27
Deck Reviews! / Video Review: Karnival Fatal by Big Blind Media
« Last post by Magic_Orthodoxy on November 14, 2017, 08:18:59 AM »
Video review: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oFrpy2ol8bg

Brought to you by BigBlindMedia, the Bicycle Karnival Fatal Deck has the USPCC world famous Air Flow Finish for superb handling and unparalleled durability, and is printed on a beautiful stock. Beautiful double exposure artwork by Sam Hales of Dose Productions.


Find all of your favorite or hard to find cards here: https://rareplayingcards.com?rfsn=280990.3da4d
28
Deck Reviews! / Video Review: Arthurian by Kings Wild Project
« Last post by Magic_Orthodoxy on November 14, 2017, 08:16:00 AM »
Video review:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jIP5cDY7GqY

Inspiration:

The art for this deck is a reflection of the Book of Kells and the King Arthur legend

Tuck Case:

Premium grade soft touch crimson red paper with gold foil design of Excalibur seated in the magical anvil. Once the box is opened the legendary sword Excalibur is pulled from the anvil.

Playing Cards:

The playing cards are printed by the Expert Playing Card Company (China).

Find all of your favorite or hard to find cards here: https://rareplayingcards.com?rfsn=280990.3da4d
29
Deck Reviews! / Pictorial Review: Memorable Decks (Noir Arts)
« Last post by EndersGame on November 14, 2017, 04:12:21 AM »
***  Unique Playing Cards from Noir Arts ***

The name Noir Arts already indicates that this publisher of playing cards appreciates art, which is confirmed by their tag line: "We are Arts!  Unique playing card designs".  Based in Ukraine, the people involved with Noir Arts have been producing beautiful playing cards for the local Ukrainian market under the label Noir Playing Card Company (NPCC) already since 2005.  Noir Arts was officially formed in 2014, when they expanded to begin producing playing cards for the worldwide community.  Under the leadership of Roman Kotiv, they began by designing their own decks, and soon began cooperating with talented independent artists and design studios from around the world.   Noir is French for "black", and so quite a number of their decks are more dark in theme, but you will also find more playful decks in their portfolio as well.  They have a diverse portfolio of custom playing cards with varied styles, but what they all have in common is that they are artistic.

In addition to creating an impressive range of playing cards under their own design, Noir Arts  offers a printing and fulfilment service under their original name NPCC, to create and print custom decks of playing cards for other designers and creators.  In this series of reviews, I am showcasing some of the custom playing cards Noir Arts has produced, to give an overview of their work and style, and a glimpse of the artistic talent that is evident from their portfolio.  In the final installment of this series, I will also offer some lengthy concluding comments about their card quality and handling, plus a more detailed comparison with other publishers.  But for now, let's show you some of their lovely decks!




*** MEMORABLE DECKS ***

Chernobyl Memorial Playing Cards (2016)

To commemorate those affected by the devastating nuclear accident at Chernobyl in 1986, and to mark the 30th anniversary of this tragedy, the Chernobyl Memorial Premium edition deck was created.  A Chernobyl Memorial Limited edition of this deck (shown on the right) was also produced.



This pair of decks were produced by NPCC on behalf of a team called Misery Dev. Ltd., who had previously created two other decks (Decks of the Aftermath Vol. 1, and Black Market Playing Cards) that they printed with other publishers.  But a familiar name served as lead artist of the Chernobyl Memorial project, Nicolai Aarøe, who you will remember was also the creator of the Light and Darkness series covered earlier in this feature article.

The Premium edition is the main deck, and the tuck box immediately impresses you with its full interior art, which gives the visual impression an abandoned building, where paint is peeling off the ceilings and walls.



The court cards of both editions of the Chernobyl Memorial deck feature full colour and actual photographs of locations from the Zone, e.g. the swimming pool, hospital and power plant control room.



The values and pips are custom designed, and feature colours often found on the original wall paintings of the Pripyat buildings.


 
The jokers of this edition, which has green card backs in a Bicycle riderback inspired design, feature the two "Shadow Men" that are large wall paintings in the middle of the exclusion zone.



The Limited edition has an even more stunning tuck box.  Two types of foil have been used to simulate the illusion that parts of the box have been subject to heavy corrosion.



It looks just like rust, and it's only when you touch the box with your finger that the illusion is broken, and you realize that it's simply a very convincing illusion created by incredible artwork and clever design!



The limited edition deck has the same artwork and pip designs on the cards as the premium edition, but the colours of the suits have been adjusted, with red/brown more prominent.



This has been done to match the card backs, which are now brown instead of green.  The tuck box of this edition is further enhanced with embossing, and extensive use of gold foil - again the picture below doesn't do justice to how impressive this looks in person.



The Chernobyl Memorial decks are certainly unusual and memorable, and do an excellent job of capturing and evoking a sober and serious theme.  Collectors will absolutely adore the tuck box of the limited edition in particular, and gamers will enjoy using the heavily customized cards in card games, since they are functional as well as beautiful and memorable.


Animagique Playing Cards (2015)

Noir Arts doesn't only produce playing cards with a dark arts style, but also has made some other specialty decks that almost defy categorization, and the black Animagique Nox deck, and white Animagique Blanc decks is a good example.  They were created in a limited edition, each tuck box having an individually numbered seal, and colourful full interior printing.



The title Animagique is created by the fusion of the words animal and magical.

This set of two decks features animal fantasy in which each suit represents a different race of animal, depicted with anthropomorphic features.  Each suit also has its own colour.  Representing each of the four suits are the following:
Hearts: cats (red)
Spades: elephants  (blue)
Diamonds: primates (yellow)
Clubs: rhinos (green)



The stylish and detailed artwork has been created by Denis Sirotinin, using a digital painting technique.



The number cards have the standard indices of hearts/spades/diamonds/clubs familiar from traditional French suited cards.  However for the center of the cards, customized icons have been used: shields, roses, acorns, and bells.  These are the traditional suits of German suited cards, and have a long history in the world of playing cards.  With the Animagique deck they also add to the sense of immersion in a fantasy world.



The card backs are simple black and white, while the Jokers feature chameleons.



The companion Blanc deck has similar artwork to the Nox deck, but has cards with white borders and backs.  This creates a whole different look, although the enchanting artwork ensures that both versions match each other in charm.



The Animagique deck confirms that Noir Arts isn't just about dark art, but that they also have a playful side, and the ability to produce colourful and cheerful decks that amuse and entertain.  This deck will certainly make a great novelty item for playing card games with, or even for a collector who is intrigued and enchanted by the unusual and inspiring artwork on the cards.


*** Recommendation***

So is Noir Arts (NPCC) for you?  I came across Noir Arts and NPCC quite by accident, when exploring aspects the world of playing cards, but I'm very pleased that I did.  They have produced some stunning decks of their own, using the artistic talents of creators internationally.  In addition they provide what seems to be a good printing service for their many customers around their world.  Knowing that this is a source that can be used to produce playing cards and fulfil crowd-funded projects will mean that many designers of custom cards will want to take note of this option they might otherwise not know about.  As for the overall quality and handling of the cards, their quality is improving, although it doesn't match the best in the business like USPCC and LPCC/EPCC just yet, but is on par with second-tier publishers like MPC.  Look for more extensive comments on the card quality and handling, plus a more detailed comparison with other publishers, in the final article of this series.  The Noir Arts tuck boxes, however, are typically much more exquisite and impressive than MPC, and are first-rate.

While not geared towards producing playing cards that will satisfy the highest quality and exacting standards demanded by cardistry or card magic, Noir Arts is certainly focused on creating decks with a more artistic look, which they present in very impressive and high quality tuck boxes.  Their playing cards cards have an air-cushion style finish and are of a quality that works well for playing card games or for collectors who admire an artistic style of deck.  If that's what you're looking for, then do check them, their range, and their services out!



Want to learn more?  Noir Arts: www.noir-arts.com

Web-store: https://shop.trycelery.com/page/shopnoirarts
Printing: https://noir-arts.com/npcc-info/

30
Deck Reviews! / Pictorial Review: Dark Art decks (Noir Arts)
« Last post by EndersGame on November 13, 2017, 11:39:18 PM »
***  Unique Playing Cards from Noir Arts ***

The name Noir Arts already indicates that this publisher of playing cards appreciates art, which is confirmed by their tag line: "We are Arts!  Unique playing card designs".  Based in Ukraine, the people involved with Noir Arts have been producing beautiful playing cards for the local Ukrainian market under the label Noir Playing Card Company (NPCC) already since 2005.  Noir Arts was officially formed in 2014, when they expanded to begin producing playing cards for the worldwide community.  Under the leadership of Roman Kotiv, they began by designing their own decks, and soon began cooperating with talented independent artists and design studios from around the world.   Noir is French for "black", and so quite a number of their decks are more dark in theme, but you will also find more playful decks in their portfolio as well.  They have a diverse portfolio of custom playing cards with varied styles, but what they all have in common is that they are artistic.

In addition to creating an impressive range of playing cards under their own design, Noir Arts  offers a printing and fulfilment service under their original name NPCC, to create and print custom decks of playing cards for other designers and creators.  In this series of reviews, I am showcasing some of the custom playing cards Noir Arts has produced, to give an overview of their work and style, and a glimpse of the artistic talent that is evident from their portfolio.  In the final installment of this series, I will also offer some lengthy concluding comments about their card quality and handling, plus a more detailed comparison with other publishers.  But for now, let's show you some of their lovely decks!




*** DARK ART DECKS ***

Memento Mori Playing Cards (2016)

Memento Mori is derived from the Latin expression meaning remember that you have to die.  It was commonly associated with reflection about mortality, and thinking about the vanity of earthly life and the transient nature of all earthly goods and pursuits, and considered to be a way to perfect your character, by encouraging thinking about the immortality of the soul and the afterlife.

The series consists of two decks, the first entitled Memento Mori Carpe Diem, and the second entitled Memento Mori Vanitas.  The artwork for both decks was created by Moritz Schaaf.



As mentioned earlier already, Dark Art is a style in which artists communicate ideas in a mysterious/bizarre style that can include depicting morbid/disturbing/nightmarish subject matter in a fascinating/beautiful way, and at times draws on related genres like Gothic/surreal/horror.

The Memento Mori deck fits loosely within this genre, as is immediately evident from the black and white colours and macabre style of the Carpe Diem deck.  Carpe Diem is Latin for "Seize the Day", and signifies the importance of seizing the moment.



As further examples of the style of this deck, here are some more court cards, featuring the traditionally red suits of Hearts and Diamonds.  Aside from these glimpses of red, the remaining artwork fits squarely within the dark art genre.



The number cards are a little more tame, but still feature heavily customized pips that are stylized to complement the rest of the deck, by incorporating tiny skulls into the oversized shapes.



As we've noticed on several occasions already, the tuck boxes produced by Noir Arts are particularly superlative, and are often worth a second look.  In the case of the Memento Mori decks, they are exquisitely decorated with a richly decorated design that is foiled and embossed, and they also have an oversized and heavily customized seal to add an additional touch of glamour.



Both decks also have full interior printing, the Carpe Diem deck depicting a Philip Galle print entitled "The Triumph of Death" (~1565 AD), and the Vanitas deck shown here depicting a corpse lying in a landscape from an anonymous French woodcut (~1580 AD) that.



The title of the Vanitas deck is derived from the Latin word vanitas, meaning "emptiness".  It refers to the worthless nature of earthly goods and pursuits, and has its origin in the "vanity of vanities" mentioned in the Biblical book of Ecclesiastes.

This deck features a more antique looking earthy colour scheme, and thus has cards with brown colour card-back.



The Memento Mori decks won't appeal to everyone, in view of the dark art style, but most collectors will find the exquisite tuck boxes hard to resist.  The thematic material that this deck is somewhat macabre, but it does try to deal with deep themes relating to the significance and frailty of life, and so there is thoughtful content to be found here.  In the end, this pair of decks will primarily appeal to those who already have an interest in the dark art genre.


Bone & Ebon Playing Cards (2016)

These next two decks, Bone Playing Cards and Ebon Playing Cards, both feature artwork by Noah Whippie, a comic book artist, graphic designer and illustrator.



These decks are an attempt to portray the modern world in dark surreal aesthetics.  In the words of Noir Arts: "The deck reads like a 54-page occult manuscript steeped in other-worldly dark aesthetics, with an intense focus on Gothic surrealism. The glyphs or “letters” that was used in the designs are stylized “demonic calligraphy”, a unique phonetic alphabet – to add character and subtext to the art."

In addition, each suit represents a different society "caste":
Hearts = clergy
Diamonds = merchants
Clubs = military
Spades = working class



To achieve a very unique look, the background of the cards has been customized to look like bone and slate, and the traditionally red and black pips has been customized to look like carved ebony and ivory.   For the Bone deck, metallic silver and golden inks are used, and the deck was made with ivory shades, giving the images the look of polished bone.  These pictures don't really do justice to how much the design has a "bone" look to it, particularly on the ornately designed card-backs!



If you can overlook the dark art style, or perhaps even appreciate it, it has to be admitted that these are very creative looking cards.  To my surprise, I found myself being more and more taken by this unusual deck, in part due to the uniformity of style within the deck, where all the cards have a bone look ornamented with metallic gold.



The companion Ebon deck instead uses silver metallic ink and grey shades, to give the images the look of hewn slate, while the use of metallic inks really complements the faux-slade background.



The court cards have a deliberate one-way design, to maximize the detail of the unusual and unique images.



Metallic silver is used for all the cards in the Ebon deck, and metallic gold for all the cards in the Bone deck, so the suits aren't easily distinguished at a glance.  But this is a deliberate choice designed to enhance the visual aesthetics - clearly this is an artistic deck designed for collectors rather than for functionality in game-play.  Here are some cards comparing the two decks, with the Ebon deck on left and the Bone deck on the right.



Once again special praise needs to be reserved for the tuck box.  The Bone deck, for example, has a soft white tuck box, and on this background the bone coloured embossed artwork and gold foil accents really spring to life.  The inside has full interior printing, with touches of red foil, while the addition of a stunning custom shaped seal really helps complete a package that feels completely over-the-top in terms of superb quality.



The Bone and Ebon decks are somewhat unusual, and won't be to everyone's taste, but it can't be denied that they are creative and artistic in their own way.  From the moment you hold the luxurious and artistic tuck box in your hand, you can't but be impressed with the artistic merits of these decks, and the amount of craftsmanship that has gone into producing them.


*** Recommendation***

So is Noir Arts (NPCC) for you?  I came across Noir Arts and NPCC quite by accident, when exploring aspects the world of playing cards, but I'm very pleased that I did.  They have produced some stunning decks of their own, using the artistic talents of creators internationally.  In addition they provide what seems to be a good printing service for their many customers around their world.  Knowing that this is a source that can be used to produce playing cards and fulfil crowd-funded projects will mean that many designers of custom cards will want to take note of this option they might otherwise not know about.  As for the overall quality and handling of the cards, their quality is improving, although it doesn't match the best in the business like USPCC and LPCC/EPCC just yet, but is on par with second-tier publishers like MPC.  Look for more extensive comments on the card quality and handling, plus a more detailed comparison with other publishers, in the final article of this series.  The Noir Arts tuck boxes, however, are typically much more exquisite and impressive than MPC, and are first-rate.

While not geared towards producing playing cards that will satisfy the highest quality and exacting standards demanded by cardistry or card magic, Noir Arts is certainly focused on creating decks with a more artistic look, which they present in very impressive and high quality tuck boxes.  Their playing cards cards have an air-cushion style finish and are of a quality that works well for playing card games or for collectors who admire an artistic style of deck.  If that's what you're looking for, then do check them, their range, and their services out!



Want to learn more?  Noir Arts: www.noir-arts.com

Web-store: https://shop.trycelery.com/page/shopnoirarts
Printing: https://noir-arts.com/npcc-info/

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