If you find that you have a great idea for a card game, but not be artistically talented enough to design your own ideas in tools like Adobe Illustrator or Photoshop, then you’ll likely need to hire someone to illustrate your card deck, commonly known as a graphic designer.
Whether you’re designing playing cards, a tarot deck, or a trading card game, you’ll ideally want to find someone who has experience in designing the type of deck you’re looking to build. This will save you a lot of time when communicating with the designers as they’ll already understand the frameworks used in designing the deck, template sizes, common printing pitfalls, etc.
Where To Find Card Game Designers
There are four resources we’d recommend when it comes to finding a great card game designer.
Behance is the ultimate and most optimal resource you can use to discover card game designers; it’s a social media platform owned by Adobe that allows creatives and designers to showcase their work in essentially their own online portfolio that the public can view as well.
You can search by a variety of topics and if you see an aesthetic style you like from a designer, you can reach out to that designer directly to discuss your project.
Upwork is another great place to find many card game designers. However, unlike Behance, there’s no visual search tool to evaluate portfolios easily. With Upwork, you basically make a job posting and designers will respond to your posting with samples of their work along with their bid (either hourly wage or project-based).
However, Upwork recently introduced a new engagement model on their platform that mimics Fiverr, where you have clear, upfront pricing on design projects—they call these “ready-to-buy” projects. With this approach, you basically just review a designer’s portfolio and the set pricing they’re offering to do the work, and if you like it, you can engage that designer immediately. Here are some of those portfolios:
In my opinion, Upwork takes a bit more work to find the right designer with the skills and experience you’ll need to design your card game, though I have found some amazing designers for past projects on the platform.
The ready-to-buy offerings on their sites are not that extensive as a lot of card game designers on their platform have not set up offerings for that feature yet.
Fiver is another popular freelancing platform to find card game designers. This platform is based on a “ready-to-buy” approach where consumers can view portfolios, pre-established pricing, and immediately purchase those services if they are a fit.
Quality is the biggest challenge among graphic designers who engage the ready-to-buy model. Because there are set fees for work (often lower than what a graphic designer might make hourly), designers will often get a lot of orders, so their workload becomes a production mill, sometimes creating a subpar work product. The best designers can command higher pay, so they often will not use this model. However, there are some artistic gems among the designers who engage the ready-to-buy model.
99designs originally started a design contest platform where you host a design contest with a cash prize, and multiple designers will submit artwork of your design in an attempt to win the contest; the site has since expanded its offering, where you can just hire designers directly without having to host a contest.
Here are some of the card game design portfolios on their site:
If you’re looking to host a contest, then you’ll probably want to post your project under the Illustration or Graphics Category, since they don’t have a card game category. Keep in mind, there are 52 cards in a French-suited deck and 78 cards in a tarot deck. This is a lot of art for designers to produce in a contest they may not win unless you’re offering a really steep prize where they feel it may be worth the risk.
An alternative approach is to host a contest where you have designers mock-up just one card or a few cards to get the creative process started for your project. You’ll likely attract some high-quality designers and get some awesome ideas. And, if the winning designer produced art that you really like, you can work with that designer privately after the contest to finish the rest of the deck.
What To Look For in a Card Game Designer
When hiring a card game designer, here are some really good questions to ask yourself or the designer to ensure you have a successful creative project together.
- Does the designer have experience building the specific type of deck you need? (playing cards, tarot, TCG)
- Have you seen examples of those cards in their portfolio? (you always want to lay eyes on previous work)
- How attentive is the designer to small details? (if things aren’t even or clean-looking, it’s not a good sign)
- Does the designer understand the card framework well? (52 cards in French-suited deck, 78 cards in a tarot deck, TCG, or other game theories, etc.)
- Does the designer have experience reviewing press proofs from the printer? (physical and electronic proofs)
- Does the designer have experience in submitting the right type of art files to a printer? (they often need source files)
- Will the designer turnover all rights to you for the creative work so that you own it fully? Or is the designer expecting you to license the work from them? (very important to clear up before you start selling your cards)
- Are the card designs in this designers portfolio completely originaly work? Or has the work be inspired by other card games? (important to understand so you don’t hire someone who’s ripping off other people’s designs)
- Does the designer know how to work artwork in the public domain? (for playing cards, the French-suited, English pattern is in the public domain, and for tarot cards, the original artwork designed by Pamela Colman Smith for the Rider-Waite deck is also in the public domain)
- How long will it take for the designer to design the entire deck?
- Can the designer produce promotional graphics for your Kickstarter campaign or Amazon product page?
- What have other customers said in their reviews about working with that designer? (lots of lengthy reviews are a good sign)