23 October 2010

Using PlainCards to create classroom materials

For a while I've had my eyes open to pick up some printable cardstock that was pre-perforated to make 'playing card'-sized classroom material.

I've tried printing the cards out on regular paper, but that doesn't feel right when you have a stack of them. Laminating helps make the cards sturdier, but they still don't slide off each other the way regular playing cards do (and the cards tend to stick together a bit).

The standard place to go for cardstock products like this is Avery, and they have a number of products that are almost (but not quite) like this: they list Business Cards, Greeting Cards, Note Cards, Index Cards, Postcards, Tent Cards, Rotary Cards, and ID Cards.

But not Playing Cards.

This is unfortunate because the cardstock products that they have don't work well for cards that you want to stack and hold in your hand. Either the size is wrong (business cards are too small; greeting and note cards are too big) or the cards don't slide against each other well.


However, a company called PlainCards makes exactly what I was looking for: micro-perforated cardstock that you can run through your printer to make custom cards.

My immediate need was to create "number system" cards to teach binary, octal and hexadecimal, so I picked up a set of the Blank Playing Cards with Pattern Backs.

These are blank on one side and have a standard 'playing card' pattern on the back so that you only need to print on one side. They also offer cards that are blank on both sides so you can print your own card backs, but this seems unnecessary for classroom material.


To layout the card designs, PlainCards offers their own QuickCards3 software. This is free to download, but you need to buy it for ~$17 if you want to be able to print. I can't comment on the quality of the software since I haven't used it, but I didn't feel it was worth purchasing. One annoying thing about how they market this software is that they divide it into three separate versions: one for Playing Cards, another for Game & Trading Cards and yet another for Tarot Cards. Of course, you have to buy each one separately (or get the special bundle pricing).

Rather than use their software, I created some blank templates in Inkscape, which is a freely available, open-source vector drawing package (download here for Mac, Windows, et al.). Note that these template are SVG files, so they should work fine in any vector drawing application like Illustrator or Freehand.

Download: PlainCards Blank Template

The templates are quite simple: they contain boxes marking the micro-perforation outlines on the PlainCards cardstock. To use the templates, simply:
  • Add your design/artwork
  • Use the bounding box outlines to center the design for each card
  • Delete (or hide) the bounding box outlines
  • Print
Note that the perforations are centered and symmetric on the cardstock, so you don't need to worry about paper orientation when printing.


Overall, the PlainCards did exactly what I wanted them to do and I'll certainly be using more of them to create class materials. After I finish the current batch of number system cards, I plan on going back and re-doing the Binary Magic Trick cards so they can be printed directly onto PlainCards.

Other Reviews

Here are a couple other reviews for PlainCards, written by people using them to make custom cards for their games. They provide some useful tips on how to carefully remove the cards from the cardstock after printing.

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