Posted in Hobbies, Ideas and inspiration

Unique Playing Card Decks to Inspire Your Creativity

Okay, so maybe playing cards are a bit of an unexpected collector’s item… but it also kinda makes sense! I love stamps, too, in the same way I love playing cards–they’re cool little art samples that happen to have a function, too.

I’m pretty new to this playing card-collecting world, so here’s a handy FAQ that covers the basics. There’s a lot of fun in just owning these cards, but there’s also such thing as a Franken Deck (see here for an example) which takes each individual card from a different deck! So… you have to have encountered 54 decks over time to collect a Franken Deck. It’s a fun challenge to make a pretty one and/or stick to a theme across the deck.

You’ll probably need examples to get inspired, huh? No worries! I’ve got plenty of those. 🙂

Though these playing cards are definitely fancy, I’m not really a true snob about them (yet!). So none of these decks are terribly expensive. I honestly acquire most of mine from random trips to Walgreens. They have Bicycle playing cards, for some reason. But anyway, let’s get into it!

Art of Play Harmony Collection

Photo of The Harmony Collection's Air deck of playing cards from Art of Play

Art of Play has some reallllyyy cool, artistic decks of playing cards. They’re a little bit more expensive relative to some of the more common ones I’m going to list here, but this deck isn’t ridiculously expensive–it’s $15 at the time of writing.

This Harmony collection is all about the creatures of the land, air, space, and sea. It has super intricate and colorful illustrations that make me happy. And if you’re going to collect something a bit odd like playing cards, they should make you happy, right?

I think my favorite here is the Air deck but seriously. These are little works of art!

Bicycle Aviary

Photo of Bicycle playing cards with an aviary theme, showing both sides of example cards

These Bicycle cards are so cute! I’m not gonna lie; I bought these and have them sitting in front of me right now. I mean, they’re $5, from one of the most reputable playing card brands, and yet are still unique.

I think what makes them extra special is not only does the back have a neat bird theme in a Scandanavian folk sort of style, but the front of the cards have stylized details to match. So the hearts or diamonds or whatever the suit also has matching decorations. I love that. These aren’t plain Jane playing cards!

Gent Supply Day of the Dead

Photo of Gent Supply's Day of the Dead monochromatic black playing cards fanned out

Gent Supply’s Day of the Dead cards are monochromatic black and cool as hell. If you know what the Dia de los Muertos aesthetic is like, take that but picture it shiny black on a smooth black card.

For example, the court cards feature skeletons decked out in royal attire, so on and so forth. This may not be the most practical deck in terms of immediate recognition of your cards, but man does the aesthetic appeal make up for it.

Skyline Chess

Some example playing cards from Skyline Chess's architectural art playing card decks

These are architectural art playing cards! The style is minimalistic line art that captures just the right amount of detail on famous landmark buildings in four options of major cities (London, Paris, New York, and San Francisco).

I don’t even know how people come up with these ideas. Imagine pulling up to the kids’ table to play a round of Go Fish with this sleekly designed deck. Your little cousin would definitely say “whoa.”

Flexible Gradients Blue

Flexible gradient playing cards fanned out to show range of blues

This deck is a little bit different from the others–it’s intended more so for playing card magic tricks than for collecting. But there’s no reason not to admire how satisfying it is to fan out the backs and see a gradient, you know?

I will say that this deck is probably not as interesting to add as a component of a Franken Deck because the beauty lies in the deck as a whole. But then again, for $5, just collecting it for the sake of its looking cool will not lead you to financial ruin.

So there you have it, folks! Have I convinced you that playing cards are a surprising venue for creative inspo, whether you collect them or not? I hope so! Art is everywhere. Sometimes you can even play solitaire with it.

Thank you so much for reading and I’ll see you soon!

Posted in Hobbies, How-to, Ideas and inspiration

Cool Things to Make with One Piece of Paper

Maybe you’ve got bored kids on your hands and plenty of paper to put to use. Maybe you’re just an adult who wants to make stuff with paper, because who says only kids can?

No one, that’s who. Or at least, no one you need in your life. 🙂

Either way, I’ve got some fun ideas for cool stuff to make with just one sheet of paper!

Everything I list here has written instructions, but there’s no reason why you absolutely have to use these exact links. I just personally hate watching videos. Diagrams are the best for origami-type crafts, amirite?

One-page minizines

One of my favorite things to make with one sheet of paper is the legendary one-page minizine. With one simple cut along the middle fold of regular printer paper, you can turn it into a little booklet to fill with any kind of art or writing you want.

The best part? Zines are specifically made to be really easily scanned and copied. So even though there’s a part where some folding magic happens, all of your work is still on the same side of your original sheet of paper. Sound confusing? No worries. Ya need a visual, I think.

Check out this blog post to see how it’s done. Pay special attention to this infographic:

Diagrammed instructions for making a one-page minizine

I hope that helps. There are tons of other resources that lay out how to make minizines, but this infographic was the one that really sunk in for me.

As a bonus, let me offer you an extra-easy way to start making minizines: a Canva template!

This template is what I made for my own use as I make zines–it’s nothing fancy, but gives you guidelines for each page so that it’s a little easier to keep everything visible and know where to fold.

You can use this to design zines digitally OR simply print it out, write/draw as desired, and scan it into your computer afterwards. Don’t forget that some pages will appear upside down from the original orientation, though!

Let me give you a simple example so you can see what I mean:

An example minizine by the author

There are multiple ways of doing this, but in this case (my first zine ever, before I made my template) the page that says “Things that make my life bright” is the front cover; the one right before it is the back cover, and the numbering should make the rest clear.

Zines are really fun little projects that can really be about anything. I especially enjoy swapping zines with people via Swap-bot, but you can just make them for fun or for sharing with family and friends.

A close cousin: a one-sheet pocketbook

Okay, so I’ll admit–this one is a little more involved than the minizine. You might need binder rings to make it look nice in the end. But you still make it from just one piece of paper! Find the instructions here:

Cute, right? I’ve never really made a pocket book before, but I think I’ll give this one a shot when I get around to it.

Envelopes galore!

If you have any interest in mail art, fun envelopes are a must! They make snail mail that much more fun to receive. And you don’t really need that much paper to make them.

First on my list are a couple of kid- or beginner-friendly ones that you can find here:

These instructions are written really well, I think, with super clear pictures.

If you’re up for something a little harder, try this more complicated envelope.

Unless you happen to be fluent in Italian, you’ll need to translate the page to English. Chrome does this automatically, I think, though? So maybe try it on Chrome if it’s all “Greek” to you.

There are way, way more ways to make envelopes from one sheet of paper. I also tend to enjoy the template method. I find that most of those are behind a paywall, but you can find some really nice template files on Etsy. I can vouch for this one, for example. And it’s only $2, so that’s not too bad, right?

Single-sheet origami animals

Origami is such a huge craft in and of itself, but I think it belongs here as a reminder that you can make cool little animals with just one piece of paper. 🙂


Origami crane model found at the linked resource

I can’t start talking about origami without including a crane model. Like, c’mon. This was my go-to model (or approximately this) when I was a kid. It’s a classic origami model for a reason! Find some instructions here.


Origami dragon model found at the linked resource

If you’re following along in order here, you might notice that this dragon model shares a lot in common with the crane. That might make it easier, if you’re new to origami! I just really like this take on an origami dragon–look at those cute little feet! Lol. Find the instructions here.


Origami dog model found at the linked resource

I’m extra excited about this one because, well, it’s a dog and dogs are the best. But I also noticed, like the author did, that there aren’t all that many origami dog models out there? I don’t know why not, but it makes me extra grateful for this one! Here is your link.

Well folks, that’s what I have for you today! There’s a lot you can do with just one piece of paper, huh? Please let me know if you end up trying any of these and how they went!

Thank you so much for reading and I’ll see you soon! 🙂

Posted in Ideas and inspiration, Resources

ATC Ideas: Improbable Maps

Already know how to make ATCs but stuck on ideas?

Artist trading cards are fun to make, but artist’s block is a legit thing. It’s not always easy to magically be inspired to make stuff.

So today I bring you an idea that I hope will inspire you! I actually don’t know that “improbable maps” is an accurate way to describe them… but that’s how I think of them! I’ve recently been making these abstract “maps” on a ton of cards.

For example, here is the simplest variety:

A black-and-white artist trading card with simple shapes

As you can see, these improbable maps are really just a lot of shapes drawn so that the spaces in between, or the “roads,” are approximately the same width between all the shapes on the card. The shapes themselves are pretty random, but drawn carefully in a bold pen to keep the edges looking clean and straight.

What you’ll need

  • ATC blanks, standard 2.5 x 3.5″ size (thick, sturdy paper like watercolor paper works best)
  • Something to draw with (I used a Sakura Pigma Micron pen, size 08, but this is really up to you and your favorite drawing tools)
  • Patience! Go slow to keep your lines as clean as possible.


This is the fun part–deciding how to vary up this concept to make a unique design. I find that something that feels limited like this simple idea is actually very freeing for creativity.

For example, you can try:

  • Different colors
  • Different pen thicknesses
  • Different shapes (e.g., all straight edges, including curves or not, only triangles or only rectangles, etc.)
  • Selectively coloring some parts but not others, for emphasis
  • Different simple patterns to fill the spaces
  • Cleaner or messier lines, depending on how many times you trace over them
  • Different sizes of shapes or “roads”
  • Structuring the map as a logical grid versus centered around a point or random
  • Looking at real (probable) maps for inspiration!

My examples: photo dump time

I hope that my ATC examples sparked some inspiration for your own art! Thank you so much for reading and I’ll see you soon!

Posted in How-to, Ideas and inspiration, Technique adventures

How to Make a Color Palette Generator with Canva (Free Version)

Oh man, you guys. This was truly an adventure. By which I mean I had a looottt of trouble getting something simple to work. More on that later. 🙂

First, a disclaimer: I’ve never really played with Canva before. I’ve been interested in trying it, but this is really my first experiment. So I fully expect I did some stupid things. Please let me know if you have tips!

This is more a post to walk you through my experience, rather than Knowledgably Advise you on how to do this. But, to my credit, I now know at least one way to get the job done!

The first steps

I first just opened a blank “Play with Canva” file because I have no clue what I’m doing.

I decided the first thing to do once I was in was literally just search for a color palette template. At least I was smart enough to do that, and not try to reinvent the wheel!

Screenshot showing a search for "color palette" template in Canva

Bear in mind, I only have the free version, so there aren’t that many options. I first picked this one:

Screenshot of "Color Palette Inspiration" template in Canva

Little did I know the Hell that awaited me.

I wanted to upload a picture and see how easy it was to let Canva pull out the colors for me. As it turns out, that part was very easy and user-friendly.

All I had to do was upload something (though I know that part was probably unecessary because they have free images, too) and click on it to add it to my existing project. I chose a somewhat clumsy golden retriever pixel art I made last year, mostly because I only used 4 colors and it would make it easy.

Screenshot of Canva project after uploading an image

Fairly straightforward so far, right? I had figured out I needed to do this because when I clicked on the color palette (as highlighted above), I could see that Canva automatically tells you what colors are present in the photo/project over on the sidebar.

So my little dog pixel art resulted in this (I needed to click “See All” under the colors in the photo):

Screenshot of Canva's automatic color detection on my dog upload

Massively helpful. Thank you, Canva! It also gives you the hex code for each color when you hover over it with your cursor.

I thought “Wow, this was easy. I’m basically done!” But… I’ve foreshadowed enough. Here comes the trouble.

I was able to do a number of small, basic adjustments like moving things around, resizing, updating the text to reflect the real colors in the dog, but I couldn’t get the color palette itself to have all rounded corners once I cropped the extra fifth color off.

I know it sounds like no big deal, but I spent a very long time trying to figure it out. See, there are frames in Canva which will crop your image to the frame. So I should have been able to simply drop the palette piece onto a rectangular frame with rounded corners, but it just wouldn’t work.

This is where you find the frames and what they look like, by the way:

Screenshot of Canva menu showing frames

After suffering for a long time and trying and retrying resizing in every which way, I nearly rage quit the project altogether. Maybe that sounds dramatic, but every tutorial was like “it’s so easy, just drag and drop! :)” and meanwhile absolutely nothing happened when I did that.

I suspect the problem is either something is too fixed about the template I was using or I wasn’t able to resize finely enough or something? I’m not sure. This is what my experiment looked like when I gave up on it:

Screenshot of first Canva palette experiment
There was an attempt

Experiment part II

But instead of rage quitting, I decided to try a different template. I picked the sandy beach one you’ll see here, right above the one I first chose:

Screenshot of Canva's color palette template options

It was all smooth sailing from there. I deleted the background sand, which left me with a square frame. I was worried, but this time, my dog image actually resized to fit it. Amazing.

Then it was just some copying and pasting and changing the colors over to eventually get this:

My final experiment result, showing a dog with its color palette

It was a wild ride, maybe, but I got there eventually. And now I know how to do something new!

I learned a lot in general behind-the-scenes, too, just figuring out what’s available in Canva and that sort of thing. It seems like a great tool. I wish the paid version didn’t cost so much, or they’d have me as a customer.

I hope that you got something out of this, if maybe only entertainment at my Canva ignorance. Thank you for reading, and I’ll see you soon!