Playing Cards with Fine Art
As I've immersed myself in the world of custom playing cards, LUX Playing Cards
is one publisher that immediately got my attention, mainly because their deck AVES (which is Latin for "birds") has beautiful fine art featuring birds. It impressed me from the moment I first saw it online, and even more when I had the actual cards in my hand. But it's not the only beautiful deck they've produced. LUX Playing Cards was founded by Bryan Sloan
as a boutique playing card company based in Texas. From the outset, Bryan's visiion was not to just produce quality playing cards, but to work with world-class artists in the process: "to work with inspired artists to bring original, luxury, fine art playing cards to players everywhere
The name LUX has a dual significance. On the one hand it is a short form of "Luxury", but it's also Latin for "light", and Bryan wants his publishing company to be one that helps bring light into the playing card industry. He was convinced that he could contribute to a niche in the industry that wasn't yet saturated: playing cards with exquisite fine art
. It is especially the element of bringing fine art onto playing cards that helps make LUX stand out from a crowded field. In the company's own words: "We are a boutique playing card company specializing in collaborations with world-class artists to create unique decks of uncompromising quality and aesthetics.
" Those artists are from around the world, including Russia, Belgium, the Philippines, and the USA.
While these decks can have a broad appeal, it is really the fine art
that makes these decks special, and turns them into something out of the ordinary. In my previous article I focused one the first two decks produced by LUX: Illusionist, and AVES. In this follow-up article, I'll show you two more great decks from LUX Playing Cards produced more recently.British Monarchy Tally-Ho deck
Next up is the very classy British Monarchy Tally-Ho deck
, which was produced by LUX Playing Cards in 2015.Tuck boxes
The tuck-case looks beautiful, and immediately oozes class and style.
It features elements drawn from the traditional Tally-Ho design, but with sharp looking black and gold colours, and an embossed/textured finish.Card backs
The deck has an ornate back design on the cards, giving it a distinguished look in keeping with the rest of the deck. It illustrates the Crown, and alludes to the War of the Roses in England.
Many elements of this design pay deliberate tribute to traditional Tally-Ho fan backs and circle backs.
Tally-Ho playing cards are considered by many to be the luxury brand of playing cards produced by USPCC. Like other Tally-Ho decks, these cards also have a quality Linoid finish that card flourishers love due to the way the cards slide optimally for shuffling, fans, and other cardistry moves.Court cards
The court cards feature original and historically accurate artwork with portraits depicting historical figures from the distinguished British Monarchy across the centuries. According to Bryan, each King and Queen was meticulously researched and elaborately portrayed.
Chosen for each suit (in order of K/Q/J) were:
King Edward I "Longshanks", Mary Queen of Scots, Cnut the Great
King James I, Queen Anne, King Richard I (The Lionheart)
King Henry VIII, Queen Elizabeth I, King Alfred the Great
William the Conqueror, Queen Victoria, King Henry V
Anne Boleyn, Oliver Cromwell
A list of all the names of those appearing on the court cards is included on an extra card in the deck. A double-backer is also included as an extra bonus.
Together with the tuck box, these cards really look extremely elegant and stylish, and to me they definitely have a "royal" feel about them!Aces
For the Aces, the artist used the following monarchy related images: Hearts = Royal Throne; Clubs = Globus Cruciger; Diamonds = Knight’s Helmet; Spades = Royal Crown.
The detail on the Ace of Spades, which features the Royal Crown, is probably my favourite!Number cards
The number cards also feature non-standard pips, with a unique custom arrangement.
Unlike some of the other decks LUX has printed with USPCC, these were not made with the upgraded Bee Casino stock, but with standard Bicycle stock. Nonetheless they are still a quality playing card and handle smoothly and evenly.King Henry VIII edition
Besides the Monarchy deck pictured above, a limited edition was also produced, which featured a white King Henry VIII tuck box. The artist
The artist behind the fine artwork of the British Monarchy Tally Ho deck is Philippino Harinam Tibon
He's a Fine Arts graduate, who has the distinction of being the winner of the Golden Laurel Award for the painting competition of the International Delphic Games in 2007. Despite only being in his mid-twenties, Nam Tibon is a published artist, and is also the co-founder of an indie graphic company (Circus Science) and of an artists’ collective (Happy Sapiens). His artistic influences especially include his father Rishab, who is a painter, and his father's artist friends such as BenCab, who is one of the most renowned artists in the Philippines.
Harinam was also involved in the project for the Don Quixote (Vol 1) playing cards, with the Cellar Window design studio.Romeo & Juliet deck
The most recent project for a brand new deck from LUX is the Montague vs Capulet: Romeo & Juliet Playing Cards
This deck is inspired by Shakespeare's famous tragedy, Romeo and Juliet. Tuck boxes
Right from the moment you hold the tuck box in your hand, you are confronted with elegance and a look of class, with ornate designs.Card backs
Intricate patterns adorn both the tuck box and the back of the cards as well. The cards have metallic ink, and use the upgraded Bee card-stock from the USPCC.Hearts (Romeo & Juliet)
For the court cards and Aces, each suit has a unique theme and set of characters that fits together, both thematically and artistically.
The central characters are of course the lovers Romeo
, who were an obvious choice for the King and Queen of Hearts. They are pictured just before their final demise, Juliet with a dagger and Romeo with poison. The King of Hearts is famously known as the "Suicide King", and is a very natural choice for Romeo here!
The playwright William Shakespeare
makes a cameo appearance as the Jack of Hearts!
Framed inside the Ace of Hearts is the love-struck pair themselves.Clubs (Capulets)
The Clubs picture the Capulets, clothed in dark green.
Representing the Capulet family is the vicious fighter Tybalt
(Jack), Prince of Cats; Lady Capulet
(Queen), cruel, superior, and rich; and Lord Capulet
(King), violent, proud, quick tempered, and rich.
The family crest chosen for the Capulets, as depicted on the Ace of Clubs, is the Lion
, the Prince of Cats. Diamonds (Montagues)
Ensuring that they are opposite suits from the Capulets, the Diamonds picture the Montagues, clothed in red.
Representing the Montague family is Romeo's best friend Mercutio
(Jack), brash, loud, mercurial, and optimistic; Lady Montague
(Queen), sad, rich, and feuding; and Lord Montague
(King), proud and rich.
The family crest chosen for the Montagues, as depicted on the Ace of Diamonds is the Wolf
, King of the Canines. Spades (other characters)
The Spades represent other main characters from the world of the play.
These include the Apothecary
(Jack), who knows he shouldn’t sell poison, but has to for money; the Capulet's Nurse
(Queen), who provides some comedic relief, and Friar Lawrence
(King), who is naive despite being honorable and having good intentions.
Appearing inside the Ace of Spades is Shakespeare
, the bard himself.Jokers
The Jokers make up a diptych that pictures the scene of Romeo entering the Capulet tomb where Juliet rests.Details
I especially appreciate the small details that have been incorporated to try to make this deck capture something unique and special. For example, the two feuding families are opposite colours and suits; they face in opposite directions.
Clearly a lot of thought has gone into the making of this deck, with the fine art of a quality that it could easily be found on a studio or gallery wall. Metallic ink has been used to give the cards a high quality and beautiful look, and this luxurious look helps do justice to everything that is beautiful about these playing cards. Everything about this project results in a very classy and elegant look: the fine artwork, the graphic design, and the metallic inks.Bicycle branded edition
A tuck-box with different artwork is also available, featuring the Bicycle brand.The artist
With this deck, Belgian artist Virginie Carquin
is responsible for the fine artwork depicted on the cards. Her career in art started with traditional painting, from where she transitioned to digital painting.
Her artwork represents a new and original attempt to capture the characters that populate this well-known Shakespearean play. ConclusionsFine Art
Clearly the Lux Playing Cards company appreciates fine art, as is very evident in the decks they've created so far. This is especially evident in the AVES deck, which features lovely hand-drawn art of birds, and the Romeo & Juliet deck, which features beautiful illustrations for the Shakespearean characters it depicts. You can learn more about some of the artists here
All the cards produced by LUX Playing Cards have been produced by United States Playing Card Company, the same people that produce Bicycle brand cards. Most of them are on the upgraded Bee Casino stock, which is the more durable card-stock available from USPCC. They have an embossed/linen finish, which is the same as the Air Cushion finish on a standard deck of Bicycle cards, although they do have USPCC's Magic Finish, which is standard for small print runs of custom playing cards, and which in my opinion makes them slide and handle even better than a regular deck. One nice thing about the tuck boxes is that these are made out of card-stock that also has a linen finish, which I think makes them look superior to tuck boxes that have a smooth finish.Variety
The LUX Playing Cards quiver doesn't hold a lot of arrows at this point, but I do like what they do have. There's some variety, featuring nature (the birds of AVES), literature (Shakespeare), history (the British monarchy), and the arts (Illusionist deck). So it's a well-rounded collection, that should give most people something to choose from. I look forward to see what they'll come up with next.Birds
My favourite deck of all these is easily the AVES deck. I just love the design on the card-backs with the features, and the artwork of the birds on the faces of the cards. It's very unique, artistic, and beautiful, and everyone who has seen the deck has been very impressed with it. If I was to recommend just one deck, it would easily be this one. The new AVES Uncaged version (which is the edition I have) is the latest edition, and should be readily available.Games
LUX Playing Cards' Bryan Sloan also produces games under the banner of Black Forest Studio. His recent Kickstarter for the social deduction game [gameid=207310] has been an enormous success, and was over-funded by more than 3000%, raising over $110,000 with almost 5000 backers! That's a staggering amount, and Bryan's creative endeavours will be worth keeping an eye on, both in the world of games and the world of playing cards, to see where he goes next after this big success.Where do you get them?
If you're interested in picking up some of his playing cards for yourself, the first place you should look is the LUX Playing Cards website
, which is how you can get most of these decks directly from the publisher. The AVES decks are sold out, but the AVES Uncaged edition that I reviewed above has put this deck back into print again, and you can get that version from Amazon
Is LUX Playing Cards for you? If you enjoy fine artwork, and enjoy a fine deck of cards, definitely check out what they offer, and see if there's a deck of playing cards that's right for you! I'm especially a big fan of the beautiful bird-themed AVES deck, and am grateful to have found this shining light ("lux") that is a fine example of fine art!Want to learn more? LUX Playing Cards