*** 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.
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