Did the dogs playing poker get a little too nibbly with your deck? Or maybe it was a toddler with a Sharpie? Or you’ve just discovered the set of cryptic marks that a certain cheating cheater who cheats put on the back of every single card in the deck to tell them what hand you’re holding?
Whether you’ve got a deck of playing cards that are past their prime or just a partial deck of survivors, I’ve got plenty of ideas for upcycling them! Playing cards are one of my favorite craft supplies to alter. Find your perfect project among the tutorials below, because I think you’re going to like altered playing card crafts just as much as I do!
Things to Build
permanent house of cards: When my kiddos were little, we inherited several incomplete decks of old playing cards, and this was by far their favorite thing to do with them. Use hot glue as you build your most epic house of cards ever, and you’ll find that it’s plenty sturdy enough to play host to any number of plastic ponies, dinosaurs, and dollhouse dolls. You can further embellish the structures with acrylic paint, permanent markers, and stickers. It’s perfect for a little one’s small-world play!
flower. Stand this playing card flower up in a vase or attach it to a brooch pin.
playing card polyhedra. For those whose mathematical and/or visual-spatial skills are absolutely on point, have I got the sculpture project for you! These polyhedra made from interlocking playing cards are absolutely stunning. You could paint or otherwise embellish them. I think, however, that leaving them to look like playing cards makes the final product even more impressive.
modular star. I recently sewed a modular star stuffie, and now I’m obsessed with all kinds of DIY three-dimensional stars! This playing card modular star has a similar construction to the polyhedra, above. I’m most intrigued by the tip to start with a complete deck of cards inside their cardboard box, and then cut slots into all the cards simultaneously with a bandsaw blade.
playing card bow. The tutorial includes instructions for making this bow into a necklace, but I think it would also be adorable on a gift.
hair accessory. This piece looks similar to the bow, above, but it’s a little more elaborate. The tutorial calls for glitter foam; substitute cardstock for a more eco-friendly project.
box. This is a great alternative to a store-bought gift or storage box, especially for a precious keepsake.
altered playing card ornaments. Most altered playing cards stand alone as art pieces–I’ve seen them stored carefully in trading card binders, and displayed charmingly on tiny easels. Another easy method to store and display your most festive altered playing cards is turning them into ornaments. It’s a neat little trick that requires just a hole punch and twine to accomplish.
3D playing card ornament. If you don’t want to paint or otherwise embellish your playing cards but you still want to do something cool with them, you can use this one technique to create a variety of three-dimensional playing card ornaments.
altered playing card art. Here’s the classic way to make altered playing cards. Use lots of gesso and lots of imagination!
52 Reasons Why I Love You. This is the sweetest, most thoughtful handmade gift imaginable, and if you use the same template on every card and focus on the heartfelt writing, it’s not very complicated to craft, either.
pendant. Use a fancy paper punch and a jump ring to create a fussy-cut playing card pendant.
wall art. If you have a complete deck that still looks good on one side, or a deck that’s perfect but simply too vintage to play with, here’s a great way to display your treasures.
Things to Use and Things to Decorate
bunting. Playing cards are a great size to serve as the pennant flags on a bunting, and since they’re coated in plastic they’re sturdy enough to display outside in nice weather. For the bunting above, I backed each card with upholstery sample fabric. Depending on the card’s graphic, even that might be unnecessary.
playing card soldiers. Since the project above is the “Welcome” banner to an Alice in Wonderland-themed birthday party, I might as well put the next Alice craft right here! You’ll have to cut the pieces for this by hand (the tutorial uses a Cricut), but hand-cutting just means that your project can be even more creative and personalized.
playing card dolls. These altered playing card dolls are a similar concept to the soldiers, above, but the concept is more open-ended to let you stretch your creativity!
pocket notebook. I’m obsessed with miniature notebooks and travel journals. Bring along some mini colored pencils and a glue stick so you can record your world while you’re out and about, and you’ve got the best of both my favorites!
bookmarks. This is such a clever and easy idea! It would be cute to embellish the bookmarks with beads that match the suits, or even handmade clay charms.
Valentine’s Day banner. Pull out all the hearts from your deck and use them to create this playful heart-filled bunting.
wreath. A playing card wreath would be a cute decoration for a game room!
Do you have an awesome way to upcycle old playing cards? Tell us all about it in the Comments below!