Monday, 4 June 2018

Print on Demand Playing Cards Cost Comparison


Over three years ago, we compared the print costs for cards among the leading printers of print on demand (POD) or short run cards for the tabletop game community. Among our findings: DriveThruCards, at the time, offered the best pricing for print-on-demand cards.

But that was then. What about now?

We thought it time to revisit our competitors', and our own, pricing. Plus, since that time we've introduced custom-printed tuckboxes, embossed stock, and (soon) an option to have high-volume deck + tuckbox orders shrink-wrapped.

As before, we compare single deck printing costs (for, say, a prototype) and a few higher volume runs (as might be used for convention sales or KickStarter fulfillment).

All data here is current as of May 2018.

Comparing Print on Demand Card Costs

  54-card Poker (Premium stock)

DriveThru Game Crafter PrinterStudio MPC Print&Play
  1 deck (cards only) $     4.86 $      6.17  $     13.80 $  13.20 $   14.85
  100 decks    344.00     437.00       705.00       635.00           965.25
  250 decks    860.00  1,092.50    1,450.00    1,225.00        2,227.50

  1 deck + tuckbox        7.11        8.96        23.80      23.20      18.10
  100 decks + tuck    534.00    672.00      875.00    805.00 1,121.25
  250 decks + tuck 1,335.00 1,680.00   1,800.00 1,575.00 2,544.38

  54-card Poker (Embossed / Linen stock)
DriveThruGame CrafterPrinterStudioMPCPrint&Play

  1 deck (cards only)        5.13       6.92     15.80     15.00       9.42
  100 decks    398.00    512.00    825.00   735.00    612.30
  250 decks    995.00 1,280.00 1,700.00 1,450.00 1,413.00

  1 deck + tuckbox        7.38         9.71      25.80      25.00      12.67
  100 decks + tuck    588.00     747.00    995.00    905.00    768.30
  250 decks + tuck 1,470.00  1,867.50 2,050.00  1,800.00 1,729.88

  80-card Tarot (Premium stock)
DriveThruGame CrafterPrinterStudioMPCPrint&Play

  1 deck (cards only)     13.60        17.61      16.75      16.15     34.65
  100 decks    780.00   1,009.00  1,115.00  1,130.00 2,079.00
  250 decks 1,950.00   2,522.50  2,600.00  2,625.00 4,851.00

  1 deck + tuckbox      16.10        20.40       31.75      31.15 n/a
  100 decks + tuck 1,005.00   1,244.00  1,370.00 1,385.00 n/a
  250 decks + tuck 2,512.50   3,110.00  3,125.00 3,150.00 n/a

Fine print
There's a lot of fine print to allow for as close to apples to apples comparisons as possible.

DriveThruCards pricing reflects pricing that is announced to take effect 10-17-2018 (current pricing is even lower).

Card stocks
DriveThruCards: Premium stock = 11.6-pt. thickness, 320 gsm black core. Embossed stock = 10.7-pt. thickness, 310 gsm black core. (Embossed is not a true Linen stock.) Both stocks are finished with a low-gloss UV coating.

Game Crafter: 305 gsm black-core matte. UV coating = $0.10/sheet. Linen finish = $0.25/sheet.

PrinterStudio: Smooth finish: 300 gsm, aqueous coated. Linen finish: 310 gsm.

MPC (MakePlayingCards): Smooth finish = 300 gsm blue core. Linen finish: 310 gsm black core.

Print&Play: Premium = 310 gsm, glossy finish, black core. Linen = 270 gsm, glossy finish.

Additional costs and details
Game Crafter's price includes a fee of $0.89/deck added to each game. The Game Crafter's Tarot tuckbox is for 90 cards. Shrink-wrapping is included in all prices except for the 1-deck price from DriveThru (DriveThruCards does not offer single-deck shrink-wrapping). Shrink-wrapping on high-volume DriveThru orders is $0.40/deck; opting out of shrink-wrapping further improves DriveThru pricing.


DriveThruCards continues to offer the best pricing for print-on-demand cards.

I know we're the ones writing this, but our intent was to provide an unbiased analysis. We merely pulled pricing information available on each printer's site and compiled the data to get the cost comparison.

Beyond Pricing

As before, it's worth noting some more details about each of the above-compared companies.

The Game Crafter: Solid reputation. They offer a bunch of other game components (rule booklets, game boards, two-piece boxes, dice, mats, counters/punch-outs, and pawns/meeples). If you have a full-on board game with loads of pieces-parts, then the Game Crafter's likely got you covered.

PrinterStudio: Offers printing on plastic (PVC) cards. They don't offer nearly as many pieces-parts as The Game Crafter, but they do offer custom-printed rubber game mats and personalized poker chips. (Also offer other "photo gifts" like jigsaw puzzles, greeting cards, clothes, and bags.)

MPC: Offers five different card stocks (in addition to white plastic) and a glossy finish. Packaging options are many, including full card deck shrink-wrapping and a tin box option. Can also add on a small booklet and purchase uncut sheets. They offer various volume tiers (up to 15,000 decks).

Print&Play: Like The Game Crafter, they offer a bunch of other game components (rule sheets and rule booklets, game boards, dice, counters/punch-outs, paper money, wood cubes, and pawns/meeples (wood and plastic)). Seems to really cater to those with multi-component board game prototyping needs.

DriveThruCards: Of course, we're a bit partial to DriveThruCards, but we think we can be fair in critiquing our own card offerings.

     What we do well
  • We wanted to do POD cards really well. And we think we do that. Our card stocks and quality of printing are top-notch. (But don't take our word for it: many publishers and designers tell us this.)
  • We use ink-based HP Indigo presses instead of toner-based printing.
  • We offer custom-printed tuckboxes with a unique no-glue design that makes for a sturdier package than tuckbox offerings from the competition. 
  • We have earned a reputation for high-end personal publisher/customer service.
  • You can print any number of cards in your deck; there's no sheet multiple you need to meet. (So you're not spending money on "empty" sheet slots.)
  • Our marketplace is easy to find and hundreds and hundreds of publishers who have opted to sell their card titles on site earn extra sales regularly. Across our DriveThru sites, we pay millions in earnings to publishers every year.
     What we don't do as well
  • We don't offer board game materials (including rule sheets/rulebooks).
  • To get the best printed results, it's ideal to use InDesign or Scribus to prepare your print-ready PDF. (We do have a deckbuilder tool that works well for image upload, but the best results are seen when card PDFs are professionally prepared.)
  • Our publisher-facing interface is super powerful. It can also be a bit, ahem, challenging to learn. (However, we offer walkthroughs and are willing to help as needed.)
  • We offer only one volume discount tier (at 5,000 total cards).
For more about printing with DriveThruCards, go here and here.

Your comments (and corrections!) are welcome.

Brian Petkash and Steve Wieck