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Inspiration Deck – A Tutorial

I hope you can stand one more post about “Inspiration Decks.” I’m proposing to my art group that we do one, but there is some confusion about what they are and how to do them, so I thought I’d do a quick little tutorial.

I was introduced to them via a swap hostessed by Jessica Brogan. You can see what a finished deck looks like by visiting her blog. She shows a picture of a relatively completed deck, and you can see all the different styles. She got the idea from Christine Mason Miller’s latest book, Desire to Inspire, which is available through

So, an inspiration deck starts with a deck of standard playing cards.

To make the deck, begin by coating the face of the card with gesso. This does not have to be the expensive gesso used for fine art, an inexpensive “hobby” brand will work just fine. I used “Delta” and it worked well. I laid the cards all out on a table and did them production style while I watched t.v. When they were dry, I flipped them over and gave the back side enough of a swipe with the gesso to use for the base for adding my name and blog address. That enables you to use the cards as a bit of an advertisement for your blog/business.

Next comes the painting, although as with ATCs, it could easily be done with papercrafting instead. Whatever medium you wish to use is fine. But the point is to make it fairly quick and not make yourself crazy. I got a little carried away (as I usually do!) and spent a bit more time than I needed to, but I was having tons of fun, and had the time to spare. The whole point is to have fun.

Again, I did it production style, coating all with a base coat of paint, then adding each part or layer to all the cards at the same time, rather than building them individually. For me that was to do all the edges, then add a second color to highlight the edges, then some textures, then stamping with Stazon ink, then more textures. Although each card is slightly different, staying with the same color for each texture, and using the same stamps on each, it goes really quickly. It took about 3 hours to get all 54 primed, painted and stamped. (Jessica had us send in 53 so she could create a deck to send in to Christine Miller, and I kept the 54th for myself, just because I loved how they turned out!)

Locating all the sayings and deciding which ones to use and which fonts and what size worked best for each was the most time consuming part. For the swap I am proposing for the 2011 Fly Tribe, I would include a PDF with all the sayings already laid out. Then you would just cut them out and attach them to the cards, which would save a lot of time. Additionally, it would insure that every one got all the same sayings in their return deck.

I cut out each strip of saying, trimmed it down, and decided how to separate the words, coated the card with modpodge, placed the words on, and added additional modpodge over the top. After it dried, I used pastels to shade around the strips and along the edges to give a more finished look. I was tempted to add a bit of pen work, but restrained myself. If I was giving them as a gift, I would add the additional detail.

Then I added my name and blog address to the back side using a pitt pen, which writes just beautifully over the gesso texture, and it is beautifully permanent.

I didn’t keep track at the time of how long I spent on mine, but going back, and taking out the time it took to prepare the sayings, I would guess I have about 6 hours in them, spread over 3 evenings while watching t.v. shows I would have watched anyway, so I did double duty. If you blog about the process, you can stretch it to triple duty, and for me, this is the 4th post on the subject (thank you for hanging in there with me!)

I can’t even tell you how much fun I had doing these. Although I guess the fact that I’m ready to jump in and do it again speaks volumes!

Were I to do sets for gifts, I would use playing cards that had pretty backs and match my paints to those colors so I could leave the backs unpainted, or double the numbers of sayings and do both sides. The ideas are flowing quickly. I can see so many applications!

But, back to the nuts and bolts of a swap…Just as with an ATC swap, all the decks would get mailed to the hostess (in this case me) along with $5.00 to cover the cost of postage and the rings, and I’d finish off the decks, taking one from each of the 52 artists, punching a hole in the corner, and slipping a ring trough the holes. Then, like magic, you’d get an eclectic deck back, featuring a card from from each artist and 52 different sayings…

Sounds like fun, huh?

About tatterednworn

I am a woman who has committed to living a creative life.

14 responses »

  1. What a fantastic idea and a wonderful tutorial Janet! I would love to participate. Mr. How2 suggests tacking the cards down with removable tape to a sheet of tag board, so you can treat them as a full page for the background prep and paint. That way you could even roll the gesso on with a three inch mini roller. It would make the dabbing and stamping much faster too. Clever? 🙂

  2. Thanks for this post Janet! It looks do-able to me and I am in! They look so pretty and I really like the soft colors you choose. Sally Rose, Mr. How2’s suggestion is great. I may use that myself.

  3. Thanks for that Tutorial, Janet. It does look like fun! It would be a nice diversion from creating jewelry. Hope I can jump in on the next round!

  4. Ok, I’m in . I’m just finishing a month long project for February and this sound doable and fun. Have to keep myself challenged to be creative every day :0)

  5. loving on this idea
    and all the possibility happening over here!
    LOVE, love, love!
    thanks for the inspire,

  6. Thanks for the tutorial, Janet! Sounds like so much fun 🙂

  7. Janet… This is a great idea… I haven’t had a chance to read your blog until today. Going to go and sign up!


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