Cardistry and card tricks are completely different, even though you have plenty of people trying to place them in the same category.
Cardistry relies on the illusions you can create with rapidly shifting colors on your card design, maneuvering cards between your fingers, flipping them, spinning them—basically putting on a show with cards, without doing magic card tricks.
So where does this fit into magic?
You need to know how to control a crowd and make them stare in awe, especially if you have an assistant helping you set up for your next act or tricks.
You can do sleight of hand tricks as well, moving your cards around in fun and exciting ways, and in the process, you’re practicing for more complex magic tricks down the road—everyone wins.
We’ve outlined the best cardistry decks below to get you started.
Best Cardisity Decks – Reviews & Buying guide for 2020
Premium Playing Cards, by Elephant Playing Cards
There isn’t much to these cards, and that’s exactly why I like them so much. For a nominal price, you’re going to get a full set of three decks with wildly different and equally vibrant colors.
This isn’t just a beginner cardistry deck—it’s like having the perfect amount of cards for any level, even if you mix and match decks (which some magicians will do).
Built on high-quality card stock, these have a nice tactile feel to them so that you can handle them with ease. The traction is most notably felt on your fingertips as you go through your deck.
While it’s not usually a big concern, I have to point out that the card packs (individual sleeves per deck) are actually pretty fantastic.
They’re built strong, so you can deposit your deck in here time and time again without it warping or the edges fraying.
Orbit V6 Sixth Edition Playing Cards
What can I say about Orbit? Their cardistry deck is simple, it gets the job done, but it’s a bit pricey.
That being said, simple aesthetics are pretty wonderful. They keep the design clean and clear, but the smaller elements are executed in a cool way.
For one, you have the green stripes on the back of your cards that flow into one another during fanning, but you can also spin these cards to make a pretty unique design.
If you’re really into cardistry, then the exclusive aspect of these cards will also get you—there are only 23,000 decks in existence. That’s actually not too many, so I recommend getting on board before they’re gone.
They charge a bit more because these aren’t just made on card stock, like Bicycle cards for example. Instead, they’re made on sustainable forest paper, while having a vegetable-based ink.
It sounds crazy, but it works the same as any other cards without fading over time.
Pure Cardistry Black Training Cards
These cardistry decks for beginners come in different colors, and they’re actually not even real playing cards, as odd as that sounds. They’re thick pieces of plastic with the same shape and general size of playing cards, and they’re designed for cardistry mastery.
What do you get out of these? The ability to handle cards. It’s like having a pack of primers to use while learning when you don’t want to bring your cards out in public. You can use these and spin them while on the train or at a red light. It takes out some of the embarrassment.
Are they durable? Yes. Are they actually waterproof like the sales page says? Not at all. While it might be tested for being water resistant, they’re not quite so easy to clean off. Water will ruin them.
Consider these to be the training wheels for true cardistry. There’s nothing wrong with that, since everyone needs to practice, and these are easy to conceal if you have embarrassment over getting started with magic (even though you really shouldn’t).
Ellusionist Killer Bees Playing Cards
Who doesn’t like bees, right? For real, it’s not the most expected design for a deck of cardistry cards, but it works. It’s unique and easy to remember.
There aren’t really many distinct markings, but they’re fun cards with a honeycomb design on the back. When you’re working on card flipping, this geometric design easily blends in with other cards in your hand and makes it look truly fascinating.
Flipping and spinning are going to be your strong suits with this deck, and the geometric design for all the actual card sides is also pretty cool. A bit of art deco-inspired, I would say.
One cool thing about this deck is that some of the proceeds are going to go towards IUCN, which helps the honey bee population. That’s something to feel good about.
Artisan Playing Cards
Build on high gloss card stock and designed to be handled with rough hands, this simple deck looks fantastic, and it also saves you a fair deal of money.
The intricate and regal-inspired designs are going to work as playing cards when you’re not practicing cardistry, but you’ll be able to whip out some fancy shuffling techniques while dealing out poker hands.
Allegedly, David Copperfield is on record for saying that these are :”The best playing cards ever produced,” but that’s not the same as saying the best cardistry or magic cards.
They’re durable, tactile for excellent traction, and overall a good purchase. There’s nothing like having something that’s ultra-durable and cheap at the same time.
Cardistry Deck Buying Guide and FAQ
What Does Cardistry Mean?
Cardistry is when you manipulate playing cards to do exciting and fun flourishes or tricks.
It’s a mesmerizing skill that’s not only fun to do at parties, but it also gives you an advantage if you’re practicing traditional magic for acts.
With cardistry, there are hundreds of simple tricks to learn (thousands more once you elevate your skill) that all allow you to move and maneuver the deck in visually appealing ways, while achieving a shuffle.
So what’s the difference between the best cards for cardistry and a standard deck?
A lot of it comes down to the designs on the back of the cards because that’s commonly the side that spectators see more of.
It gives you an aesthetic advantage while manipulating their perception.
Can’t I Just do Cardistry With a Normal Deck of Cards?
Technically, yes you can.
Most magicians start out by using a deck of Bicycle playing cards or Elephant cards and fiddle around with them while they figure out tricks, and craft their showmanship.
Bicycle cards are the first choice for many magicians, although personally, Elephant works better for me.
As seen on this list, Elephant makes a lot of cardistry-specific designs, because they know magicians and cardistry pros are already looking towards their brand.
They’re different from dollar-store playing cards though, which is why you’ll rarely see anyone attempt cardistry with a basic deck. Here are the differences:
- Tactile Feel – As you might imagine, your dexterity needs to be godly if you’re going to master cardistry tricks and make them look fluid and natural. Bicycle and Elephant card stock are not only the perfect weight, but their cards are also usually cut into the perfect size. Because of the card stock and ink used, both brands are easy to hold onto.
- Weighted Print – I’m not going to get the same guarantee that every card is the same weight and same design from an unmarked, non-specific deck of cards. Professionals have standards, and both brands know that magicians are using their cards for this, so they ensure every card is designed with the same weight and maneuverability in mind.
- Durability – Because of the card stock they use, you’re not going to have issues with overly bendy cards that can crease or ruin the aerodynamics of how a card is supposed to be.
I’m not saying that Elephant and Bicycle cards are indestructible, but they’re certainly more durable than most card decks you’re going to find on the store shelves.
How to Get Into Cardistry?
Start with the best playing cards for cardistry, and then just start by feeling the cards in your hand.
Seriously focus on this. Feel the deck in your hands, and then just bring your middle finger back and knock the deck over so that the cards slide across the heel of your palm.
hen move your palm to push them back and make the deck perfect again.
You have to get comfortable manipulating a deck of cards.
You can start with simple shuffles, and just feeling the shape of a deck of cards, laying them out evenly on the table, and practice picking them up without bending the cards. Just do whatever you can to get used to them.
When you’re ready to take things up a notch and get into the more complex tricks, videos can really help you out.
You can find a ton of cardistry videos that are shot in slow motion, giving you a breakdown, step-by-step guide to how to do these tricks.
Because cardistry doesn’t have any illusions involved, you can learn a lot of this visually.
Is Cardistry Considered Magic?
Cardistry is not considered magic.
This of it like a spin-off of magic, a subsidiary that was formed with magic in mind.
Plenty of magicians will use cardistry as part of their act, but since it’s all easily explainable and everything is out in the open, it’s not considered magic.
If you’re wondering how cardistry can help improve your magic acts, there are tons of ways that you could apply it.
For one, if you’re doing basic card tricks, such as the four down, some basic card flourishes can really dress it up.
During your shuffles after the spectator has had their chance to shuffle the deck initially, you’ll be able to use dardistry (and designed cardistry decks) to make some truly fascinating movements.
In moves like the four down, you have to shuffle while keeping four cards on top without accidentally allowing any cards to go between them.
This is a move you regularly have to practice every turn, depending on how long the spectator wants to go for (the trick resets itself if you’re smart).
Having cardistry on your side ensures that you’re not going to mess up your shuffle and accidentally divulge your secrets.
Magic is all about misdirection and illusion, and nothing is quite as misdirecting as some move you can do with new decks of playing cards, such as the anaconda, where the cards are so new and stuck together that you can make a three-foot-tall accordion out of cards and then slap it all back together.
Easy to do Cardistry Tricks
I say easy to do, but these all definitely take some time to get down, the hand movements just aren’t quite so complex.
These tricks also help build on the fundamentals of cardistry, so you’ll be learning the building blocks of this skill while practicing practical tricks.
With some practice, you’ll be able to do tricks like:
This is simply achieved by having one hand on the bottom of your deck, and your other hand on the to.
Use the knuckle on your dominant hand’s index finger to press on about half of the deck.
Spin it outward towards you, and let the top half of the deck fly off of the bottom. Catch it in your palm, and then put the deck back together in the same way.
This sounds simple, but it’s all about fluid movements, so practice this to get familiar with your deck.
You might have seen serious poker players, or your show-offy friend Jerry do this during a game of blackjack.
You visualize the deck as three different moving parts and begin by holding it in your left hand.
From there, you’re going to reach your index finger and thumb of your right hand onto the center of the stack, and pull out about one-third of the deck.
Drop the bottom third of the deck on the table. You’re going to alternate between your left and right deck, dropping one card on top of the stack at a time, effectively shuffling them.
It’s simple to get the hang of, and gets you used to handling cards.
This is where things get a bit more involved. You hold a deck in one hand, with the cards facing down, and then you use your thumb to pull the top half of the deck up.
This will rest against the points of your fingers, where you need to hold it steady.
While it’s here, you can use your index finger to push the bottom half of the deck up (it sort of makes a tent out of both halves of the deck).
From there, you drop the top half of the deck back into your palm, then release the bottom half—they trade places, and you’ve cut the deck with one hand.
This is something you should try to do compulsively and get a feel for the cards.
This is when you have a deck of cards perfectly in your hands, and make a fan out of cards.
It takes some time to get used to for sure, but it’s one of the best tricks in your routine, because it’s so versatile across the board.
The trick here is to position your thumb and index finger on the bottom of the card deck, right in the center.
You use your other hand to pull on one card and evenly distribute all the cards like a fan. It’s tricky to get it just right, because you want every single card to be evenly spaced apart.
The reason this is so good for beginners and more experienced magicians is because if you create the fan upside-down with a cardistry deck, you can still make fantastic images without the cards being so close together.
On top of that, it just looks really cohesive and cool, so when you’re transitioning from one trick to another, a fan in between two displays can work as excellent transitioning.
Banking on that same trick, you’re able to create the fan, and use the thumb on your other hand to hold the bottom of the top playing card.
Twist your wrist so that one end of the fan goes spinning forward. This basically takes a fan and on one end, start reversing that fan so that you have a split in the middle.
You can twirl as much as you like, and it’ll look like there are two separate decks of cards converging.
Different from fan twirls, card twirls are when you have the deck in your hand, and using one card, you twirl it around the deck.
It sounds complicated, but it’s basically just you using your index finger on the bottom of a card to spin it around. Video lessons will help out here.
How Long Does it Take to Learn Cardistry?
It can take you a few weeks to get basic tricks down pat.
If you ever watch cardistry performers online, you can see that there’s a lot of super fine movement that you need to master before you can really say that you’re able to pull a trick off fluidly.
I would say a few weeks to about a month is required to master some basic cardistry tricks.
However, this is something that people do for years before they’re ready to really show off their performance to spectators.
Give a quick view to this video below, where a cardist named Andrei Jikh displays a ton of cardistry tricks in just four minutes.
Now, is there anything wrong with doing all these tricks super fast?
No, but you can see how intricate some of them are, and when you do them all at once like this, then you’re not going to leave much room to the imagination for your spectators.
Cardistry is odd, because it takes a long time to master, and it also takes a lot of effort just to get a short act out of it.
You can’t really just do fan twirls for more than twenty to thirty seconds before a spectator will think, “Okay, but what else?”—it makes the process a bit frustrating.
To become a master of cardistry, it will take you about one to three years of diligent practice.
If you practice instruments or you’re really good at typing, you might have a slightly easier time getting the hand coordination down in the beginning.
One piece of advice is that if you get frustrated, sleep on it.
We actually learn things while we’re asleep, so all of the time you spent performing cardistry tricks will actually be imprinted into your brain while you sleep.
You don’t have to practice eight hours a day, just do it on a full night’s rest.
Start Here and Work Your Way Up
Cardistry is going to take some practice.
You need to nail down the method flawlessly if you’re going to impress crowds, friends, and especially if you plan on selling your time for entertainment purposes.
The wonderful thing about cardistry is that it doesn’t require much beyond the actual deck of cards, so you can practice just about anywhere.
I’m not saying that I’ve worked on card spinning while stuck in traffic, but I’m also not saying that I haven’t. It’s a way to constantly be practicing magic.