Meadowlark Decks
Back in 2019, I was asked to do a self-promo piece for a pharmacy in Nebraska, which quickly turned into a Kickstarter deck, marking the birth of "Meadowlark Playing Cards."
In early 2020, I was asked to develop a new deck. The request was an engraved-style set of face cards, and a vintage pharmacy theme. Each of the cards was drawn by hand with a Wacom Cintiq tablet, starting with a basic vector framework for each character. I had never done anything like this before. It was a fun adventure figuring out how to draw each of these cards. I share a tiny bit of my process below. (Maybe more when I have time).
With the exception of a few photos mixed in, every bit of the following imagery is my own Photoshop renders (I have no physical copies of these yet myself! Hopefully someday soon! And on top of that, I'm no photographer).
After originally posting this, I did receive some photos from a skilled photographer named Chris Moyer (thank you!). Please check out his work.
Client: Jonathon Lamarque / Meadowlark Pharmacy
Designer: Russ Gray
Project span: early 2020 – early 2021​​​​​​​

Above photo courtesy of Chris Moyer

—  P R O C E S S  —​​​​​​​
Jonathon, owner of Meadowlark Pharmacy, wanted to have a vintage "engraving" style for the cards. I could have done these all in vector, with perfectly spaced, cleanly shaped etching lines. I thought it would be more interesting to do something with a hand-done feel. In the end, this meant I had to actually draw them by hand (well, by hand on a Wacom Cintiq tablet). I actually wanted a little imperfection in the spacing, widths, and character of the lines. 
I started with a vector shell, (just the basic outlines), and drew in many of the shapes and all of the contour lines. After creating these in Photoshop, I vectorized them all to make printing easier.

Face cards need to be identical both directions. This can be a challenge, especially when the characters are created with a lot of hand-done elements. First I created just the upper half of the characters. Knowing they needed to be flipped, I created the upper half as a Photoshop smart object, so I could duplicate and rotate it, carefully align it (no easy task!) — and then any changes would apply to BOTH sides (rather than constantly having to reconcile each side to each other.
I started with a vector shell for the upper half, creating crisp outlines and facial features. Then, in Photoshop — using a Wacom Cintiq tablet — I hand-drew in all of the contour lines (2nd image below). My hope was to create "imperfect" line work that appeared evenly spaced, but where imperfections could easily be perceived so the viewer would know it was hand-done. The vector shell helped me align things more carefully so the cards would mirror well, but also, let's be honest, I didn't have the budget to do EVERYTHING by hand, which would have taken much longer. I applied some roughening filters in Photoshop to break up the perfect smoothness of the vector line work (using Ocean Ripple, and "Spatter" filters in Photoshop).
After drawing the first side, the smart object updated on both top and bottom giving me a complete card, which was then converted to vector for printing.​​​​​​​
I didn't have time to show my entire process in a video tutorial format, but hopefully at some point in the future. For now, a small time-lapse will have to do!

—  T H E    C A R D S  —​​​​​​​

Complete with metallic ink and a subtle vintage off-white tint, the cards were printed with a "Viper Finish" by Legends Playing Card Company.
Above photo courtesy of Chris Moyer
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