Inspired by Rainbows

I love colours. And I love rainbows. Doesn't almost everyone? Where I live we often get a mixture of sunshine and rain, and this means we often get to see the brilliant beauty of remarkable rainbows. I hope I'll never cease to be amazed by the sight of a stunning spectrum of vibrant colours that are spread across God's heavenly canvas of sky.

I know that I'm not the only one here who loves colours and rainbows. When it comes to fans of rainbow colours, the first name that comes to mind is talented photographer Steph Hodge (punkin312), who so often delights us with her amazing game photographs, and particularly her exuberance and love for colour, all of which you can follow on her remarkable blog, All the Meeples of the Rainbow. Most of us will recognize her memorable rainbow-inspired signature photo here, which you'll also find sprinkled liberally across the site via her avatar:

If ever there was a review dedicated to Steph and her colours, surely it is this one! Because it seems that there are more people on the planet besides me and her who love colours and rainbows.

So let me introduce you to Landry Sanders, the creator of the Rainbow Illusion series of playing cards, and the guy behind Sky Nerd Studios.

How did I come across Landry online? Well, I came across his colourful rainbow inspired playing cards, of course! Landry has created several decks of custom playing cards, and he currently has a new one in the works. But it's especially his two Rainbow Illusions decks that got my attention, and which I'll be featuring in this review, along with his new project, Phonograph 5. If you love colours like me, then you definitely need to check theses decks out!


The Rainbow Illusions decks weren't the first playing cards created by Landry Sanders. Earlier in 2015, with the help of almost 200 backers on Kickstarter, he successfully created a rather unusual deck he called Unique Designs Playing Cards. It was unique to say the least, and consisted of symmetrical artwork with a hand-drawn style, that was both unusual and yet proved successful.

But in my mind Landry's real achievement came with his next decks, the two Rainbow Illusion decks shown here.

Special Edition

Landry was already working on his Rainbow Illusion project as early as 2014. His goal was to create a bold design that resembled a standard deck, but had a very colourful and custom feel. After a couple of initial unsuccessful attempts to get this off the ground, and after experimenting with a couple of different versions and making various refinements along the way, he decided to focus on just one version that seemed to be generating the most interest, which he called the "Special Edition" of his Rainbow Illusion decks. Unlike his initial concept, this deck didn't have white faces, but had black cards front and back, and a slightly more complex but nonetheless vibrantly colourful back design.

There's a pot of gold at the end of every rainbow, and the Special Edition proved to be that pot of gold for Landry. The tuck box is a rather plain matt black box, but that's a terrific choice because it makes the delightful rainbow design on the cover stand out all the more. What you see here on the tuck box is not silver foil, but rather an iridescent foil!

If you're wondering what that means, check out my review of the Alloy Deck from Gamblers Warehouse. Iridescent means that something shows luminous colours that seem to change when seen from different angles i.e. the surface appears to change colour depending on your angle of view. It's the rainbow effect you see in soap bubbles and on CDs, and that's exactly the effect of the delightful design and the lettering of the tuck box. Photos really don't do justice to the "bling" that this creates!

Before we open the deck, let's also take the time to check out the seal - which is a sticker which also reflects light, and reminds us that this deck is a "Limited Edition".

So what about the cards themselves? Well, get ready for a burst of colour! I just love these! It's a circular design that has a startling display of colour, featuring the primary colours red, yellow, green, and blue, with an intricate design composed of diamonds set alongside each other in circular layers of colour, on a black background.

One card like this looks impressive on its own. But to get the real effect of this design, you need to see a fan or spread! The patterns and colours just merge together like a wave of moving colour, and it looks truly spectacular. I showed this deck to a cardist who loves card flourishing, and his jaw just dropped when he saw this deck in motion! When twirling and spinning the cards, the colours merge into a circular blur, and create a hypnotic effect, much like turning a light switch on and off! It needs to be seen to be believed!

So with all these waves of colour, can the card faces possibly live up to the expectations we have at this point? I think they can, not least because they feature the same bright colours on a jet black background, that combines to create an exotic feel, not unlike some kind of night session of cosmic bowling.

The colour palette is simple, relying on the same four colours found on the card backs: red, yellow, green, and blue, with the green and yellow having a somewhat muted or earthy tone. Each suit has its own colour, with blue and green for the spades and clubs, and red and yellow for the hearts and clubs.

To ensure the two main colours are sufficiently distinct, the pips themselves are either in black (spades and clubs) or white (hearts and diamonds).

The court cards are modelled somewhat on a traditional look, but the unusual colour palette on the black background gives them an entirely new look, and the artwork is customized to suit the feel of the deck.

Both the card fronts and card backs use the same combination of four colours. To give some idea of the hypnotic effect this can create, check out the photo below, which shows part of an uncut sheet with just the card-backs. It's enough to make your mind melt!

In keeping with the overall exhuberance of this deck, the Jokers also have a playful feel. This brings together all four colours and suits, and adds a further spark of life to the deck.

The number cards have a similar design to all the other cards, and immediately feel very different from a classic deck, due to the colourful indices and style. This is a deck that is both very functional and usable, and yet strikingly unique and attention-getting.

What really helps set this deck apart is the burst of colour on the card indexes, which does the dual service of making the pips stand out clearly and boldly, as well as adding a solid splash of colour throughout the deck.

Here's an uncut sheet from the entire deck:

Version 2

After the success of the Special Edition, Landry wasn't done with his Rainbow Illusion decks just yet. He was now set to return to the deck that he originally had in mind for this project, but with the benefit of the refinements he had made with the Special Edition. And so came his next project, the Rainbow Illusion deck Version 2.

The tuck box of this follow-up is reminiscent of the Special Edition deck, but instead of a plain matt black box, we now have a silver styled box that is completely iridescent!

The card backs feature a design that has elements somewhat similar to the Special Edition pictured above: layered circles, diamonds, and four primary colours. But the difference here is that this is a simpler design with larger diamonds, and this means that when the cards are fanned or spread, they create wider bands of colour.

The Aces in this deck also have a simpler and more elegant design that seems to work better than the previous deck.

The back design is the one that Landry originally had in mind for an earlier version of the Rainbow Illusions deck that pre-dated the Special Edition, but was never printed. My cardist friend loved this simpler look even more than the Special Edition, and found that it made cardistry moves even more impressive yet, especially spreads and fans like you see here!

As for the card faces, the biggest difference is that these have white instead of black faces.

Besides a changed background colour, the same colour palette has been used, and overall the deck has a similar look and feel to the other deck.

However the court cards have undergone some further revision and refinement.

Here's an uncut sheet showing the entire deck:

Finally, special mention should also be made of the back of the tuck box. If the front of the box doesn't impress you already, just wait until you see the back - and the giant oversized seal that dominates here!

I've never seen anything like this before, but given the style of the deck and the iridescent card stock, it totally works, and just adds to the bright rainbow appeal. Overall Version 2 is another fantastic deck!


This is Landry's latest deck, which recently launched for funding on Kickstarter.

A reinvented Charles Goodall deck

The deck of Phonograph 5 Playing Cards shows dual influences of a beautiful and historic Charles Goodall deck as well as of the Victorian phonograph.

The reason for this deck's name is because it was inspired by two things, one being the Victorian era, specifically the phonograph.

The phonograph influence is chiefly noticeable in the name of the deck and the tuck box, although the phonograph theme will also return later with the Jokers. It is worth mentioning that the tuck box is made from waterproof synthetic paper, and includes some intricate artwork, as you can see here on the flap.

The card-backs were custom designed by Landry, and were geared to fit the time period that this deck is intended to evoke, particularly with the use of elaborate scroll-work and ornamental patterns. They have club pips in the corners, and there are small details like musical notes to fit the overall theme.

All the Aces are over-sized, but the Ace of Spades lives up to its traditional billing as being a center-piece attraction, with a more elaborate and artistic design.

Besides the Victorian era setting and phonograph, the second main influence behind this deck is an ornamental Charles Goodall design for the court cards that dates back to 1899.

Many decks today owe their classic look to the historical designs of court cards, and Landry has chosen to use a very special design based on a deck produced by the Charles Goodall company in London. Goodall & Sons have produced as much as two-thirds of the playing cards printed in Britain, and by the time the dynasty's founder Charles Goodall (1785-1851) handed over the business to his two sons by the mid 1800s, the company was already producing more than 2 million decks annually!

The clarity and classic beauty of the many designs produced by Charles Goodall has lead them to be adopted and copied by other manufacturers world-wide, and they have been one of the major influences in designs of court cards seen today. The particular deck Landry used as a source for Phonograph 5 Playing Cards was produced in 1899, and is an uncommon deck with detailed scroll work and ornamental patterns.

Here's a comparison between a card from the original Charles Goodall deck, and Landry's updated design.

To add to the authenticity and feel, Landry wisely decided to use a vintage colour theme. The court cards still have a standard look, and are easily recognizable, and yet have a very different look than the ones commonly seen today, with a much more elaborate and dignified appearance. I particularly appreciate the colours used, and the ornate designs.

The pips are also very dignified, and thin borders add to their elite look.

The overall look for each suit is classy and elegant, as shown here with the Clubs.

The Joker cards reprise the Phonograph theme, and remind us of the Victorian origins that inspired this deck.

I'm especially pleased that the final version of this deck will be produced with a Classic Finish by Expert Playing Cards, an industry leader that makes top notch cards, with excellent printing registration, and very even and smooth handling. A beautiful deck like this certainly deserves a loving printing from a quality company like Expert!


Preferred Rainbows: Which of the Rainbow Illusions decks you prefer will largely depend on whether you prefer the black or the white faces. The tuck box and card backs of Version 2 are probably the more impressive of the two, as are the Aces, but personally I still have a soft spot for the look of the black faced cards, and that wins me over. But for cardistry, the larger style diamonds of the original Special Edition deck makes it a winner, although the borderless backs of both decks look terrific when doing spreads and spans.

Classic Phonographs: I love the inspirations that Landry has drawn on for the Phonograph 5 deck. The Charles Goodall design from 1899 is absolutely stunning, and has a truly vintage look, which gives the court cards in particular a classic appearance that still looks quite different from your standard courts. The Victorian era phonograph fits in well with the period that this captures, and everything works together nicely to create an authentic period piece.

Card quality: What about the card quality? It absolutely lives up to the colourful design. Landry has opted to get these decks printed by Legends Playing Card Company, using their Diamond finish. I'm a huge fan of Legends playing cards, and you can read more about them in my reviews here and here. Their quality is typically better than as any USPCC produced deck, with more clean cut edges. The Diamond finish is extremely durable (especially welcome with black cards, which otherwise tend to wear more quickly with a USPCC produced deck), and the cards spread and fan beautifully. The Phonograph 5 deck is being printed by Expert Playing Card Company, which produces their decks in the same factory in Taiwan as Legends PCC, and have the same high quality. Their Classic finish has an embossing somewhat similar to a typical Bicycle deck, but with a superior cut, handling, and durability.

Where do you get them? If you're interested in picking up some of these playing cards for yourself, the first place you should go is to the designer's Facebook page, Sky Nerd Studios, which is how you can get into contact with Landry. Sky Nerd Studios is a design studio that creates playing cards, art, video and photography, and there's also a youtube channel SkyNerdStudios. To get on board with the Phonograph 5 deck, head to the Kickstarter project here. Version 2 of the Rainbow Illusions deck is also available from Rare Playing Cards here


So are the Rainbow Illusion Playing Cards or perhaps the Phonograph 5 Playing Cards from Sky Nerd Studios for you? With these decks, Landry sanders has shown that he is capable of some diverse styles. What the Rainbow Illusion decks offer in terms of vibrant colour and bling, the Phonograph 5 deck offers in terms of style and vintage look.

These two types of deck might well appeal to different collectors, and show that Landry is capable of very different designs - it's almost hard to imagine they originated with the same designer! With a creativity that has the capacity to draw on unique styles and varying sources, I look forward to what Landry Sanders and Sky Nerd Studios come up with next.

What to learn more? Check out:

Sky Nerd Studios:
Rainbow Illusion V2:
Phonograph 5 Kickstarter:

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If you made it to the end of this review and found it helpful, please consider giving a thumbs up at the very top of the article, to let me know you were here, and to give others a better chance of seeing it.
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Mat Thomsen
United States
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That phonograph deck is stunning.
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Steph Hodge
United States
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Well, it's no Ginkgopolis...
This was an EPIC post!!!

I loved it and thanks so much for the shoutout! :D
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Anthony C
United States
Sterling Heights
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I'm drooling over those rainbow decks. Great writeup!
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