How Are Card Sleeves Made? Explained

how are card sleeves made

Card sleeves protect your playing cards by covering them with plastic. Most often, two sheets of polypropylene are cut to fit the exact specifications of individual playing cards. The two sheets are then fused together using heat so that the card can sit snugly inside the sleeve for protection.

Occasionally, card sleeves are made from more durable plastic, such as PVC. These sleeves are more expensive, but the process is the same. Two sheets of this highly durable plastic are cut and then fused together with heat to fit around an individual card. The PVC sleeves are typically custom-made and designed specifically for rare trading cards.

To learn more about how card sleeves are made and what material is used in their construction, keep reading.

How Do You Make Card Sleeves?

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If you want the most professional card sleeves, you can get them custom-made on card-playing websites. You can search for card sleeves based on the card type and size. Be sure to read the specifications and sizing of the sleeve before purchase to make sure your card fits inside perfectly.

The only downside of this option is that it can get expensive. If you don’t want to purchase specially made card sleeves, you can make your own following the steps below:

To check the current price and availability of Ultra Pro Card Sleeves, click here to view the listing on Amazon.

What You’ll Need

  • Ziploc bag
  • Clear tape
  • Scissors
  • Whiteboard marker
  • Pen
  • Pencil
  • 2 common cards for dimensions
  • Thick piece of paper


  1. Place a card in the far left corner of the Ziploc bag. Press it firmly against the sides of the bag for a snug fit.
  2. Trace around the card with the whiteboard marker.
  3. Cut around the whiteboard line. Be careful not to cut the card. Even out the cut when done.
  4. Rub off any remaining lines from the whiteboard marker.
  5. Tape the right side of the sleeve.
  6. Trace the outline of the second card on a thick piece of paper with a pen or pencil.
  7. Cut out the trace of the card. Even out the cut when done.
  8. Place the paper cut-out in the back of the sleeve. You may need to adjust the trimmings to make the cutout fit.
  9. Optional: Decorate the back of the paper backing.

Keep in mind that steps 6 through 9 are completely optional and best suited for card playing. The purpose of the paper is to prevent the back of the card from being seen. This is best suited for playing purposes.

If you have a collectible that you don’t intend to play with, you might not want to add a backing and instead leave the entire sleeve clear for optimal viewing.

What Are Card Sleeves Made From?

Most card sleeves are made from polypropylene, which is a type of plastic. polypropylene sleeves are sometimes called Poly sleeves or penny sleeves.

Polypropylene is not the only material used in card sleeves. Some card sleeves are made from PVC and other more durable plastics. PVC and other similar materials are more durable and are primarily used for collectibles. It provides extra protection for the cards, but it isn’t as flexible or as affordable.

Because of the price and feel of the PVC is highly durable sleeves, polypropylene sleeves are best for regular players. Invest in PVC and other high-quality sleeves if you have a collectible that you don’t intend on playing with.

What Plastic Are Card Sleeves Made Of?

Plastic card sleeves are typically made from one of the two materials mentioned above: polypropylene or PVC. As we learned above, polypropylene is the most common. If you just want card sleeves to protect your cards while playing, polypropylene is the plastic in the sleeves. For collectibles, PVC is more likely the material type.

In either case, both polypropylene and PVC are highly durable plastic materials that can protect your cards from a number of foreign items, ranging from dirt to oils from your fingertips.

Why Polypropylene?

Polypropylene makes a great material for sleeves because it’s a high-quality material that naturally protects your cards from dirt, dust, and oils. At the same time, the material is clear and flexible enough that you can play with the cards and move them. In other words, the plastic protects the cards without rendering them difficult to manage.

Card sleeves are far from being the only material to be made from polypropylene. In fact, it’s one of the most common plastics used for manufacturing purposes. It’s often used in goods, plastic containers, and archival prints.

How Do You Make a Penny Sleeve?

Making a penny sleeve at home can be difficult if you want a professional finish. Polypropylene is a difficult material to work with if you do not have a specialty tool, such as a press or some other similar device. What that means is that making an actual penny sleeve is difficult at home.

Professional Penny Sleeves vs At-Home Penny Sleeves

However, there are ways that you can make a mock penny sleeve that is just as effective and not as damaging on the card’s corners. For example, a Ziploc bag can be turned into a sleeve. Although it isn’t exactly a penny sleeve, it works the same and is made from basically the same material.

The main difference between penny sleeves and this method is the material used. Ziploc baggies are made from polyethylene plastic, whereas most penny sleeves are made from polypropylene. Polypropylene is slightly stiffer than polyethylene, but you don’t have to worry about ruining the edges of your cards while putting them into the sleeve.

If you decide that you want the thicker polypropylene penny sleeve, it’s best to purchase a custom-made sleeve online. Select sleeves based on the cards you are playing with and their unique dimensions. It’s best to get sleeves that are specifically designed for your cards so that the cards fit perfectly.

How to Make a Penny Sleeve at Home

If you want to make your own penny sleeves at home, this is all you need to do:

Put a card inside the left corner of a zip lock bag. Use a dry erase marker to trace the outline of the card on the outside of the bag and cut it out. Tape the right side up.

If you are playing with the card, trace the outline of the card on a thick piece of paper and place that on the backside of the sleeve as well. Collectables might not need this extra step.

Final Thoughts

Card sleeves are essential for keeping your cards protected. Whether you intend to play with your cards or display them on a shelf, penny sleeves and protective sleeves are the difference between a protected card and a vulnerable one.

Most card sleeves you purchase in the store or online are made from polypropylene. However, you can invest in highly durable sleeves that are made from PVC and other more durable plastic instead. In either case, these plastics are flexible and designed to keep your card safe.

If you don’t want to purchase card sleeves, you can make your own using the steps above. With just a Ziploc baggie, some tape, and a few other items, you could easily create your own card sleeves on a budget.

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