Why Are Playing Cards Red and Black in Color?

A standard deck of playing cards consists of fifty-two cards and the cards are divided into four suits. There are typically two black suits – clubs and spades – and two red suits – diamonds and hearts. In each suit, you will find thirteen cards which include an ace, a king, a queen, a jack, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, and 2. A king, a queen, and a jack are also referred to as picture cards.

Now, as you are aware, playing cards are extremely popular across the world and in most parts of the globe, a deck of playing cards is black and red in color. Have you wondered why? It is because the French-suited playing cards are usually used as a standard. This is accepted to maintain versatility and uniformity. When compared to German, Spanish, Italian, and Swiss playing cards, French playing cards are the most widespread because of the commercial, geopolitical and cultural influence of France, the United States, and the United Kingdom in the 19th and 20th centuries. The other reason for the popularity of the French suits was the simplicity of the insignia of the suit which simplified mass production. The popularity of contract bridge and whist also helped in spreading the French-suited playing cards far and wide.

Since the English pattern of French-suited playing cards is so popular that it is also referred to as the Anglo-American or International pattern. The uniformity of the colors of the playing cards has helped to unite card players from across the globe, especially when they play online rummy together or such other card games. In India, rummy is an extremely popular game and even though the country has its own version of the game, the colors of the playing cards remain the same and this makes it easier for everyone to pick up the rules and start playing. You can download now to start playing rummy and then continue reading know more about the mystery surrounding the black and red colors of the present-day card deck.

History of ancient card decks

As per various books and manuscripts, playing cards existed and were popular during the Tang Dynasty. The first card game was played in the year 868 by Princess Tong Chang. Also, there are quite a few theories that the playing cards were printed during the Tang Dynasty and by the 11th century, cards had become widespread across the length and breadth of the Asian continent.

In Europe, playing cards entered around 1370 from Mamluk Egypt and were reported in France in the year 1377. The European cards looked similar to the Mamluk deck and it had 4 different suits – namely, coins, swords, polo sticks, and cups.

The playing cards reached Germany and Italy by the 13th century and the conventional Latin suits were quickly replaced by hearts, acorns, bells, and leaves. By 1480, the French suit was formed which was a combination of German and Latin suit pictures. The French suits featured pikes, clovers, tiles, and hearts.

Today, the standard playing cards deck that you use is derived from the German suits and it consists of clubs, spades, diamonds, and hearts. While Latin-suited, Mamluk cards, and German-suited cards have male faces on their cards, the French card deck replaced the Knight with a female card which is the queen. The designs on the face cards or picture cards are heavily inspired by Spanish cards that were in circulation in France. In the 19th century, the cards became reversible as rounded corners and corner indices were added.

What is the significance of red and black colors?

Most of the card decks printed today are in red and black ink. While there are also cards in green and blue inks (see below), red and black inks are easily accessible and also they’re cheap. The black ink can be made by mixing linseed oil and soot, and the red ink can be made using linseed oil and cinnabar. Both the inks are durable and they do not fade away easily, even when exposed to sunlight.

Other theories also exist that say red ink was used because it stands out and looks prominent on a piece of white paper. Also, the copper compounds that are needed to prepare blue and green inks were quite expensive and they weren’t even oil soluble. According to some other theories, the colors black and red are symbols of day and night.

So, you are open to your interpretation. But, the conclusion that can be drawn here is that black and red were common colors that were easily available and they were affordable. Also, they stood out on a white background.

The four-colored card deck – commonly found variation

The present-day deck of playing cards makes use of the color red for the suits of diamonds and hearts and the color black for the suits of spades and clubs. But, it might be difficult to identify these cards and the possibility of playing the wrong card is high, especially during a highly competitive game. In order to avoid confusion, the four suits were given different colors so that they can be easily distinguished from one another. The systems were varied. For instance, one system used blue for diamonds, red for hearts, green for clubs, and black for spades. Another system used yellow for diamonds, red for hearts, green for spades, and black for clubs, and this was inspired by the German suits.

Known as no-revoke decks, the four-colored deck was designed specifically for trick-tracking games like whist, jass, and call bridge. Card manufacturers developed these four colored suit cards for games like poker and bridge in the early 1900s so that there would be no confusion when players are engaged in an intense match.

So, now you know why standard playing card decks are usually black and red in color. With this newfound knowledge, you might find it even more interesting to engage in card games like rummy. Download the game on your mobile device and get gaming.

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