How To Make & Perform the Brainwave Deck (with photos)

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It’s the Invisible Deck with a color-changing twist ending.

Yes, that’s right, it’s the Brainwave Deck!

It’s a killer effect that adds a kicker ending and a visual flair to one of the greatest card tricks of all time, and better yet, you can make one yourself.

You can easily grab a Brainwave Deck from Amazon for a really fair price, but there are a few advantages to making your own which I’ll explain below.

To make your own Brainwave Deck, you’ll need two decks of cards with contrasting colors (Red and Blue Bicycles work best), and a can of roughing fluid, matte finish spray, or other alternative.

Let’s get into the instructions!


Brainwave Deck performance explained

There are a few different ways to present the Brainwave Deck, but the basic effect goes like this:

A spectator is invited to name a card from the deck. They have a completely free choice of any card they’d like, and can even change up until the very last second. The magician then removes a deck of cards and, under close scrutiny and with no “moves”, reveals one “prediction card” in the deck face-up among the 52 other face-down cards — matching their free selection perfectly.

As a kicker ending to eliminate any possibility that sleight of hand may have occurred, the selected card is shown to have a different color back than the rest of the deck — the only stranger card in the pack.


How does the Brainwave Deck work?

Much like the Invisible Deck, the Brainwave Deck uses the rough/smooth principle to hide certain cards you don’t want your spectators to see.

Essentially, Brainwave uses 26 red-backed cards and 26 blue-backed cards, stuck face to face using roughing spray, and arranged in such an order that it’s easy to find any card the spectator might name.

The roughing spray allows the face-to-face cards to “stick” to each other just enough that you can casually spread through the cards without revealing any face-up cards until you’re ready to reveal the chosen card.

The cards are also arranged in a very basic ascending order. On one side, you’ll find the A through K of Hearts and the A through K of Diamonds (in order), and on the other you’ll find the hearts and spades.

(The spectators never see the face of any of the cards except one.)

It’s quite simple and easy to find the location of any card in the deck due to this organizational system, plus marking a few key indicator cards (which I’ll explain below).


Making vs buying

Why make your own deck when you could buy one for about $10?

There are actually a couple of good reasons:

Cheaper (for more than one deck)

If you want to make multiple decks, say a Brainwave, an Invisible Deck, or maybe some similar gimmicked decks that use the rough/smooth principle, creating your own will be far cheaper.

As a one-off? It’s a better deal to just buy one and save yourself the time.

For reference, with just two packs of Bicycle Cards and one can of matte spray (about $8 total), I’ve created two Brainwave decks and have plenty of spray left for more.

Touch up any time

Rough/smooth cards will wear down over time. Once you’ve performed with the deck for a while, the rough finish will start to smooth out and the cards will start slipping.

If you have roughing spray/matte finish spray, you can touch up your deck any time you want or create a new one. If not, you’ll have to buy a totally fresh pack.

Create non-Bicycle Rider Back decks

This is huge if you like to perform with customized or premium cards rather than Bicycle Standard or Rider Back decks.

With your own materials, you could create a Brainwave deck using any cards you want — even two decks that don’t match at all!

You could really get creative and add some cool visual flair to your routine.


Materials needed

Brainwave deck materials to make your own

Okay, let’s get into the tutorial!

To make your own Brainwave Deck, you’ll need:

Two decks of cards with contrasting colors. I got a 12 pack of red/blue Bicycle cards from Amazon for an awesome price, and now I have plenty to make other gimmicked decks with.

Roughing spray or matte finish spray. You can buy specialty roughing spray or even roughing sticks, but they’re overpriced. A can of Krylon 1311 matte finish spray should only cost a few bucks and works just as well. Get it from Amazon here or any Walmart, Michaels, or craft store.

Old sheet, blanket, trash bag, or another work surface. You’ll need a surface big enough to lay out all 52 cards individually; something you don’t care about ruining.

It should cost $8-10 to get these basic materials, which is enough to make two Brainwaves. You’ll have matte spray leftover to create an Invisible Deck or other gimmick, as well.

If you’ve got those things, you’re ready to go!


Preparation & set up

Let’s get into the steps.

Lay out your blanket, sheet, or trash bag in any open space.

The spray has a bit of a spray-paint odor to it, so beware of that.

(Outside on a covered porch is good for ventilation, but be a little careful about wind. Laying out on your garage floor is a good idea, too).

Open both decks of cards and remove the needed cards

Cards needed for DIY Brainwave Deck

You’ll need all of the hearts and diamonds from one deck.

And all of the spades and clubs from the other.

(For this example, let’s say you’re using Red-backed clubs and spades and Blue-backed hearts and diamonds. You’d think it’d be easier to remember the other way, but I’ll explain why this way is slightly better in a moment!

You can do it either way, though, and you can use the leftover cards to make a second Brainwave deck.)

Lay all of the cards face-up on your work surface

Lay each card out individually, FACE UP, on your work surface, with a small amount of space in between each one.

Spraying cards for DIY Brainwave deck

It’s VERY, VERY important that you spray the faces of the cards with your spray, and NOT the backs.

If you spray the backs of these cards, your Brainwave Deck won’t work properly.

Now you’re ready to use your roughing or matte finish spray.


Spraying the cards

Don’t overcomplicate this part, and don’t be nervous!

Hold the can of spray about 10 inches from the cards and coat each one lightly, in one continuous motion.

(Don’t spray too close or the pressure of the can will blow your cards away, and you’ll coat them too heavily.)

Keep the spray bottle moving!

Err on the side of under spraying the cards.

Overspraying will result in soggy cards and bleeding ink.

You can always touch up any smooth spots later.

You want a light coating of the spray on each card.

Alternatively, you can use roughing sticks (Amazon link) and apply manually. It’s like a glue stick for roughing spray, and it takes longer to do, but it dries much faster.

Once you’ve sprayed all 52 cards, give them at least an hour to fully air dry.


Assembling the deck

Once the cards are FULLY dry (should take about an hour, but it depends on the climate and where they’re drying), you can assemble the deck.

Gather all the red-backed cards (clubs and spades) in one pile and the blue-backed cards (hearts and diamonds) in another.

Place the red-backed cards in a pile face up on a table, in this order, from top down:

A through K of Hearts, then A through K of Diamonds – (Ace of Hearts is facing you on top, King of Diamonds is on the very bottom of the face-up pile)

Arrange the blue-backed cards similarly, but reversed:

K through A of Spades, then K through A of Clubs – (King of Spades facing up on top, Ace of Clubs all the way at the bottom)

Pairing the cards

Grab the top card from each pile (Red-backed King of Spades and blue-backed Ace of Hearts) and pair them together.

The pairs FACE EACH OTHER, leaving only the colored backs visible.

Repeat with the next top card in each pile, pairing them together and placing them on top of the first pair.

Go through both piles this way until you have paired every card.

Finished DIY Brainwave Deck

When you spread through the deck one way, you should only see red-backed cards (the faces should stick to each other). Turn the deck over and spread through again, and you should see only blue-backed cards.

The cards will be QUITE sticky at the beginning, so you’ll need to work the deck in and practice quite a bit to get the cards moving just right.

Marking the indicator cards

This isn’t 100% mandatory, but it really helps to mark a couple of indicator cards to help you quickly and smoothly locate your chosen card every time.

Find these cards in the deck:

  • 7 of Clubs
  • A of Spades
  • 7 of Spades
  • 7 of Hearts
  • A of Diamonds
  • 7 of Diamonds

On the backs of the cards these indicator cards are clinging to (the 7 of Spades is stuck to the 7 of Hearts, for example), make a small mark.

You can put a small dot, pencil in one of the design elements, or whatever you’d like.

Brainwave Indicator Card

These cards will be landmarks for you as you spread through the deck and perform the routine.

Pro tip: Start light and subtle with these markings. Practice with them and if they’re too hard to see, make them a little bolder.


How to practice & perform the Brainwave deck

I’ll leave the performance elements to you, but here are the mechanics of how to use your BWD.

It all starts with putting the cards in the box properly, and it depends which color box you use.

I prefer to use the blue Bicycle box. If you create the cards like I did in this tutorial, I like to have the red-backs facing the front of the Bicycle box, matching the little red spade logo.

The blue backs, then, will face the other side of the box, which shows the blue Bicycle Rider Back design.

With this layout, it’s simple.

If your spectator chooses a RED card (heart or diamond), open and remove the cards from the red side of the box.

Otherwise, turn it over and remove from the blue side.

Easy, right?

Now, you’ll spread through the cards with a light but firm touch, looking for your INDICATOR cards that appear at the quarter mark, the half mark, and the three-quarter mark (7, Ace, and 7, respectively).

Remember, if you’ve assembled the deck properly, the cards will be in sequential order. Behind the first face down card will be the Ace of Hearts. Behind the second will be the 2 of Hearts. And so on, until you get to the Diamond.

No matter what card your spectator names, you only have to count a few cards from one of your indicators to find it’s pair.

Then, gently spread the selected card out, applying just enough pressure to defeat the rough faces.

Whala!

The best way to practice performing the Brainwave Deck is to use a playing card generator or shuffler to pull random cards and practice “finding” them in the deck smoothly, including taking the deck out of the box!


Performance tips & tricks

The mechanics of the Brainwave Deck are really simple.

From there, it’s all about your performance.

It’s an effect that really deserves proper build-up. So instead of having a spectator just name a card, I like to make it a big “production.”

First I’ll have them imagine all the cards in the deck, and then get rid of either the black or red ones. Then I’ll have them get rid of either one of the remaining suits. Then we’ll narrow down face cards versus number cards, and so on, until they’re left with just one card.

Important: Tell them they can change the card at the end if they want! It’s critical that they don’t think they were somehow forced to choose a specific card.

Once they’ve decided 100% which card they want, you can do the reveal.

I like this technique because it provides a lot of build-up, for one, and it also gives the audience a little bit of a thread to pull at to decipher how the trick is done — a thread that has nothing to do with the cards themselves, which of course they can’t examine!

On flashing: Remember that, unlike the Invisible Deck (if you use the Jokers to shield the top or bottom), you CAN NOT flash the bottom of the Brainwave Deck.

Practice your angles and handle the cards with care.

On deck-switching: It’s rare that someone will want to examine the deck if you’ve performed this properly.

It’s not something that screams “trick deck,” like a Svengali deck. It’s just a pack of cards with one card turned over.

Though it’s a good idea to have a normal, matching deck of cards on you, as well.

When you’re done performing the BWD, put it away in your pocket. If people want to see the cards, hand them the other deck.

Done and done.


Wrapping Up

The Brainwave Deck is an absolutely incredible effect.

You can debate forever and ever if the color-change ending makes it stronger than the Invisible Deck or just distracts from the magic, but it’s a fun trick and a nice change of pace if you’ve been doing the ID for a while.

It’s simplest just to buy a Brainwave from Amazon, but if you want to create a handful of them for a bargain price or create custom BWDs using premium playing cards, it’s good to know how to do it.

Hope this helps, everyone!

Asad is the best teacher in the game today, and if you’re a visual learner, you won’t want to miss this comprehensive course.

Credit to MisMag822 on YouTube for an excellent video tutorial.