How to Make Your Own Tarot Cards
Making My Own Tarot Cards
I've had a longtime interest in tarot cards, but I've always had a tough time memorizing all of the different card meanings and learning a way of recalling them so they would reading them would actually be a meaningful experience.
But several years ago I discovered a way to make tarot cards more meaningful to me. By creating my own set of tarot cards, I could choose images that really fit with the archetypes of the cards as I understood them. This really added a richness to the experience of working with the tarot and even though I never completed the set, I find that the experience has stuck with me as I work with standard decks like the Rider-Waite tarot today.
So if you would like to make your own tarot cards, but stuck for ideas on how to do that, then hopefully my experience can provide you with some pointers on which direction to take. I'll show you some of the cards I made and give you a few suggestions for different ways that you can work with the cards yourself to help you make a tarot deck that is rich with personal meaning to you.
Creating Your Own Tarot Cards by Nancy Garen
If you are looking for a great book about making tarot cards, this book by Nancy Garen is the best. Unfortunately it has been long out of print. Occasionally though, copies of it come up for sale on Eay. If you see some auctions listed here, grab one.
Making My Tarot Deck
The impetus for creating my own tarot deck was my obsession with Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
A lot of the show's characters (and the characters on Angel) struck me as fitting very well into specific archetypes and the episodes lent a lot of opportunities as well, so I decided to work on a Major Arcana deck based upon Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I completed 15 cards out of 22 before I ran out of steam and moved on to another project.
Even today, I find myself frequently casting pop culture icons in my head as different tarot archetypes, so if I were working on making a unique tarot deck today, I could probably create a fun celebrity-based deck. I've always thought Eminem would be the perfect Fool for the Tarot.*g*
So what do you think? If you are ready to create your own tarot deck, you need to think about what you want to work with in terms of images.
Tarot Card Meanings
Before you begin working on your own Tarot deck, it's a good idea of have some reference material handy so you can look up card meanings for yourself. I really like the Jungian approach to tarot as presented in Jung and Tarot, but it's a big book and can be pretty heavy going.
Joan Bunning's Learning the Tarot course is extremely popular and very useful. You can either buy the book so you have it with you, or you can check out Joan Bunning's Tarot course online. The entire course is online for free. There are also tons of other tarot sites to check out card meanings so you can just look up individual cards whenever you are working on them.
Also, I consider Eden Gray's book The Complete Guide to Tarot, to be indispensible. It is a tarot classic and very succinct. You will get a lot out of it.
Finding Inspiration for Tarot Decks
Over the past 20 years or so, there has literally been a tarot explosion, so while the Rider-Waite used to be the be all, end all in tarot cards, there are now thousands of different tarot decks.
If you want to look at other cards for inspiration, Aeclectic.net has photos of hundreds of different tarot card decks that you can look at.
One of my favorites is the Victoria Regina Tarot which was created collaging Victorian engravings. I like to look through Aeclectic's listings of unpublished tarot decks to see what other amateur tarot card creators are doing.
That said, you will find inspiration all around you for making your own tarot. Consider your favorite movies, tv shows, and books. Or even your favorite music. Whatever it is that inspires you. While you are working on your deck, keep a small notebook handy at all times so whenever inspiration hits you can jot down some ideas.
How to Create Your Images
If you can paint or draw, you are all set. If you aren't an artist and you can't paint or draw, relax. That's why they invented Photoshop and digital cameras.
I can't even draw a straight line. My artistic urges are mostly spent taking photos and manipulating either mine or other people's images -- either by using photo editing software or by doing collage if I want to work with my hands.
You can see my Artist Trading Cards where I've basically done both -- some cards are based on photoshop/collage and others are my photography/collage. Some of those cards include photos I tore out of vintage magazines and then scanned into my computer so I could edit them.
If you can point a camera or tear a picture out of a magazine, you can create your own tarot cards, even if you can't draw a straight line.
While you can sit down with a bunch of magazines and just tear out images that strike you, the internet has certainly made it very easy to find exactly what you are looking for. Just don't get bogged down in the hunt.
When I was searching for the right image of Cordelia to use for The Empress, I must have looked at over 500 photographs of the actress Charisma Carpenter before I finally settled on one of the first images I'd saved to my hard drive.
Think Outside the Box
If you have any skills in other types of arts & crafts, why not apply that to your tarot creation. Textiles represent a lot of different opportunities for creating a tarot. If you want to see an amazing example of what I am talking about, take a look at this applique and quilting tarot deck.
If you do cross-stitch or embroidery, there are some templates that you can work from that might spark some ideas for coming up with your own embroidered or cross-stitched tarot. Take a look at these designs as well.
There is no reason to restrict yourself to working at tarot card size.... anything you create can either be photographed or scanned and then reduced in size for printing onto cardstock. So if you want to create large scale mixed media pieces, you should definitely do it!
Blank Tarot Cards
You could just cut some card stock to create your tarot cards, but if you would like some nice thick cards with decorated backs then a blank tarot deck may be the way to go. I would recommend sanding the blank side lightly before you start working with them.
Instead of using traditional Tarot sized cards, you might want to create a deck using the standard playing card size.
Collaging your Own Tarot Deck
If you don't want to spend all of your time in front of your computer, then collage is a great way to go if you can't draw or paint. If I were doing another deck, I would likely do a collage deck. Once you are done creating, you can always scan the collaged cards and reprint them so the cards won't be so bulky.
For collage, you can do what I do with my ATCs. Get a pack of playing cards and just paper over the hearts, clubs and spades. If you want a traditional tarot sized deck, you can get a blank set of tarot card backs and paste your collage pieces directly onto them.
Or you could even just use a packet of index cards. You could use a scissors to shape the edges of the cards once you were done with the collages. Very easy.
Mary Greer's book has a chapter on designing your own deck. Also, Greer's books are great if you are looking for ways to really make tarot yours.
If you don't want to make your own deck from scratch, you might have fun coloring your own tarot deck. Working with each card for awhile can really help you with the symbolism.
More Help & Tutorials for Making Your Own Tarot Cards
- Some Useful Tips on Making a Collage Tarot Deck
Arnell Ando has been long considered the authority of collage tarot decks, but unfortunately her website has been offline for years. Here's an archive.org link to her article on making a collage tarot deck.
- Creating Your Own Tarot Deck With Collage
For extensive information on making your own tarot deck using collage, this page has links to several different artist's websites that all explain how they went about it. Extremely helpful, even if you don't intend to use collage.
- Tarot Creation Forum
Aeclectic has a big tarot forum and this sub-forum is a great place to get help and advice about creating your own Tarot cards.
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