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.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
The Devil - from the episode, Once More With FeelingBuffy as JusticeAngel is The Hanged ManWesley is The HierophantDrusilla as The High Priestess
The Devil - from the episode, Once More With Feeling
The Devil - from the episode, Once More With Feeling
Buffy as Justice
Buffy as Justice
Angel is The Hanged Man
Angel is The Hanged Man
Wesley is The Hierophant
Wesley is The Hierophant
Drusilla as The High Priestess
Drusilla as The High Priestess

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.

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Angelus is The MagicianThe ChariotGiles as The EmperorDru and Spike are The LoversAngel is The Hermit
Angelus is The Magician
Angelus is The Magician
The Chariot
The Chariot
Giles as The Emperor
Giles as The Emperor
Dru and Spike are The Lovers
Dru and Spike are The Lovers
Angel is The Hermit
Angel is The Hermit

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.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Cordelia as The EmpressTara as TemperanceSpike is The FoolBuffy is StrengthThe Master is Death
Cordelia as The Empress
Cordelia as The Empress
Tara as Temperance
Tara as Temperance
Spike is The Fool
Spike is The Fool
Buffy is Strength
Buffy is Strength
The Master is Death
The Master is Death

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

Blank Tarot, Tarotee Back
Blank Tarot, Tarotee Back

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.

 
Roylco Blank Standard Playing Card, 2-1/2 L x 3-1/2 W in, Pack of 24
Roylco Blank Standard Playing Card, 2-1/2 L x 3-1/2 W in, Pack of 24

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.

Tarot for Your Self
Tarot for Your Self

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.

 
Color Your Own Tarot
Color Your Own Tarot

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.

 

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Comments 16 comments

babedoll50 profile image

babedoll50 7 years ago from Alberta

This is a great hub and you beat me to the punch. Was going to do a tarot card one myself. I think I still will and hopefully it can be half as good as this one.


C.S.Alexis profile image

C.S.Alexis 7 years ago from NW Indiana

This is fun and quite interesting. i use animal cards but might just need to make a set that are designed just for personal use. nice of you to share.


RVDaniels profile image

RVDaniels 7 years ago from Athens, GA

Interesting but spooky, dude.


Hawkesdream profile image

Hawkesdream 7 years ago from Cornwall

I have read the tarot for years, and still get stuck sometimes, this is a great idea that I am def gonna do, might even post when complete, 2,3 4 years hence lol


Stanley 7 years ago

good read... make me rethink my stand on tarot cards...


Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 6 years ago from England

Hi, I have been reading the cards for years and this a great idea. thanks nell


starlitn profile image

starlitn 6 years ago

I love this hub. For quite a while I have been interested in creating my own tarot cards. However, I had no idea where to begin. Your ideas are useful, because I'm not an artist myself. lol. Good going!


Chrissy Hall profile image

Chrissy Hall 6 years ago from Indiana

I love the idea of a quilt tarot deck. I could see lots of cute old ladies reading tarot and drinking tea. Nice article :)


Leah Whitehorse profile image

Leah Whitehorse 5 years ago

Excellent hub - and also love the idea of Buffy tarot! Designing a deck is something that's 'on the cards' for me at some point but I have too many other projects to complete in the next year or so. Great suggestions though so I have bookmarked this for future reference :-)


Jean Bakula profile image

Jean Bakula 5 years ago from New Jersey

Hi,

This is a really great idea. I read the tarot Professionally, but can't draw to save my life. I love the idea of cutting out pictures and putting them on playing cards. I used Joan Bunning's work when I was a beginner. Another great one is Janina Renee, Tarot For A New Generation. It's geared to teens, but it shows how the symbolism in the Rider Waite is still relevant today, so I got lots out of it. And of course, Rachel Pollack. She's my heroine! I would love to try to make my own deck! Very creative of you.


embitca profile image

embitca 5 years ago from Boston Author

Hi Jean, thanks for your comment :) I love Joan Bunning's book on learning how to read the tarot. That was one of the first books on the topic I ever bought.


stayingalivemoma profile image

stayingalivemoma 5 years ago from Tempe, Arizona

Pretty neat. Do you sell you cards?


embitca profile image

embitca 5 years ago from Boston Author

Hi StayingAlive, sorry I don't sell them.


Roxanne 5 years ago

This is a great idea. I'm thinking of doing one for Charmed...


GwennyOh profile image

GwennyOh 3 years ago from LaLa Land

Very nice article. What a great crafting idea for someone wanting a Tarot deck with deeper meaning for them, as you have suggested. Good job!


Psychic Kathleen profile image

Psychic Kathleen 3 years ago from Victoria

I have had a similar experience as this author. A few years ago I began painting my own deck and learned so much more about the tarot in the process. Highly recommend authors suggestions! Great article.

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