Critiquing Crappy Decks

Lady Eclipse

A couple of days ago, my friend Joel asked for my opinion of a tarot deck he's working on. He seems to think I'm an expert because I know a lot about tarot, created 2 1/2+ decks, and he values my opinion, which is why he asked for my help. He's creating the deck on his computer.

Yesterday, he dropped off a CD of some of his cards for me to take a look at them. There's no way to put this nicely so... I think it's awful. The cards are very poorly done. It looks like he just cropped some images and stuck them on without even bothering to blend. Some of the cards are so dark and distorted that it's very difficult to figure out what the image is. One card looks like a very bad rip off of another deck currently on the market. The best card out of the group was the one he said wasn't finished and even that had some problems. I think you get the idea.

He especially wants to know how I like his cards. He's told me he plans on submitting these atrocities to some publishers but he said he wants my thoughts on them first. The problem is, he's not the kind of person who is interested in constructive criticism. He can't handle it and becomes very angry and defensive. I know these cards are his "baby" and I respect that. I can give him some constructive criticism on how to make them look better but I know he will get angry. In all honesty, it's really difficult to find anything I like about his deck.

What is the best thing to do when someone asks you to critique their tarot deck, that's in progress, when you know the person isn't really interested in an honest opinion?

Joy to you,


This is a really difficult one. It's easiest to just be dishonest and positive, but really that's not at all helpful (plus of course lying is awful to have to do).

If he can't take criticism I would be very cautious. Can you gently suggest he tries some different techniques - or looks at some other cards?

We have similar experiences here sometimes, but with artists rather than card designers. It can be very awkward. A friend of ours who runs a gallery told me that we Brits always say "Its very interesting" when we can't think of anything really enthusiastic to say, but don't want to offend (I think she may be right). Maybe you can say something equally vague?

Sorry, I can't think what else to suggest. I don't envy you.


I dunno, maybe it's best to say the style isn't something you personally are drawn to. That takes away from total condemnation without crushing him. Then some constructive criticism like 'blending here & here will make the image stronger without looking too piecemeal, and the darkness here makes it hard to see what the design is, that when a printer gets this they may have the entire card be so dark due to the printing process that the whole image is lost'-, which gives a reason for lightening it up. Maybe ask why he picked this & this to symbolize the meaning of ------------ in the card. Get him thinking about what he's showing for the representations.

But it's hard to do an honest critique when you don't like what you see, I know. Throw him some bones he can work with and not get too defensive about (like what would hamper printing on the card) where the target isn't you or him, but a technicality. That may help a bit. He's enthused, maybe it'll run it's course before he gets too far.


I agree with Hudson Gray. Tell him it's not your style and you don't feel comfortable critiqueing them. Then point him to this forum and have him inflict them on us. Since we don't know him, and since there are quite a few members who can find something good to say about almost anything, he may get some comments he can listen to.

Lady Eclipse

Hi baba, Hudsongray, & Astra,

Thank you very much for the suggestions. I will take them all into use at a later date. I no longer have to give Joel an answer anytime soon.

My father just had a massive stroke and there's no hope. He will be crossing over at any moment. :-( He is 1800 miles away and I can't get there in time but my mom held the phone up to his ear so I could say the things I needed to. His eyes opened halfway while talking to him. I'm glad I had the privilege to say goodbye and to be the daughter of such an honorable man.

Thanks again for all of your help. It is truly appreciated.

Joy to you,


my sympathy on the passing of you father.


((((((Lady Eclipse)))))

I am so glad you had the opportunity to say goodbye to your wonderful father. I am sure your words will have brought tremendous comfort and peace.

You are in my thoughts


Hi Lady Eclipse,

I've just read this post. I have tears in my eyes. I'm so sorry.



My thoughts and best wishes are with you at this sad time, Lady Eclipse. What a blessing that you were able to speak with your father on the phone -- I just know that it helped him at least as much as it did you. What passed between you via the telephone connection was pure light and love. May your heart's pain be eased, and your spirit uplifted. Blessings to your mother and all of your family, as well.


Oh Maralee, I'm sorry. That brought tears to my eyes too. Take what time you need to to deal with that. You'll know what's important. At least you had a chance to say something to him.