Sharing your process

Insomnia Turtle

Is anyone interested in sharing their techniques in personal tarot card creation? I'm not just talking about how one makes the cards, but how one prepares to make the cards. What kind of research do you do? How do you, personally, go about sketching ideas? What are the most important things to think about for you? Is there any images of your way of doing things (the process you used) that you would like to share?

I have just started attempting to come up with ideas, so I will contibute ideas and images as I come up with them, but, in the meantime, please feel free to add your imput :).


Well, I was considering doing a collage deck, then decided that a theme deck was a better idea, especially as I wanted to have it as something that could be sold, not just a deck made for me. I picked the theme right away--being a former ferret owner & knowing that there's so LITTLE ferret merchandise out there. I tried the idea out on a couple of the yahoo tarot boards & yahoo ferret boards & got nothing but positive feedback on it.

I do line drawings, have about 24 different animal paper dolls with historical themes & have sold those since 1990 (I add one or two a year to the pile) and have gotten feedback on content & style, so I know the ones that got the best comments, sales & just plain people picking them up to turn & show their friends turned out to be the more cartoony type of art. So settling on ferrets & a semi-realistic cartoon style, that was easy.

Coming up with the images wasn't. I didn't want to just duplicate the RW deck (though two of the cards so far do come pretty close). I sat down with my decks, my two tarot books & a bunch of books from the library plus some stuff I got from online & broke down each card into basic meanings--trying to find a solid base for each card. Then I tried thinking of what to draw to show that meaning. I didn't want to have 5 cups drawn on the 5 of cups card (though I do have 5 swords on the 5 of Swords, but that's an exception). I wanted an image that, even for someone not familiar with tarot (as ferret owners are likely to be new to this) could make some sense out of.

The Temperance card was a hard one. How to incorporate ferrets into it? I settled on a white ferret angel from on high holding a scroll with the word 'moderation' on it, yet knowing ferrets, they do NOT do anything in moderation, so the two ferrets watching from below are laughing their eyes out. The meaning WILL be moderation, but a ferret owner can see the from a ferret's point of view too.

The King of Pentacles shows a big male clutching his beloved posessions to him with a look of utter joy (ferrets love socks!). The Sun is a ferret in the throes of a Weasel Dance with the words Happy Happy Joy Joy all around him (happy ferrets dance like mindless maniacs).

I try to put something from the ferret's point of view into the cards if I can. Sometimes an image just doesn't come though--the Judgement card for instance, someone suggested a ferret show, but that isn't sparking any visual ideas for me.

Everything started out on scratch paper with a ball point pen, images sketched in really rough, eyes & mouths scribbled & changed & rechanged. I didn't want to do dressed up ferrets, so they're all just fur type, not wearing clothes. I don't want the cost of doing a little white book & decided to use just the standard RW interpretations for reading, so for those who are going to get the deck who may not have any contact with tarot before, I'm putting the basic meanings in text up and down the inside card borders (that was a hard decision, but I thought it'd be a good idea in the long run). I had a hard time settling on the font style too--I liked the woodcut look of one font, but the 'fun' feel of a ferret deck theme seemed to ask for something more light, so I used a Scruff or Joker font.

Oh, figure out what SIZE you need the cards first. The number of cards able to be printed per page is important to the size & interior dimensions, which will affect your drawing width & height. I'm glad I got that figured out first.


" I'm not just talking about how one makes the cards, but how one prepares to make the cards. What kind of research do you do? How do you, personally, go about sketching ideas? What are the most important things to think about for you?"


For me, Tarot is Tarot. By that I mean that the basic ideas of Tarot, all the fundamental imagery and organization of it are already in place, and therefore my job as a Tarot artist is to figure out how I can best re-present what I know about it.
Tarot is, in a way, a book whose pages can be rearranged in an infinite number of ways, and still tell an intelligible, insightful story. It's a unique, amazing, remarkable document. It doesn't need to be rewritten; it only needs to be 'translated' for its next audience.
My job isn't to rename Tarot cards or reorganize them; they've worked well for 500 years (and presumably much longer), and they don't need me messing around with the structure. My job is to match up a new Tarot audience with the old proven and venerable Tarot ideas by providing a new art context. I want to find a new way to state old information: what art styles will speak to the current mind?
I look around at the current art styles, and ask myself - how do they communicate information? The world is crammed full of artistic speech these days. Quick contemporary examples would include things like graffiti, New Yorker cartoons, informercials, talkshows, modern art, billboards, corporate logos, cellphone shorthand, email conventions, and band posters on telephone poles. These are all ways that we 21st-century people locate and use information, and to me it stands to reason that the timeless/eternal information in Tarot can just as easily be conveyed in these new ways.
I looked at another contemporary example: road signs. The bowling-ball-headed pedestrian silhouette on the yellow sign says 'You can cross the road here if you want.' very clearly, without any words. It's useful in any language. It's also true with the Tarot, and I thought hm... they really do have a lot in common. That's when I decided it would be a good idea to try to unite the Tarot with those 'international icons', resulting in a new deck. It's not a new and different Tarot, just a new presentation of the universal concepts.
Then it becomes a question of how to combine aesthetic concerns with clarity of communication. It's time to put pencil to paper.
There ya go.


Brain storming

rota said:
My job is to match up a new Tarot audience with the old proven and venerable Tarot ideas by providing a new art context. I want to find a new way to state old information: what art styles will speak to the current mind?
I look around at the current art styles

It's that same for me, I busted my brains to think of new ways etc. When that didn't work I just went back to basics.

I'm working on a clone but using my own style using Photoshop and Illustrator. My style is very flat, colourful and feminine shapes. Which is a bit of a joke because I'm not at all feminine.

Photoshop & Illustrator really helped me because I hadn't drawn for ages. I done graphic design at collage and lots of dawing when I was younger but I didn't feel that my drawing was up to stratch. So just found ways to make life easier for myself.

I would say that it's very important to find your own style. I started making concept boards of images which moved me and used that to create my own style. It took me some time to get the ball rolling because I just wanted a finished deck with out knowing what my style was. I still make concept boards and I will continue to do so until I complete the entire deck.

I also changed my mind after a I was head stong on what I was going to do. That's OK to change your mind it just shows that your making progress. You can still use the cards which you have already done for something else.

I would say to start doodling and brainstorming. :) then you will find your own way.

I hope that helps



I've been looking for a tarot deck that never stops speaking to me and finally decided I would have to draw my own. I Don't know anything about computer animation so it had to be hand made. I would have to admit that I sketch better than I paint (somewhat like daVinci) but I felt that I could put more of myself in the crads if I painted them and they would speak more if the colors were vibrant.
Choosing the style took about a week and the medium bacame acryluc paint just because it is cheap and I used it in High school a lot and descoverd it was ideal for my style of painting.
I was never concerned about selling or publishing my personal deck so I could just put in my views and interpretations.
I wanted it be different, to be entirely mine and not some clone. Having this frame in my mind I started making a journal, one page for each card. In which I put sketches, pictures, color schemes and even names of peoples or myths that represented the feeling of each cards best in my view. I make up the ideas for the cards with this journal in mind and make primal sketches for each card when I'm having a boring class.
During the holidays I started painting on the first few of them, putting all ideas into paint and color finally.
By deciding on making tarot cards instead of ordinary paintings I have limited myself quite a bit. The image has to represent something rather than just be nice to look at. But it is a lovely challenge.
I will be needing at least half a decade to finish this personal project because of the lack of time but I can't wait to hold my very own cards in my hands and try them out for a reading. I guess that is what keeps me motivated, that and the fun it gives me of course!

Insomnia Turtle

Thanks to everyone who contributed their thoughts. I certainly have a lot to think about while I'm creating my deck.

After reading the responses, I have decided that maybe a "growing" deck might be an approach I should take before I try to take on a complete personal deck. By growing I mean just that. I have just started to get interested in tarot cards and their uses for divination (I have been interested in the card game for quite some time though. It's quite fun, but very different from divining) so I think making a deck that I would constantly change with my views as I am learning more about the cards might be a good way to track my progress as well as come up with a consistancy I like. Of course, this could be disasterous too, but I won't know till I try :).

Any thoughts on this out there?


Hmm, you might want to start with the minors then, unless you don't mind redoing some of the majors as you learn & add to your knowledge. I know most start with the majors, but skipping around isn't 'illegal'.

Insomnia Turtle

Any reason you think it's best to start with minors instead of majors? Do you think it is easier to learn the cards that way? Or is it that Minors are connected to the majors, so to change a minor would change it's corresponding major?

Sorry if this sounds stupid, but as I said before, I am COMPLETLY new when it comes to Tarot in the divination sense.


Well, I'm doing a bit of both, but I think it's easier to change a minor than fiddle with majors later, they're so important. All cards are important, but everyone looks to the majors first, so allowing time for the meanings to gel on those a little longer might help with the creative process.

But it's totally up to you! Do the cards that say 'do me first'. There's no wrong way to start.


Personally I'm having more difficulty with designing the minors. (the designs are still inside my head btw) I find it challenging to put the suit symbols AND pictorial symbolism in balance. Somehow the majors just flow from my imagination easier.
But as with everything about the tarot, just do what feels right. If you have a perfect idea for a card just do it and try not to force your creativity to much. It might be helpfull to make a journal and dedicate a page per card to build op your personal symbolism log.