Tips on starting the work on computer



I've finally decided to start making my own deck encouraged by my husband. :) He has always supported me in my artistic projects and when I became newly interested in tarot cards after a several years break, he said to me: " Why wouldn't you try to create a tarot deck of your own?"

Since he has contacts through friends to a publishing house specialized in different types of cards (presently mostly football cards etc.), I might even have a chance of getting my deck published, if I'm lucky!

So, calling out all of you who have experience in digital creation!

I have a couple of questions before I start the creative process:

*What software would you recommend? I have experience with Paintshop Pro and Adobe Photoshop but have heard that Gimp would be good too (and free, if I'm right..)

*What resolution and card size (preferably in pixels/inch or centimeters) would be good?

*What type of image packaging would be good? Png, raw format or jpg?

*If I consider making collages, are there any artwork that doesn't require licence from the author etc.? If I need to get a licence from the holder of rights, how is that done?

Ok, so the last question is speculative since I'm probably making all the stuff myself, but as a huge fan of Finnish art from the turn of the 20th century (Gallen-Kallela etc.) I have considered that too...


Congratulations on beginning. I really look foward to seeing your work.

You have a whole heap of questions but for now I'll just answer two. We use Photoshop - yes it's expensive but it is the industry standard and really very good. But we also use Corel and it may be as much as you need. Can you get some trial packages to try and see what you really think you require?

Resolution? This is my bugbear! I have at least two decks - both very well done and both quite famous and both done with LOW RES images ;-( It really ruins the final print quality (and no, I am not saying which decks as I think it would be very unfair to the artists concerned). We keep images at at least 300 dpi, but for "Baroque Bohemian Cats" most images are at 450. Yes, it means they are large, but it also means we will have final files capable of producing beautiful crisp, clean, detailed prints - low res files produce fuzzy, muddy prints - steer clear of them!

I'm sure you will get lots of good responses here...


About licenses check, ie art history resources on the web.
I am using Paintshop and enjoy it but always switch to Corel where great effects fractals and flozoids are beautifully displayed, also cheking everything in Photoshop, for technical reasons; for good quallity prints usually tiff are required, but jpeg's can be batched. 300 dpi is enough.
good luck and enjoy


mandragora said:
300 dpi is enough.

I agree with you that it's usually enough. But if you want a lot of detail, then really it may not be - for many cards we need 450. Without seeing what Aure has in mind it's hard to be sure. I do agree that mostly you don't need such fine detail (our work is all very detailed - it''s just our style).

The artcyclopaedia link is really good by the way, thanks, but it does say that the images are copyright protected, so I guess they are really only to be used for research?

edited to say - whoops, sorry, just realised you put it up as a link to check licensing, not to use the images. Now it makes sense!


Definitely PhotoShop above all. And the fastest computer you can get will end up feeling slow when you're working with a large, complex, multilayered image. But don't worry about the finished file format (alliterative, aren't I?) at first.

Keep everything as multilayered files until you're at the final stage, and then work with your printer to find out just what format they're going to be able to deal with best for final production. If you don't, you're going to be tearing your hair out trying to rebuild an image when you've just realized that you need to make a change on a card you thought was finished.

Start large, rather than scaling up later. You can always scale down, you can't always scale up without losing quality.

Get used to working in CMYK from the start wherever you can, rather than RGB. Your color range isn't as large, but it's worse later, when you realize that you have to rework images because the color shift did things you never intended. (Of course, sometimes you get some really interesting effects, if you want to chance it.)

Another tip, which may be unnecessary, but .... back up your files regularly. Once a day, every day that you work on the cards, make sure all your changes are backed up, and fully back up the entire project on some regular schedule.


Here's another vote for Photoshop, especially the new CS version. Expensive? I suppose, but it's all relative: one never regrets acquiring good tools. I shelled out the extra $ once for some superterrific branch pruners, and never regretted it for a moment. Also, if you're really going to go into business as a deck maker, it's a deductible business expense, right?
And Photoshop's ideal for collage, if that's the way you have to go. Fortunately, it's equally good as a drawing/painting tool. If you spring for a pad and stylus, it's all the better. I'd love to see more drawn tarot work.
Most commercial print work that you see in magazines, such as ads and editorial illustrations, are actually made at 600 dpi. Memory and disks these days are fairly cheap, so don't skimp with low-res images. And as everyone is pointing out: backup, backup, backup! And save early and often: few things are more heartbreaking than 6 hours of work lost in a crash.
Another good plan is to have a template to work in: pick a filesize, resolution, color palette, border and any elements you want to re-use, and make a dummy file containing everything. Then, when you begin a new image, just duplicate the file, rename it, and start fresh with everything in place.

be sure to show us your work as it develops!

le pendu

Photoshop/psd/adjustment layers/jpg

Just want to reiterate what others are saying, and point out a few things as well.

1. Photoshop is the king for good reason, no one has been able to beat it, it is the industry standard. If you can afford it, buy it, its worth every penny.

2. Save your files in Photoshop format (.psd). This allows you to maintain all or your layers, selections, paths, and layer effects. It is critical that you keep this flexibility, you'll probably keep working on images time and again.

3. If you are going to be making "adjustments" including brightness, contrast, or color, use "Adjustment Layers". This allows you to go back later and redo/tweak adjustments as you build your cards rather than permanently changing images.

4. Never save your work file as a .jpg. Jpgs are "lossy" which means that when you save the image, it actually "looses", or "throws out" information to make a smaller file size. It's great for the web, but not for original art.

I'd be happy to answer any photoshop questions that you have, or explain any thing in detail. Let me know if I can help you.

best of luck on your new adventure!



Another vote for Photoshop

I just recently completed my first electronic collage using Photoshop. Once I got used to working with the layers, I can honestly say that PS is a thing of beauty and a joy forever. My collage looks great and that's only party my fault. ;)

If you are interested in copyright free clipart sorts of things, Dover publishes a great many books that have some fun images that make for interesting collages. That's what I just used. I do recommend getting the books that come with CD-ROMs of the images already electronified, if you go that route, because scanning them and removing all the background junk was pretty hard on my mouse wrist.


I think the only thing I would (naively) remark on is the obvious: That, whatever you do, much of it is repeated 78(xN?) times. (I've just surfaced from manually cropping a standard deck for my own nefarious purposes!) Electronically too, a degree of planning is thus useful - especially in the distribution of image components to e.g. separate layers, so you can modify individual components and make "global" changes easily? Understanding use of "macros" in whatever software you use can be a huge help. Many of these (labour saving) things I typically only discover much later... notably after FINALLY reading the manual! ;)



Re: Another vote for Photoshop

nyx* said:
If you are interested in copyright free clipart sorts of things, Dover publishes a great many books that have some fun images that make for interesting collages.

It's also what the Victoria Regina uses - which just shows what a very classy result you can get :)