what format do you work in??


i am about to start work on my own tarot cards - and i was wondering what format everyone worked on.

i would rather work large (but not too large due to expense) - so i am going to use acrylic paint on canvased boards approx 40 x 60 cm.

just out of interest - i would like to know what you all do.

i presume when it comes a time to get them made up - a proffessional printers will use a large scanner????

thank you for replies xxxxxxxxxxxxx


It's smart to think ahead when planning art for a deck.

Naturally you want to work in a proportion that works as a card format. Looking at most decks you see measurements like 3" x 4.5". This can become a working format of 6" x 9" or 12" x 18". Watercolorists and painters have differing ideas of the 'right size' to work at, from tiny notecard sizes to stretched-paper watercolor blocks as big as a door. The point here is not the size, but the proportion.
In other words, envision your finished card and from that, figure backward to a format size that's both the same proportion and a comfortable size to work in. Comfort matters, because you're doing at least 78 images that have to work well together.

Then, be aware of how your art will get to the printer. Will you photograph it, scan it, or maybe it's digital art in the first place? You might even want to talk to a printer or designer, who can give you specifics about your eventual need to understand filesizes and file formats when it comes time to do your four-color printing. This will go a long way toward avoiding problems. It's really very annoying to build your work in an RGB .jpeg format, for instance, only to find out way too late that printers like CMYK .eps files. Take it from me, you WILL need to know these things.

There's lots of little things to know, but all of them are interesting and fascinating variables in your work process. Think of yourself as the Magician, bringing ideas into physical reality, and all these little variables are the tools on your table.


thank you for your reply. all hints and advice are welcome and appreciated. i am thinking on an oracle deck / or just the major arcana - however when i saw how much money i was going to spend when ordering the materials - i decided that some careful planning was in order!!

also i want to make sure my beautiful paintings are done justice - eg - vibrancy of colour etc


If you are worried about colour can I also back up what Rota said? Well before you go to print it really is worth talking to someone who knows about scanning (or digital photography) and about printing too. Find someone who has done it for real a few times.

In our "ordinary" studio work we do quite a lot of work for artists, because they know we are careful about colour reproduction. We've seen some terrible artists' brochures done by (well-meaning) people who don't know enough about how to ensure good colour repro - the results can ruin the look of great paintings. So search around a bit and find someone really knowledgeable who you can trust, and take their advice. I hate hearing stories about tarot artists who are disappointed by print quality. You can get wonderful results just by knowing a bit about the process. Like I say, I totally agree with Rota, you do need to know something about these things (and it isn't that difficult in fact.)

Best of luck. Remember there are always people here who can give a bit of advice gratis and are usually happy to do so.


Hi Little Wing (a reference to Jimi Hendrix?)

Now I'll be singing David Bowie and Jimi when I read this forum lol.

Anyway, I do mine 7" X 11.5" on cold pressed illustration board that I have gessoed.
Looking back, there are some good things and some bad things about this.

Good things:
1. Since they aren't huge paintings, storage isn't too bad a problem, 78 paintings can take up a lot of space!!!

2. That size just barely fits into my scanner, any bigger and there would have been problems. Not the end of the world, but there probably would be no website, and doing art submissions to the publishers would be a lot more difficult and expensive if I couldn't scan them myself. I don't think there would be any way for me to have done the hand made decks I am now doing if I couldn't do my own scanning.

3. It's big enough to get some detail, but not so big to lose a lot when shrunk to card size.

4. I like the shape as far as composition goes.

5. Can be put on a drum scanner if it comes down too it (though I hope it doesn't) because of the illustration board.

6. I am perfectly satisfied using oils and gesso, it has worked out great.

The bad things:

1. Its hard to paint that small, for me anyway.

2. I prefer bigger paintings, aesthetically.

3. It's an odd size so any framing and matting needs to be custom made.

4. The illustration board can be a pain in the butt because if you aren't careful it will warp, and in my case the kind I use is getting harder to find, so I am always at its mercy! I have to order it by mail and hope it gets here, spend a lot of time waiting for it and it can get very expensive, depending on who I have to buy it from. Since I need the paintings to stay consistent through all 78 cards I don't want to switch. And truthfully I wouldn't switch anyway because I like working on the stuff.

That's all I can think of right now.
I hope your project goes well for you!!!


Hmm, for me it's black and white pen & ink (rapidograph pens or the lower cost equivilent that do NOT clog up!) and paper size smaller than 8 1/2x11".

Once done, they're being scanned into the computer & cleaned up, then resized for the inner framing on the cards which was done with an art program. I did up sample cut & paste via xerox for a look-see, but the final versions will be on the computer so the printer can just use the floppy or whatever.


thank you very very much for all this advice!!!!!!!!! all of you!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! i will keep watching this thread!!!!!!!!!!!


HudsonGray said:
Hmm, for me it's black and white pen & ink (rapidograph pens or the lower cost equivilent that do NOT clog up!)

clogged rapidographs, grrrrr


i have decided -

*** i will research more about printers etc.
*** i will paint on 210mm x 297 mm approx - i prefer to work big, however i agree that i will get the painting done quicker (so they will be more consistant) , and i will then be free to use my home scanner and touch up / test printing etc.
*** i will use acrylic paint on canvased board for my 22 card deck.

any comments still welcome!!! - im sure this thread is also helpful to many other people!!


OH! Almost forgot! I saw some of the originals for the Ancestral Path Tarot & those were over 12" tall, more like 14 or 16" tall and almost as wide, done in acrylic or oils. That was way back at least 10 years ago, but I remember that they were bigger than I thought originals for tarot cards should be--the images were shrunk down of course, via the printing process.

Didn't Llewellyn & US Games have a 'if you want to make a deck here's the rules we need you to follow' kind of page? That might list sizes they prefer to work with. It should be on their site somewhere.