what makes a deck good?


Hi everyone,

Since I have a graphic design background, and love the tarot, I know that one day when I feel ready, it's inevitable that I'll merge my two passions and start designing my own deck.
Anyway, I was wondering what you guys think makes a deck good (or bad, for that matter).

what are the things you especially like about your favourite decks?

Do you place more importance on the look/feel of the deck or the symbollism behind it?

Do you prefer decks which use the traditional scenes/symbollism or ones which invent their own.

Finally, what style of artwork are you drawn to the most? Photographic, collage, traditional media, classic, modern etc.

I'm really curious as to what people like in a deck, and would be interested in all your opinions.



What draws me to a deck really is if I can relate to it (an exchange of energy) - if it "talks" to me.

As for the particulars - I like decks that have illustrated minors. Most of my decks are very colorful (don't have any black and white). It doesn't seem to matter anymore whether they're drawn or photographic or collage. Although at first I only wanted artwork decks, not the photo or collage ones.

I tend to like the modern feeling decks a bit more. I don't get much from the very traditional decks. Although some on this forum love them and use them all the time.

I have a feeling you're going to get a huge variety of answers here. Might get some ideas, but IMO you should probably just do a deck that appeals to YOU, not what you think others would like. You'll enjoy and connect more by doing that and there will always be people who feel the same way you do.


Well, I agree that when creating a deck, you should create one you like, not what the masses like.

But, I am going to answer what I think makes a deck 'good'. In my personal opinion, I think Minors that are illustrated are a must, although there are some on the forum who prefer to have them non-illustrated.

I also prefer a nice artwork... If I can't look at the pictureson the cardsand be aestehetically pleased aswell as inspired to read, I won't use the deck as much.

I don't mind what form of art... I have no preference as to whether it is photographic, collage, or modern art, etc... Although I have more hand-drawn decks than collage or photographic.

Also, symbolism is very important for me: If there is nothing in the cards, then I find it very difficult to weave a story for the querent out of a spread...

Nudity is also an issue some people have a problem with, and if your gonna use a deck for young children, it's usually better not to use a deck with excessive nudity, cuh as the Black Tarot, Erotic Tarot, and Cosmic Tribe. Some people do not like seeing naked people splattered all over the cards, and find it distracting. Others don't mind, and like the idea of people with no clothes on!

Religious persuausion is also an issue sometimes, as I know many Pagans who do not like to read with the Connoly, and many Christians who find it difficult to understand the Sacred Circle or Celtic Dragon.

I think most people prefer a deck which sticks with traditional meanings. When I say this, I am not forgetting that every single deck will inevitably deviate slightl with some cards, depending on the creator's opinion, but they all fall into teh same initial structure. After all, would it really be considered a Tarot deck, if the 3 of Swords suddenly meant marriage, and the 2 of Cups a divorce?!
Overall, Tarot readers and collectors tend to be a very diverse bunch of people, and we have very diverse and different tastes. Therefore, whilst I may absolutely adore the Somic Tribe, and call it a 'godd deck', I know of quite a few people who do not consider it a 'good deck', and who find it impossible to read with.

Anyway, I have written enough, and am now considering writing an article dedicated to the diversity of Tarot readers!

Hope I helped some...



A good deck is any deck that prompts a response; results in attempts to communicate with it.
Artwork attracts me first; then symbolism. I suppose I have no artistic style preference as my favorite decks are different from each other but they all have plenty of symbolism or a theme.
I prefer decks to have illustrated minors, but I have been able to work with decks that do not as long as the Majors contain details to keep me interested.


Personally, I rank, in order, traditionality artistic merit and originality. For example, I consider the 1998 Camoin Marseilles deck the best to have come out of the 20th century (many will of course not share my view)!

Though I personally find decks which are collaged generally less appealing, the exception is Dali's deck. The same can be said of computer generated decks, though I find the Fractal Firebird Tarot also an exception. This shows me that it is not so much the medium used, but the mastership which can make of any medium absolutely astounding.

In the end, I would agree with Faunabay, "you should probably just do a deck that appeals to YOU, not what you think others would like". This will not doubt guarentee a deeper inner response to your work from others.

... I do make two qualifications to all this:

1) irrespective of whether the minors are scenic or not, I do personally consider it important to use the pre-Waite (Golden Dawn modified) numeration: Justice is VIII, Strength is XI, and the Fool is not numbered (rather than zero)! &

2) astrological and Hebrew letter correspondences are not universally agreed upon, and prefer decks which leave these open.

These correspondences and numeration do affect whether I end up using a deck, or whether it sits there for my pleasure or courses...


Lilliana (26 Nov, 2001 00:57):

I think it's great that you are thinking of creating a deck.

I am fairly new, but love to buy decks.

I look for bold colors, realistic and drawn art combined (sacred circle, gendron). I need (being new) minors with pictures or at least 1 word "hints".

I think the best thing to do is create a few cards, walk away and go back and look. Does it Grab YOU...Can you tell what the meaning is without the book.

Remember, This is YOUR Deck. The rest of us will just "Love" it......


PS Don't forget to post pix....


the things i look for in a deck are:
1) originality of some kind from the maker. maybe it's like rws except that the colors are different.
2) the theme of the deck is consistent in meaning and art. decks that the creater wavers from style to style make me crazy(ier) for example, some cards might be done traditionally yet others are modern. then there's part drawings and part computers or photos. another ex.: a deck that uses an inconsistent flow and transition of the major mythology/archetypes of the deck. maybe switching from story to story w/o a rhyme or reason someone could follow. jumping from king author to the owl and the pussycat to king tut. this would throw me off.
3) the creater shows that thought has been put into the creation of each card. the connectivity that the creater has w/ the deck is extremely imp. if the creater can't connect to his/her creation, how are we supposed to? i don't think anyone should hurry this process for the sake of getting finished. a major peeve is spending 10 years on the major arcana and 6 monthes on the minors. ;)
4) this is a personal preference but i don't like heavy use of varying symbol systems. for example, don't use the kabbalah, i- ching, runes, and astrology in one deck and expect everyone to follow where you're going w/ all this confusion. be a pied piper that everyone can follow w/ some semblance of order but allow room for individuality. my preference is to stick to one system say astrology so as to keep all of us on the same sheet music. perhaps 2 but use the KISS :* system: keep it simple silly!
5) if you want to create a deeply complex deck make sure that the symbols, art, and meanings all match up. let a few guinea pigs try to follow it if you are considering publication. if it's just for your personal use then it doesn't matter what anyone thinks.

but please don't let me stifle your creativity! LOL :D that's really and truly isn't my intent. i have a quite a few pet peeves w/ some decks that surround the above mentioned issues. happy creating! :cool:


What makes a deck GOOD is that it WORKS for YOU.


Hi everyone.

Thanks for all your replies. It's interesting to know what people think.

And don't worry, I am definately going to stick with what I personally want in a deck. Even if you all replied that you hate the style I'm going to work in, I'd still go ahead and do it ;)

Actually the reason I asked, is first and foremost out of curiosity, and secondly to see if I'm heading on the right track.

truthsayer- I agree with what you said about inconsistancy in style/theme. I can't work with a deck which jumps all over the place. I also agree about decks which use a heavy ammout of different esoteric symbollism, IMO if you can't sum up the card with a simple image you should be writing a tarot book, instead of making a deck.

Anyway, nice to hear what you think.



~Sighs~ If only I had artistic talent *LOL* ... I have to personally state (like everyone else including yourself) that as long as the deck works for YOU and YOU like it that is the key!

Now for my personal preferences:
1) Artwork must be consistent (one reason I could not connect with the Gendron). 2)Symbolism is key. I love pagan, alchemical and qabalistic symbolism. As there is debate as to the qabalistic correspondences I think the author/artist need to study that and select how their interpretation. But as Truthsayer said one cannot overcharge the cards with esoteric symbolism or they will just be a mumbo jumbo of symbols.
3)I like Strength VIII, Justice XI.
4)Swords air and Wands fire correspondence.
5)Pictures on the minors.
6)Prefer drawn pictures to computer generated, but like collage the least. Needs to be aesthetically pleasing and I like traditional meaning but with original art ... RW clones are way to common.

As for the comment about writing a book to go with an original deck ... that is one of my dreams. I may not be able to draw but I can write! I would love some day to work with someone and develop a deck/book jointly.

Best wishes I look forward to seeing your deck when you create it!