"If I Had Only Known When I Started This Deck That ......"


If you are in the 'Tarot Deck Creation' forum chances are good you have started thinking about or have even started to try to create your own deck...with varying degrees of success.

For everyone out there who has created a deck or two - what is your first reaction when someone says to you: "OH! I am thinking of creating my own Tarot deck!" What words of wisdom spring immediately to your lips? What warnings? What's the best piece of advice you have to offer the raw innocent so that they don't have to re-invent fire, :eek: the wheel, :bugeyed: or tear their hair out somewhere down the road? :confused:

What is your sage advice? Share it with us! :thumbsup:


Do it for yourself, not in the hope of making it commercial.


"Who or what is going to print your deck and what sizes are the cards they use and offer."

You haven't drawn a single line on paper or sketched on your digital drawing pad - why should you worry about this first?

Nothing will deter your good frame of mind or turn you off faster than having to re-size your artwork once you have spent hours working on it.

We toss around the 'size' terms 'tarot deck', 'poker deck', 'mini deck', - but what that means to one printing company is not necessarily what the next guy may use. Save yourself the time and tears and check out 2 or 3 different printing companies and see what their specifics for 'tarot-size' cards is. It is easier to start something correctly than alter it later. Hal ran into this with the Wickwillow Tarot and had to change borders to alter the images he already created to fit the 'poker-size' card template the company he chose to print it used.

Both Gamecrafter and Printer's Studio use the same size for their tarot cards: 900 x 1500 PIXELS for the stock (before trimming) with a 75 PIXEL inner border. This means that the outside edge of the image is 900 x 1500 pixels but the useable image is really 750 x 1350 pixels (with 75 pixels of white all around it). I made a blank template with a purple border 80 pixels all around for me; in that way I knew my image would be safe. Why Purple? If you are importing images it's a tad easier to see purple guidelines and you can always change the purple to black AFTER you make the changes you want. Since I was importing B/W images it made my job easier see the purple instead of black superimposed over B/W.

Don't waste your time having to alter the images you so carefully worked on; make them the right size to begin with. Choose your printing company first. :)


No need to reinvent the wheel! Find a deck with meanings that you connect with, then work on the artwork to incorporate that symbolism in a way that works for you.


Absolutely agree about figuring out where you intend to have the repro done and downloading their template first.

I went at it in the wrong direction. I measured my copy of the Hanson-Roberts cards and went with that. Now, the Hanson-Roberts is a nice, easy to handle deck, but its proportions are closer to a playing card than a standard Tarot card. Fortunately, that just meant that I needed to add some detail at the top and bottom of every card to bring it into compliance with the template, and the design already had a fairly elaborate border, so it wasn't that big a job to extend it. But it could have been fairly hairy, and it was my own fault.

Also; be careful of dealing with copyright material. If you intend to just have one copy printed for your own use, that's probably fine. But if you intend to release it for commercial publication, or even just turn it loose on the internet, you *really* do not want to antagonize copyright holders. Make sure that your references fall within "fair use".

And, if you are working digitally, or if you are working in analog and intend to scan it, or otherwise port it to digital, once you get to that step, don't limit yourself to low resolution. The cpmpany I had my deck printed by (MPC) wants a *minimum* 300ppi file, and higher resolution is very much better. It really does make a difference when it goes to print.


Definitely think about as high a resolution as you can obtain for the best results. If you are using scans go for the highest dpi your machine can give you

Not too much difference between card images and photos in book publishing - if you have a wedding picture taken in the 1950s it is all you have and usually the file reviewer tells you that an image is low-quality. However, you can override that if you understand the result will be fuzzy - can't re-take that pic!

JOdel - many people (including myself) did that 'Oh! I like the size of this deck so I will just use this as a size template!' I based my original sketches (yes, I sketched my deck out in ink the old-fashioned way) on the Giant Rider Waite. Bad Idea! Even with a photocopied master template all the card images are slightly different sizes and you can see this in the finished deck - the white borders are uneven.

Word to the wise: It is better to have a large image that you can scale down than have a small image you have to scale up.


Do it for yourself, not in the hope of making it commercial.

Hopefully your deck is a labor of love first - a commercial success later down the road!

Since I have mentioned Gamecrafter and Printer's Studio ....

"Even if you haven't started designing yet - what do you foresee for the finished end product?"

Will you make a deck for your personal use with only 5-6 copies, or are you hoping to sell it down the road (with or without a profit)?

For sheer ease of user-friendly - Printer's Studio has it hands down - but there are limitations. PS will print an image on anything - so if you want to create a deck, have it's images splashed on mouse pads, coffee mugs - or even puzzles - they will do it for you - for a price. They are literally: pick your image, drop and click, review the files, click & pay - and VOILA! there it is. However - NO BOXES. They are strictly shrink-wrapped. They are also ONLY THE PRINTER - they do not market your item. Their cards stock is decent and their lamination is decent; color repro very good. Bulk rates are available if you want to market the item yourself. Their rates are decent and they offer specials to regular buyers. They do not pay royalties or commissions - they just print. Order turn-around time decent.

The GameCrafter - as much as I like GC - remember that they are an indie game manufacturer and they do cards as a sideline to their business. They have rigid guidelines and templates - if a logo needs to be 300 x 300 pixels and yours is 300 x 299 pixels it will get rejected. They do have videos to watch about how to use their system. They also want Tarot cards to be BOXED {other card sizes are shrink-wrapped or bagged} - and you have to design a box using their template. NOTE: they DO NOT put the cards into the box in any kind of order (PS does) so if you want the Fool card first, etc, etc - it doesn't happen that way. The box will be shrink wrapped.

GC is there to market your deck. You will get a 'shop page' (which also has specific size requirements) with photos, banners, logos, etc. They also issue accolades for numbers of decks sold. Their card stock is excellent, lamination very good. My deck is B/W so I can't comment on color repro. Their retail prices can be a little steep. They pay royalty with shop credits, so don't expect any checks from them. The more decks you sell the better your royalty % becomes; conversely, if your deck drops off your royalty increase drops off, too. The order turn-around time can vary depending on printing demands or when the latest GameCon orders are done. They will keep you updated, though.

There are also many other card printer companies out there. Anything worth doing is worth doing well, so don't sell your deck short by having it done by the corner copy store your brother-in-law works for just because he can get you a deal.


That's the thing. Mine is for ME. Almost no-one else will ever see it, and it is very satisfying that way !

Don't you mean Voila, by the way - or have you a lady friend at Printers' Studio ?? ;)


Plan out what each card will have on it beforehand.