Illustrative/book plate deck -- advice?


Hey folks, so I'm dying to make my own deck. The problem is I have so little artistic talent and inclination. I didn't want to do photographs, I like drawn images much better. I also love old illustrations (17th-19th centuries). The Victoria Regina deck I think is spectacular.

So, I'm taking a page out of that book. I'm trolling the interwebs for old (out of copyright and public access) book illustrations (I'm a booky person, I work in literature) that capture my idea of the major arcana (I'm starting small).

But, I'm going to want to doctor the images a bit as well. Adding color some places, card name text and number.

I could do this all in a photo editing program, but I'm also open to creative suggestions (because you all seem a million times more talented and experimental than I am).

I've thought about collage, cut and paste, electronic color and filtering, and physical addition of color.

My main procedure (I think) will be to edit the images I find to my idea, and then probably scan them to be uploaded to a printing company that will print custom decks. I've found a few out there that seem affordable.

Any suggestions?


Make sure they're copyright free. There's a surprisingly large number of images which are still held in copyright by museums and 'families'.

Sounds like a cool idea. Baba Prague used old illustrations for several of her published decks.


If it is just for yourself in private you can use any image you want. But you won't be able to use it in public.

It is a fun idea, best done by Brian Williams in this Ship of Fools tarot based on the German book Narrenschiff or The Ship of Fools, published in 1494.


For something in line with your idea yet also a bit different, why not collage these images using the aesthetics of Nick Bantock? And again make sure you're using copyright-free stuff.

And don't forget to have fun. :)



These are great suggestions. I'll look to these decks for inspiration. I think you're right with the alterations. As far as I can tell, images have to be altered to get past the legal hoops. So, I"ll need to add color, text, and perhaps overlay some symbolism to make it significantly different.

This is definitely just a personal deck for me. I'm not planning on trying to market it.