This autumn I’ve been stuck into a creative project – creating my first tarot deck. It started as an idea for an oracle deck (initially, the Sea Priestess Oracle) but morphed into The Wisdom of the Depths tarot. It’s a sea themed, digital collage tarot deck but different in style than my Sea Whispers oracle.
Although this is my first tarot deck (not really sure what took me so long as I’m an avid collector and reader), it’s not my first foray into creating a deck. I’ve created my own Lenormand oracle set with photos that held significance to me, a shamanism oracle for my husband and an ocean oracle that was a prototype to the Sea Whispers. The latter was printed on a home printer and stuck onto poker cards – they’re over a decade old and still going strong. The key to that success is Mod Podge glue!
There are no creative rules when it comes to making your decks. With oracles, you have the freedom to have as many cards as you like and on any theme that takes your fancy. There is more structure with a tarot deck. Standard decks have 78-cards and are divided into the major and minor arcana. Most, but not all, tarot decks follow the Rider Waite structure.
Once you’ve got an idea for your oracle or tarot deck, making the cards doesn’t have to be complex or expensive. It’s very satisfying to have an oracular tool that is deep in your own symbolism and meanings. It can also be a lot of fun – a great project for dark, winter nights or when lockdown looms!
There are two ways to go when you create an oracle or tarot deck: traditional or digital art.
Let’s begin with traditional art.
Traditional art oracle or tart decks
If you work with traditional forms of art, you can turn your artwork into a deck. If you paint, draw, sketch etc. you could buy blank cards and create directly onto them. You can buy blank cards in various sizes from Amazon. This will give you a unique deck.
I’ve also created a collage oracle, made from old magazines. This was a lot of fun and rather than buy blank cards, I glued images onto the back of poker cards. Mod Podge is, again, your best friend. Use it to glue onto the card stock as well as sealing the artwork with a couple of layers over the top.
Alternatively, you can create artwork and then scan it to be ready for print. As long as you have good lighting with no shadows, you could also take photos of your artwork. Depending on the size you want your finished deck, you might have to adjust the digital versions of your artwork. There are many free apps or online photo/image editors to do this. You don’t have to fret about learning Photoshop!
If you create art digitally, you’ll probably already be aware that size matters. If you want to send your artwork to print, you need a decent resolution to get a good printed image – don’t work in anything less than 300dpi. And don’t forget that you’ll need to set CMYK mode, not RGB.
If you don’t want to do any fancy Photoshopping but have a tonne of photos that would make a great oracle, you can resize your photos and add text in the numerous free (and easy) photo editor apps and software.
Printing your oracle or tarot deck
Size is everything. Your oracle or tarot artwork needs to be the right size for print. Here are some general guidelines:
- Poker size cards (2.5″ x 3.5″)
- Bridge size cards (2.25″ x 3.5″)
- Tarot size cards (2.75″ x 4.75″)
- Large size cards (3.5″ x 5.75″)
Remember, your artwork needs to be a minimum of 300dpi or you will have pixelated cards.
You could buy blank cards and print on a home printer (the results might be a bit hit and miss depending on the type of printer that you have). As I mentioned before, I’ve printed artwork onto paper and then stuck the images onto poker cards.
There are online printers that will print your tarot or oracle deck for you on a print-on-demand basis. This means you can order as many or as little copies of your deck that you like – you don’t have to order a large print run.
These companies offer a print-on-demand service:
- The Game Crafter (USA and international)
- Print Studio (USA and international)
- Ivory Print (UK)
- Personalised Playing Cards (UK)
Most of these companies also give you templates so you can make sure your artwork is in the right dimension. I believe the formats offered are in PSD (Photoshop) and PDF (Acrobat) so to use them you’ll need to have a level of skill in the associated software. However, I’m sure you could probably find a freelancer to help you resize your artwork if you struggle (perhaps checkout Fiverr?).
A word of caution on copyright
If you want to create your oracle or tarot deck with artwork, such as photographs, that you didn’t personally create, then you have to be cautious about copyright. Although the internet seems like a wonderful, almost infinite resource in images, most of these have copyright restrictions. This means that you just can’t nab an image and use it. If you do, you might find yourself on the wrong side of copyright law.
Make sure you have permission to use images and fonts. Yep, fonts are also not a free-for-all resource.
If you’re doing an old-fashioned collage, like I did from cut out images from magazines, you can use those images for only one deck. If you decide to scan cards made from magazines to mass produce, you’ll be entering dodgy ground over copyright. I’m neither a lawyer nor an expert on copyright law but find someone who is if you’re unsure on the legitimacy of any of your artwork.
Go forth and create!
Find a theme that fills your heart with happiness or indulges in a great passion then make oracle art! If you want to create but don’t know where to start, make your own Lenormand oracle. Alternatively, I’ll be creating two DIY oracle deck guides/journals over the forthcoming months – the Sacred Earth Oracle and the Inner Goddess Oracle – sign up to my newsletter to stay in the loop.