How To Make Your Own DIY Tarot Deck – Advice from Indie Creators
Have you ever wanted to make your own DIY Tarot deck? Get expert tips from the indie creators of Numinous Tarot, Idiosyncradeck and Auroracles in this wondrous guide!
Hello, Chris here, Mooky’s resident make-up dragon and Tarot fiend. My make-up hoard is scary and so is my Tarot collection – it’s my pride and joy! Several of my decks are quite rare and valuable, and all are unique and beautiful.
My most prized decks are my indie decks. These DIY Tarot decks are produced lovingly, in small batches, by creators who have poured in their blood, sweat, and tears. I think there’s something really special about self-made decks. I’d love to do it myself some day. To get inside the mind of an indie deck creator, I spoke to some of my favourite creators and picked their brains, like a hungry little Tarot zombie. My huge thanks go to:
- Logan – creator of several unique oracle decks, including the Auroracle volumes 1 and 2.
- Noel – creator of the heavily anticipated Numinous Tarot, which has just had a hugely successful Kickstarter campaign
- Jessica – creator of the wildly successful Idiosyncradeck Tarot, and several oracles.
The Tarot community online is enormous. It features some incredible talent, a huge portion of which is often overlooked. There are hundreds of thousands of diviners online, and most of us just love a unique deck. I’ve been involved in the online divination community for several years now – long enough to see plenty of independently produced decks come and go. So, between the four of us, we’ve put together some advice for prospective new deck creators.
So, you’ve had some great ideas floating around in your headspace for a bit. Hurray! But did you know that it can take a very long time to create a deck? After all, a tarot deck is made up of 78 individual pieces of art. That’s a lot of work – especially if you opt to write a guidebook as well.
Numinous Tarot creator Noel says:
“The first and most important bit of advice I have for new deck creators is this: understand you’re in it for the long haul. Whether your deck has 40 cards, or 78, that’s an incredible amount of work.”
Noel then went on to say that between other projects and working, the Numinous Tarot took about three and a half years to create! Your project may not take as long, but Noel did point out that juggling it all takes balance.
Once you’re committed to making a deck happen, have a think about what you’d like to create, if you haven’t already. Are you going to have a theme or style you want to work with? Choose it, and stick with it. Having a deck with disjointed imagery can be distracting, and having a solid theme will give you something to fall back on if you get stuck.
If you know you want to make a deck, but you don’t really know what your deck might be about, look around for inspiration. The internet is an endless source of concepts – just don’t go accidentally stealing anybody’s work! You’ll find a pile of recommended links at the bottom of this guide so you can explore what’s already out there.
Know Your Process.
Decide how you’re going to create your deck – will you use paints? Digital imaging? Photographs? Stock images? If you’re not sure, experiment – and when you find what works for you, stick with it.
Jessica, whose vector images have been roaringly popular, uses Adobe Illustrator. Noel did preliminary sketches of all their images, then used watercolours to create them. Logan uses stock images, and Apophysis 2 to create his fractals, which is a free programme.
Indie Tarot decks by Logan
Knowing your process means nailing down art techniques, but it also means evoking a working atmosphere that gets you in the spiritually creative mood.
“I start by making a playlist,” Logan says, when talking about his process. It gets him in the right mindset, and helps him connect better to his work. He never uses the same one twice – each playlist is unique to each deck he creates. Taking the extra time to do that may not be your jam, but setting the mood up right can really boost your creative productivity. We all flow differently, and finding that creative zone can be enormously helpful towards setting your mood to working on your project.
Decide. Are you making an indie Tarot deck or Oracle deck?
This is an important step in the process – deciding whether to make a Tarot deck, or an oracle deck. Tarot is a set system, with 78 cards – 22 Major Arcana, and 56 Minor Arcana divided into four suits. You can deviate a bit from this system. For example, plenty of indie Tarot creators add extra cards, change the suit names, and so on. However, it’s probably easier to work within the boundaries, at least for your first deck. You don’t want to wind up getting exhausted by making up all sorts of new Tarot rules on your first try.
Oracle decks are, basically, everything else. They can have as many or as few cards as you like. In my opinion, oracle decks work best and are easiest to read when they have a strong theme. Oracle is a good option if you know exactly what kind of deck you want to create, or if you don’t want to make an entire set of 78 cards.
Jessica has done both, and, according to her, creating an indie oracle deck was much more challenging:
“Making the Amethyst Oracle was harder than the Idiosyncradeck. Oracle decks are harder, there are no rules. You can literally do whatever you want. You can have 4 cards or 400, with whatever you want on them. Once I had the name figured out for the Amethyst Oracle, it was easier. I made the deck about what I felt was important, or what I would want in a reading.”
Amethyst Oracle and Idiosyncradeck
If you don’t know where to start, Tarot might be for you. If you want to play without rules or have some really awesome ideas already set up in your mind, go for an oracle deck.
Be A Bit Practical.
Just a little! Make a plan, if you like. Making a deck takes dedication and it can be very easy to become overwhelmed. Noel preferred breaking down the tarot into small goals – they created the Numinous’ 22 Major cards first, then the Court cards, then the pips (Ace to ten) in numerical order. Jessica, however, works with whatever imagery comes to her first. The first card she drew for the Idiosyncradeck was the Two of Cups, and the rest went from there. Do whatever works for you.
Have a dedicated journal for scribbling down ideas or sketches, and take it everywhere. If you have an idea, jot it down quickly, and come back to it when you’re not busy. This way, none of your concepts will ever go to waste. And even if you don’t use every idea you have now, you can always make another deck later!
If you don’t have a solid theme, you can still tie the whole deck together with a consistent style or concept. It’s up to you of course, but if you’re just starting off, focusing on tying the style together can be a good way to help keep you grounded, and keep your ideas flowing.
Follow Your Heart. Make the deck you want to see in the world.
Listen to your gut, heart, and intuition – they never lie. Do what you know you need to do. Ignore the naysayers. And most of all, do this for YOU.
“Deck making is for me,” says Logan, a sentiment that’s strongly echoed by the others indie Tarot creators I talked to. “I don’t need anyone’s permission to make decks.”
“Make what you want to make, and others who like it will find you,” says Jessica.
Noel in particular has created a powerfully inclusive deck (which I and many other diviners are incredibly excited about.) There’s unquestionably a gap in the market for decks that are inclusive of LGBT+ people, disabled people, and people of colour, amongst other things. It’s something that gets discussed a lot in the community, but in spite of this, not many people really seem to work on making inclusiveness a priority – especially the bigger publishers. The Numinous Tarot heavily features all of the above types of people, and more, which is very exciting.
Noel has had a great response to the inclusivity in their deck:
“There was nothing more inspiring than seeing one of my cards reblogged with ‘OMG, look, it’s me!!’ from someone who usually doesn’t see themselves in media. I know that feeling!”
Whether you wind up selling your deck like our creators here have, or hide your deck under your pillow like a little Tarot-loving Gollum, make this for you. You’re bringing this into the world, so your opinion is really the only one that has any power here.
Experiment with DIY Tarot deck ideas that personally resonate with you.
Try new things! You don’t have to be a professional Tarot reader to make a Tarot deck, so don’t let that put you off.
Jessica actually couldn’t read Tarot when she first became interested in making her own deck. In fact, when she initially started looking into it, she backed away very quickly:
“It was so overwhelming. I found expensive courses that you could take to get ‘certified’, and I remember specifically looking at the Moon card. I read about all the symbology of it, and I wondered how I was going to involve all of those things in my card when I became totally overwhelmed and promptly gave up.”
Thankfully, she later came back to it after seeing a different Moon card, without all the traditional symbology in it. “It became much more accessible for my poor brain,” she says.
Getting overwhelmed and quitting is a real danger for a lot of new creators, so do your best to keep your head above water. Again, keep in mind that this is all for you, and that you know what you’re creating better than anybody.
So no, you don’t have to be an experienced Tarot reader, you don’t have to follow the symbols to a tee, you don’t have to do anything but your personal best and truest work. You don’t even really need experience.
All you need is a little skill, a lot of patience, and an idea that you believe in.
Dive into the Online Indie Tarot Community.
Our creators found huge support online. “Finding Tumblr contributed a lot to my deck creation,” says Jessica. “Honestly, if the Idiosyncradeck hadn’t gotten so much positive attention, I probably would have given up on the project.”
“The excitement of other queer and marginalised diviners about Tarot was contagious,” says Noel, “and having a community to discuss the cards with is wonderful.” They also use Tumblr, which has a booming divination community, and Twitter, too.
I’ve witnessed the power of social media first hand many times, as have we all. I’ve seen tiny projects get blown across the web, and I personally have bought decks from every corner of the globe. I never would’ve heard about these indie decks if not for social media.
Not only is it a great way to get people excited about your work and spread the word, but inspiration of all sorts can be found online. “I steal a lot of ideas,” laughs Logan. “I could be on Youtube – looking at something that has nothing to do with Tarot – and think to myself, ‘damn, that’s going to be my next deck. It could be a person I see in the street who inspires me next.” The creative muse hides everywhere, and there’s inspiration a-plenty to be found online.
Your fabulous indie Tarot deck isn’t gonna make itself! Just take that first step and do your best not to get overwhelmed when you start. Stick with what you know, and with what feels right, and go from there. Break it down into little pieces, if that helps. Do whatever makes you comfortable – just be sure to try.
“My biggest piece of advice for starting is really simple. Just start,” says Logan, quite sagely. “Even if it turns out terrible, it can’t be made if you don’t start.”
Don’t let fear stop you from giving your dream deck a whirl. Don’t get overwhelmed before you even begin. Take baby steps, and let it snowball. Enjoy your process.
“It’s hard work,” admits Noel, “but it should be fun hard work.”
Know When To Stop.
Don’t fall prey to the beast of perfectionism.
“There are still cards in the deck I’m not 100% happy with, and that’s okay,” says Noel. “Too much re-doing is a spiraling trap that will ensure you never actually finish your project.”
Nothing is perfect, and nothing is supposed to be. Resist the urge to over-edit! Be kind to yourself and your creation.
Remember that this is all a learning process. If you’ve never made a deck before then not every aspect of it will be perfect, and that’s fine.
In fact, there’s lots of us out here (me included) who LOVE the little quirks and spots of imperfection you can find in indie decks. It separates them from the mass-produced ones, and serves as a lovely reminder that there’s a living, breathing person behind the artwork in your hands.
What happens when you make the final card?
So you’ve designed a beautiful deck, congratulations! You’ve done the work, and it’s all paid off. But how to make it into an actual, usable, shuffleable divination deck?
Online printers are widely available now, and their prices are not too steep, depending on where you go. You can easily print very small batches up. I recommend ordering a test copy first to check for quality, especially if you’re printing more than one deck.
So, are you going to keep your creation all to yourself? I, and the rest of the hungry Tarot monsters of the world, hope not. Online selling is HUGE now, and there are plenty of platforms to get your deck out into the world, if you feel like sharing it.
Happy creating and divining!
Meet your indie Tarot deck creation guides
Where to find new indie Tarot decks and ideas
General DIY Tarot resources
- Galaxy Tarot (free phone app)
- Tabi.org.uk (a small annual membership fee is required, but they host an accredited Tarot course online every year for free!)
- Jessica’s Tumblr posts on deck creation
Example Oracle and Tarot Deck Printers
- Printer Studio – this one was used to print the Auroracle and Idiosyncradeck
- ludocards.com – we haven’t used this one, but it’s quite affordable and offers free postage
Free Tarot Deck Creation Resources
- Fractal making software
- Adobe Photoshop trial
- Pexels free stock images (Logan suggests considering throwing stock artists a few quid as a donation if you’ve got it, because it’s nice to be nice)