DIY Tarot Cards for Beginners

Tarot cards can answer large questions for the curious mind and inquisitively inclined. But entering into the world of tarot often starts with more questions than answers. Understanding the cards and their meanings takes time and practice. Here is how I made my own deck of tarot cards to start learning them.

Since I too am a beginner, I don’t have a great expansive knowledge in tarot card meanings, spreads, and giving readings. I don’t know the astrological significance of symbols or much of the history behind them. I tried to read a few articles prior to making my own deck of cards and giving this whole thing a go. Most of them made assumptions that I had context, history, or understanding that I simply do not have. I think many beginners are turned away by the generally inaccessible language around suits, major and minor arcana, astrology, and such. These articles also assumed I had a deck of cards and maybe even a book or two to work from for learning their meanings. Creating my own deck of cards felt like the best way for me to begin, because even if my own personal interpretations of the art aren’t complete or 100% accurate, they have specific meaning to my life.

Making Your Deck of Tarot Cards:

  1. Cut 78 cards any size; but do consider how they will feel in your hand and how you will shuffle. Roughly the size of playing cards is easiest (2.5 x 3.5 inches). I suggest card stock for durability. I used Bristol art paper, since I planned on using ink for the design on the back.
  2. In a deck of tarot cards there is one set of 22 cards and four sets of 14 cards. The four sets (called Minor Arcana) make up the four suits that are called wands, cups, swords, pentacles. It helped me to think of them as similar to playing cards with Ace through King, with the addition of a knight and pages instead of jacks. The Major Arcana is the 22-card set of completely individual symbols and names.
  3. For the design of the cards and even naming the suits, I have seen a vast array of variation but the most common follows the design of the Rider-Waite-Smith deck. Most books or websites for learning the meanings of the cards and their symbols will follow this deck. That being said personal deviation and design can have great meaning.
  4. Sketch the designs and label every card. You can stick to the Rider-Waite-Smith desk’s symbols and sketch your best impression of the symbols for every card. Personally, I chose to create my own designs for the Major Arcana suit and roughly stick to the design for the Minor suits without the depictions of people. For the Major, I found individual card meanings through websites (a google search can lead you to some basic meanings) and drew a few symbols that represented a personal connection with them.
  5. Paint, ink, draw, a back design. Just like a deck of playing cards, tarot cards have designs on the back, as simple or complex as you would like.
The design I made for my deck using two blue inks

You now have a deck to beginning shuffling around and reading up on the meanings. It wasn’t till I created my own deck that a few of the articles began to make sense. The act of drawing and writing out each card gave me a beginning familiarity with each one. That basis didn’t seem possible through reading or buying a deck. This DIY style can be a lot cheaper and more accessible.

A few helpful articles/websites: Little Red Tarot and the Fool’s Journey column on Autostraddle.

BONUS: You can stitch together some excess fabric to create a carrying bag. I recently cut the sleeves off a shirt, one sleeve was the perfect size to hold my deck. The sleeve hem was perfect for a shoelace drawstring.