Publishing a quality tarot deck with a strong theme and quality artwork is a reasonable goal for illustrators. Instead of seeking a publisher to print the deck you already created, why not instead find a publisher who will pay you for your work?
This How-to guide is for illustrators who have already created or started a tarot deck. Its also for artists who have been thinkingabout the idea and were unsure how to get started.
Why Create a Tarot Deck
Artists and sometimes comic book artists take on the seemingly daunting task of creating a tarot deck. The reasons are as diverse as the artists and the tarot decks themselves.
One reason is the tarot’s deck long history.
The tarot deck in not the devil’s tool, or about “witch craft.” The tarot deck is actually the precursor to the modern day playing deck of cards. The modern day playing cards still have the basic elements found in tarot decks: four suits, face cards, and some cardsstill have meaning.
Granted, the “meanings” of today’s playing decks have been watered down and filtered to the point that only a glimpse of the original meaning is still held.
Because of their historic nature, artists are drawn to the idea of creating a tarot deck
Artists also delve into creating tarot decks for the challenge. Because creating an entire deck of cards, not just one or two paintings, around a central theme or characters is definitely a challenge. The challenge only intensifieswhen the artist attempts to make the deck a cohesive whole.
Another reason artist create tarot decks is to create promotional material for their other works or books. Creating a tarot deck and having it published is one way to develop a national, and international following.
For illustrators, it can actually be easier to break into tarot deck publishing market than other illustration markets. With a complete published tarot deck under your artist’s belt, you will be taken more seriously by publishers, and authors who may commission your work.
Research Existing Tarot Decks First
Any illustrator who is interested in creating in tarot deck needs to do some preliminary research.
1. Buy a basic deck of tarot cards, like the Ride-Waite deck. Study each card and its meaning, included in the book that came with the deck.
2. Browse tarot-related web sites. Browsing tarot card related web sites will give the illustrator more insight into the card’s historical meanings.
3. Make sure your idea has not already been done. Go to the New Age sectionj of the local book store, or look online to see which themes have already been covered by other tarot artists, before starting your own tarot deck.
4. Do not create tarot decks based on copyrighted materials. An illustrator’s dream may be to create a Spiderman Tarot deck or a Star Wars tarot deck. These are copyrighted images and names, and no publisher will allow you to publish those works.
Creating the Tarot Deck
Illustrators working in all mediums can create their own tarot decks. The tarot deck images can be succesfully created using any computer illustration program, painting mediums, or a combination. Photograph tarot decks are not that common.
The main ingredients of a successful tarot deck are originality, high-quality artwork, images that express the card’s meaning, and commercial appeal.
Does your idea fit those criteria? If not, brainstorm further and deeper to mold your tarot card idea.
When you have your idea for the tarot deck you need to create the entire tarot deck before submitting ideas to tarot deck publishers. Tarot deck publishers may express interest very quickly after initial contatct. Illustrators will not want to lose that burning fire, and will want to get their work to the publisher while the coals are hot.
Types of Cards in a Tarot Deck
In addition to quality concerns, the tarot deck also needs to include the correct number and types of cards.
A tarot deck contains 72 cards.
The “minor arcana” are what would normally be considered the numbered cards. The minor arcana contains 56 cards. There are four suits and each suit contains 14 cards each, including what are typically considered the face, or court cards. The four suits do not have to be spade, diamond, club and heart. The most original tarot card decks have their own suits, that are relevant to the deck’s overall theme.
The tarot deck also needs to include 21 cards of the “major arcana” plus The Fool.
The major arcana is made up of The Fool, plus, repsentationl images of the following: The Magician, The High Priestess. The Empress, The Emperor, The Hierophant, The Lovers, The Chariot, Strength, The Hermit, Wheel of Fortune, Justice, The Hanged Man, Death, Temperance, The Devil, The Tower, The Star, The Moon, The Sun, Judgement, and The World. (Wikipedia.org)
Submitting the Tarot Deck to Publishers
Some tarot deck publishers like to see the whole tarot deck up front. Other will accept written proposals describing the deck, and a number of sample cards.
When submitting sample cards, try to send a best variety of cards that represents the deck. Publishers often like to see a couple of sample tarto cards from the Major Arcana, and at least one card from each suit.
Follow the submission guidelines of each indiviudal tarot card publisher. Some publishers to contact about publishing the tarot deck include U.S. Games, Inc., and Llewellyn Worldwide.