/  A Guide To The Principles And Significance Of Tarot Card Designs

A Guide To The Principles And Significance Of Tarot Card Designs

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Are you interested in creating and producing your very own distinct tarot deck? In this article, we will explore the fundamentals of tarot card designs, delving into the core principles of tarot arts and the significance underlying tarot artwork.

The Core Of Tarot Card Designs: Composition

The arrangement of elements in a tarot card plays a pivotal role in determining its aesthetic appeal. Composition, in this context, pertains to how the visual components are positioned and balanced within the card’s frame. A skillfully crafted tarot card not only conveys its intended meaning but also imparts valuable guidance.

We highly advise you to thoroughly study a variety of cards with similar themes, encompassing both traditional and contemporary designs. It’s beneficial to investigate the artists behind these cards and delve into their other creations to gain a deeper insight into their mastery of composition.

Positive And Negative Space

Positive space represents the presence of objects, while negative space denotes empty areas. In the realm of tarot art, to enhance the clarity of the message for the tarot reader, every composition should incorporate crevices, voids, apertures, and areas that allow for visual respite.

Axis: Center Line And Rule Of Thirds

Axes serve as invisible lines that partition a composition through pivotal geometric points. The principal axes within any composition encompass the vertical and horizontal central lines, intersecting the midpoint of the surface with even distribution.

Additional noteworthy axes traverse the regions that divide the surface into thirds and extend along the diagonals connecting corners and extending from the corners to the central point.

In the realm of tarot art, where the format is often petite and elongated, it is entirely acceptable and customary to align key symbols along a central axis. Many compositions showcase slender, vertically oriented frames, with a figure closely linked to this central axis. The high priestess tarot is a good example.

Tarot Axis center line and rule of thirds

Space And Geometry

Beneath the surface of a composition lies a foundational geometry that can elevate its depth and allure, extending beyond the mere realm of a two-dimensional axis.

Diagonals and triangles inject vitality and dynamism, while curves and arches cultivate a sense of harmony and equilibrium. Squares and rectangles signify stability, while circles and ovals epitomize a sense of wholeness.

In the domain of tarot art, these underlying shapes play a pivotal role in storytelling and guiding the viewer’s focus. The triangular arrangement, in particular, is a prevalent choice, as it instills motion and implies action, aligning with the predominant themes of change and relationships found in most tarot cards.


The compositional concept of “distance” pertains to how near or far an object appears in the viewer’s perspective.

The foreground encompasses elements that are immediately visible and are thus perceived as closer, while the background encompasses elements that appear more remote. Anything not in the foreground or background falls within the midground.

Tarot card artists leverage this notion of distance to create the illusion of depth and space, exemplified in cards like the Judgment Tarot Card. Some cards exhibit a pronounced sense of depth between the foreground and background, whereas others maintain elements on the same plane.

However, these choices are deliberate and necessitate meticulous planning during the design process.

Tarot Perspective

The Supplement: Tarot Framework

Once the composition of the tarot card has been established, the subsequent task is to position the central image within the card’s framework.

Size And Dimensions

The conventional tarot deck adheres to a flat, two-dimensional, vertically oriented, rectangular card format measuring 2.75 x 4.75 inches (70 x 120 mm), featuring rounded corners with a radius of 3.5. Some decks, on the other hand, opt for mini, playing card, or jumbo sizes.

When selecting a size, it’s crucial to take into account the practical experience of the tarot reader, as they will frequently handle the cards, performing actions such as shuffling, flipping, and reversing them.

Bleed Area

In the realm of printing, bleed is an area of surplus that serves a crucial purpose. When printing, it’s not possible to evenly distribute ink right up to the paper’s edge. Consequently, the final printed piece must undergo trimming. Bleed comes to the rescue by ensuring that no unsightly blank gaps remain at the edges after the cutting process.

When it comes to card printing, it’s common practice to allocate a 3mm (0.12 inch) bleed area around the card’s dimensions. For instance, if you have a tarot-sized card measuring 70 x 120 mm, your background design should extend beyond the card’s edges to at least 76 x 126 mm, while keeping essential elements within the 70 x 120 mm frame.

Color Mode

In the realm of printing, the CMYK color mode is employed for color mixing and final output. So, before creating an online canvas, be sure to switch the image mode to CMYK format to avoid any color disparities that may arise when converting from RGB to CMYK.


In the CMYK color mode, we gauge resolution in terms of dpi (dots per inch). Occasionally, we encounter challenges when handling files with intricate vector graphics.

To address this, we recommend that you provide prints with a resolution ranging from 300 to 600 dpi. By adhering to this range, we can maintain precise control over the final print results, ensuring the utmost clarity for your project.

It’s important to establish the resolution at the outset of the design process, rather than making adjustments after the design is completed. Although it may seem like it adds more pixels, it doesn’t genuinely enhance the resolution, resulting in a blurry appearance when printed.

The aforementioned guidelines serve as the foundational principles for Tarot design. For more in-depth information, you can explore WJPC’s Pre-production page.

It’s worth noting that while these guidelines provide valuable insights, they are not rigid guarantees. Innovative Tarot artists often challenge conventions, bending rules to redirect emphasis and establish unique atmospheres.

To gain a deeper understanding of the traditional symbolism in Tarot cards and enhance your ability to convey your message through image design, let’s delve into the time-honored symbolism of Tarot cards.

The Deeper: Tarot Meaning

To unravel the enigmas within Tarot art, a thorough examination of each card and its significance is essential. Join us as we explore the creation of some of the most captivating and enlightening Tarot decks, uncovering the key factors that underpin their success.

The Symbolism Rooted In History

Tarot card illustrations frequently incorporate timeless symbols and archetypal personas with deep resonance in the human psyche. Figures like the Fool, the Queen, and the Hanged Man offer profound insights into life’s intricacies.

The Fool, for example, symbolizes seizing opportunities, embracing the unknown, and embarking on fresh beginnings. In Tarot, the Fool is portrayed as a carefree wanderer, often accompanied by a loyal canine companion representing faithfulness and instinct.

The Symbolism Rooted in History

Color Theory In Tarot

In the realm of tarot card design, the employment of color holds great significance as it has the power to convey a spectrum of emotions and interpretations. The card’s inherent color plays a pivotal role in expanding its significance.

Red, for instance, is frequently linked with passion, dynamism, and decisiveness, yellow represents light, wisdom and confidence, while blue carries connotations of serenity, insight, and spiritual connection. Tarot card artists invest considerable thought in their color choices, aiming to evoke potent responses from their audience.

Color Theory in Tarot

Symbolic Aspects

The fusion of diverse symbols within tarot artwork enriches the layers of interpretation. These symbols draw inspiration from a variety of sources, including mythology, astrology, numerology, and even elements of religious and mystical iconography.

It’s imperative to thoughtfully consider the placement and use of these symbols, allowing readers to delve deeper into the card’s significance.

Below is a compilation of prevalent and recurrent symbols encountered in tarot card imagery:

 Upright Triangle
Upright Triangle tarot
Fire Element
 Reversed Triangle
Reversed Triangle tarot
Water Element
 Upright Triangle with Horizontal Line
Upright Triangle with Horizontal Line tarot
Air Element
 Reversed Triangle with Horizontal Line
Reversed Triangle with Horizontal Line tarot
Earth Element
Pentagram tarot
Combination of all Elements, Balance
 Infinity Symbol/Figure of 8 loop
Infinity Symbol tarot
Infinity, Continuity, The Law of Karma, Cycles
AngelsMessengers, Guardian Angels, Spiritual Guides, Divine Intervention, Elevated Self, Recovery, Comfort, Assistance
GlobeIndividual Sphere, External Sphere, a wide or limited global perspective
WandsElement of Fire, Masculinity, Phallic Representation, Activity, Motion, Zeal, Creativity, Strength, Mysticism, Springtime
CupsElement of Water, Feminine Womb, Emotions, Spirituality, Psychic, Artistic, Creative, Moods, Summer
SwordsElement of Air, Masculine Energy, Legal Matters, Equity, Intellectual Prowess, Communication, Struggles, Turbulence, Autumn Season
PentaclesElement of Earth, Feminine Presence, Physical Form, Cardinal Directions, Safeguarding, Sorcery, Prosperity, Professional Pursuits, Finances, Property, Material Considerations, Health, Winter Season

Print With ACELION

If you’re prepared to produce a cohesive collection of top-notch tarot decks and prioritize exceptional customer service, we’re eager to have a friendly conversation. Acelion is excited to assist you in bringing your most innovative tarot deck ideas to life!

For those looking to begin their design journey, you can kickstart your creativity with these free printable tarot resources.

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