DIY or die: make your own tarot deck!

So you want to make a tarot deck.

Because – we all do, right? And you’ve got an idea and a theme and you know it would be totally amazing but… ack, it’s just do damn hard! Creating the artwork for 78 cards is not an easy feat – maybe you’ve started and done a couple…but given up or drifted away because it’s one heck of an ambitious project.

That’s definitely true in my case.

Well here’s someone who did it anyway.

Juliet Paulson got inspired to learn tarot, but couldn’t afford a deck. So she decided to make one! When she told me, I said I was insanely impressed – but she was so matter-of-fact about it!

I started roughly May of this year. I didn’t have a tarot deck or the resources to buy a nice one, so I decided to make my own, unaware of what a lengthy endeavor I was getting myself into. I’d been hoping to have it finished by the end of the summer, but that didn’t work out, and in the flurry of tests and papers and college planning assemblies I haven’t had the time to work on it the way I’d like to. But I’m committed to finishing this, so I’m hoping to have that done by spring/summer of 2015.

My deck doesn’t have a working title (yet) because I’m rather awful at naming things, but my theme is diversity of identities and presentation among women.


There’s so many things women are told to do to make them look and act a certain way, it erases the individualism of self-expression and gender identity, and also is really detrimental to a person’s confidence. I want to show that women are not just what society tells us to be.

There’s women who wear dresses and women who wear ties and women who wear both. There’s women who never shave and women who love it. There’s women of different body types and cup sizes and hair styles and ethnicities.

I don’t want to create a deck that’s whitewashed. Also, not all women are able-bodied. I hope to show this diversity in my deck, and while I haven’t drawn all the tenets I stated yet due a very busy schedule, they will be included in the deck at some point.


Okay – wow! So how do you actually make your own tarot deck?

The cards themselves I’m cutting from plain off-white paper – not cardstock, but in a similar vein as that. I think most kinds of paper would work for this, as long as the paper you use has a decent thickness. I prefer paper with a smoother paper because it’s easier for me to draw on, but it’s really up to you. For the designs, I’m sketching freehand. I do the border first, in pencil, and then draw the rest of the card in pencil and then go over everything in pen.

Then I fill everything in with colored pencils and add embellishments with metallic gel pens, though that last is really just extra.

For the back of the cards, I’m using washi tape to make a pattern of stripes, but you can do this just as easily with paper (you’ll need a lot of it) or even freehand.

In terms of being difficult to actually make, The Lovers (pictured as a work in progress) has been difficult because it’s two people. It also requires drawing hands, which I’m rather awful at.


Spiritually, I’m still discovering the cards and the way their meanings resonate with me. I grapple with things like Judgment or The Devil – concepts that have a history of being thrown at me in a negative light. But I am still starting to interpret and explore these cards, and as I further immerse myself I might have new realizations about them and new interpretations. I believe there are no good cards and bad cards, just different interpretations and contexts.

Juliet Paulson
Juliet Paulson

About Juliet

Juliet is a teenage writer, actress, and woman of eclectic music tastes. Her ability to ramble on about her novels to anyone who will listen is stunning, as is her ability to have tirades about fandom. She’ll try poetry occasionally, and loves to sketch and make whatever kind of art she feels like at the moment.

Aside from creating things, her passion lies in vehemently discussing social justice issues and eating really delicious desserts. She still considers herself a beginner to tarot, but hopes to go on to pursue it more seriously.

I asked Juliet which card has been her favourite so far in  the process:

I’m always terrible at choosing favorites because these tend to shift based on what it is I need in my life. Maybe it’s because I’ve been reading Walden lately and felt so cluttered by stress and socialization, but I feel drawn to The Hermit. I love people and distraction and social interaction, but this card reminds me to stay true to the parts of me that need solitude in order to sort myself out.

Self-discovery, and questioning and seeking answers to myself and the world around me, are important in my life especially in the weird transition phase where I’m no longer a child but can’t call myself an adult. The Hermit is a way for me to let go of expectations, both those placed on me and those I place on the world around me, and just be.

For more of Juliet’s writing and art, you can find her blogging as Artgirl at


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  1. Eli says:

    Brilliant. As well as the wonderful idea of the hijabi High Priestess, I’m delighted by the dapper butch Emperor. It’s not a card I’ve ever felt much sympathy for–until now. When I first started playing with tarot, I did little sketches of cards I got as daily draws (I guess I was taking it pretty literally),sometimes reworking figures to look like me or my friends. It was a really nice way of becoming comfortable with the deck.

  2. So cool! I’ve often thought about doing a deck.. I did try, and after about card 2 I realized that I completely underestimated the time commitment. I’m always in awe of people that take this project to the finish line. xo

  3. Fang says:

    It would be great to see one of these that have each character being men, without it being specifically gay or pornographic or bear. One that shows the differences of all men like is within your all women tarot here. Perhaps representing straight, gay, bi, butch, fem, bear, metro, passionate, natural and spiritual men from all over the world. Showing our connection to the earth, the stars and the creative universal being. Wish I could draw. Luv your work Beth.

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