10-Challenges-in-Making-a-Successful-Tarot-Deck

Table of Contents

1 – Publishing vs Self Publishing

2 – Selecting The Right Size

3 – Be Knowledgeable in Tarot or Collaborate with a Tarot Reader

4 – Choosing The Right Theme

5 – Ideas For 78 Images

6 – Drawing 78 Images

7 – Self Promotion Online

8 – Sales Extras

9 – Social Networking

10 – Interviews and Radio Shows

1 – Publishing vs Self Publishing

Having illustrated two 78 card Tarot decks and a massive 94 deck (King’s Journey) over the past few years, I can tell you that this first step, in the form of a question, is probably the most important which is why I’ve placed it as number 1 (although please read the rest of the list not as a countdown on the most important overall but rather a list of what I’ve found most important to follow progressively to avoid problems later on).

King-Journey-Tarot-buy

A massive 94 card deck of brightly coloured adventurous tarot images for only 42 dollars (includes postage and packaging)

Right from the get go I recommend making a conscious decision of whether you want to be picked up (if at all possible, it can be hard) by a big name publisher or you want to publish it yourself.

From my own experience it comes down to what you want out of your tarot. If you want to be paid for all your hard work (because your tarot is most likely going to take about a year to make and that’s a conservative estimate) your best bet is to self publish. If you want your name out there and are not worried necessarily about getting any tangible money from it, you’ll want to go the publishing route. Unfortunately it would appear that in most cases you cannot have both “fame” and “fortune” at the same time, but rather you have to choose which is more important to you.

In my case I have been published by a publisher and I’ve self published too. Simply Deep Tarot was published by Schiffer Publishing in 2012 and while this has got my name out there probably more than I ever would have on my own, I typically receive about 20 cents for every Simply Deep Tarot sold through Schiffer Publishing. I’ll put it out there and say that I have no idea what Lewellyn or U.S Games are paying out. If you’re filed as a co creator with Schiffer you divide the ten percent royalty in two. That’s chump change though for all of your hard work. I’ve talked to other creators who are equally disappointed in the royalties from publishing houses. How I tried to “make it ok” in my mind was to imagine each Tarot Deck was the equivalent of handing out a business card to future potential buyers as essentially that is what it kinda is. That and people, hopefully, love what you’ve created and are getting enjoyment out of it! So all is not lost lol

Simply-Deep-Tarot-buy

We released a borderless edition. This one i actually make more than 20 cents, but I feel the price is still reasonable at 40 dollars including postage and packaging. (POD printing dictates most of the cost per item)

Self publishing, on the other hand, may not seem as glamorous, but this is YOUR creation, your hard work and if you can get a decent Print on Demand site, this is definitely a more empowering option – But of course the hard work is on you to then promote it. So there are pros and cons to both paths. Occasionally you may come across forums where some people are suggesting that the reason you’re self publishing your work is because no real publisher would want your deck. Could you put with that if it meant making some actual money from your work? I hope so!

Again, both publishing routes have their postive points. If you’re interested in building your name up and are not caring for the money side of it (at least yet), you may want to go the “officially published” route. I’m sure there is some wisdom longterm in getting published by some of the big names. They may bring you name recognition and later down the line using that name recognition you may THEN self publish and gain far more customers, thus getting a decent return from your hard work. I’m just trying to pay the rent for next friday! lol

2 – Selecting The Right Size

So you’ve decided to try for U.S Games or Lewellyn or Lo Scarabeo. Before you even begin planning out your illustration on each page you’re going to want to know what size each of these companies print their cards at and then create a template that you can use over and over again. I was a bit green when I created King’s Journey and Simply Deep Tarot. I illustrated the images on full A3 size paper (11 x 16 inch paper) but thankfully Chanel Bayless, co-creator of both of those tarots wanted King’s Journey as a smaller deck and so it was not important to have it as a regular tarot size (2.75 x 3.75). As for Simply Deep Tarot, I was able to squeak past because Schiffer was adding borders to them.

easy-tarot-template

Here is the template i use as a guide for our Tarot illustrations. It’s really a POD template (blown up by x5 if i remember correctly)

Because these days my partner/co creator Christine and I self publish our Tarots through a Print on Demand printer, I now use a template that I’ve made and use as an underlay for each illustration I work on for any subsequent Tarot. So The Cultural Revolution Tarot and our Twisted Tarot Tales (currently in the works) have all taken advantage of the template. For our Tarot sized Borderless King’s Journey Tarot and Simply Deep Borderless edition, I spent time resizing them earlier in the year for the much more narrow tarot sized 2.75 x 4.75 inch. It took some time to resize every card but in the end it was worth it. To save headaches later, I suggest creating a template. What I have found is that the  11 x 17 inch pre lined Bristol board comic book pages made by Strathmore have pretty much the same dimensions of a standard tarot card, so if you were drawing your images at that size those have preprinted templates anyway. In recent times I’ve taken to using this occasionally, especially on an image I imagine is going to look epic as later down the line I may use them as giveaways or sell them as original art.

Click here for the importance of having a BLEED, and also what size and file type you should save your Tarot images as

3 – Be Knowledgeable in Tarot or Collaborate with a Tarot Reader

I am not a Tarot reader, but in every tarot I’ve illustrated I’ve worked with two very knowledgable readers who both produce very accurate readings, you know the kinds of people who could read for you using nothing more than a pack of regular playing cards. While in every deck I’ve had a few of my ideas represented and I’ve visually designed much of what you see on every image, i’ve relied on both Chanel (King’s Journey and Simply Deep) and Christine (Cultural Revolution Tarot and Twisted Tarot Tales) to come up with both the ideas and the composition of each card. So everything you see is composed to look that way by either Chanel and Christine in their respective Tarots. I’m happy with this arrangement because i feel confident in their Tarot knowledge and my illustrations combined. I rely on the Tarotists I work with because at the end of the day they are trying to compose an image that they themselves can read. Christine and i also enjoy sharing our new cards and asking the opinions of other Tarotists too. We feel it’s inclusive and we like to think that everyone is part of the journey in the creation of our deck.

4 – Choosing The Right Theme

how-to-make-tarot

One of our Cultural Revolution Tarot illustrations

Let’s face it. All the popular themes in tarot have almost all been covered. Love medieval themes? there’s something for you! Love Cats? you’re in luck. Love Fairies? there are loads of them to choose from, but try looking for a Tarot based on Chinese propaganda imagery and you’re going to be sheer out of luck…unless of course you stumble upon our Cultural Revolution Tarot. Yes, one Chinese Propaganda art themed Tarot now exists. Finding something that has never been done before is exciting, but it brings with it some pitfalls that you may want to try to avoid.

Our art deck The Cultural Revolution Tarot based on Chinese propaganda art posters, caused a fair bit of controversy with the politically correct crowd, but our new deck, our upcoming Twisted Tarot Tales seems to have hit a chord with a lot of people. Lots of people like comics and horror, and so a deck based on the pulp back horror comics of the 70’s and 80’s like House of Mystery and Chamber of Chills etc, seems to have done the trick.  Therefore it’s a little trial and error to find what interests people and what doesn’t, but most important is creating something that you enjoy working on and have some knowledge about otherwise drawing 78 illustrations is going to be a chore!

There are a lot of great ideas of course that may never see the light of day due to copyright. If copyright were never an issue we’d have everything from Game of Thrones to Star Wars, Sponge Bob to Mickey Mouse but as it stands, no publisher would ever touch them (unless of course you somehow magically obtained permission from the copyright holders which for some of them is probably not that out of the question; Christine’s friend Terry Donaldson worked on both Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit Tarot). So there are great themed Tarots that might never ever happen, but it’s finding something that speaks to your soul and that isn’t copyrighted that is the most important.

You also have to remember that within the Tarot community (online at least) there are a lot of traditionalists and depending on what you’re creating it could lead to anything from plain disinterest to actually considering boycotting and banning your hard work. On the other hand, there are also those who probably do like the “idea” of change in tarot, until they see something quite different from what they are used to. With that in mind, creating a successful deck brings with it a fine line between controversy and popularity, enough to cause a stir of interest without people coming out with their pitchforks to hunt you down. Controversy and popularity; sometimes they can be the same thing and while usually never planned, controversy can sometimes work for you.

If interested in being picked up by a publisher I would research what they print and what they seem to avoid before you make plans for your deck. If in doubt ask them.

On the other hand there is absouletely nothing wrong with sticking to the much loved, tried and tested themes. At the end of the day if it’s something you love, then why not? Not everyone needs to seek new frontiers. My guide is merely to alert you to potential problems along the way if you choose something a wee bit more radical!

5 – Ideas For 78 Images

Believe it or not, this is almost as taxing and time-consuming as actually drawing the illustrations. occasionally I put forth ideas which I’d either like to draw or think would look cool visually. For The Cultural Revolution Tarot and Twisted Tarot Tales, the ideas are almost all from Christine.

One of the harder tasks in creating Tarot imagery is the placement of the suit symbols. Eight swords for the eight of swords, 9 Wands for the 9 of wands and so on, all the while still making the image visually interesting. The Majors are easier because you can create a straight forward image without needing to place 10 cups in the image etc. I think this is why it can take a while to get the imagery put in place as far as its composition goes.

6 – Drawing 78 Images

how-to-make-tarot-deck

Illustrating The Cultural Revolution Tarot last Summer

From here you’re either drawing or digitally manipulating imagery for each of your cards. I illustrate the images traditionally as i prefer hand drawn work over photo manipulated imagery / digital painting.

Probably the main thing you need to remember about illustrating Tarot images aside from making the images readable and including the suit symbols is the borders and bleed of your image. Follow the link for a more indepth view of why this is important.

For our Twisted Tarot Tales i try to imagine that each of our illustrations is the cover for a horror comic. It depends what you’re going for but in my case i try to make every illustration in our horror tarot big and bold and colourful because not only is it keeping in line with the theme of the deck, but it’s eye catching and looks great.

7 – Self Promotion Online

For myself, step 7 coincides with step 5 and 6 (planning out and illustrating each card) because i like to take people on the journey of how our Tarot is progressing. Others may choose to plan out and illustrate their cards in their entirety before showing them / self promoting online. It’s up to you.

As for self promotion on Facebook and other social media forums and groups, try to create a schedule and stick to it. Everyday you create an artwork, post it on as many Tarot forums as you can and create a list of what days you are allowed to post on each forum/group etc, because some only allow you to self promote on a particular day. Creating a list/chart makes it easier to see at a glance where you can post without offending any of the moderators/admins. I try to do this very same thing but sometimes life gets in the way

I’ve created WordPress blogs, YouTube channels, Twitter accounts, Facebook pages, even Pinterest accounts and have tried to maintain all of these while working on our current Twisted Tarot Tales. (some have worked for us, some haven’t – it is difficult to understand the inner workings of each specific one, but they may work for you) We have Amazon listings, eBay listings and an occasional Etsy listing too, but I find these are harder to maintain due to the sellers fees and also the fact that we don’t keep much stock in our studio. (we use Print on Demand sites).

There are other areas that may interest you for promotion such as Instagram and Vine, both of which, if I am not mistaken, require a Smartphone. I don’t own one and have no intention to in the near future, so that’s off-limits to me.

See how the Illustration runs off the borders? The reason is that when cut, there is no danger of any white showing

Click here to learn about the importance of creating a bleed in artworks

As far as self promotion goes my way of thinking is that Facebook is probably the biggest social media site around, and while I self promote there, I am trying to find an audience outside of Facebook for Tarot sales in order to double the sales. As anyone who works for themselves knows, maintaining an online presence is a job in itself (before you even get to the illustrations).

As for Facebook, I’ve found that Tarot Professionals is a great place on Facebook to get your message out mainly because there are so many members of that site that your work is being seen there probably more than it would anywhere else. As much as possible I try to post on TP, but I also try to post on many other tarot forums.

Without ever having paid for an advertisement, our online promotion the past few years has paid off for us as we’ve seen customers from the four corners of the world; Australia, Taiwan, China, Thailand, Malaysia, Cyprus, Spain, U.S, Canada, France, Ireland, UK, even Lapland! (and this is our self published tarots)

Currently some of my Twisted Tarot Tales illustrations are in New York City for a show scheduled for December.

Consider the theme of your Tarot, and find pages and forums that may be interested in the theme of your deck regardless of if they actually have an interest in Tarot. In our case for Twisted Tarot Tales we post on both Comic book fan forums and Horror fan forums. It may seem like a long-shot but sometimes it can surprise you.

8 – Sales Extras

Regardless of whether you’re planning on self publishing or being published by a big name publishing house, you might want to think about creating Tarot bags/pouches and reading cloths as an aside to your Tarot. We’re currently looking into Tarot bags and reading clothes. It’s a great opportunity not only to earn a little extra (which always comes in handy if, like me, you are relying on the sales of your art to buy groceries and pay rent) but to offer a great product that keeps in line with the theme of your Tarot for those who love the illustrations and characters.

9 – Social Networking

How does one go about this? I am still learning but I’ll give you my advice. Don’t get on anyone’s bad sad. That’s pretty much it!….just kidding. I advise you not to get banned from Aeclectic Tarot indefinitely like I did. It didn’t do anything to my sales and also I’m told that the site is losing it’s relevance with the exception of the site showcasing new up and coming tarots, but still, you want to stay on the right side of people if at all possible. Thankfully, although I cannot participate in any discussions at Aeclectic, our tarots are represented. Aeclectic is notorious among many Tarot creators for being a very argumentative, often Troll like in nature, but if at all possible stay on the right side of people. Many people in the tarot community have a very thin skin, (think rice paper), but in saying that, there are many open-minded reasonable people.

This is a hard one, especially if you are a critical thinker, but avoid politics altogether if at all possible. Remember that you’re trying to promote your deck! if you must, make sure your opinion agrees with popular opinion otherwise the politically correct police will try to blackball you. Hey, I’m not even kidding with you. Avoid Tarot politics too. Over time I’ve learned that being vocal about things that go against the popular opinion may feel good for a short time but ultimately if you’re trying to co-exist, you want to stay away from politics. More so if you are trying to sell your products.

Be social. I know you want to sell your wares, but people don’t like sales pitches. They like giveaways and competitions, they like to know that you are their friend rather than a potential customer. Yes, some may invest in you and believe in your work, but people are smart and they can see through those who just want their money.

My philosophy is this. Create a great product and keep it as affordable as possible (it is sometimes difficult to do this in competition with mass-produced decks, which, unless you have the capital, you will not have. More than likely yours will be a small run at best), be friendly and put your commercial out there inviting people to see a video of your cards, or see photographs of your cards (almost a virtual try before you buy) and let them decide if they want to purchase. Put out your commercial into the vast expanse of digitalness and hit the drawing board and produce another kick ass piece of art. I try to live by that.

10 – Interviews/ Radio shows/Conventions

If you are like me, you might wish to avoid radio shows and conventions but I advise against this for the obvious reasons. Radio shows allow you to reach many people and possibly more than you would normally reach yourself. I feel personally that they are not for me, at least at this point in time. A few years ago I was on Dax Carlisle’s radio show and due to the time difference I believe I was on the radio around 1 or 2 am (Irish/British time) and I sort’ve….well, I had a drink for my nerves before I went on the show, followed by another, then another. Dax is a great guy, a great host, as everyone knows, but I get something similar to stage fright before talking about myself or my work. I don’t even like talking on the phone. Thankfully Christine handles any calls coming to our studio. Dax offered me another interview on his show when I brought out the Bordered Edition of King’s Journey but unfortunately I get too nervous.

king-journey-spread

One of the most important things for your Tarot is word of mouth and this comes from people who love your work, sometimes in the form of postings of your cards.

In 2011 I attended the Tarot association of the British Isles Tarot conference, but have not attended one since. I highly recommend that YOU do though because you can make great friends within the Tarot community and there is naturally a stronger connection with people when you meet them in real life.

I do email / written interviews for magazines and online publications though, and to be honest I could write for days without stopping. There’s just something different about radio and video though and despite my many videos on YouTube, i am nervous to make them and usually never watch them again after I’ve uploaded them.

I’m pretty sure if I was more sociable I would do even better sales wise than what i am doing now (although I must admit I cannot complain) and so i advise you to take advantage of the opportunities out there to get your word out.

Here’s some of our interviews and articles in the American Tarot Association magazine Tarot Reflections and Tarot Foundation’s newsletter .

So these are some of the things that await you if you plan on creating a successful Tarot deck, but what is success? Well, let’s be honest everyone measures success differently. Some see success as being recognised by peers, winning awards and all that kind of thing. I view success as receiving great feedback from people, in this case Tarot enthusiasts and readers, from all over the world about our work, and in our case the usefullness of our Tarots. This is what we’ve achieved, but it takes a lot of dedication and work.

If you are a creator or if you have any more advice to add, please leave a comment and help those who are seeking advice. Also If you have any questions, please leave a comment and we’ll try to help you. Please like, share subscribe and all that good stuff!

Here are other interesting articles i recommend you read after this

Sheilaa Hite’s Traditional-vs-Independent Publishers of books and Tarot cards

Janet Boyer’s Forget The Self Publishing Stigma and Go For It

TAROT – RGB OR CMYK FILE FORMAT?

CMYK And RGB? What’s That Willis?

cmyk-vs-rgb-help

Here’s how a fully coloured image breaks down in CMYK mode. Click on image for larger view. Notice that on each color, the other colors are switched off except black (K)? These are the four layers the printer will print all on top of each other to create the image.

It’s Orc Mischief, that’s what it is! This is often a very confusing question for those who are preparing their work for the printers and even more so if they have designed their artworks in RGB mode. Read on and you’ll see why.

CMYK mode stands for Cyan (bluish-green), Magenta (purplish-red), Yellow and Key (Black), the four printer ink colours found in printers, both in home and in professional print houses. Blue, red and yellow being primary colours of course make up every other colour you can think of and for the most part we can see that Cyan and Magenta are close to blue and red respectively. So these three colours along with black make up all the colours you see in magazines, cereal boxes, computer game packaging, Tarot cards, in fact anything you see out there in the printed world. You guessed it, CMYK mode is the mode of choice if you want to eventually print your artwork professionally.

Often you can see CMYK test strips on the backs of newspapers, magazines and on the underside of drinks cartons.

RGB mode, on the other hand, stands for Red Green Blue, as these are the colours that make up the imagery you see on television screens, computer screens and so on. Remember when you were a kid and sat so close to the tv that the “black” areas on screen were actually dark hues of blues, red etc? In this case the blacks are made up of colour. As you may have guessed, RGB is more suitable for web design, web banners etc because those are designed with the internet in mind only and therefore actual printing is not nessesary.

rgb-vs-cmyk-help

RGB mode is mainly used for screens. Remember sitting too close to the TV as a kid and seeing this? Everything on TV is comprised of red, green and blue.

The real reason that it is important to know the difference between CMYK and RGB is to avoid dissappointment. Printed colors on a piece of paper or card are naturally going to appear more dull than computer screen colors because screen colors are illuminated by light. Paper, of course, is not and i guess that is the real main difference. If you printed out an image created in RGB mode you’re likely to find that the image is coming out a lot more dull than it looks on screen. To avoid dissappointment then you’ll want to create your images in CMYK mode first. The colour choice is a bit more limited. Some find it more limiting than others but i’ve been creating all of my images in CMYK mode for years so it doesn’t bother me. If you really must,  you can create your images in RGB mode but keep in mind that what you see on screen may not exactly be what you get. Also, it’s possible you may be asked to convert them to CMYK depending on what type of printer you plan on using.

My general rule of thumb is to create artworks as TIFF* CMYK files at 300 PPI and A3 in size. If printing Tarot cards is all you plan on doing, A3 size isn’t nessesary and would be a bit overkill. I create A3 sized work for two reasons; i’m used to doing detailed work at that size and the other reason is that i may at some point release poster sized prints. Saving your work as an A4 size may well be enough for your needs.

From my mid teens up until now i’ve read all sorts of articles explaining the importance of creating your artworks in a CMYK *TIFF format with a 300 *PPI. While initially my interest was in preparing images for comic book printing, the same rule applies to all printed media. This rule, however was set up with big print runs in mind, say for example an order of 5000 pieces. If i remember correctly, when Schiffer published our Simply Deep Tarot they initially printed off a few thousand copies or more. I sent off the images as CMYK TIFF files at 300 PPI on a keydrive, dropped it into Fedex in Belfast and it was sent on it’s merry way to the U.S. I have no idea what the print run is generally among Tarot publishers but i’m pretty sure these publishers will be happy accepting your files in the way i have described. It is always best to ask ahead of time though if possible.

Your main artwork should be saved as a CMYK but if you need to, copy that file but this time save it as RGB,

WHEN YOU MIGHT NEED RGB FOR YOUR TAROT CARDS

rgb-vs-cmyk-help-2

RGB mode has one less channel. Black is made up of a combination of Red, Green and Blue.

POD printers seem to be another thing entirely. POD printers (Print on Demand) seem to always require RGB mode files in a jpg format, the same kind of format that social media sites like Facebook, Twitter etc seem to accept. The reason behind this i am not sure about but i can only guess that since a lot of POD sites are hooked up to Facebook and various photo sharing sites to encourage you to put your personal home photos and family memories onto personalized items, that their machines are set up around that idea. POD sites seem to mainly deal with digital photograph uploads, and since digital photos are already formatted nowadays as high resolution RGB mode jpgs, it only serves to complicates matters if you expect your main customer base (those uploading family photos etc) to convert their images to a CMYK mode tiff file.

So what you would do is copy your original CMYK version image and convert the copied version to RGB mode, and when you are about to save it, rather than save as tiff you will save your file in a jpg format. You always want to keep your original file because your original tiff is in a lossless format. The file format known as jpg is not, and over time loses it’s crispness i suppose. I’ve never noticed that to be the case all that much but i guess this is over a period of years possibly. In any case, POD printers seem to require something different from your files.

The following is an explanation of some of the jargon I’ve used in this blog.

*PPI

There is some confusion to this day, often promulgated by accident, that when creating files we should make sure they are 300 DPI (dots per inch). Dots Per Inch actually applies to the final print process and has nothing to do with the creation of the file itself. Instead what we need to make sure of is that the file is detailed enough to make it worth printing at 300 DPI (whether you or another printer plan on printing it). Everything i’ve read states that the professional print standard is 300ppi. This is used by professional photographers and any time a photo is printed in a magazine or other print publication. That’s what we need.

On the other hand, for web images like banners etc, 72 PPI is generally recommended as web images, as mentioned earlier, are not intended for print. In their case the 72 PPI is just a rule of how detailed it will look for on screen purposes. 72 PPI is more than enough for onscreen viewing.

*DPI

DPI means dots per inch and it dictates how detailed your print is going to be assuming you have followed the 300ppi rule as written about above. 300 DPI is recognised as the standard number of dots to fill a square inch of artwork, but the more dots per inch you have the more detailed your print is going to be. 300 DPI, it is generally agreed, is detailed enough to give a good print without going over board because at the end of the day anymore than that and it’s arguable if you are gaining that much more in print quality (especially for us in creating tarot sized cards)

*TIFF FORMAT

what-is-tiff-file

A long list of files types you can save as.

Tiff is a file format that has always been recommended for saving artworks in. You have a choice when saving artworks to save them as anything from .png to jpg but you’ll want to save your image as a Tiff because this is a lossless format. If you’re wanting to store your artworks digitally and longterm, Tiff seems to be the best choice. It’ll take up more room on your harddrive compared to a small jpg but it is worth it. In my case i work in layers, so when i save my files as Tiff I choose the “unflattened” option. In other words my layers can be altered at a later date because I’ve decided to keep the layers seperate instead of merging them (flattening them)

Making Tarots – What is Bleed and Why Should You Care?

See how the Illustration runs off the borders? The reason is that when cut, there is no danger of any white showing

See how the Illustration runs off the borders? The reason is that when cut, there is no danger of any white showing

The first time I heard of the word Bleed when referring to artwork was in How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way by Stan Lee and John Buscema. I was 13. I feel that 20 years and a few thousand illustrations later I can explain to you confidently what that’s all about.

When a printer refers to the bleed line, they are referring to the part where their guillotine is going to cut the printer paper or card, and the general rule of thumb is that you extend your image across the bleed line so that when the paper or card is cut, the colour runs right up to the edge and there is no white (or whatever under color you may happen to have, but it is generally white) showing.

The bleed line is usually an 1/8 of an inch in width and gives the printer a small amount of space to work with in case the paper moves during printing. Ideally the artwork will extend right through the bleed area so that when trimmed no un-printed edges occur in the final trimmed document. as you can see on the left my images extend way over the bleed line. It’s probably a bit overkill but notice that for the most part, nothing in the bleed area or beyond it is crucial to the artwork.

In the case of our Justice card for Twisted Tarot Tales on the left we see the jars with the frogs in them. The jar on the right cuts off. Items can be moved in further if you wish, but in this image I didn’t want to overcrowd the scene so most of the jar will be cut off. This is something to keep in mind when designing your illustrations. Even if you are planning on having borders on your Tarot cards, and therefore the actual illustration will not be connecting with the cut line itself, I still recommend keeping the bleed line in mind in your initial images in the event that you’d like to release a borderless version. It is possible to extend / expand your illustration at a later date to accommodate the bleed line but I recommend planning it out from the start.

Image trimmed to the correct size

Now look at the Image on the left. It shows our Justice card and what it would look like if it were measured to the correct size of the trim line but no more. At first this looks ok, it is the correct size, no more no less. What’s the problem right? Well, there would be no problem if every single printing of this image on the printing press was precise, but at the end of the day there is always the chance for error in printing, especially if you’re printing off thousands as it stands to reason that the more prints you have the higher number of slight errors you will have overall. The idea is to keep the errors minor, which is why you extend your artwork across the cut line.

Now, let us examine what happens if the print slides even a little. Below right we see again the what-is-bleed-3image. It is the same image as the one above, the exact measurements that cut off right beside the trim line. This example is going on the assumption that we feel we do not need to extend our image across the bleed line. Let’s say that after a few hundred prints of this particular card being printed, the printing plate decides to slide. If we’re talking millimetres we won’t fret too much but anything more and we can see the obvious problem. Can you see that not only part of your original image (that you wanted kept) is going to be trimmed off on the left, but you are left with an unflattering white area on the right and bottom (assuming of course that the plate slides a little to the top left, but it can go anywhere). This illustration is a bit on the extreme side as most printing machines, that i am aware of, won’t make such a jump, but we want to make sure that even if it did, there wouldn’t be much of a problem.

what-is-bleed-4And finally we see to the left what your finished card might look like if it were trimmed according to the bleed lines. I’ve put it on a black background so that you can see the white lines. Imagine this, along with the rest of your 77 other cards in the deck going out to your customers. Depending on whether you post your Tarots directly to your customers or whether you have them in hand first (we’ve now taken to having our printer post directly to our customers to cut down on customer costs), ideally you do not want any returns on your Tarots due to printing errors that could be avoided on your end. Some customers may overlook a slight error or two but naturally you’ll want to give them your very best.

Hopefully if you were not aware of the importance of creating a bleed in your artworks before you will be now. It involves some planning and understanding that everything drawn outside of the bleed area will be lost. With this in mind you’ll want to concentrate on the imagery inside the bleed area with some slight details of the image on the part that will be cut off. In other words, objects, for example book cabinets, skyscrapers, walls etc that will cut off at the trim line will only slightly be detailed. The important thing is the colour as a white background, as seen in our examples here, just throws the image off.

We hope you’ve enjoyed this article and that it has helped you.

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An example of the bleed line in our Five of Swords card featuring ghostly pirates

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Three of Swords bleed line