NOTE: I’ve tried making a YouTube style video to illustrate this process a little better, but it ended up being over 30 minutes long, and my voice is not really pleasant to listen to, LOL. So what I think I’ll try to do is break it down into smaller chunks of video and maybe take some serious allergy pills so I’m not quite so “nasally” sounding – OY! 

I’ve made my own tarot cards before and it worked out really well – after working through some not-so-great prototypes. So I thought I’d share my final technique that actually produced a usable tarot deck.  You’re going to need a few (or not so few) things to make this work.  Here’s what I used – in no particular order:

  • Photoshop to make the card face & back design images
  • High Gloss photo paper (or any really good, heavy, glossy paper – NOT “card-stock”)
  • Cheap Plain paper for “dry-runs” and other testing-n-tweaking work
  • A good, color, photo-capable printer (HP PhotoSmart Series, for example)
  • A lot of Ink, color and black & white – I’d probably get at least 4 of each (???)
  • A GOOD paper cutter (I use one with a rolling-blade instead of the lever blade, it seems to work better) Scissors just aren’t going to be accurate enough, nor fast enough to do this job well.
  • Permanent Mounting spray (what photographers use to permanently mount photos to mattes – basically it’s a very good, high quality spray-on glue that can be applied very evenly)
  • Glossy Acrylic Sealant (again, photographers will spray this on their photos to protect them and seal them – you need to do this – just drag a finger nail across a glossy color printer image and you’ll see why)
  • A BIG phone book – preferably yellow pages from a big city.  Bigger is better.
  • An extremely well ventilated, somewhat dust-free, wind-free area to do all this spraying of noxious stuff onto wind-prone sheets of paper. (I used my empty 2-car garage keeping the door open).  Keep in mind that there will be some over-spray, so cover things with disposable drop-cloths or plastic to keep off any unwanted glue/acrylic.
  • You may want some of those light, cotton “photo handling” gloves and/or a paper face mask for the mounting/sealing process. 
  • A flat table or counter-top, and more large, heavy books (to press newly glued pages flat)
  • A corner snipper/rounder(these can be found in any “scrap-booking” or “handi-craft” shop). These are used to round the corners of each card – a must for ease of shuffling and preventing “dog-ear” corners.
  • A lot of time & patience

The Process

  • Create each card image and a backing graphic/image (the longest part of the process) – I like to work with large images to begin with. That way I know they will retain their high quality when down-sized.
  • Resize originals to card-size, save with new card-filename (do not over-write or otherwise destroy your originals! You might need them to tweak the image or for some other purpose!)
  • Bring card images into a 4-cards per page printing template and Save each 4-card selection with yet another new filename – (this lets you go back and reprint another image if one gets screwed up for some reason  during gluing/sealing/cutting, or you decide to change imagery, whatever)
  • Print Fronts and Backs
  • Glue Fronts to Backs
  • Apply finish/sealer to Fronts/Backs
  • Cut cards from sheets 
  • Round Card Corners with “corner-cutter”
  • Use finished cards

The basic process is to print card-faces on one sheet of paper with card-backs on another sheet of paper that will line up with each other when those sheets are placed “back-to-back.”  You can use your “cheap paper” to work this out.  I’d print out a sheet wtih 4 faces, and then a sheet with 4 backs, put the sheets back-to-back (very important!) and hold it up to the light to make sure they’re centered/lined up with each other. This can take a bit of tweaking in photoshop to get  these images right since they’re in “mirror-image” with respect to each other, so be patient.

Another trick here is to over-size your fronts by a couple millimeters or so, and use a uniform color margin so if the fronts and backs aren’t perfectly centered against each other, it doesn’t really matter so much.  You want the fronts bigger, because we’re going to be using the backs to judge where we’ll be cutting, this way when you cut out the final, glued pages you’ll get full coverage on the backs of each card, since you’ll actually be cutting into the margin area of the face. (I hope that makes sense). Also, you’ll want quite a bit of margin between each card on the print-template  – I try to give myself at least a half-inch to an inch or more wiggle room: this makes glueing, sealing, and cutting them out much easier.

OK, once you’re happy with the alignment between your fronts and backs, print out a single “final” copy of one of your face and back sets – we’re going to test putting things together, so you’ll want your good paper for this.

Time for the smelly work:

I set up the following in my garage with the door open – you really need good ventilation for this, but no wind.  Away from any “open flames” (water heater, furnace, etc), and anything else you don’t want to get gummed up with spray-on glue or acrylic spray paint (like a car); I set up a junky stool that had a back on it and covered it with a sheet I was willing to throw away.  Then I lean a loosely open yellow pages book against the back of the stool.

Now put your face and back sheets together (UN-GLUED), make sure they’re lined up as perfectly as possible.  Stick these into the binding of the phone book – there should be enough pressure from the phonebook pages near the binding to hold your image sheets together along that edge. This next part is where you need a light touch – you need your image sheets “open” while they’re still held together in the binding of the phone book.  What w’ere going to do is spray the adhesive on the blank “insides” of our card sheets, and then gently “roll” the phonebook (and our sheets) closed – sticking our sheets together. Then you remove the newly glued sheets from the phonebook, put clean plain paper on either sides of the cards, lay them on a flat surface and put weight on them to make sure they get well glued.  I usually let them sit under weight for at least 15-20 mins, or so.

“Ding” the 15-20min egg-timer goes off and you can go seal your sheets.  I use the same garage/stool/sheet set-up as before, without the phonebook.  I just stand the page against the back of the stool, making sure air is calm and your spray area is clean (you don’t want to seal any dust, hair, or other particles onto your sheet – in fact before placing your sheet, you may want to lightly blow it off with a couple very short bursts from a canned air sprayer (I use canned air ‘cuz I tend to spit when I blow out of my mouth, LOL!). Once you’re convinced your prints are clean and in place, evenly spray the sheet with the Clear Glossy Acrylic and  let it sit for a bit to air dry (5-10mins) before turning it to do the reverse side.   After allowing that side to air-dry for a 15-30 minutes, then I put the newly sealed prints between two clean sheets of paper that act as blotter, and set it aside on the flat counter/table to finish drying (NO Weights this time!) – it really should be mostly dry anyways before you do this, but I do this just as an extra precaution.

Once everthing is glued and sealed and dry, you can pull out your hand-dandy paper cutter and start cutting out your finished cards. I usually try to get a full suit to this “near complete” stage before I start cutting so I can have one stretch of just doing the cutting process.  Again, I cut using the slightly undersized “backs” as my guide, which should cut into the extra bit of margin we made for the faces, ensuring that the entire back of the card will be covered once it’s cut from the sheet.

If none of this is making sense, maybe my forthcoming “how-to” videos will help clear things up.  I’m optomistic that I can get these completed before the Thanksgiving Holiday – wish me luck and as always, Enjoy!

The deck I made a few years ago (and this is the “gay-interest” part) was a direct response to and parody of the “Wymyn themed” “Mother Peace” deck.  There just weren’t any truely “Gay Male” themed decks out there at the time, so I decided to make my own. My deck is called “Daddy’s Piece,” and it’s purely of a gay, photographic, sexually explicit nature – so I can’t really post any pictures of it ‘cuz I’m sure it would be deemed “inappropriate.” If you’d still like to view it, drop me a line and I can forward you the URL to a tarot reading website that utilizes this deck.

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