Hoo? The Tarot Deck!

Created: 2022-12-28
Updated: 2022-01-15

Back to The Hoo? Page for info about the game jam project as a whole.

Update: I’ve done it! I drew all 78 cards in 52 days!

a 13 by 6 grid of all 78 tarot cards in my deck

Keep scrolling for some larger examples from the deck.

The tools

These cards were all drawn in Krita (krita.org), the FOSS drawing program that works beautifully with my Wacom Intuos4 drawing tablet (specifically the PTK-640, which is now at least a decade old. It was a very thoughtful present from my wife).

screenshot of editing the magician card with krita

For the most part, I just used three layers:

  • Vector for the card title text at the bottom

  • Foreground for the black and white drawing

  • Background for the fill colors (two shades of tan)

Here’s a typical example, The Empress:

three side-by-side images with the foreground

The background layer often looks silly on its own. Needless to say, I rarely ever saw it like this.

The process and progress

My original intent was just to make the cards as fast as I could for use in the game. The target size is a mere 360 pixels high.

But I think you’ll agree that I got better (without really slowing down all that much) during the course of the 78 drawings.

Here’s the last seven cards from the Major Arcana:

seven tarot cards showing better draftsmanship and use of line etc.

And here’s the first three:

three tarot cards from the wands suit with much cruder artwork

I think you’ll agree that these are much cruder than where I ended up.

I had the traditional bright yellow Rider-Waite-Smith Tarot deck from U.S. Games Systems on my desk for inspiration and guidance. Also the book, The Tarot by Robert M. Place for help with the traditional meanings. For some, I went with the imagery from the cards in front of me. Often I made up my own based on the traditional meaning.

As I progressed, the slim stack of "finished" cards slowly piled up into a weighty deck and it felt pretty amazing to realize I’d drawn all of those. Progress feeds progress.

I drew them in this order:

  • Wands

  • Cups

  • Pentacles

  • Swords

  • Major Arcana

Putting Major Arcana last was intentional since I correctly assumed I would get better at it the more I drew. (The player of the game will be seeing a single Major Arcana card for the duration of the game.)

I lucked into the minor arcana order which ended up being in order from easier to harder to draw items. By the Ten of Swords, I had to draw ten swords for a single card. And I was drawing up to four cards per evening after work. That’s a lot of swords. I’m okay at drawing long straight lines on paper, but not so much on the drawing tablet.

It was also really cool to post to my Mastodon account on the incredible .ART instance:

I got encouraging feedback (and looked at a lot of other people’s cool art, of course, which refills my bucket.)

screenshot of a post to mastodon with three major arcana cards


I’m so happy to have done this. Drawing a full Tarot deck has always been a "bucket list" item for me, but it’s daunting for multiple reasons.

And yet, this seemed do-able when I started because:

  • The game jam gave me a short, fixed deadline

  • The cards were being drawn for a utility purpose, not "to make glorious art"

  • My target size was tiny, so I gave myself permission to draw them quick and rough

I’m really happy with how some of the later ones turned out. Part of me wishes I had drawn them even bigger and better so they would print well on real card stock. But I also know that if that had been my goal, I would likely never have started!

Thanks for watching!