Tarot Cards + E-Zine Cover Design

Tarot Cards are a pack of playing cards (most commonly numbering to 78 cards). They were used between the 15th and 18th Century in various parts of Europe to play group card games. It wasn’t until the 18th to the present time the tarot was used by mystics for divination.


A common deck  has four suits (which vary by region) each suit has cards numbering from one (Ace) to ten, a King, Queen, Knight and Jack/Knave. Depending on the game, the Fool may act as the top trump or may be played to avoid following suit.

I wanted to research into Tarot Cards because they reflect a vintage aesthetic that reminds me of Steam Punk. When researching Tarot Cards there were a variety of results found of the decks; with consistent use of metallic bronze and yellows. I wanted to work with Tarot Cards because it would be a challenge and one I’d use to create Steam Punk inspired designs.

Tarot Designs3.jpg

The one that caught my attention wasn’t as vibrant as the other example; though its details was what caught my interest. I was inspired to create similar work influenced by their patterns and my first stages of designs were monochrome. I found these to be a pleasant design to re-create for a cover for my E-zine showing my textures using a restriction of colours and tones.

The two cards above are the ones I wanted to attempt to redesign based on their interesting compositions and had enough background in which I could improvise on and add Steam Punk related themes.

These Tarot cards are based on the Major/Minor Arcana deck;

  1.  The Hangman, which usually depicts a shameful image of a traitor being punished in a manner common at the time for traitors in Italy.
  2.  Queen of Swords, which when is brought up represents knowledge and  yearning.

Both of these would help me work on designs which are complete opposites of one another giving me more ideas to experiment with.

Initial Designs

designs wip

The designs above were inspired by the Tarot Cards, the Hanged man and the Queen of Swords. I had drawn two characters I thought would represent the cards based on their personalities and the definition of the card when brought into spiritual influence. Both of these designs were drawn digitally using an Art Program called Paint Tool SAI.

They are based on my interpretations; I didn’t want to just copy the cards but produce unique designs to experiment with the theme.

The Hanged Man is chained from his hands to toes, surrounding him are cogs that continuously move to make him descend and rise. I added the cogs on both of the designs to give and industrial appearance which I often feel connects to Steam Punk. The chains I find are a bit lazy and something I need to observe and practice at if I were to create this again.

The Queen of Swords I drew is based on me wanting to experimenting with perspective. She is holding a sword with eight fragments of broken cogs scattering around her. I decided to do this as a reflection of a power of a Queen as she leaps over one representing her goals.

From afar the background appears to be star-like, however I created them in circular motions for an impressionist intake (Van Goghs Starry Night which depicts the same atmosphere) but also a minimalist impression of cogs, the lines connecting them as a continuous cycle of life (which Tarot Cards are about the Past, Present and Future as well as Steam Punk being Victorians predictions of the future which I found linked in with these two cards.)

Around the cards are also punctured holes which are meant to give the impression of them being screwed together. I used mainly lines to create these, to manifest the appearance of pipes and metal. One of the reasons why it may not look so successful is being due to not shading or colouring them in copper tones to make it appear more polished.

The HangedMan

Above are four versions I coloured to get a conclusion on what looked the best or not. In the end I decided to stick with the white versions, as I found them to be more attention-grasping while the black versions would fade into dark purples. I attempted to use a hard brush to define the outlines of the cogs and add details to bring the character into the foreground but it looked too crowded. The darker versions also reminded me of Magic Cards rather than Steam Punk which took it off the topic.

Despite the darker ones being unused, the bottom title of the cards I took into consideration on my finals. Making sure they were more jaggered to give the illusion of age and worn like Steam Punk. I also added a cog under the banner as it appeared to be engineered.

I then coffee stained onto plain plain white paper and scanned it in using Photoshop to play with the Filter Gallery and overlaying it so it looked rusted and worn. I found this aided me in creating the Steam Punk illusion I was trying to create as it was now colour was included.

The opacity on the Eraser was on 14%, so when I would erase it would not leave a hard circular line, but a gradual softer one. This helped me establish lighting and making the cogs and people have depth in the cards.

Overall, I am very proud of these designs however with them being so small I would find it best to recreate them on an A3 canvas so when being resized and place on my E-zine they will not be pixelated.


One thought on “Tarot Cards + E-Zine Cover Design

  1. Excellent Shannon, very thorough…with each stage well thought out…I think we need to use this as a basis of a final image. As you say yourself they should have been created larger…I also think you should try and introduce ‘real’ images of bolts and screws and even chains,this will then give the images more depth and also show your skills in using other options to create a final piece. We shall discuss more when we return, but a fantastic effort…well done!


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