Gothic Horror Themed Tarot Deck
Project Completion Time : 1 Month | Completion Date: July 1st 2015 | Completion Date of Upate: January 1st 2017

Cups | Staves | Pentacles | Swords | Major Arcana

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It was a month before the end of class, I had already completed the course requirements and had a choice. I could sit and do nothing for a month, or pull one of the big projects out of my bag and work on it. Being deathly afraid of boredom I chose the latter. A standard Tarot deck consists of 78 unique cards. I knew it was ambitious, but I've never shied from a challenge. However, I wanted to make it unique. I've painted a good deal of medieval fantasy pieces, and wanted to try something new. At the time I was familiarizing myself with the World of Darkness role-playing setting. I decided then, to do a Victorian Gothic themed deck, each suit was given a different horror trope; the cups would depict vampires, the staves were witches, the swords would be monster hunters and finally the pentacles would be represented by H.P. Lovecraft inspired abominations. A tarot deck, however is a very symbolic kind of thing, and I didn't want to lose that in the aesthetic translation, I wanted to make sure I captured the spirit of the traditional rider-waite imagery!

Traditional Rider-Waite Deck


For each suit I picked theme, as I said, and for each card I started by looking at the rider-waite image and thinking about what it would look like in 'my' setting. Sometimes I wasn't sure what the card was trying to convey so I would look up the meaning and see if I could capture that. Then it was my traditional process of sketching, scanning and painting.
Then about 2 years later after setting up an etsy store and going to re-order (it was this time I was starting to order more in bulk) I thought to myself "actually, this project is starting to look a little old, I'm almost a little embarassed of some of the artwork" and I knew it was either a choice of discontinuing it or touching it up. I figured it wouldn't take too long to go and fix some of the errors, and I felt the concept was strong enough that it was worth it. So I spent about a week going through and using some of the new techniques I had learned to make it something I could be proud of again. Overlay layers were added, faces were changed to be more realistic (as I had spent a while that year painting face studies) brush strokes were smoothed, moons were rounded, and with just a little extra effort the project was shiney and new again! The font and general layout were also tweaked a little to give the entire deck a fresh feel!

sketch concept

rough coloring

touch-up & details

2016 Touch Up

A few things I want to highlight that happened during this stage, I would start with the Rider-Waite and then adapt the imagery into my theme. like with the magician below. I featured a witch using the symbols of the other arcana (which are present in the original card) to cast a spell. I also put the infinity symbol on her hat instead of floating above her head, as in the original.

Original Rider-Waite Magician

My adaptation, featuring concurrent imagery

Now I want to talk about the major Arcana, Many of the major arcana cards relate back visually or symbolically to the fool's journey, ending at the world. I wanted to capture a little bit of this and have a reacurring character for the fool. I chose a Lolita girl, as something that's fairly common in a horror genre.

Of course, I didn't want to shoehorn her into every card as that would certainly force some strange imagery, so instead the second thing I did to make the major arcana really shine was to depict all the characters with white hair. A small thing to be sure, but I wanted it to be just enough to subtly make the viewer notice that 'hey, there's something different about the major arcana'

I am overall pleased with how this project turned out, it was a lot of work, but it was worth it. There are a few images that suffered in quality due to the time constraint, that I'd like to go back and touch up, as well, the card backs were something I've never been really happy with, but overall I feel it came together quite nicely.

This item has been reviewed by independent individuals
Glamour Zombie
Modron Lotus Garden
The Metapmorphosis Healing Energy Facebook Page

This deck has also been featured on two Youtube channels
Aquarian Insight & Veroosh Tarot

Full Set of Card Images:
Cups | Staves | Pentacles | Swords | Major Arcana

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