Deck-Trimming Tips for Beginners

Friday, 2 June 2017

A few months ago I ordered the Tarot of the Hidden Realm, a beautiful deck written by Barbara Moore with artwork from Julia Jeffrey. I couldn't wait for it to arrive and when it did I read the accompanying book immediately (excellent), and loved the imagery which shows exquisite close-up images of each character ... but then I just didn't use it. Earlier this week I was thinking about the deck and went to use it, but after shuffling I found myself putting it back in the box. I wasn't sure why. What was stopping me from using this stunning deck? 
Tarot of the Hidden Realm by Barbara Moore and Julia Jeffrey, published by Llewellyn Books

A while later, it struck me. The borderless cards come with a dark brown stripe at the bottom, upon which the names are printed. Not only is this colour quite jarring to me, especially against the beautiful tones of the cards, but I realised I was looking at the words instead of the image every time I picked them up. I wasn't reading the cards intuitively at all. Instead I'd think something like 'Five of Pentacles - what do I know about that card meaning?' and this is not how I like to read Tarot. 

After a bit of consideration, it seemed like the answer may lie with scissors but I hadn't trimmed a deck before and wasn't sure how easy it would be to do a good job. Also, from the imagery it's not immediately obvious which card is which without the label - it takes a bit of looking. But that's exactly what I wanted to do, so it seemed worth the risk. 

In my 'other life' as a crafter and designer I rely on swatching and measuring before getting started on any project involving scissors, so that's exactly what I did - I made a few "swatches" to play around with.

After making a copy of the front of a few cards on plain paper, the stripe was carefully trimmed and the images looked great. Then I tried two different sizes of corner punch - 5mm and 10 mm - to determine which worked the best (neither is 100% perfect, but the 5mm size is best as the 10mm would have required all four corners to be trimmed to match). I didn't have to think about the backs of the cards as the pattern isn't symmetrical, and in fact it almost looks as though it was laid out with potential trimming in mind. With the decisions made, it was time to trim the real deck. 

Despite having my heart in my mouth for the first few cuts, it was plain sailing - within half an hour the deck was totally transformed. If you're thinking of trimming a deck of your own, and haven't done it before, I've compiled a few tips. As you'll see, it's mostly about preparation. 

  • Tarot deck
  • Sharp scissors which is suitable for paper/card
  • Corner punch (check size, see notes below) with a sharp blade
Remember that blunt blades could tear the cards instead of cutting through them. If you're not sure how sharp your tools are, test them on some similar card stock whenever possible - the extra/info cards that come with some decks could be useful for this purpose.

I'd urge anyone to think about the reasons for wanting to trim your deck, and the repercussions if you don't like it. Here are a few things to consider:
  • How much would you like to trim off? What size will that leave the cards and are you happy with this? 
  • Will it result in the removal of any imagery or symbolism? 
  • Will the back of the deck be affected?  How might this affect reversals? 
  • Can the deck be easily replaced if you make a mistake? Is this important to you? 
  • If you're not sure about trimming your particular deck, look online - there are lots of videos on YouTube which feature trimmed decks, and you will also find plenty of images on Instagram, although they are not all tagged. I used the tag #trimmedtarot which has over 130 images at the time of writing.
  • If you haven't seen (and can't find) any trimmed versions of your deck, try making a swatch of some kind - check you will like it before you make a cut. 
  • You might want to try covering any labels you're removing, to make sure you'll still be able to read the cards without them.
  • Check the size of the corner punch ON SCRAP paper or card. If you will not be re-cutting all four corners, check against the original size - unless you have a choice of punch you may have to cut all of the corners to make them match. 

  • Take it slowly!
  • Depending on the thickness of the card stock, you may find it a bit taxing to use the punch on each of the 78 cards in one sitting - especially if you don't have very strong hands - if that's the case, be sure to take regular breaks to avoid causing injury. 
  • If you don't get a perfectly neat corner on the first attempt, try turning the card over and cutting it again - this should even it out. 

Here is my finished deck in a three-card spread - I'm delighted with how it turned out and so pleased I did it! You can find my interpretation on Instagram, if you'd like to know the message I got about reading with these cards after trimming them. 

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