Waite-Smith Tarot Keywords Study Deck

10/06/2016 Update: I have exciting news to announce soon enough! For the time being, I’ve de-activated the zip file download link in anticipation of the cool news to come! All my love.

10/08/2016 Update: Read about the exciting announcement of a new deck to be released here.


I don’t know how you feel, but I really like how this deck looks.


And the card backs. I love the card backs. Oh, wait you probably can’t see it that well in the above pic. Here you go.


Two versions. Two different card back designs. Two different sizes. I like the big one better. That’s the black one above on the left, at 3.5″ x 5.75″.


This is the second version. Can you spot the difference? One has astrological/elemental correspondences in the top corners and this one above does not. There is a third version, too, but we’ll get to that.

September 20. That morning I pulled the Ace of Wands from the Tarot of the Holy Light and thought it pertained to this book I’m working on at the moment. So to heed the divinatory message, I was outlining and note-taking for the manuscript. For some reason (won’t talk about it now) I needed to look up card images from the Grand Etteilla. Then a bunch of loose ends connected with each other in my head. Now I wonder if maybe the Ace of Wands had nothing to do with that book I was/am working on and instead has to do with this, what this post is going to be all about.

Card I pulled that morning, as posted on my Instagram. From the Tarot of the Holy Light.
Card I pulled that morning. From the Tarot of the Holy Light.

A few days prior I had a conversation with a friend who was lamenting about how she wanted to learn to read tarot with reversals but she found the upside down images visually distracting, so much to the point that she couldn’t get over it. I then thought about how the card layout of the Grand Etteilla would work quite well for someone like her, if the larger box featured the card image upright and the smaller box had it going in the opposite direction.

Let me explain.

In The Fool card upright below (left), even though the RWS Fool has been sliced, when that card appears upright, your eyes connect the two parts and the bottom part that’s in reverse doesn’t bother you too much because the majority of the image is upright. Also, your mind and imagination connects the two into a cohesive, coherent image. So there’s no hindrance to reading the cards upright.


Meanwhile The Fool reversed (right, above) shows a sliver of the card “upright” (the feet by the edge of the cliff and white dog) but the majority of it (the bottom box) is in reverse, so you still get the ill-dignified vibes of a reversed card. Now the “upside down image” of the reversed card doesn’t bother the visual senses as much, because you’ve got that top sliver that’s “upright.” Throughout the deck I also tried to choose a “sliver” that helps go toward interpreting the ill-dignity of the card.

Here, Six of Swords and Nine of Pentacles are both reversed; Two of Cups is upright.

This structure enables a novice reader to read card reversals with ease. The divided-then-spliced bidirectional image is a visual compromise to help acclimate a novice or even intermediate reader to read with reversals (or at least in the RWS system).

Eight of Pentacles and King of Swords are both in reverse; King of Wands is upright.

Additionally, I’ve integrated keywords for both upright and reversed positions. The keywords are not intended to be card meanings, but rather prompts that should trigger an internal set of keywords toward the card meaning. (Plus, accompanying the download are instructions and all specs on how you can edit the keywords on the card images to feature your own.) In so many ways, this is the perfect RWS study deck, though that brings me to the next loose end that got connected.

Another friend of mine, not a tarot reader and not that into the woo (actually, an IP lawyer), finds tarot intriguing and wants to be able to read for himself, more as a tool for inner reflection and–half-kiddingly, he was totally joking around–see if it can help with litigation strategy. He wants to use the RWS but also wants easy-trigger keywords on the deck so he doesn’t really have to, you know, get all psychic, because that’s not what he’s about. For someone like him, it helps to have flashes of keywords integrated into the divinatory experience, because the keywords are part of the intuitive triggers for him.

Keywords not only help him, but will also help the friend who wants to learn to read with reversals for the RWS. And finally, I’ve also included the astrological and elemental correspondences for the cards, written out rather than with glyphs for those who are astrology and alchemy novices and don’t recognize the glyphs by heart. Now even the novice can deepen the tarot reading experience with astrology, by looking up what the astrological correspondence means, in addition to the meaning of that card. For example, the Six of Swords below– a novice reader can see it’s Mercury in Aquarius, and subsequently go look up indications for Mercury in Aquarius to enhance the reading.


So now we’ve got a tarot study deck that helps you get acclimated with the RWS system, build your confidence in reading with reversals, and integrates keywords as part of the intuition triggers, which really helps for those who are more verbal-oriented than pictorial.

And I know I already mentioned that every facet of this deck is fully customizable by you. Do you like 50% of the keywords I went with but hate the other 50%? Well keep what you like, change what you don’t! I’ve given you instructions on how to modify every aspect of these deck files.


I’ve also created a beginner’s tarot deck using the original 1910/1911 Rider-Waite-Smith images, shown above. If you want to learn under the RWS system, then Version 3 of this deck makes a great first deck.

Plus, if you want to indulge in superstitions, i.e., the silly one that says you can’t buy your first tarot deck, it needs to be a gift, then think of this as my gift [or a gift from the public domain…] to you. You’re not buying your first tarot deck per se. If you upload and get it produced by a print-on-demand service, then you’re paying for printing services, not the tarot deck. The tarot deck, as it is, has been gifted to you. See the loophole there?

What the actual 2.75″ x 4.75″ cards look like if you print via MPC

Oh by the way, I did mention I’ve granted all my work to the public domain, right?

Now to be clear, read that sentence a few times so you understand what I wrote. I have granted all of my work to the public domain. In no way am I giving any legal opinions on copyright issues here. I did the due diligence for myself and have consulted intellectual property attorneys for legal opinions so I am informed and educated on my own uses of the images I’ve sourced. It’s important that you do the same! Don’t look at me like I’m your lawyer. I’m not. For all intents and purposes of this blog and website, I’m not even a lawyer. I’m just a writer and dabbler of metaphysical interests, and use this site to share my dabblings.

When your favorite dabblings converge.... my bookshelf at home.
When your favorite dabblings converge…. my bookshelf at home.

Here– a PDF read-me (click below). In the read-me you’ll get the background and purpose for this project and also step by step instructions on how to use a third party print-on-demand publisher (my recommendation is makeplayingcards.com) to upload the image files and order your own copy of the RWS study deck. Also, if you don’t like my keywords, the PDF explains how to edit the card images with your own preferred keywords.

Read Me PDF

For the love of god please, please read the “Read Me” before you contact me with questions.

So on that September day when everything connected in my head and I decided to create this Waite-Smith Tarot Keywords Study Deck, I couldn’t do anything else but put together this deck, and that is what I did until completion. Then I granted everything into the public domain so anyone and everyone can have access to these image files to create their own study cards or do as they will with the deck, personal or commercial, but most important of all, enable people to learn tarot under the RWS system.

I personally think this is a pretty good beginner’s deck to study tarot on, especially if you want to read with reversals. And if you don’t, there’s Version 3. I also think it’s a great deck for those who don’t really want to deep-dive into learning tarot but still want to have easy access to reading for themselves. The deck is a compromising balance between visual-oriented folks who were having trouble with the “upside down images” of card reversals and verbal- and analytic-oriented folks who welcome the integration of keywords. The best part: you get to customize and choose your favorite card back design or heck, create your own and have a completely personalized RWS deck.


There are three versions, bundled together in separate folders when you download the zip file below. You’ll see five folders, as follows:

01 Waite Smith Tarot Study Deck Card Back Designs

02 Waite Smith Tarot Study Deck Version 1

03 Waite Smith Tarot Study Deck Version 2

04 Waite Smith Tarot Study Deck Version 3

05 Miscellany

Folder 01 contains a couple of public domain card back designs (generally reversible) you’re free to use. However, you’ll probably want to personalize and use your own custom designed card back. The subsequent file folders contain the three different versions of the RWS study deck.


Version 1 Preview 2.75" x 4.75" Dimensions
Version 1 Preview 2.75″ x 4.75″ Dimensions

Version 1 only has the keywords and card titles, no astrological and elemental correspondences. This version is for the tarot novice who pretty much wants to be able to read the cards right away and want the benefit of the card reversals.

Version 2 Preview 3.5 x 5.75 Dimensions
Version 2 Preview 3.5″ x 5.75″ Dimensions

Version 2 has the keywords, card titles, and the astrological/elemental correspondences per the Golden Dawn attributions (I say that to clarify, because there are many different systems).

Version 3 Preview 3.5" x 5.75" Dimensions, with Optional Card Back Design
Version 3 Preview 3.5″ x 5.75″ Dimensions, with Optional Card Back Design

Version 3 features the original RWS card images as-is, within the keywords design layout concept. This one has the astrological/elemental correspondences, along with card titles and keywords. The version 3 file folder also includes non-reversible public domain card back designs you can choose from.

Version 3 Preview 2.75" x 4.75" Dimensions
Version 3 Preview 2.75″ x 4.75″ Dimensions

The Miscellany folder contains blank templates to scale that you can use if you want to tinker with the existing image files, i.e., change the decorative border or make adjustments to the top and bottom blocks of card images. If you’re curious about the sources for the images used to create the deck, all of that information is in this folder. Finally, there’s a template for a tuck box (for the tarot deck size, 2.75″ x 4.75″ only) in case you want a custom designed box to put your RWS Keywords Study Deck in. If you know a bit of graphic design, you can even tweak the box and add on your name! Or tack on a label with the version of the study deck you’ve printed out (1, 2, or 3). Or whatever you want.

Click to download high-res full-size version of template. For 2.75″ x 4.75″ 300 gsm printing only. Do not use for any other size or cardstock (or else it might not fit).

Click below to download the zip file:

Click banner to start download.
Click banner to start download.

I like using makeplayingcards.com to print my personally created decks.

Here are some direct links:

  • For 3.5″ x 5.75″ (recommended for this study deck), click here.
  • For 2.75″ x 4.75″ (standard tarot dimensions), click here.
  • For custom designed card box options, click here.
  • For the 2.75″ x 4.75″ cards tuck box to go with the standard size tarot cards, click here.

And now if I may say so myself, you’ve got access to a neat beginner’s or novice RWS tarot deck, where two of the three versions will have the splice that helps you acclimate with reading reversals.


10/05/2016 Update: If you downloaded the zip file prior to today, the King of Cups in all three versions has a typo– the card title reads “King of Wands.” Correction to the King of Cups card made on all three versions.

10/06/2016 Update: I have exciting news to announce soon enough! For the time being, I’ve de-activated the zip file download link in anticipation of the cool news to come! All my love.

10/08/2016 Update: Read about the exciting announcement of a new deck to be released here.

43 thoughts on “Waite-Smith Tarot Keywords Study Deck

    1. No credit to me needed whatsoever! As for where all the public domain images I used come from, all source info is in the Read-Me or somewhere in the accompanying file folders. So if you’re curious where the alchemical illustration I used for one of the card backs came from, the original art and authorship info are all in the files. =) From my end, all work I have done and any work or value I add to the deck have been granted to the public domain so do whatever you want with my work. If you have other copyright questions, please consult an intellectual property attorney. ;-D Or read through the FAQs for more info.


        1. amy

          Hi, The link is not working to download the zip file. I like Version 3 features the original RWS card images as-is, within the keywords design layout concept. This one has the astrological/elemental correspondences, along with card titles and keywords. The version 3 file folder also includes non-reversible public domain card back designs you can choose from. Can you share with us the zip file to learn. Thank you so much.


  1. This is amazing! Can I ask where you find just the images “Pam A” for the cards? I wold love a borderless RWS deck with card backs of my choosing (perhaps one of the selection you provided in this download because, let’s face it, they are pretty awesome). Also, you are like my idol – and I am in love with The Tao of Craft.


    1. I have all that source info somewhere on this site along with free downloads! =) I just don’t know where exactly since this site is kind of a hot mess. :-X

      And thank you so much for supporting me and getting Tao of Craft! It means a lot to me! ❤ ❤ ❤


    1. I think they would! And you can fully customize the card back designs and upload your own! (For the ones I provided for free use, I was limited to sourcing art from the public domain.)


    2. Psst… when ordering printed copies for gifts, how totally cool would it be to customize the card back with the recipient’s name on it! Like incorporate their name or initials into the card back design. People love that kinda thing. I think.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Euphro

    It’s me again… I cannot locate the template for the tuck box. I have looked in the miscellany folder, and I’m not finding it. Will you help me see what I am not seeing, please?
    Also, since I’m commenting again, I want to add that I also have both your books, and every time I read from either one, my brain and spirit benefit : )


    1. Oops. It didn’t get slipped into the zipped file. Sorry about that. Scroll back up to the post and click on the image of the tuck box template. You can then download the full size version.


    1. It’s in the “Read Me” PDF. =) All specs for every facet of the card images are provided, so if you want to change the keywords, what you do is use a photo editing or graphic design software program, open up the image, delete what you don’t like and replace it with what you want, according to the specs. =) The original template with positioning lines is also provided. Open that up and you can begin there. Then when you’re done, crop out the template positioning lines. If you’re still at a loss, perhaps consult a friend who is knowledgeable in graphic design to help you out. Good luck!


  3. Tia

    Deck zip file is missing! 🙂
    That aside, this is so beautifully designed. There are definitely cards that still don’t stick with me and I look forward to using this as my main study deck.


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  6. I am so sorry to have missed the download for the zip files.. They would have been fun to play with.. AND I am delighted to know that US Games will be creating a ‘finished’ product.. I was hoping this might happen..

    This is a great project.. I would love a RWS deck with correspondences and key words for upright and reversals.. not sure about the split images.. I would need to work with them and see if they work for me.

    I am loving your work, Benebell.



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  9. Camila Crespo

    Can you tell us the status of this project? I just recently learned about your site and work and I absolutely love and admire the work that you do; your integrity and sincerity is much needed in the esoteric world. I tried to do the download but it seems it is no longer available and if US Games took over I would understand why. At any rate, are these available yet for sale? A general google search did not prove fruitful.


  10. Ash

    Wow, That’s the tarot deck that I want. But I am from france.. Can I purcase it ?
    I speak english but not good enought to understand everything. I am not sure the website to print the card will ship to france…


    1. Pour l’instant les fichiers ne sont plus disponibles au téléchargement… Si j’ai bien compris le deck devait être produit à la vente et c’est pour ça que les fichiers ne sont plus là. Cependant il n’y a pas eu de nouvelles à ce sujet depuis 2016 ! C’est bien dommage… Bon courage à vous.


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