Tarot Card Layouts With Spreads For The Beginner & Advanced Reader

The different tarot card layouts, beginners can learn to spread, range from a single card to the whole deck. If you follow my advice, I will help you to read these cards so you can get the most amazing predictions as you develop a relationship with your own deck.

Richi Who is the verified author of this guest post.

Whether you refer to your card placement as a layout or as a spread, there is a discipline or method which accompanies each one.

Whilst most readers have their favorite methods for spreading the deck, there are several different types of tarot card reading layouts for beginners which will give you flexibility in your fortune telling endeavors.

A spread for reading tarot is formed when the cards are selected and placed, normally face up, in a particular order and in a particular pattern. Each card position in the layout is assigned a purpose which it represents, so to interpret the meaning a particular card represents look to its position as well as its meaning.

Different Types Of Tarot Spreads For You To Learn And Use

When I allow my client to select the specific cards themselves, I suggest they "now select one for such and such", so that the purpose of the card is determined before it is drawn, and I lay it face up in position.

Some tarot card readers work with only one layout with which they are most comfortable, however when your client wishes answers to a particular query, different arrangement may be more suitable. There is no reason as to why a good tarot card reader should be limited to only one arrangement.

I have found it will also help to perform a Life Path reading for a client before getting down to a full spread. This is one of the most helpful things when working for a new client as it acts as an icebreaker for both client and reader.

As you progress through the life path reading your sitter will pass from being a stranger to a familiar life in front of your eyes.

The number of cards in a reading can vary from one to the whole pack.

Quick links to each my eight best tarot card layouts below: 

Basic Three Tarot Card Spread  |  Simple Cross Layout  |   5 Card Spread  |  Celtic Cross Tarot Spread  |  Annual Zodiac Spread  |  Full Pyramid Spread  |  Life Path Tarot Spread  |  Twelve Monthly Reading 

Tarot Card Layouts With Spreads For The Beginner & Advanced Reader

In this Tarot 101 guide I suggest that you practice each of these tarot card spreads. Firstly to learn them, but also to find the one with which you are most comfortable. A more complex tarot card spread is not necessarily going to be any more accurate than a simple one. It is simply a matter of what resonates with you.

Tarot Card Layouts For Beginners

To begin with, here is the Basic Three Card Spread for asking simple questions.

Basic 3 Card Tarot Spread

In addition to the past - present - future - you could substitute thought - feeling - action, or thought - word - events, or when used to ask about love and relationships:  self - partner - outcome, etc. etc.

Just a little more complex than three card tarot spreads is the Simple Cross Layout which contains the four essential elements of easy tarot spreads for beginners. 

Simple Cross Tarot Layout

#1 provides a representation of nature of the subject’s question.

#2 indicates the advantages associated with the question.

#3 represents the disadvantages of proceeding with the course of action.

#4 is the answer to the subject’s question.

Now to move on to a slightly greater complexity of introducing the progression of time with the influences of past and present on the future.

Five Card Tarot Reading Layouts are for determining a course of action as seen in the context of the subject’s life.

5 Card Tarot Reading Spread

First Card - The subject’s current situation.

Second Card - The lasting effect of past influences.

Third Card - The future when this course of action is followed.

Forth Card - The reason behind the question, this will probably illuminate the effect of past influences.

Fifth Card - The potential for success (or otherwise) of this course of action.

Now for the ever-popular Celtic Cross Reading Arrangement. This is as complex as you are as likely to ever need as a divination tool for a particular question.

Celtic Cross Tarot Card Spread

The Celtic Cross Spread provides detailed insights into every aspect of a proposed situation. The accent here is on one’s spiritual path towards the desired outcome. It is important to include this arrangement in your repertoire because it is one that can be used most often, and its frequent use generates some sort of collective energy around it.

Some feel the Celtic Cross is the most powerful of all layouts. There are a number of variations in the order you can arrange the first six cards. However, the interpretations vary little, so as always, I have presented my preferred order.

The subject is crossed by their challenges in the center. Surrounding the subject starting at the top in a clockwise order are the factors influencing the subject. This forms the cross itself, whilst to the right is the shaft of the cross.

  • #1 - The subject/person you are reading for.
  • #2 - The present challenges facing the querent - obstacles and influences.
  • #3 - The subject’s goals and destiny.
  • #4 - The distant past - what is behind.
  • #5 - The recent past - what is beneath.
  • #6 - The near future - what is before.
  • #7 - The subjects’ attitude - this pictures the subject.
  • #8 - External influences - environmental factors affecting the outcome.
  • #9 - Inner emotions - hopes and fears.
  • #10 - The final outcome.


Card Number 1 the subject, is defined by cards 2, 4, and 6 to which gives an overview of the way things actually are.

Cards 3, 8 and 9 are used to assess the subject’s potential.

Cards 5 and 7 reveal possible problems or obstacles to progress.

The Full Pyramid and The Annual Zodiac layouts are regarded as unusual but insightful.

The Annual Zodiac Spread identifies the issues that can influence your year to come. 

The Annual Zodiac tarot reading spread

I find this Annual Zodiac spread to be particularly helpful for setting goals, and it is favored by many readers for performing a coming year’s prediction. This arrangement uses a total of 13 cards, one for each month and one card placed in the center to represent the year in general. When shuffling, begin by focusing your mind on each month. When you have placed all 12 cards, shift your focus towards the year in general. This will be the last one you place.

An alternative layout is to cross each of the month cards with another so that two cards represent each month.

This is the Full Pyramid Spread which uses the entire pack of 78 cards laid out in the form of a pyramid; twelve rows across and twelve cards deep. We start with one for the first row and increase by one per row until all cards have been used.

Full Pyramid Tarot Reading Spread

The significance here is the adding all the numbers from 1 to 12 together equals 78 - the total number of tarot cards in a deck!

The cards are laid out from the top down - left to right. I will let you assign your own card meanings here. But it is an interesting exercise and one in which you should let the cards do the talking. Performing a full reading using a layout of this nature could take several hours of concentration - so be warned.   

This is a good exercise while learning to use the tarot. Compiling stories from the use of all the cards will help connect your intuition to the images of all the cards in the deck. But remember to use a fully illustrated tarot deck like (or based upon) the Rider Waite.

More Advanced Tarot Card Layouts

These layouts are designed for performing more professional tarot readings. The first consideration here is what type of spread you are comfortable with, and secondly the nature of the reading.

Sometimes your subject will simply want answers to a prepared list of questions, but more usually the request is simply "to have their cards read!"

Now, assuming you are presented with a person who you have never met before, who has sat down and simply told you their first name - and nothing else - it is up to you to make a psychic connection, or at least an emotional connection with them.

I find that the easiest lead-in is to perform a life path reading first in order to break the ice and build up something of a picture of their life.

Life Path Arrangements simply consists of nine cards in three groups representing past, present, and future.

Life Path Tarot Reading Spreads

This is the only layout for which I use the Major Arcana only. I usually keep another pack where I separate the minor arcana and the major arcana just for this purpose. 

The purpose of three cards for each stage of their life is to get an expanded picture for each stage.

This is a good layout to test on your friends for practice. Remember - the cards never lie!

The Twelve-Monthly Reading sets out their life path for the next year.

My Twelve Monthly Tarot Reading Spread

This is the layout I most use for giving a full reading. As far as I am aware it is one which I developed - actually evolved - over many years of professional readings.

  • #1 - The subject/person you are reading for.

  • #2 - Where the client is coming from.

  • #3 - Where the client is at now.

  • #4 - The subjects goals and destiny.

These first four cards are more for the benefit of yourself than for your client

#5 - #16 - Each month of the coming year.

The actual timing of the year is a bit nebulous. If the subject is given to procrastination the timeline can be stretched. This is something to take into account from cards 1 through 4.

One extra type of tarot card spread, for a quick yes or no tarot reading, is a one card tarot flip. I often use this myself when I am looking to make a personal yes or no decision. Chose a male for yes and female to indicate no (or vice versa). Hold the question in mind while you shuffle to deck, flip a single card over and you will get your answer

Final word on the spirit of reading.

Having built up a picture of your subject’s life you should have established a connection or at least a rapport with them. (Of course, the bottom line is that no tarot spreads are foolproof.  I have had to read tarot for people who refuse to confirm or deny anything. After all, being a psychic, I should see all!)

Author - Richi Who

The Late: Richi Who

I first met 'Richi Who' (AKA Richard Philippe) in 1986 when I had moved to Magnetic Island in Queensland. Richi was leading a mystical, monkish, life at the time. He was living alone while caretaking the solitary house at Arthur Bay for its owner, the late, Sid Ward.

Richi became an integral part of my own spiritual initiation and was to become my psychic guide. His late-night mystic sessions on Arthur Bay filled my life with wonder while opening doors to other worlds.  

Richi later became the first psychic reader I retained at my Ancient Wisdom Center and we stayed friends ever since.  Sadly Richi Who passed away in 2013 while on holiday in Europe. Happily he has since reconnected and is now one of my highly evidential spirit guides.

Read more by, and about, Richi Who > >

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Richi Who's Free Tarot Reading Tutorials

Tarot Card Reading For Beginners
In this free tutorial you will learn how to read the cards while developing your intuition. Even without a developed psychic sense you will still obtain a useful and accurate reading by following the specific divination meanings of the cards. Learn more > >

The Major Arcana Tarot Card Meanings
This list contains interpretations based on the Rider Waite Tarot for all Major Arcana Cards. Great when learning tarot for beginners, it includes relevant comments from other packs and commentators. Each card tells a story about your subject or someone influencing them. Learn more > >

The Minor Arcana Tarot Card Meanings
This tutorial helps you unlock the minor arcana meanings of the tarot by suits and numbers. Each suit refers to a specific area of the subject’s life represented by the astrological signs of Fire, (passion), Water, (emotions), Air, (ideas), and Earth (physical). Learn more > >

The Suit Of Cups Tarot Card Meanings
Each card tells a story in this list of cups tarot card meanings. This is the suite of emotions. The cup is a symbol of pleasure and fulfillment, happiness and joy. You can use these explanations as a guide to build your own story lines in your own readings. Learn more > >

The Suit Of Swords Tarot Card Meanings
In the suit of swords tarot card meanings, you find the attributes of leaders and warriors. Swords represent courage, authority, aggression, boldness, force, strength, desire, and ambition. A sword can be used for either attack or defense. Learn more > >

The Suit Of Wands Tarot Card Meanings
The suit’s theme found in all wands tarot card meanings is about laboring and work. And as such, in a reading, the wands usually stand for the subject’s ambition, career and creative endeavors, passions, ideas, inventions, advancement, growth and progress. Learn more > >

The Suit Of Pentacles Tarot Card Meanings
Pentacles tarot card meanings, and symbols, are best known as being the suit of the physical. Representing health, money, and anything to do with work, a job, a task, or a craft. These are the cards of fortune - good and bad luck. Learn more > >

Learn My Tarot Reading Layouts To Get Amazing Predictions
This collection of tarot reading spreads will help you unlock outstanding predictions with your own cards. Whether you refer to your card placement as a layout or as a spread, there is a discipline or method which accompanies each. Learn more > >

Wiki - History of Esoteric Tarot Reading