How to Use Tarot Spreads: Go From Beginner to Expert

Updated January 11, 2022
Woman is reading Tarot cards on a table in cafe

Tarot spreads or layouts are numerous and fascinating. Some are simple and use few cards. Others are far more involved. The purpose of a tarot spread is to reveal a storyline that gives guidance and answers a querent's inquiry.

How to Use Tarot Spreads

Tarot spreads are best used to give guidance and insight into the choices you face in life. Using a particular spread often depends on the reader's experience or the information a querent is seeking. Still, most readers choose to use just a few spreads they resonate with and adapt them to the inquiry.

Tarot Spreads for Beginners

In addition to understanding tarot card rituals, it's generally best for those just learning to read tarot cards to begin with simple spreads and progress slowly to layouts with more card positions. The more positions in a layout, the more complex and detailed the storyline will be.

The One-Card Draw

If time is short, a one-card draw is quick and easy. Simply think of a question that can't be answered with a yes or no. Questions such as:

The one card spread
  • "What should I do about...?"
  • "How will I...?"
  • "Where do I find...?"
  • "How should I...?"


Hold the deck in your hands, close your eyes and meditate on the question. Shuffle the cards, fan them out, select a card and place it face up in front of you. The card you choose will provide you with the guidance you're seeking.

Traditional Three-Card Tarot Spread

The three-card tarot spread is a simple spread that's perfect for beginners. It's a traditional spread that's adaptable to all sorts of inquiries, such as those related to:

Traditional three card spread
  • Past, present, future
  • Situation, obstacle, advice
  • You, the other, the relationship
  • Love, lust, longevity
  • Mind, body, spirit


Shuffle as you meditate on the question. Then ask the querent to cut the deck into three piles, select the top card from each pile, turn it face up, and read the cards from left to right. These three cards will weave together a short story.

The Four-Card Emotion Spread

The number 4 has a grounding effect, which makes this spread ideal for emotionally charged questions. For example, "How can I cope with my family problems?"

The Four Card Emotion Spread


As you meditate on the inquiry, shuffle and cut the cards into three piles. Then, ask the querent to put the deck back together in any order. Start with the top card, place it in position one and continue until four cards have been laid in a straight line. The cards are read from left to right.


  • Card 1 represents the emotions that need to be faced.
  • Card 2 reveals why the emotions need to be met.
  • Card 3 speaks of how to face these emotions beneficially.
  • Card 4 shows the outcome when the emotions are faced.

Traditional Five-Card Spread

The traditional five-card tarot spread is quick, easy, to the point, and perfect for both beginners and professionals. The five cards can provide a great deal of information on the querent's inquiry.

Traditional Five Card Spread


Shuffle and cut the deck. Place the first, second, and third cards from left to right in a row. Place the fourth card above the second and the fifth card below the second. A traditional five-card spread looks like a cross.


  • Card 1 represents the past.
  • Card 2 card represents the present.
  • Card 3 represents the future.
  • Card 4 represents the reason for the inquiry.
  • Card 5 represents the potential outcome of the situation.

Major Arcana Six-Card Spread

This spread uses the 22 cards of major arcana. It's used for serious issues or to provide and answers to vital questions.

Major Arcana Six Card Spread


Separate the major arcana from the rest of the deck. Shuffle the major arcana and cut them into three piles. Turn the three piles face up, remove the top card from each stack, and place them in a row from left to right. Repeat the procedure a second time. You will now have two rows of three cards in front of you.


Cards 2 and 5, the center cards in both rows, are the most important cards in this spread. They determine the outcome or answer the question.

  • Cards 1, 2, and 3 relate to events that will happen shortly.
  • Cards 4, 5, and 6 relate to events that will occur at a later time.
  • Card 4 denotes benefits and helpful influences.
  • Cards 5 and 6 speak of an unexpected happening or an obstacle.

Seven-Card Horseshoe Spread

It's believed that a representation of a horseshoe brings good luck, which makes this seven-card spread an excellent layout for making correct decisions.

Seven Card Horseshoe Spread


As you meditate on the inquiry, shuffle and cut the cards into three piles. Then, ask the querent to put the deck back together in any order. Start with the top card, place it in position one, and continue until the seven cards have been laid out, forming a horseshoe shape.


  • Card 1 represents influences from the past.
  • Card 2 represents present issues.
  • Card 3 represents development in the future.
  • Card 4 gives advice.
  • Card 5 speaks of how other people will affect the decision.
  • Card 6 reveals hidden influences or obstacles.
  • Card 7 speaks of the best action to take for a resolution.

The Zodiac Spread

If you're a fan of astrology, the Zodiac Spread can be used to give insight into the bigger picture of life. It brings the tarot cards together with the horoscope's 12 houses.

The Zodiac Spread


The tarot reader shuffles the deck first and then the querent. The reader places the top card face up on the left-hand side, in the 9 o'clock position. The following 11 are dealt face-up in a counter-clockwise direction, with each card corresponding to one of the positions on the face of a clock.


Keep in mind this is not an astrological reading. The zodiac spread relates to how an individual is currently dealing with the 12 areas of life defined by the astrological houses.

  • Card 1 represents how the person defines themselves and expresses their identity.
  • Card 2 represents the individual's financial situation and feelings of self-worth.
  • Card 3 represents the individual's ability to communicate what they're feeling and thinking.
  • Card 4 represents the individual's opinion of themselves, their domestic life, and subconscious motivations.
  • Card 5 represents the individual's ability to give and receive love, be creative, and have fun.
  • Card 6 represents the individual's ability to solve problems, make decisions, and lead an orderly life.
  • Card 7 represents the individual's ability to socialize or be fair to themselves and those around them.
  • Card 8 represents what the person needs to let go of to move forward.
  • Card 9 represents the individual's consideration of education and long-distance travel.
  • Card 10 represents the individual's ambitions and motivations.
  • Card 11 represents how the person relates to groups of other people.
  • Card 12 represents who or what might be working against the individual without their knowledge to prevent them from succeeding in their endeavors.

What Can You Do With Spreads?

Tarot card spreads can help a person find a quick answer or take a closer look at their life and how events are likely to unfold. However, nothing the tarot cars say is ever written in stone. People can choose to ignore the information gleaned from a spread and let life simply happen to them. Alternatively, they can take more control by making informed choices inspired by deeper contemplation of what the spread has revealed to them.

How to Use Tarot Spreads: Go From Beginner to Expert