When you’re learning to read tarot, you might feel overwhelmed by what you don’t know. There are 78 cards! What do they all mean? What does each card’s position in a spread tell you? There seem to be so many rules and so little time.
In fact, most experienced tarot readers rely more on their intuition than on any rule book. For example, tarot readers notice how the cards speak to each other.
By observing the cards, the world around them, and themselves, readers draw conclusions. The three-card tarot spread is the perfect spread for practicing your observation skills!
Three cards provide more information than one card, offering you the opportunity to determine the relationships between symbols, numbers, and other card patterns.
But the three-card tarot spread doesn’t provide so much information that you feel confused—this can happen with a ten-card Celtic Cross spread, especially if you’re new to reading.
As a reader, you can use the whole deck if you want, but the three-card tarot spread remains a reliable way to capture a situation, a theme, or an answer.
Keep reading to learn about the different three-card spread designs you can use to explore your specific interests and develop general skills as a reader.
What is a three-card tarot spread?
A three-card tarot spread is simply a layout that includes three cards from your tarot deck. Typically, readers arrange cards in a horizontal line and read from left to right. However, you can experiment with non-linear patterns, too.
Your system of setting intentions, shuffling the deck, and pulling cards is unique to you. Don’t be afraid to try out different techniques when you practice the three-card tarot spread.
For instance, some readers fan the cards out after they shuffle and follow their intuition as they pull. Others pull the top three cards after shuffling or cut the deck into three.
However you pull your cards, you can use one of the 8 easy spreads below to arrange and interpret the results.
How do you use a three-card tarot spread?
The three-card tarot spreads outlined below are organized by theme. You can investigate spreads for love, career, and more. Within each category, you’ll find multiple suggestions to explore the theme.
Once you try a few of these spreads, we encourage you to create your own. Maybe you have a special occasion or unusual question. You can choose card meanings to fit your goals.
Use these three-card tarot spreads as inspiration for your own inventions! Consider keeping a journal of your readings to revisit them, just like you might a recipe you improvised in the kitchen.
Three-Card Tarot Spreads
These three-card tarot spreads are great places to start when learning how to read tarot spreads. Each suggestion includes three keywords or phrases. Place the cards you pull in a line in that order and read from left to right.
General Three Card Tarot Spread
Sometimes, you want to consult the cards for a general snapshot. Maybe you aren’t looking for anything in particular, and you want to see what the cards you pull emphasize. They might remind you of something or inspire you to look deeper into an aspect of your life.
The following spreads are excellent for discovering general information:
- Past – Present – Future: A classic spread, these three cards help you see how a key influence from the past affects a current situation. You can also explore how your current attitude and behaviors create a likely outcome.
- Opportunities – Challenges – Advice: This spread is great if you have a specific situation in mind. What’s working in your favor? What’s working against you? The final card provides an energy or tool to focus on as you move forward.
- Strengths – Weaknesses – Growth: Excellent for self-reflection, this spread is useful for daily readings that ground you. Explore areas of strength, weakness, and your biggest opportunity for growth. You can even turn the third card into a mantra for your day or week.
Three-Card Tarot Spread for Love and Relationships
These three-card spreads are best if you have another person in mind. This person could be a love interest, a long-term partner, or a friend whose motivations are mysterious or whose role in your life confuses you.
Consult these spreads to learn more about your dynamic and future with another person:
- What You Want – What They Want – Your Future: This basic reading will give you a sense of whether your desires are aligned and where you might be headed together. It’s effective for all kinds of relationships, from casual to highly committed.
- What Unites You – What Divides You – What to Focus On: This one is great for relationships that are already well-established when you want to know how to build something even stronger.
- Love Interest #1 – Love Interest #2 – How to Decide: Team Edward or Team Jacob? Usually, you’re eventually forced to choose. Use this spread when you’re deciding between two options for love.
Three-Card Tarot Spread for the Future
You might also want to try a three-card spread to see what future is possible. Although cards can’t predict what will happen exactly, they can be a powerful tool for manifesting what you want.
Try these spreads to learn more about likely outcomes and how to get the future you desire:
- What You Have – What You Want – How to Get There: This spread helps you isolate the factors in your life that you might be overlooking or unaware of as you move forward.
- What Will Help – What Will Hinder – Your Potential: Use this three-card spread if you have a specific goal. It will help you understand who or what is on your side (or not) and what the best possible outcome might be.
- Goals – Obstacles – Tools: This is a great spread to capture basic details about your plans. The “Tools” card empowers you to take control of your future by reminding you of the skills and assets in your corner.
Three-Card Tarot Spread for Decision-Making
Tarot cards can also help you clarify how to make the hard choices in your life. Most of these spreads emphasize what’s working for and against you to help you take the best course of action.
Use of one of these three-card tarot spreads when you’re feeling stuck between a rock and a hard place:
- Strengths – Weaknesses – Advice: This spread is designed to help you see how acknowledging your personal attributes can help you clear away the confusion you might be feeling. What do you have to offer? How are you getting in your own way?
- Opportunities – Challenges – Solution: Unlike the spread above, this one focuses on the external influences on your decision, leading to a possible solution.
- Option #1 – Option #2 – Deciding Factor: When you have a clear choice between two actions, paths, or solutions, this spread distills the essence of each option and provides an area of focus as you make your decision.
Three-Card Tarot Spread for Career
Questions about love and relationships can certainly dominate tarot readings, but many people also have questions about the opportunities and satisfactions in their work.
These three-card tarot spreads are designed for a career focus:
- Passion – Skill – Career Possibility: This first three-card spread is best for deciding what career to pursue. The first two cards help you understand how to align your values and dreams with your practical skills to determine a fitting career choice.
- Goals – Tools – Path: Once you know the career that’s right for you, you might have questions about how to achieve it. This spread is here to help you understand what tools you have and how to use them to your advantage.
- Obstacle – Your Position – Opportunity: This spread is designed for exploring challenges you face on the job or in your job search. What’s the main obstacle? What is your relationship to it? What opportunity to progress have you overlooked?
Three-Card Tarot Spread for Money
While they might involve career, money spreads are best for determining how best to handle your resources. For example, how should you spend or invest? Apart from career, where might you get your money?
The following spreads help you balance what’s going in and what’s coming out of your wallet:
- Problem – Action Steps – Assistance: This spread helps when you’re facing some kind of issue in your financial situation. The issue might be an investment loss, a new strain on your budget, or something else. The second two cards help you see what steps you can take immediately and who or what can help you.
- Opportunity – Downside – Benefits: Sometimes, life gives you a financial opportunity that might come at the expense of something else like your energy, time, or lifestyle. This spread helps you understand the pros and cons of accepting the opportunity.
- Spending – Saving – Focus: Great for budgeting, pull these three cards to how your spending and saving are affecting you, as well as what to focus on to find balance and ease in your financial situation moving forward.
Three-Card Tarot Spread for Inner Guidance
You might also come to the tarot cards to learn more about yourself: your hidden motives, untapped potentials, or things you’re afraid to admit you want.
The following spreads are designed for self-discovery:
- Body – Emotion – Spirit: When you want to do a simple check-in with yourself, pull these three cards. Each card represents the state of one aspect of yourself. By understanding how you’re feeling, you learn how to give yourself what you need.
- Ego – Id – Superego: These three categories represent different aspects of the mind. (You might recognize them if you’ve studied Freud.) The “Ego” card shows you what you notice or care about, and the “Id” reveals motivators affecting your actions that you aren’t aware of. Finally, the “Superego” card reveals your potential, the self you’re creating from your desires and behaviors.
- Calling – Doubts – Actions: This spread helps you process your feelings around following a higher calling. The first card focuses on your purpose in life, and the next cards focus on any doubts you have, as well as actions you can take to pursue this higher aspiration.
Three-Card Tarot Spread for Creativity
If you’re a writer or artist, you have a relationship with your own creativity. You know what inspires you and what works when you’re feeling uninspired. You might also specific projects you’re working on that present unfamiliar challenges.
Consult the three spreads below when you have questions about your artistic life:
- Source of Inspiration – How to Channel It – Potential Outcome: This spread helps you understand what source of inspiration could serve you most right now. The second card gives you insight into how to channel your inspiration, whether it’s nature, relationships, some kind of retreat, or something else. The final card presents a possible outcome, like a new idea or the culmination of a long-term project.
- What’s Blocking Creativity – Habit to Release – Habit to Cultivate: Writers often struggle with writers’ block, and this feeling might be familiar to you, too. This spread isolates what’s hindering your creativity in order to guide you toward better habits that get the creative juices flowing. What habit should you let go? Which should you develop further?
- Ambition – Community – Opportunity: As they strive to make a living, artists draw a lot of support from their communities. These three cards reveal the ambition or project you’re currently focusing on, as well as the way your community promotes or detracts from your progress. Finally, the opportunity helps you see who or what in your network can help you create a sustainable career!
Can’t get enough of learning new tarot spreads?
Explore the variety of general tarot spreads to decide what you’d like to practice next!
You can also explore topics that aren’t discussed here or create your own spreads to address your unique problems and concerns.
Is there a three-card tarot spread above that worked well for you? An idea you have that wasn’t mentioned above?