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Artist Trading Cards

During your card making journey you may have heard the term ATC's or Artist Trading Cards.

So what are they and what use are they to card makers.

ATC's are small pieces of artwork that are traded between artists. The cards measure 2 1/2 " x 3 1/2" (63mm x 89mm) - the same size as a standard playing card.

They can be made from any medium including inks, paints and paper.

All things that card makers have in their craft stash!

Make a batch and use them to pop onto a card front or into a journal.

The cards on their own make great tags - just pop a hole into the top and add some ribbon and voila!  You have a tag.

ATC's are also an opportunity to practice new card making techniques and ideas.  By starting small you aren't committing too much time or cost for materials.  

The term "Artist" can be off putting to some.  Don't let it discourage you having a go.  We are all artists of the things that we create.  It's about having FUN!

Eight artist trading cards created with the crazy birds stamp set from Tim Holtz

For these cards I used the same products on each card.  This provides unity to the cards and saves on time.

  • Dylusions ink spray onto a large piece of mixed media paper
  • Cut into 2 1/2" x 3 1/2" cards
  • Glue down ripped collage paper
  • Glue down ripped strips of left over gelli print paper
  • Stamp with stamps from Art by Marlene and Woodware stamps
  • Stamp and cut out images from Crazy Birds stamp set by Tim Holtz
  • Glue one bird to each card.  Cover each card with a layer of clear Matt Medium.  This makes sure everything is stuck down and glazes the cards.
  • Add sentiments from Small Talk by Tim Holtz

How to make Artist Trading Cards?

The most efficient way to make ATC's is to use a large sheets of card for the background and then cut to size.

Here are a few pointers to get you started...

  • Chose your colour scheme and background medium.  You may want to add some texture or pattern element.
  • When dry (if using a wet medium) cut up into ATC sized cards.
  • Decorate each card separately. Or, make a series of cards using the same materials on each card in different designs.
  • Use odds and ends you have lying around your craft space. Bits of patterned paper, ribbon, stamped images and die cuts can all be used.
  • Add inspiring sentiments, funny sayings or puns. 

Once your ATC's are completed add your details to the back. This can be done with a pen or with stamp. Quite a few of the stamp companies sell a stamp specifically sized for the back of ATC's.   

Artist Trading cards created with products from Studio Light

My next set of ATC's were all made with products from the Studio Light "Awaking" set.  This included background papers, paper elements, quotes and stickers.

The papers are beautiful and are also suitable for cards and journals.  The paper elements (for me) are fantastic as all you need to do is press them out.  No fussy cutting required!

Making the cards followed a very simple process....

To start I cut 6 cards from kraft card. Then I choose my background paper and added the paper elements to match.

The sentiments are available in black and kraft colours with 2 different fonts for each quote.

This was a quick and mess free way to create ATC's as there was very little cutting and sticking.

Ideas for ATC's

There are no rules when it comes to making ATCs, so you can let your creativity run wild.

You can make ATCs that are simple or complex. They can be abstract or representational, and serious or whimsical. The possibilities are endless!

Working to a theme will focus your mind to the design, colour and materials to use.

Themes can include holidays such as Christmas, Easter and Thanksgiving or a favourite season.  Others themes can include....

  • Nature - trees, leaves, flowers, landscapes....
  • The Universe - space, planets, celestrial......
  • Animals - Cats, birds....
  • Colours - black and white, blue.....
  • Type - vintage, grunge, shabby chic, distressed....
  • Books
  • Films

The list is endless!

There is an excellent gallery of ideas on the Darkroom Door website .  They also run card swaps.

Even more ideas can be found on ATC's for All Swap Gallery.

Artist Trading Card Swaps

Joining swaps is a great way to grow your ATC collection.

So, how do you swap your cards?

Many artists are happy to trade their cards with anyone who is interested. They may attend ATC events were artists get together to swap their cards. There might be a theme such as "holidays" or "Steampunk" .

Some artists trade their cards blindly. This means they send out their cards without knowing who will receive their cards and what they receive in return.

Google "ATC Swaps" to find out if there are any ATC swaps in your area. There will be in person swaps and postal swaps.

For postal swaps, you will need to send in your ATCs. Be mindful of the area as if posting overseas it will cost more.

Store your swaps in plastic wallets.  The plastic sheets sized for baseball cards or coins usually fit ATC's.  These can be found on Amazon.

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