If you’ve never created an Artist Trading Card (aka “ATC”), you’re in for a treat. These little bitty works of art take far less time to create than a full-size project and are a great way to practice your crafting techniques. Whether you paint them, cover them in paper, or use mixed media, ATC ideas are limited only by what’s in your imagination. The rules are few, and the rewards are many. So let’s get started!
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What exactly IS an Artist Trading Card?
In all my years of crafting, I’m embarrassed to say I’d never made an Artist Trading Card until now. Maybe I thought they weren’t worth my time as they were so small. Or that there wasn’t enough surface space to do much with. Maybe I accused them of being boring because of that lack of artistic real estate. Or that, once created, they’d sit around collecting dust.
I couldn’t be more wrong.
Many people treat Artist Trading Cards as miniature mixed media journal pages. They layer the techniques the same as they do their journal pages. And you can too. You can paint, stencil, emboss and decoupage your way to ATC heaven. ATCs are a great way to try a process out without investing tons of time in it. And the investment is minimal. In fact, you can make them for free, depending on what you’ve got in your craft room.
What are ATCs made of?
Because you’re treating them as art canvases (of sorts), you want your ATCs on the stiff side. So no flimsy paper, please. I used two layers of 110-lb. cardstock for mine because I knew they’d have to support all. the. things. But if you have a spare cereal or cracker box handy, you can use that. Chipboard, kraft paper, watercolor paper… anything stiff enough to support paint, paper and whatever else you want to throw at them is fine for ATCs.
After that, the sky’s the limit. For mine, I used digital paper, card stock, ribbon, and various mixed media bits and pieces. You don’t see most of those bits in the photo because I rarely know what I’m going to use until I need it when I work in mixed media.
What are the rules to making Artist Trading Cards?
The beauty of creating ATCs is there are very few rules when making them.
- Size matters: they MUST be 3 ½ inches by 2 ½ inches. Exactly.
- ATCs are traded, not sold.
- They must be signed and dated on the back.
- You are not allowed to trade other artists’ cards.
- And above all, neatness counts.
Remember baseball trading cards? ATCs are just like that. They fit in the palm of your hand. Anything you can do to a bigger project, you can do to an ATC, only smaller.
Oh, and as for collecting dust, Artist Trading Cards are a hot commodity in the crafting world, and there are groups out there that trade them just like baseball trading cards. So you can send your wee little masterpiece for someone else to enjoy and you’ll receive theirs in return.
Unless you’re like me and want to keep them because they’re just so stinkin’ C.U.T.E.
Three ATCs for the Gecko Galz March theme challenge
Here are my three little Irish babies – my very first Artist Trading Cards. I can honestly say I’m hooked. I made them for the Gecko Galz “Shamrock Magic ATC Challenge” over on Facebook, and I’ll definitely be “playing cards” with them again. Whenever you play in a Gecko Galz challenge, Leanne generously supplies digital papers to play with – no purchase necessary! (But when you see all of her other offerings, you’ll want to go shopping. Trust me.)
So without further ado, let me ‘splain my process.
Note #1: most of the glitter (and there’s plenty) is from Art Glitter, arguably the sparkliest glitter on the market. I used three colors:
- Celery (light green)
- Cavalado (dark green)
- Chamois (gold)
The iridescent glitter is from my stash.
Note #2: I cut all shapes and images on my Silhouette Cameo. But you could cut them by hand too. The tag shapes can be punched with tag punches.
#1- Irish lass
First up is the Irish lass carrying a basket of glittery shamrocks. I also glittered the dots on her dress (tiny shamrocks). I attached a tag with a tiny clothespin which I colored green using some homemade shimmer paint which I made for the occasion. (It’s so quick and easy, and CHEAP to make.)
I strategically cut the tiny tag cut from a piece of the Gecko Galz challenge paper to make use of the Celtic Harp design, and I glittered the outside edge of the tag as well as the accents on the harp. I might write a tiny message on this tag.
I used a piece of vintage lace ribbon across the front, topped with a ⅛” green ribbon. Finally, I cut, inked and glittered the accent shamrock and popped it up on the corresponding image on the base layer (over the ribbon).
I heat embossed the edges of this ATC with antique gold embossing powder.
#2 – Irish lad
This little guy introduced blue to the otherwise green/gold mix, a nice change. I glittered his four-leaf clover, hat and wings and popped him up on a strip of vintage velvet ribbon topped with ⅛” gold ribbon. Two vintage buttons, one tied with linen thread, accent the ribbon, and I cut a flourish from one of the papers using a flourish die and put bits of it behind the ribbon.
Another glittered, inked tiny tag tops this ATC, and another tiny clothespin (this time custom glittered) holds it in place.
I glittered the edges of this ATC with iridescent glitter using the same technique as with heat embossing: I pressed the edges to a glue pad, then sprinkled glitter on them. The effect is much more subtle than pouring glitter on a line of glue.
#3 – L.U.C.K.Y.
This cute ATC gave me the most trouble. I knew I wanted to work with the individual letters from one of the free Gecko Galz papers (enhanced with glitter, of course), but I didn’t know how I wanted to lay them out. I finally thought to pop them up onto a piece of vintage gold chain stretched across the card.
I glued leftover bits of that die cut flourish in strategic places, and popped a glittered shamrock up on Pop Dots.
All of my ATCs received some sort of textile, so to contrast with the strip of gold chain, I decided to add a bow instead of flat ribbon as on the other two. I made a double-loop bow from hand-dyed seam binding and topped it with a vintage button tied with linen thread, I then dangled one of my handmade charms from the bow.
I heat embossed the edges of this ATC with metallic gold embossing powder.
Don’t forget the last, but very critical step
Artist Trading Cards show all the business up front, right? WRONG. While the front of these ATC’s is where all the fun stuff is shown, the backs serve an important purpose too. Remember Rule #3 – ATCs must be signed and dated. You could include the title of the card, your website, or any other contact info you might prefer. Some artists create labels for the backs, some just hand write the info.
Neatness counts! If you wrap something around from the front, as I did ribbons on two of my cards, then it’s really nice to cover up those ugly raw ends. I punched out a 1 ½” circle, cut it in half and glued each half circle over the raw ends of the ribbons. This just looks nicer.
Now it’s your turn…
… to make one or more of these adorable, miniature masterpieces, that is. Don’t worry if you don’t “know how.” There are no design rules at all. Nobody’s going to criticize you, or tell you they’re not good enough. Consider them “tryouts” for bigger pieces. And who knows – you might have so much fun that you start trading them with others. I might do it too, just not these, which are going to be part of next year’s home decor for St. Paddy’s Day.
When you make your little ATCs, post them to the Glitter and Bonbons Facebook page. And tag me on Instagram too so we can all enjoy them! Let’s get ATC crazy!
Here are some sites where you can get involved in trading Artist Trading Cards:
ATCsforall – a pretty active forum full of ATC goodness.
ATC Artist Trading Cards Facebook Group – you’ll find lots of good information and inspiration here.
And while not strictly all about ATCs, the Gecko Galz Papercrafting Challenge Facebook Group holds multiple papercraft challenges every month and also includes a monthly ATC challenge. You could win a prize! (I’m always motivated by prizes. Are you?)
Final Note: a similar art form is “Art Cards, Editions and Originals” (ACEO’s). They are the same size as Artist Trading Cards, only they’re not swapped, they’re sold. But that’s for another blog post!
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