How to Make Artist Trading Cards

How to Make Artist Trading Cards









19-07-2021, 15:50

Trading Cards



Artist trading cards, or ATCs, began in the tradition of hockey trading cards, with a personal, artistic twist. They can be any medium that can be worked in a suitable size. ATCs are traditionally the size of hockey, baseball, cards and other trading cards,. You can use the old paper playing cards. New playing cards are plastic and not workable and not the correct size.. They're a fun way to exchange your own one-of-a-kind artistic flair with other ATC traders you meet. You don't have to be an artist.


Start with the size in mind.

Artist trading cards are generally 2 ⁄2 inches (6.4 cm) by 3 1/2 inches. This allows them to fit into the plastic sleeves in which they are stored. You can then use the plastic card holders in a binder to bring to a trade and store in your own binder collection. This is the size of hockey cards and other trading cards. You can even start with mismatched playing cards as a base for collage or altered item artwork.

Cut the background material to size.

A paper cutter, if you have one, will help you make square, straight cuts quickly.

Choose your media.

You may start by cutting cardstock or heavy paper to size. If you work in another medium, such as leather or fabric, you may either cut it to size or work so that the finished result is the correct size.

Express yourself or show your style

, using your preferred medium or media.

If you can do it inside of 3.5 x 2.5 inches, you can make an ATC.

Drawing and painting are easily done at this size, but so are plenty of other arts, including quilting, photography, crochet, leather work, metal work, and collage.

Work somewhat quickly.

You don't need to be careless when making an ATC, but there's no need to work your masterpiece in miniature, either. ATCs should be simple pieces that you're willing to give away when you're done. It is suggested 15 minute per card so you will want to trade them.

Make lots.

You'll need a selection of cards. Remember that you will be giving your cards away. "Lots" can be relative. It could be half a dozen or a few dozen, depending on how many you expect to trade.

Show your style.

Is there a particular palette or medium you prefer or a technique you've been exploring lately?

Sign and date your cards and attach contact information, if you choose to.

An email address or website is a good compromise if you'll be giving these cards to strangers, or mailing them.

Title your work.

The title is optional, but it will give your recipients or viewers a context in which to view your work. Or leave it to the people trading, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.


The whole point of ATCs is to trade with other artists, so once you have a selection of cards, trade them.

Find artists or groups in your area that trade cards. The idea is to trade in person.

Attend gatherings of artists in your area, and remind them to bring ATCs to share.

Carry them with you as you would business cards, so that if you find an occasion to trade or give away a card, they are with you.

Spread the word. If your local artist community is unfamiliar with artist trading cards, you might wish to give away a few cards or offer them with a request for one in return before you get many back.

Organize a gathering to swap ATCs. Let people know what ATCs are about, and get together to try trading some.

Look on-line. There are on-line groups that will match you up with others the world over who can mail cards in exchange for yours.

Collect others' ATCs.

Because they are the size of other standard trading cards, most will fit in trading card sleeves. ATCs should be as unique as the artists who create them, so enjoy the selection. Start a collection of ATCs and try to get as many as you can.


Always try to exchange trading cards. It's up to you if you want to give some away without receiving any in return, but never take ATCs without permission, and try to give one anytime you receive one.

If you find yourself with a card or cards you especially like, you could scan them before trading them, or simply keep those for yourself and make more.

Because ATCs are small, they are an easy and fun way to try a new medium or technique.

Another option between completely original work and prints is to print on watercolor paper and hand color the prints, or on bristol and color with colored pencils and other things. Playing with the colors on a series can be a lot of fun.

Original Prints such as an etching or linoleum print used to make an ATC are still originals. It's nice to vary the printing a bit or hand color them but not necessary, it might also be nice to number them so that the recipients know what they're getting. The original block or plate may wear out depending on what printing process you used. Monoprints are something different and more like painting, because they're one of a kind.

You can use ATCs as a form of networking, to help get in touch and keep in touch with other artists in your community.

While the purpose of ATCs is to trade, not sell, those who are interested in creating these wonderful works for profit, it would be more appropriate to list them as ACEO's (Art Cards, Editions, and Originals). These are more often made for the purpose of sale, and by labeling them appropriately we don't take away from the ATC namesake tradition. All creation rules are the same for ACEO's as they are for ATCs. Limited Edition, Signed and Numbered ACEOs, especially with short print runs of 25-50 cards, are very popular and still count as ACEOs because they're the Editions.

It's customary to make ATCs by hand, but that doesn't mean you couldn't place a sample of your work on a business card and treat it as such.

At certain high schools that offer art electives, ATCS are discussed in classes and assigned as homework. If you're still in high school, taking these classes will be great practice for making high quality cards.

While it's true that some people sell artist trading cards, it's customaryonly to


them (their true purpose, according to purists) or perhaps give them away. Think of them as you might think of business cards: a small sample and reminder of your greater work.


Respect copyright law.


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