Artist Trading Cards
Artist Trading Cards (ATCs) are small pieces of original artwork
which anyone (children, beginners, hobbyists and professionals) can
Any theme, medium, material, method and technique can be used to
The one rule that must be followed is that an ATC must measure 2.5 x
3.5 inches or 6.4 X 8.9 cm and it must be sturdy enough.
ATCs are meant to be traded. They are not sold. The idea is for
artists and crafters to get exposed to different styles by trading
and collecting cards. They can trade at organized “swap” events,
either in person or online.
In 1997, Zurich artist M. Vänçi Stirnemann created an exhibit of
1,200 handmade artist trading cards. He invited anyone who wanted a
card to create their own ATC. After the exhibit, on May 31, 1997,
they had the first Artist Trading Cards session in Zürich,
Switzerland. Since then, thousands of cards have been traded
Why make ATCs?
easy to start making Artist Trading Cards. You don’t need any
special materials or equipment and you probably already have
everything you need to start. All you need to do is sit down and
start making them! Even if you don’t consider yourself an
artist, you may be surprised to find out what you can make once
Creating and trading ATCs encourages you to keep making art.
Trading cards is a great motivation to keep making art. It
encourages creativity and improves skills.
small size of the card encourages you to try new styles and
techniques. Since the “canvas” is so small, you don’t have to be
afraid about what to make. If it gets ruined, it doesn’t matter.
You can just go on to the next card. You can experiment with new
materials, methods, subjects and techniques without worrying
about how it will turn out.
great to get mail! Nowadays, we don’t usually get mail that we
can get excited about. But when you start trading ATCs, it is a
delight to find the returns of the swap you joined or a surprise
ATC in your mailbox.
get to “meet” people around the world through the trades you
make. Getting to know different artists and their varying styles
is a valuable experience to help you develop your own style.
They provide inspiration to try something new and friendships
can be formed through art and art exchanges.
ATCs can lead to other opportunities. When you develop your
confidence in your art, you will be open to other opportunities
such as making bigger pieces, scrapbooking or exhibiting in art
shows. These opportunities are fulfilling both personally,
artistically and sometimes, even financially.
How to make ATCs
Choose a sturdy card backing for your ATC. You can buy
ready-made cards that measure 2.5 x 3.5 inches or you can cut
your own out of whatever sturdy board is available such as
cereal boxes, or old greeting cards and invitations. Some
artists use playing cards for backing but not all playing cards
have the correct size. Do not use flimsy cardstock or paper for
If you are going to cut your own cards, make sure you measure
them well using a soft pencil and cut them neatly using a cutter
and a ruler. Since an ATC must measure 2.5 x 3.5 inches, if your
cards are too far off from the prescribed size, they won’t be
considered ATCs. Usually the cards should be relatively flat to
fit into a regular sports card binder or sheet protector sleeve.
In decorating your card, anything goes! Be creative and try out
different materials, styles and techniques such as pencil,
charcoal, watercolors, poster paints, acrylics, markers, color
pencils, gel pens, pastel, crayons, inks, spray paint, mixed
media, folk art, cartooning, collage, photography, rubber
stamping, calligraphy, fabric, quilting, embroidery, crayon
resist, weaving, paper/textile cut-outs, printmaking,
stenciling, sewing, and others. If at first you aren’t happy
with how your cards turn out, keep PRACTICING!
inspiration from the internet. Even looking at the images for
the keywords “artist trading cards” can give you many great
ideas to try out.
are usually one-of-a-kind originals, but you can also make sets
of identical cards in limited editions (they are numbered in the
back to show how many were made), or a number of cards in a
series, with a particular theme or subject. It’s all up to you.
back of your card, put the title of your ATC, your name, your
contact information (such as an email address), and the date.
You can either sign your card in front or on the back. Some
artists also add their city/state and country. If you are
trading the card in an online group, you can also include your
username and the trading site.
your card is for an online swap, you may want to include the
swap name in the information in the back of your card. Some swap
hosts also specify other information to be included, so make
sure you follow those guidelines.
How to start trading ATCs
you have made a number of tradable cards, you can decide on
where you will start trading them. You may want to scan or
photograph each card so that you will have a copy after you
can trade ATCs personally if there are swaps in your area or you
can find online swaps. An online search using the keywords
“artist trading cards” will help you find sites like
All (for all levels of skill and artistry)
Yahoo groups: Artist Trading Cards
Illustrated ATCs (for professional artists and hobbyists)
if you aren’t ready to trade cards, joining these groups can
inspire and help you. Registering is free and you can find more
information about ATCs that can help you.
you register in sites like ATCs for All , you can post images of
your cards in your gallery. If you invite another member for a
personal trade, they can pick a card from your gallery for you
to send in exchange for the card you are interested in trading
can also join online swaps in these sites. Some swaps specify
the theme and some specify the medium or technique to be used.
Be sure to follow all the swap guidelines carefully if you
decide to join a swap. Don’t join too many at the same time. You
want to be able to finish your cards on time.
you are ready to send your cards, pack them well, with a plastic
card sleeve or mini envelope and a card or piece of cereal box
For inquiries, call Patsy at (632)3751069 or e-mail
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