Art Trading Cards (ATC): the Latest Trend in Art

Art Trading Cards is the latest trend in art!


It started in Switzerland in 1997 and took several years to reach the United States, but Art Trading Cards (ATC) has become a part of the fine arts landscape. These small cards are intended to be traded rather than sold, and represent a unique way of sharing art with friends and peers. Similar in concept and design to sports cards, Art Trading Cards is the latest and hottest trend in the art world.

There is only one rule to creating an Art Trading Card: the card’s dimensions must be 2 ½ x 3 ½ inches. Anything goes once this simple requisite is met, although there are other conventions most artists adhere to. For example, creators typically use the back of the ATC to provide contact information and offer details about their work, including the name of the piece, the media used, and the date of its creation.

An offshoot of the ATC is Art Cards, Editions and Originals (ACEO). These cards are usually created with the intent of being sold, and information will include whether the card is an original or an edition. Unique cards are originals and usually hand-crafted. If it is an edition, it will be signed and numbered in a manner similar to fine art prints.

Cards are meant to be traded in person, but mechanisms exist to facilitate the systematic trading of cards. One such venue in Europe is participation in Card-Left Editions trading. The artist sends 20 cards through the mail and receives a set of 15 cards, each by a different artist, in return. These forums for trading artwork occur at regular intervals and do not require specific styles or media. Cards are also found for sale on Ebay and personal web sites, as well. When cards are sold or traded online or through the mail, a signature card is sometimes created to accompany a set. One side of the signature card will be a self-portrait while the back of the card contains a small fact sheet about the creator.

Plastic sleeves and envelopes are also available to store Art Trading Cards. The sleeves help protect ATCs from damage, while trading card envelopes offer a professional and attractive means to both transport and display your miniature works of art. Due to their relatively small size, plastic sleeves and envelopes are very affordable and ensure your cards remain protected from the wear and tear associated with shipping, presentation and storage.


My signature card

Mike's signature card self-portrait
Mike's signature card self-portrait

How to make an Art Trading Card


With size as the only convention to follow, it is simple to create an ATC. The first step is to envision your miniature drawing, painting or collage. This can be a challenge because creating art in small sizes is a unique endeavor. It is not simply a scaled-down version of a larger piece. If you are accustomed to using your entire arm in sweeping gestures while painting on huge canvases, you might view creating in a smaller size as tricky or frustrating. You might also find yourself altering your style to work in this smaller format. Perhaps details will be simplified or blurred, or a limited palette might be employed. Seek inspiration from the world around you, make quick sketches, and gather ideas for what might be best suited for your style. You might be surprised at how your technique “evolves” under the conditions of creating in a smaller size.

The next step is to select a paper and medium. It is just as important to select the appropriate materials for an ATC as any other project. Many artists use scraps left over from other works, but art material dealers such as Strathmore sell pads or packages of cards pre-cut to the correct size. Illustration board, watercolor paper, Bristol board and more are all available to make it easy to match the correct paper with your favorite medium. You will use the same criteria for selecting a paper for your ATC as with choosing paper for a larger project. Dry media might suggest a paper with some tooth; paint, markers or ink require materials sturdy enough to prevent warping or bleeding. There are no limits, so opt for paper that best meets your needs.

You are now ready to allow your creativity to soar. You might feel most comfortable drawing or painting, but challenge yourself to experiment with collage, digital media, calligraphy or whatever seems intriguing at the moment. There are no restrictions, no barriers and no rights or wrongs, so don’t hold back.

Remember to include any information you feel is important on the back of the card. I had a stamp made for this purpose which states my name, email address and web site. I left space for indicating the medium used, whether it is an original or an edition, and the date. If you don’t want to use a stamp, write the information on your card by hand—it will only add to the originality and creativity of your ATC.


An Art Trading Card by the author

An Art Treading Card by Mike Lickteig:  art marker on plate Bristol board
An Art Treading Card by Mike Lickteig: art marker on plate Bristol board

Looking at an ATC

 

I completed this ATC last year, and offer it as an example of one approach to Art Trading Cards.  I had a small scrap of plate Bristol board and chose to use it for my ATC.  Plate Bristol isn’t an ideal surface for paint or pastels, and I subsequently elected to use art markers to establish both line and color.  After making a few quick sketches of landscapes, I decided to draw a mountain range at sunset. 

My composition was simple—mountains, the sun and a few clouds.  The clouds lead the eye toward the setting sun, and the lines delineating the mountain range also point upward, allowing the eye to move in a circular motion.  Thick lines on a small card inherently eliminated many details appropriate for a larger piece, and I considered it a challenge to suggest depth and scope with so few lines.  I selected a palette of warm colors to indicate heat and intensity, but threw in some blues for my clouds in contrast.  I wanted a blood red sky, and opted to make the sun an even darker shade of red.  This decision was supported by the bold black outlines I intended to use from the beginning.  Without the outlines, the sun would appear washed out in contrast to the brighter sky.

The black, brown and green mountain range is an example of artistic license.  If the sun is setting on the far side of the mountains, its near side (our point of view) would be cast in shadows and the greens would be darker.  I didn’t consider this a fatal flaw and allowed myself to take some liberties with light and shadow since the colors were overly bright to begin with.

A hard black line suggests the soft periphery of the clouds, and the curled patterns in their edges are the most intricate in the drawing.  The task of indicating soft edges with a hard line is challenging, but the 2 ½ x 3 ½ inch surface allows our eyes to accept the lack of detail.  Colorless blenders smoothed out the colors and further point our eyes toward the setting sun.

And that, my friends, is one of my Art Trading Cards.  It took perhaps an hour or less to complete and if I can do it, you can, too!  Happy trading, and anyone wishing to trade a card or two should let me know!

Comments 40 comments

heart4theword profile image

heart4theword 6 years ago from hub

Never heard of this amongst artists. Have heard of a group that meets in Portland area, pretty much, scrapbooking gals. They meet once a year, bringing their 25 cards to their Card Exchange Party! When the party is over, each person has 25 different cards. A sample card is judge prior to be accepted to the party.

Really like the Art Trading Card Idea:)


drbj profile image

drbj 6 years ago from south Florida

Hi, Mike, I consider myself fairly informed in many areas but when It comes to Art Trading Cards, I didn't have a clue.

Thanks for enlarging my sphere of knowledge with this informative hub. Like the self portrait. The one-way spectacles are (?) interesting.


Ghost Whisper 77 profile image

Ghost Whisper 77 6 years ago from The U.S. Government protects Nazi War Criminals

Very cool signiture card! I love it! I love it! I love it!


JannyC profile image

JannyC 6 years ago

Wow I did not know this. All I knew was like Pokemom trading cards. This is cool. Thanks for sharing.


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

heart4theword, thanks for reading. What you describe is quite similar to the premise of trading art cards. It is an enjoyable way to network with other artists or folks that enjoy collecting. I've recently started to really embrace it, and it's been a lot of fun.

Thank for reading.

Mike


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

drbj, thanks for reading. I laughingly thought that I invented the idea of Art Trading Cards, but when I researched it, I discovered to my dismay that the idea originated in Europe over a decade ago. So much for my "unique, original" idea. I still like the idea, even if I wasn't the first to think of it.

Thanks again for your comments.

Mike


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Ghosty! How are you this morning??? It's raining here. I'm glad you like my signature card self-portrait. I will confess that I drew myself with a darker beard than I have now..... a little bit of artistic license?? I will see if I can find the photo that inspired the drawing--I'm sure it's still around somewhere.

Thanks for your comments, and I hope your day is off to a good start!

Mike


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Hi, Janny! Thanks for reading! I didn't know about art cards until a year or so ago, and I thought trading cards were all sports or, as you mentioned, Pokemon. Remember the fantasy cards from 20 years ago or so? I don't remember what they were called.

Somewhere...somewhere in my house.... is a set of Batman trading cards that came in bubble gum packages from the 60s. They were drawings and paintings of a Batman "adventure," and I would give anything to find those cards now, as I'm guessing they are pretty rare.

Thanks for stopping by, Janny!

Mike


Paradise7 profile image

Paradise7 6 years ago from Upstate New York

A terrific hub, and what a lovely idea!


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Paradise, thanks for reading. I agree, art trading cards are a great idea.

Thanks again.

Mike


hypnodude profile image

hypnodude 6 years ago from Italy

Never heard about them, but it seems a good way to spread art. Very interesting Mike, as usual. And the self portrait is very good. Happy Easter!


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

hypnodude, thanks for reading. They are an excellent way to spread a little art around, and I have enjoyed creating them.

Happy Easter to you as well, my friend!

Mike


Cheeky Girl profile image

Cheeky Girl 6 years ago from UK and Nerujenia

Hy Mike: this is an interesting hub. Art Trading Cards are very cool and in the distant future, might be worth something. Artists are very productive and creative people. I get a Christmas Card every year from some artists. But one of them sends me a home made original one, sometimes they are digital one-offs and he signs them too. Art is cool! Thanks for a great hub!


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Cheeky Girl, thanks for your comments. You're right, an Art Trading Card might very well appreciate in value in the future, especially if you receive a card from someone who is yet to be "discovered." Hang on to those Christmas cards, also--an original piece of artwork is a beautiful way to wish someone a happy holiday.

Thanks for your comments, they are greatly appreciated.

Mike


Wayne Tully profile image

Wayne Tully 6 years ago from United Kingdom

I've thought about creating some art trading cards to promote any books that I release in the future maybe as a promotional tool.

Cheers for this hub!


WildIris 6 years ago

I saw a stack of Art Trading Cards at the local art store a year ago. Way cool. I was amazed at the samples and what some people could create on such a small space. I think this would be fun to do with kids. Nothing too intimidating for the newly minted teen.


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Wayne, I think art trading cards as a promotional tool would be a great idea. If you do make some, send one my way, okay? Thanks for your comments, Wayne--always nice to see your "footprints" here (as a fellow hubber often puts it).

Mike


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

WildIris, thanks for reading. It is interesting what people can do on such a small card, and the size is just perfect for some artists. For others, I think the small size intimidates them.

I agree, this would be a great art project for kids, and I would certainly not be surprised to see art cards become a part of art lessons in school or at the local art centers.

Thanks for offering your comments, I appreciate them a great deal.

Mike


Mekenzie profile image

Mekenzie 6 years ago from Michigan

Mike, Never heard of Artistic Trading Cards. Love your Self Portrait Signature Card. You are GOOD! Happy Easter Friend! I appreciate you and the many interesting topics and thoughts you bring to the hubs and bless us with! Mekenzie


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Mekenzie, thanks so much for your kind words, and for always being willing to stop by and read what I've written. There's a little more gray in my beard now, but I always liked the drawing I used for the signature card--it pleases me that you like it, also.

I hope you had a wonderful Easter, and thanks again.

Mike


It's just me profile image

It's just me 6 years ago from Alaska

What fun, thank you for telling us about this.


prettydarkhorse profile image

prettydarkhorse 6 years ago from US

Hi Mike, hmmm, fun and informative, I like your Self Portrait Signature Card Mike, creative post indeed using art traidng cards, Thank you Mike, Maita


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

It's just me, I'm glad you enjoyed reading about the Art Trading Cards. They are very fun to make.

Thanks again.

Mike


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Maita, I'm glad you liked the self-portrait on my signature card. If I can find the photograph I drew it from, I will post it somewhere.

Thanks for reading.

Mike


Sue Real profile image

Sue Real 6 years ago from So close to Canada, I can smell the bacon.

Hi Mike:

Sorry but my computer died of cardiac RAM arrest.

I am reading this in the library.

I think this is a great article and an excellent concept.

What it cost to get one picture frame is a crime.

I once had a one woman show and I had to frame 25 pieces .

Ouch.

No one wants slides anymore either.

Keep up the good work, I'll be back on soon.


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Sue, sorry to hear about your computer. I agree about the cost of framing--it is insane. I notice art supply stores are now selling wood panels to paint on with holes drilled in the back for hanging on a wall--a way to display artwork without bothering. I almost considered it, but even that was expensive.

Yup, no one wants slides anymore... times have changed, and it is tough to continue to adapt.

Well, I hope your computer woes ease up a little soon--it sounds as if it's been a rough go. Thanks for taking the time to visit--it means a lot to know you found it worthwhile enough to read my hubs while having to go to the library to do it.

Take care.

Mike


cavetroll profile image

cavetroll 6 years ago

I only heard about ATC's a little while ago, but I didn't have much of an idea of what they were until I read this. This sounds fantastic in terms of opportunity. I'm going to start on some right away! Thank you so much for posting this!


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

cavetroll, thanks for reading. I agree, ATCs are a great opportunity in a lot of ways. They also stand an excellent chance of increasing in value over time. It is a really exciting trend in the art world right now.

Thanks again for your comments.

Mike


Ben Zoltak profile image

Ben Zoltak 6 years ago from Lake Mills, Jefferson County, Wisconsin USA

Very cool Mike, thanks for the education. I would like to get on this, I wonder if they sell precut ATC's at the art supply store, I will have to check it and look forward to trading up for my first Lickteig!


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Ben! Long time no see! Strathmore packages various types of paper in pre-cut sheets: watercolor paper, Bristol board, textured paper, even illustration board--and I've found them at the art supply store here in town. They also sell plastic sleeves, envelopes, and windowed envelopes. It is all pretty cool and yes, a Lickteig for a Zoltak sounds like a good deal to me!

Hope you've been doing okay these days, my friend!

Mike


Ben Zoltak profile image

Ben Zoltak 6 years ago from Lake Mills, Jefferson County, Wisconsin USA

Can't wait! I may even throw out an eBay auction again after hearing about this, let me know if you do a follow-up or indepth on the subject. I haven't been writing much, I've secretly picked up two "real" jobs and so writing and art has been scrunched some, such is life. Anyway, I'm happy to report I'm working on three commissions still, and also still moving a novel-sized book along at the requisite glacial pace, haha. Glad to see you've been punching the keyboard, and I'll try to move on these ATC's quickly. I haven't been this excited about collectible cards since the Brewers went to the world series in the 80's!!! LOL.

Uh-oh, after perusing one of your ads on ATC's I see that they are not supposed to be sold. Bummer! I may have to research that some more, to see if some folks have bent that rule a little! Somehow, I believe Pete Rose may have made a few bucks from his trading cards, why not us? LOL


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Hey, Ben, welcome back. Y'know, technically ATCs aren't meant to be sold, but because they are sold under the title of ACEOs (Art Cards, Editions and Originals). These are created in the same way, only with a little more latitude to make it convenient to sell. These can be printed as a series (the editions, natch), or meant to be sold as an original. The name of the card is the only noticeable distinction, so don't give up yet. People sell these little cards all the time.

Mike


Ben Zoltak profile image

Ben Zoltak 6 years ago from Lake Mills, Jefferson County, Wisconsin USA

I researched on eBay and see a lot of auctions for them, but I think only 1 bid out of maybe 30? For eBay that's pretty low, even for their art standards. I'm still excited to get some though, thanks for the heads up in the Strathmore paper. I'm a little strapped for cash right now but I look forward getting some soon and making a trade.


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Hey Ben,

I think a couple of issues are at play on eBay. The first is the idea of Art Cards being a relatively new idea, at least in the USA. I also suspect art cards, like a lot of artistic styles, will also depend on the notoriety of the artist. I certainly have none on eBay, at least so far.

I still find it a pretty nice way to make a different kind of mark in the art world, and I think they hold promise for...well, I don't know. Hopefully something! lol

Let me know when you want to make a swap.

Mike


Peggy W profile image

Peggy W 6 years ago from Houston, Texas

Thanks to you I now know more about art trading cards. Sounds intriguing. There should be a market for them being sold in the future I would think and not just being traded. In your other hub...the textured collage you created sounded like a fun project. All of we creative types seem to gather a wide variety of things that could be utilized in different ways. Right now I have to put my mind to creating another limited edition linocut for a charity.


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Peggy, thanks for reading. Sold trading cards are out there but referred to as Art Cards, Editions and Originals. To me it seems odd to rename them since they are essentially the same thing, but perhaps it is to preserve the spirit of trading.

You're right, artists do tend to gather things that can be used creatively. I suspect we don't throw away nearly as much as others do, but if we can stand to live in clutter, it is a nice way to make use of things that otherwise have no use.

Thanks so much for reading, your comments are greatly appreciated.

Mike


rembrandz profile image

rembrandz 6 years ago from Dubai Media City

What a lovely concept! Mike

Loved the portrait and your ATC design.

I had a doctors appointment for my mom the whole day and I enjoyed the waiting time reading your hub, offline.

Thanks for sharing! I am very excited to use ATCs for my networking and as a promotional tool in future.

Rgds


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Rembrandz, thanks for stopping by. I appreciate your kind words about my artwork, and for taking the time to read my hub. ATCs are great for networking, and they can be a most memorable promotional tool. They are eye-catching and make a strong personal statement. Good luck with using them, and thanks again.

Mike


John Dyhouse 5 years ago

Like you I thought that I had "invented this idea", whilst at college I used to love doing small, thumbnail sketches as it really suited my style and impatient character. I was amazed when I found them being sold on ebay. Very informative article


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 5 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Thanks, John. I was also amazed to find ATCs all over the place. I still love doing them--even if I wasn't the first to get there. Thanks again.

Mike

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