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Artist Trading Cards: Limited Editions And Series

Updated on March 16, 2014

Making Artist Trading Cards As Limited Editions Or In A Series

Quite often an artist will make more than one ATC (Artist Trading Card) or ACEO (Art Cards Editions and Originals) for any of a number of reasons. If it is a case of making similar cards based on a theme then the resulting cards are said to be in a series. Alternatively, If a set of prints is produced, then the cards are said to be from a limited or open edition. A limited edition will only ever be made to a maximum number of cards specified by the artist.

Both strategies are acceptable as long as it is clearly stated by the artist, usualy on the back of the art card with the artists information.

I will give some examples of the series approach, where each card is obviously a hand made artefact and will be unique. The other approach needs slightly more explanation as it has some complications. Prints of a painted card for example may be produced and then finished by hand to make each card unique. There are issues with this approach which I will try to address.

Unless otherwise stated all images are photographs by me of my own artwork.

atc theme matrimony series
atc theme matrimony series

Art Trading Cards, The Series Approach

ATC's Made According To A Theme

It is very common to find a set of ATC cards made in a series according to a theme. Each card will be hand-made and therefore unique. The theme could be anything at all. It may be based on a subject topic, on a colour combination, on a specific technique or may possibly tell a story. In fact there is really nothing which differentiates a card produced for a series from the mainstream work of the artist.

It may be interesting to the recipient of an ATC or the purchaser of an ACEO to know that it is part of a series and this information may be included on the reverse side along with the artists information. This could be along the lines of, "atc1 from a series of three"; or however many are in the series.

the images accompanying this module show a series of three atc's whose only connection is that they are on the subject of matrimony and tell a story of romance and marriage. The main image was titled, "Romance Is In The Air". The following were titled, "A Lucky Night" followed by, "The Honeymoon"

As you can see each was a unique card in it's own right. As a matter of fact the second of these three cards were used by an on-line newspaper to illustrate an article on the Great American Wedding.

atc stamped blue sorrow
atc stamped blue sorrow

Art Trading Cards, The Series Approach (2)

Using The Same Elements; Image, Stamp, etc

I wanted here to give another example of a series, but one where I have used the same rubber stamp to create each card. The cards are still unique in that the colours are different and the design utilises different elements around the main image. The geisha image was one that I particularly liked when I first obtained it and decided to make several different cards using the same image. Here I gave each the same title but differentiated each card by the colour. E.g. "Sorrow-Blue", "Sorrow-Yellow", "Sorrow-Green". There were more in the series but enough is enough for now.

Again, the cards are individual and unique.

aceo portmeirion "the prisoner" "number 6" six
aceo portmeirion "the prisoner" "number 6" six

Limited Edition Prints

Painted Art Cards

An artist may choose to sell prints of an artist trading card, usually but not exclusively, these will be paintings.

In this case, he can either sell as many as possible and effectively print on demand, or he can decide at the outset to limit the number of prints to a set value. In the former case, it will be a print from an open edition. In the latter case, it will be a limited edition print and will be given a number to identify its place in the series and the total number in the series. E.g. 1/50 or 25 of 500. This is an accepted practice in fine art.

Think of a poster, it will be printed over and over until demand for it no longer exists, many prints sold to tourists will also be from open editions. But galleries will usually sell only limited edition prints which will be individually numbered and signed by the artist.

There is no reason why this should not hold true for ATC cards. But unless the original is an ATC sized painting it should be made clear to the buyer/recipient that the print is a reduction and the original size clearly stated.

digital atc alice
digital atc alice

Limited Edition prints

With Special Reference To Digitally Produced ATC Prints

Making Digital Art Cards is looked on by artists in one of two ways:-

Either it is seen as an acceptable art form or, because it has to be printed out ultimately, some people feel cheated and feel that the art work is not unique. A separate issue is that some people feel it is not really an art form. Somehow using the computer as a tool doesn't feel right to them..

I have dabbled in digitally produced collages but always make each print a limited edition of one. Thus each card is unique. I promise recipients of my digital work that there will only be one ATC print taken from each work and no more. This I feel is fair. The reverse of each print, which is done on a matt, textured art paper, contains this information.

An alternative view is contained in a posting to the Artist Trading Card forum, the writer obviously has strong views which differ to mine but of course you must make your own mind up.

Another case is the use of digital techniques to alter an image, a painting for example. This simple abstract painting is the original

However I lked the simplicty of this piece and altered the colours and used digital effects to add a little texture to produce more images:


Again I made one and only one print of each image on matt art paper and hence made each one a limited edition of one, each was unique and would remain so.

One Of A Kind Art Cards

Originals From Prints?

One other way that printed art is sold on Ebay, is for the artist to produce a print and then add to it by hand.

A line, A little shading or a drift of spattered paint. This is then called a one-of-a-kind artwork (OOAK) indicating that it is an original and different to any other work by the artist. I have never produced work this way but have indeed purchase some knowing that this is the way it was produced. Again, you will need to decide for yourself wether you feel that this is an original work of art or a modified print. OOAK is used to describe many items of hand-made art/craft, not just for this particular method of producing art. I bring it up to make you aware of it as a technique.

The image here does not demonstrate this technique, but is a collage using a print from an original pastel painting. As above, the same image could be used to make many different collaged art cards, or more of the same with slight differences, although I never have - yet! Each could be described as OOAK. I am afraid it is up to you to determine how you feel about this and remember the old adage, " let the buyer beware!"

One of a series of related atc's
One of a series of related atc's

A Series Of Collaged ATc's

The Title Is The Link In This Series

These art cards are very early example of my collage and were made before I really started thinking about what a series entailed. I did a couple without realising it and they very soon became a whole series. Looking back I realise that I could have done many more similar series, instead of struggling at times trying to come up with new themes.

In this case the title of the artist trading card was the link between each card. Each title began with the words, "Mommy Says ..................".

The title of the first atc shown here on the right is, "Mommy Says, Cats Hate The Rain".

A few more examples are:-

"Mommy says, I musn't play with dirty water"

"Mommy say, You can wish upon a star"

So you can see that a series can be based on almost anything, not just the pictorial theme of the card, or the use of a particular image. However to be called a series there must be a connecting link of some sort. perhaps the technique used is probably not a good enough link on its own, but who knows?. Why not experiment, and try out making series of art cards; consider it a creative challenge.

Would You Like To Express An Opion On This Subject - Or Maybe Just Say Hello

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    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Hi Arty. Not my kind of paintings but I am sure there'll be plenty of folks around who'd like it.


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