How to Make Artist Trading Cards
Create Collect Swap
Artist trading cards, or ATCs, are small pieces of art. The format is only 2 1/2 x 3 1/2 (6cm x 9cm). In this small space anything is possible. ATCs encompass all types of media. They are made from paper, fabric, even metal. They incorporate doodles, photographs, prints, collage, painting, and more. These creations are made to be swaped and shared. There is only one rule of ATCs and that is that they should never be sold. The idea is to connect and collect the art of other artists, and to expand your own art making abilities.
Just like with any art form, if you create on a regular basis, you will see your art evolve. You will soon want to explore new possibilites in art making. As long as you stay true to the size of the card you can do anything you want: paint, draw, sew, sculpt, tear, melt, etc.
Making Your Own ATC: Gathering Supplies
As with almost anything, the difficult part is always getting started. In order to get you going with making your own card I suggest you first cut different kinds of paper to the correct size (2.5 x 3.5 inches). This will allow you to have a "canvas" to begin with. You can use any material you like such as watercolor paper, Bristol board, cardboard, old playing cards, fabric, etc. Just keep in mind that some materials are flimsier than others and may not hold up to the techniques you wish you use. Cut several cards to size.
Look around your home and you will find that you have all the materials you need without buying anything fancy. (You can of course go to the craft store to buy specialty items or anything that catches your eye!) Old magazines, buttons, scraps of material, tissue paper, and even junk mail can provide excellent images, colors, and textures for your mini artwork. Really, even just a pencil and some heavyweight paper is all you need! But even if drawing is your thing, I suggest experimenting with different mediums. These cards are all about discovery.
ATCs made by me
Getting Started and Swapping
So you have your backing and your materials, now it is time to get busy! Use what you have and work quickly on these first few cards. Try not to treat them as precious objects, but rather as fun experiments. Practice spending 5 minutes or less on each card. This will force you to loosen up and work more intuitively. If you are not happy with the results right away try a different medium or technique. Do not throw anything away! Your "mistake" cards could provide an excellent background for something else. You can always paint over or layer on top of something that you don't like. Many successful cards have many layers.
After you feel like you have loosened up a bit and gathered some ideas, you may wish to spend some more time on an individual card. Just remember that mistakes aren't always a big thing and keep everything you make! Soon you will find that you have a growing collection of tiny works of art that you are proud of. You may wish to keep these for yourself or trade them.
If you choose to trade your ATC I strongly recommend investing in clear plastic sleeves, the kind that are used to protect baseball cards. You can find these inexpensive sleeves at hobby stores or online. If your card is chunky or too 3-diemensional to fit in a sleeve that is okay but it is still your responsibility to make sure the card remains intact, safe, and protected. If you are trading by mail most cards only need a single stamp (for trading in the USA), but may requite more postage if your card is heavier. There are online trading sites such as ATCsforAll.com. A simple Google search will probably offer more.
Make sure you scan or take a high quality picture of your ATC and provide a detailed and accurate description of the media and techniques used. This is also a good idea because you can have now have digital documentation of what you have made and traded. You can browse these websites and look for other cards that you like and request a trade. Don't give up or feel bad if your request is denied. Some people are only looking for a particular style of card. Above all, have fun collecting and sharing art and learning more about yourself in the process!