Artist Trading Cards (ATCs)

I’m by no means an expert on the whole phenomenon of Artist Trading Cards or ATCs, as they are often referred to in shorthand. However, it is a form of paper crafting that does appeal immensely to me. I think the intriguing thing about ATCs is tied to the size of the final project. The only die-hard rule of ATCs is that finished size of your project must be 2.5″ x 3.5″ (64mm x 89mm). Other than that, the design and materials to be used are as endless as your imagination. While, it is obviously a temptation to go crazy with the dimensionality, the key to a good ATC design is that it be “portable art”, that is a trading card that is easy to store or take with you.

You can explore stamping, textures, paints, inks, sketching, stitching, papers, found objects, and so many other techniques with ATCs. ATCs can be modern or vintage, bold or subtle, themed or free-form. I’ve used my own sketched images, pieced collages, Cricut die-cuts, and various objets d’ art in my own ATC collection. Of course, much of the fun in ATCs is trading with other budding artists and sharing your inspirations/works.

I recently joined a “Your Choice” ATC Swap through the Cricut Message Boards. The three (3) themes I selected to participate in were: “Love”, “Asian”, and “Black & White”. Here is a peek at the designs I came up with.

For the Love theme, my design is called “Without End”. It combines a Marah Johnson image stamped with Tsukineko Brilliance Rocket Red Glare and an accent paper from DCWV Rock Star paper stack. The edges are inked with StazOn Jet Black ink and the cards are accented with Sakura Gelly Roll Metallic pens.

The Asian theme is called “Asian Lamp”. The base paper is from DCWV Far East collection. The card edges were inked with a crimson pigment. I used some kanji characters and a layered die-cuts of an oriental paper lantern as focal points. Kanji are originally Chinese characters that are used in the modern Japanese logographic writing system. Each card in the set, showcases a different lamp and kanji character combination.

The final set was an interesting challenge. Black and white is a restraint in that it means there is a lack of color. I decided the images should be stark and visually interesting. The card design is called “Life”. The wording is done with a ransom styled alphabet stamped with StazOn Jet Black ink. The fingerprint (which is my own thumbprint) is also inked with StazOn. I used Sakura Glaze Pen in Black for the accents. The “messy” smudges were intentional–as Life is never without its messes. The thumbprint represents the “touch” of someone in your life.

I urge you to try your hand at ATCs. All you need is a stiff cardstock or chipboard base, your imagination and whatever embellishments strike your fancy. You can spend minutes–or hours on your designs. The finished projects look wonderful in frames, in cards, stored on a rolodex turnstile or cataloged in baseball card trading sleeves. Consider them mini-art projects for the soul.

Create–and keep crafting!

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