Friday, January 20, 2012

Getting Started with ATCs (Artist Trading Cards)

This is going to be a very basic tutorial in starting to make and trade Artist Trading Cards (ATCs). I have been involved in this for of art for many years and have found it to be highly addictive!

History of Artist Trading Cards:

Artist Trading Cards (ATCs) are miniature works of art about the same size as a baseball or Pokemon card (2.5 x 3.5 inches). ATCs originated in 1997 by the Swiss artist M. Vanci Stirnemann. ATCs are part of the mail art movement.

There are very few rules pertaining to making and trading ATCs. However, the ones that do exist MUST be followed. They are:
  • size = 2.5x3.5 inches
  • ATCs are traded not sold
  • Signed and dated on the back
  • Neatness counts

Step 1:
The first thing you need to get started making ATCs are blank cards. Regular white card stock makes excellent blank cards. Cards should be cut exactly 2.5 x 3.5 inches and as straight as possible. I use a cutting board to make my cards. If you do not have access to card stock or other similar paper you could use empty food boxes (cereal, mac & cheese, microwave popcorn, etc).
I bought my cardstock at OfficeMax.
*** If you use a standard weight paper make sure you mount it to a heavier paper. ATCs should never be as thin as regular weight paper.

Step 2:
The next thing you need to do is decide what type of card you want to make (drawing, painting, collage, etc) and what you want to put on the card (your subject matter). This is entirely up to you, unless you are doing a themed swap with someone. I you are using blanks cut from food boxes you will most likely need to cover it with a piece of white or color paper first.

Step 3:
The previous step shows the beginning stage of the card. I still need to add color and mount it to stiffer paper.
Here is what my card looks like when finished. You can't tell here, but I have mounted it to a stiffer background to make it more durable. To do this I used a glue stick and then stuck the card under a heavy stack of books until the glue dried.

Step 4:
To finish your card the final step is to sign and date the back of the card. You can also include a title for your miniature work of art and contact information for future trades. This can be done as simply as writing the information on the back of the card or you can get fancy and print out stickers or labels to stick on the back of your card.

Step 5:
When your card is finished and ready to trade you will want to store it in a safe place. For me, this means putting it into a clear plastic sleeve and then storing it in a metal tin until it is ready to be shipped to a new owner. I buy my sleeves at Target or Toys R Us. They are cheap (around $3 for 200) and can be found by the trading cards. I don't remember where I bought the tin, but I believe it is called a tea tin.

The last thing to do is find someone who is interested in trading one of their cards for your card. A great place to start is the ATCforall site. Post your card in the gallery and wait for someone to take interest in it. You can also contact me. I would be more than happy to be your first trade!


Lou Belcher said...

Thanks... I've been making some ATCs but haven't known the ins and outs of them.

Have a great day.


Roshanda said...

Thanks Lou! I would love to do a trade with you.

Holly DeGroot said...

I would love to trade with you. What is the first step (after having created a card)?