Making Artist Trading Cards

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Artist trading cards,or ATCs,began in the tradition of business cards,but with a personal,artistic twist. Most ATCs are created on paper,but they may also be any other medium that can be worked in a suitable size. ATCs are traditionally the size of baseball cards and other trading cards. They’re a fun way to exchange your own one-of-a-kind artistic flair with other artists you meet.


  1. Start with the size in mind. Artist trading cards are generally 2 1/2 by 3 1/2 inches. This is the size of playing cards and other trading cards. You can even start with mismatched playing cards as a base for collage or altered item artwork.
  2. Cut the background material to size.
  3. Choose your media. You may start by cutting card stock or heavy paper to size. If you work in another medium,such as leather or fabric,you may either cut it to size or work so that the finished result is the correct size.
  4. Express yourself or show your style,using your preferred medium or media. If you can do it inside of 3.5 x 2.5 inches,you can make an ATC.
  5. Work somewhat quickly. You don’t need to be careless when making an ATC,but there’s no need to work your masterpiece in miniature,either. ATCs should be simple pieces that you’re willing to give away when you’re done.
  6. Make lots. You’ll need a selection of cards. Remember that you will be giving your cards away. “Lots”can be relative. It could be half a dozen or a few dozen,depending on how many you expect to trade.
  7. Show your style. Is there a particular palette or medium you prefer or a technique you’ve been exploring lately?
  8. Sign your cards and attach contact information,if you choose to. An email address or website is a good compromise if you’ll be giving these cards to strangers.
  9. Title your work. The title is optional,but it will give your recipients or viewers a context in which to view your work.
  10. Share. The whole point of ATCs is to trade with other artists,so once you have a selection of cards,trade them.
    • Find artists or groups in your area that trade cards.
    • Attend gatherings of artists in your area,and remind them to bring ATCs to share.
    • Carry them with you as you would business cards,so that if you find an occasion to trade or give away a card,they are with you.
    • Spread the word. If your local artist community is unfamiliar with artist trading cards,you may have to give away a few cards or offer them with a request for one in return before you get many back.
    • Organize a gathering to swap ATCs. Let people know what ATCs are about,and get together to try trading some.
    • Look on-line. There are on-line groups that will match you up with others the world over who can mail cards in exchange for yours.
  11. Collect others’ATCs. Because they are the size of other standard trading cards,most will fit in trading card sleeves. ATCs should be as unique as the artists who create them,so enjoy the selection.


About 1 minute and 40 seconds into the video,it’s shown how to make an artist trading card.


  • While it’s true that some people sell artist trading cards,it’s customary only to trade them (their true purpose,according to purists) or perhaps give them away. Think of them as you might think of business cards:a small sample and reminder of your greater work.
  • If you find yourself with a card or cards you especially like,you could scan them before trading them,or simply keep those for yourself and make more.
  • It’s customary to make ATCs by hand,but that doesn’t mean you couldn’t place a sample of your work on a business card and treat it as such.
  • You can use ATCs as a form of networking,to help get in touch and keep in touch with other artists in your community.
  • Always try to exchange trading cards. It’s up to you if you want to give some away without receiving any in return,but never take ATCs without permission,and try to give one anytime you receive one.
  • Because ATCs are small,they are an easy and fun way to try a new medium or technique.

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