Artist Trading Gallery II

Tips on creating Artist Trading Cards

By Bridget Geegan Blanton

You'd like to try your hand at making a few Artist Trading Cards (ATCs) of your own. You've assembled some basic supplies, you've got a little time on your hands but you're staring (blankly) at your work space. Need a little inspiration? A little direction? Read on.

First and foremost you'll need a theme. It will rein in your creative energy and focus it in a single direction. If you're participating in an organized swap, you've got that one covered as the theme has already been chosen. If not, there are several classic ATC themes you can choose from. A basic color theme, a particular letter or number theme, travel, mythology, nature, alter ego, to name a few. Still uninspired? Pick up a magazine and start looking through it until something catches your attention.

Once you've chosen your theme, you may still need a little inspiration. I often turn to my ever-changing selection of rubber stamping and scrapbooking magazines. In the past, I have been so taken with the color, style and design of a single 12" x 12" scrapbook page, that I have distilled the essence of this page down to a single ATC. It might be the coordination of different papers, the artistic elements or embellishments that make the page stand out. Often, it's the combination of colors or background technique that has captured my attention. Take what you like from your inspirational page, card or piece of art and conceptualize the design within the size limitations of an ATC.

When I begin designing an ATC to express a theme, I start with the background. Quite often, I use paint to create the backdrop of my ATC. It's important to remember that since you're working with a small canvas, it is necessary to create balance. My game plan consists of achieving a look that doesn't have too much going on, but not too plain either. A very basic background technique that I use includes a selection of three colors of paint. I place a blank ATC on a disposable surface (such as a catalog page) and paint a vertical stripe of each color down the length of the card. I then squeeze a little paint from each color of the acrylic paint I've chosen onto another catalog page and start picking up paint with a sponge and proceed to 'spounce' paint over the entire surface. I add a little at a time of each color until I've achieved a look that I like. It will dry quickly. Now, it's time to add a little depth to your background.

At this time, I start rummaging through my inventory of rubber stamps looking for an architectural, texture, design or text stamp to use. Rubber stamped images of this kind are an excellent second layer for your background. They will add some depth and texture. Very tiny text can be stamped in gold over the entire surface and then embossed with clear powder to create a raised texture. The background colors still show through but now you've got a little depth. Or, I will take an architectural type stamp and stamp it in an ink that mirrors one of the paint colors, along one side of the ATC to create contrast. The decision on whether or not to emboss is up to you. If you need some tips on embossing, navigate back to the Collage page and click on the B-muse link underneath the ATC gallery. You will find tutorials at that site and excellent products to choose from. This is but one of endless painting techniques that you can use to create an ATC background. The next time you're at the bookstore, browse the craft aisle and look through the myriad of rubber stamping technique books available. You will find dozens of background techniques to try your own hand at.

ATC entitled 'Nature Girl' for the themed swap: Alter Ego. The background of this ATC was created using the sponge paint technique.

ATC entitled 'Inner Voice' for themed swap: Alter Ego. The background was created using the sponge paint technique. An embossed rubber stamped image was added directly to background to create contrast. Images added to ATC to express theme were stamped and embossed on cardstock in colors that reflect the background colors.

You can also use paper to create your ATC background. Take a trip to the scrapbook store and you will find an endless array of beautiful paper. One such technique I use with paper, is to take two pieces of contrasting yet coordinated papers cut to the size of an ATC. (By contrasting yet coordinated, I mean that although each paper might be different there remains a similar element such as color. However, I have used the following technique with polar opposite papers and have liked it too). Anyway, I tear the two pieces together, down the diagonal. You'll end up with 4 pieces (enough for two ATCs). Using a glue stick I adhere one style of paper to the top and another to the bottom. Allow the torn edge to show, it adds contrast and depth. Paper can also be combined with a painted background or trimmed and adhered to just one side or corner. The possibilities are endless.

I have also created backgrounds using a trio of hand made papers. I begin by choosing 3 colors and tearing them into small pieces. Once I have 3 little piles of torn bits, I begin adhering them, collage-style, to a blank ATC, using acid-free liquid glue. Handmade paper can tend to be translucent so, you will have to glue paper on paper to achieve a nice wash of color. Once the glue has dried, simply trim any paper that hangs over the edge. This type of background is perfect for images stamped on transparent plastic. You have the contrast of an image yet, the colors of the background still show though. At Staples office supplies, pick up a package of their 8 1/2 x 11 clear transparency sheets. Cut a piece of this clear, thin plastic to accommodate the size of your rubber stamp. Stamp your chosen image in black and emboss with clear powder. Trim around the stamp image and adhere it with clear tape (tacky tape) to the ATC background. Using transparencies to stamp on, is an excellent way to add words to your ATC without interfering with your color theme or covering up your chosen images.

Quite often when I add paint or paper to create a background on my thin, pre-cut ATC card, I end up with something that has curled or is just not flat. At the very end of my ATC creation process, I'll adhere a piece of cardstock to the back of the decorated ATC to strengthen or flatten it out. Works great.

Other background techniques include using alcohol inks on glossy cardstock. Adirondack in cooperation with Tim Holtz has produced a line of alcohol ink products that create gorgeous results. If it's a vintage look you're after, check out their line of distressed inks. I've had wonderful results with the distressed inks. I'll crumble up an ATC, wet it down ever so slightly and apply distressed inks straight to the ATC using the ink pad. Once it's dry, I'll iron it flat. At this point, I'll stamp over the background to add some contrast.

ATC entitled 'Pan' for the themed swap: Magical Creatures. Alcohol inks were used to create the background for this ATC.

It looks like we finally have a background to work with. Now it's time to lay-out a design that expresses the theme. You have many choices here to choose from. Among the available options are: rubber stamps, sheets of collage images, words, verses and embellishments galore. If using rubber stamps, I'll quickly stamp and trim a particular image or a combination of images and lay it out to see if it works. Quite often, I'll assemble and try-out a few lay-outs or choices of images before something strikes me. Most on line stamping sites offer collage sheets of images from asian to zoology. You can combine a rubber stamped image with a few trimmed images from a collage sheet. When I do use rubber stamps at this point in my ATC creation process, I will stamp on to cardstock. Choose cardstock colors that reflect the colors in your background. 9 times out of 10 I will include a single word or a brief phrase in the lay-out of my ATC that reflects my interpretation of the theme. The finishing touch to your ATC will be to try and choose from the kazillion different types of embellishments available. Brad, eye-lets, ribbon, charms, paper flowers, rhinestones, tags, watch parts, beads, etc. etc. Sometimes all it takes is one or two embellishments to finish the look you want to achieve.

Alright, you've got some basic ideas to work with so now it's time to create! Have fun!

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