Foil Backgrounds for Artist Trading Cards Plus

Adapt these techniques for large collages or for diminutive artist trading cards, or anything in between.

Begin with a surface that has some give. You can use a piece of packing styrofoam or foam core board, even a computer mouse pad if you’re very careful. Using aluminum foil (the heavy duty weight works much better), crinkle it into a very loose ball. Carefully unfold the ball and smooth it flat, but do not attempt to remove the wrinkles. Let them remain in medium to deep crevices. Place the foil with the shiny side facing up onto your surface, but do not attach it. Using a dull pointed tool – a dulled pencil will work – emboss patterns in the foil. Spirals, letters and/or numbers, geometric figures, lines – all work well when applied over the crinkles in the foil.

When you are satisfied with your results, affix it to a piece of light- or medium-weight cardboard. I have used spray adhesive or acrylic matte medium or a thick glue such as Yes! However, you cannot rub on the foil to adhere it to the backing so I generally tap it gently with my fingers, and then use a pound bag of dry rice for a weight, usually leaving it overnight. Do not disturb it until completely dry. I usually cut the foil larger than the backing so I can wrap the foil around the edges. If I am making ATCs, I attach a second piece of paper to the back to hide the uneven foil and also provides a writing space for the particulars of the card (name of artist, title, number if part of a set,etc.)

Use two or three acrylic paints thinned half and half with water. Deep, jewel-toned colors work best against the silvery metal. Using a 1/2″ to 1″ wide brush (hardware store type) gently paint parts of the foil, using an almost dry brush technique. Let some of the foil show through. Work within the patterns you have embossed, or ignore the patterns and free style if you prefer. If you want the paint shinier, mix with acrylic gloss medium instead of water, though you may still need to thin it further.

There is really no need to do anything further if you are making ATCs. If you are using this for a larger background, add your collage, mixed-media material or complete as desired, being mindful of the fragility of the background.

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