How to Make a Quick Artist Trading Card

MAKE FAST. There are times when you have an entire afternoon and you can leisurely make Artist Trading Cards. That doesn’t happen to me very often. Usually I’m doing my artwork on the fly – 15 minutes here, a half hour there. By the time I get my supplies gathered and rummage around in my brain for a creative thought, my time is almost over. Therefore I made a list of easy and quick ATC ideas that can be mixed and matched, and completed in bits of time or in one short sitting. One of the techniques I frequently use with these cards is to think big. I use a part of a large image, enough so that it’s obvious what I’ve used, but not all of it crowding into one small space (2 ½”x3 ½”.)

BARE-BONES BACKGROUNDS I seldom do backgrounds on these cards, and if I do I make it quick – maybe a few pounces of chalk, a little acrylic paint dry tapped on the card with a sponge or a diluted watercolor wash swabbed for a color background. I don’t have to wait long for any of these to dry and be ready for the next step. I usually simply use the white background and this cuts a step from the process. If you do the backgrounds, especially the ones involving paint, do several at a time. Then you’ll be ready for the next time.

I often do these cards using black ink, either India ink and a nib if I have a little extra time, but more commonly with a .05 micro waterproof pen. Other commonly used media I use include Prismacolor or other quality brand of colored pencils, Copic pens (these mark on nearly anything because they are formulated with an alcohol base, but are on the expensive side,) a good quality set of markers. Add your own favorites.

Focal point, then embellish.

FOCAL POINTS ON ATCs Here are some ideas for a quick card to get you started:

1. Thinking big, draw a part of a common item, making the identity obvious. Consider a few things that are easily found in the home: a comb, toothbrush, toothpaste tube, cup, fork and spoon, or a part of a fruit or vegetable.
2. Examine a picture, photo or a real flower, pinecone, cactus, leaf or other natural item. Then draw a ‘macro” image from an insect’s perspective. Go off center or off the edge. Add an insect or bee if you want.
3. Use found paper as a focal point – a dry cleaner’s tag, a ticket torn in half or in pieces, (hopefully not a parking ticket), a torn strip of a map, graph paper, a handwritten letter, computer type in an unusual or typewriter font, yellow or white telephone page, a print from a newspaper or magazine page or part of a label from canned goods or packaging. Again play with the placement. Center? Off-center? Off the card?
4. Draw the unusual – a totem pole, (close up or all of it), a pair of crumply fishnet stockings, an electrical cord, a single die or pair of dice, a line of telephone poles, a spider web with a plastic spider.
5. Cut out a shoe from a department store sales catalog and position so the shoe is stepping into the picture.
6. Draw a coiled snake, head up and fangs exposed. If this is done on a white background with black marker or pen, add a bit of color with red fangs or bright green eyes. Depending on size, you could use tiny jewels for the eyes.
7. Use fingerprints to make a simple pattern or item. Add detailing with a pen or marker.

Now ADD AN EMBELLISHMENT:
• Add a row of colorful snaps or eyelets, using an odd number, ie. 3, 5, 7. (A basic design principle)
• Colorful staples, either in a pattern (row, line, square) or randomly placed over all the card
• A 1” alphabet letter or numeral
• Cut out letters or words from printed material
• If you are accomplished with a sewing machine, stitch around edge of card once or twice
• Rubber band wrapped around the card. I cut a wide, flat rubber band and glue it, using either a single band or three, usually at odd angles
• Twine or string wrapped around the card like wrapping a present with the tie in the front or knotted on the back
• A frame of silver duct tape (hardware store) wrapped around edge of card and mitered at the corners like a picture frame.
• Photo corners, either purchased (some are in colors or embossed) or made out of cut paper
• A piece of aluminum foil, crumpled then flattened, and positioned across one corner

Mix and match any of these ideas or adapt as you want and you can easily make a few cards in a short amount of time.

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One response to this post.

  1. Thanks for the quick tour! I am new to the ATCs and I needed some pointers for one that I am to swap.
    Hopefully I will live up to the trade! LOL!
    Keep up the good work!

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