Artist Trading Cards and Artcrossing

Artist Trading Cards and Artcrossing

Create, buy, sell and trade. Explore artcrossing and a world of little indie pieces of art the size of a playing card.

ATCs, or artist trading cards, are little pieces of art about the same size as a regular playing or trading card (8.9cm x 6.4cm.) You can get into either collecting artist trading cards or making your own for people to collect, and sending them all over the world (artcrossing originated in Switzerland in the mail art movement of the sixties but is now practised worldwide). Find out how to buy the supplies you need, where to go to trade or sell artist trading cards, and just about everything you need to know.

The Mail Art Movement and Artcrossing… Where It All Began and What’s Going On Now

Art trading cards by Illustrated

Some artists say that the beginning of Mail Art was started by Cleopatra when she had delivered herself to Julius Ceaser in a rolled up carpet. The term itself was coined in the early 60’s when artists decided that they wanted to exchange mail between other artists and their patrons. At this time the concept of Artist Trading Cards was born. A similar form of Mail Art is called Artcrossing, similar to Postcrossing and writing letters to pen pals. Artcrossing, usually run by a main group, takes place when the artist create a profile or a list of their interests and what they like to create. It’s highly recommended that you put in as much relevant information as possible to avoid receiving something that isn’t your visual cup of chai. You request to be assigned someone, you receive a profile with a person’s mailing address and a tracking I.D and then you mail the piece of art along with the I.D on the piece or in the package. With Artcrossing the sky’s the limit (as long as you can mail it!)

Why Artist Trading Cards are the Perfect Match for Artcrossing

ATC by Naked Heart Art

Because of the light weight and small size of the cards, they don’t cost much to ship. This is important: when you have a lot of ATCs you want to trade the money will start to add up, especially with international shipping. The bonus is that ATCs can be as intricate or as simple as you want and are perfect DIY gifts!

ATCs can be great for all sorts of things, from bookmarks to miniature paintings for the wall. On page 9 of issue 17 of Art Trader you’ll learn how to make ATC ornaments for Christmas, using only your art and some metal hangers.

How To Get Started

ATC by KatarinaNavane

There are a few things you need to know to get you started on creating your own artist trading cards. First, check the size of the card you’re using. If it’s not 8.9 cm x 6.4 cm or 3.5 inches x 2.5 inches it’s not considered an artist trading card. Trying to sell or trade anything of a different size wouldn’t be considered professional.

You can make your own cards from either altering tissue boxes or regular playing cards or you can buy blank artist trading cards ready to design. Depending on where you’re going to buy them, ATCs are usually sold in packs of 10 or 20. There are many types of cards that you can get for the medium of your choice…

  • Dry for pens, pencils and markers.
  • Wet for watercolor and acrylic paints
  • Paper Media for collages and anything requiring glue.

You can also purchase protective sleeves that are a lot like the sleeves for comic books, I’d recommend getting these if you’re selling them but they are not required. If you think you might be doing this regularly then consider getting and creating what’s known as a ‘chunky book’; they are often used as ATC portfolios and could be considered art by themselves!

Because of the size of the cards, I recommend taking sometime to practice making things small. I was so used to having plenty of space to work with that when I started doing ATCs, I found it to be a challenge.

Artcrossing Links

Artist Trading Card Workshop: Create, Collect, Swap available on Kindle now (5 star reviews) – main Artcrossing group on – smaller Artcrossing group

Artist Trading Card Groups

Other Useful Links for Artcrossing and ATCs – Many useful tips on ATCs. This site also has a online magazine that you can download. They are very entertaining and filled with subjects such as ATCs, Artcrossing, Chunky Books, Book Binding, Altered Objects and very nice DIY crafts. – Tips for beginners. Also has many links to groups for U.K swapping. – Forums, hints and tips, galleries, contests and swaps.

Just get crafty and do it straight onto the back of a playing card, if you like…