Friday, December 7, 2012

The Big ATC Tutorial - part five - backing and beyond

Well, we've been busy this week and now we have twelve atc's to show for it. Well, at least I do, I guess for you they may still be in the making or planning stage. But ... we still aren't completely done yet.

Today we will do some finishing touches and I'll give you some links to places where you can go if you want to trade your atc's. I mean, as pretty as they are, you might want to actually trade them, after all they are artist trading cards! So get to your worktable and roll up your sleeves for the final part of our Big ATC Tutorial!

The Big ATC Tutorial - part five - backing and beyond

Now the front of the cards is finished you may want to think about the back of the cards.
In fact they may need some extra backing. The reasons for this can be that:
  • your card is too flimsy and needs some sturdy paper to literally back it up, remember these cards are for trading and are indeed cards, not thin pieces of paper that already bend by looking at them
  • your card will need information on the background, but you can't write on the material (if you use ready made stickers on the back of your cards this reason does not apply)
  • your card is warped and some extra backing will make it flat again (very warped cards will not go well in envelopes and pockets for safekeeping)
  • your card is not as clean on the back as you would like it to be (this is mostly my reason) and looks something like this or worse:

I'm a sloppy worker, so most of the time whatever materials I'm working with will also end up on the back of the paper. You can also see the card is slightly warped, so it can totally do with a little extra backing.

So today I thought I'd show you how to make a backing for your cards. Consider it a bonus of my tutorial, becasue originally I wasn't  planning on doing this, but it seemed only fair to show you the entire process I go through before trading a card.

Materials used:
  • a sturdy paper with at least one side that is clean and in one colour (I used the covers of all kinds of reports that get tossed at work, but you can use anything from packaging to cereal boxes and from scrapbook cardstock to expensive watercolour paper, just make sure it's sturdy and ads thickness to your card)
  • some clean paper scraps (the clean part is very important!)
  • acrylic gel medium (or another good glue you can brush on thickly, don't use something like rubber cement, it will not hold over time)
  • a brush
  • scissors
  • a pen for writing your information on the back

As you may know I work as and archivist/documentalist. I file a lot of stuff. Among that suff are dozens, if not hundreds, of all kinds of reports and financial statements. All these come with covers that are thick and serve no other purpose but to cover a report. After filing there's no need for these covers anymore and I remove them. Most of them get tossed, but every now and then I will take some home to use as backing for cards and atc's. They usually are made of beautiful sturdy paper that is only printed on one side. Perfect for our tutorial today. So I got out two pieces for the backing of my twelve atc's

I cut them up in smaller pieces that are somewhat larger than the atc's so there is some extra space around them.

Then I take a bunch of scraps of paper and cut those a little bigger than atc size as well. Here I used writing paper of one of the many free notepads that I get when there's a class or training at work. I have so many of them they will never be filled with actual notes, so I use them as a background for gluing stuff which is exactly what we will be doing today. It's important however that this paper is clean, this to prevent any smudges coming on the cards by sticking to the glue.

Okay, let's go. I start by putting the first atc on a clean piece of scrap paper face down. Then I cover the entire back in a thick layer of gel medium. Make sure every last bit is covered, especially the edges and corners. Also make sure a piece of the backing paper is ready for use lying next to it. If there's printing on there make sure that side is up.

Now I put the glued atc side on the printed side of the backing paper. It's important to move quickly now, so the medium doesn't dry before you're all finished.

I cover the good side of the atc wih another clean piece of scrap paper and rub over the paper to attach the card to the backing. By doing this you prevent yourself (and your gluey hands) from touching the card and smudging it. Really rub hard over the paper to make sure that every part is fully attached to the backing, you can also use the side of your fist to cover more ground. Pay special attention to the sides and corners. A brayer is another option, but I have found I can apply more pressure with my hands.

Now the card should be well attached and flat to the backing. Carefully remove the scrap paper and leave the glued card to dry on the backing. Repeat with every card. Make sure to change your scrap paper for clean ones every time, or you will smudge the next card with glue from the previous one. Now leave your cards to fully dry. To make sure they stay flat you can leave them to dry under heavy books. It's best to leave them overnight (I rarely have the patience to do this, but it really is best!).

When all the cards are dry you should have something like this. That's not exactly how we want our wonderful atc's to look, is it? ;-)

Time to get out the scissors. The bigger the better, because with big scissors you can cut off one side in one snip, instead of a bunch of small ones which will never be as clean cut. In any case you cut off the excess backing paper so your atc is a nice and perfect atc size again.

And there you have it: twelve lovely atc's, all ready to go! Um...well...allmost...
Because atc's are for trading it helps your trading partners to know what it's called, if it's part of a series, who made it and how to get in touch with the maker. This information can be put on the back of the card, in's kind of expected of you. Now there are all kinds of ready made atc backings that you can print on sticker paper and fill in. There's even stamps for it! Just google for it if you're curious, I'm sure you'll find dozens of options, a lot of them free.  But frankly I prefer to just write my info on the back in hand. This is the way I personally do it, which is by no means the way everybody does it. I put the info around the edges of the card and my signature in the center. From the top clockwise you will find my blog url, the name and number of the card, my e-mail addy and the date the card was finished.

A series of twelve cards, all called ' Botanical Bliss'. I think the hand written back ads an extra personal touch, but that's  a matter of preference. Do what feels right for you.

Now, how do we store the cards before we trade them? Well, there's all sorts of wonderful collecting systems and binders with all sorts of wonderful ready made pockets. But I like to store the cards I make in this little thingy. Yes, that's right, it's a business card holder! Now a little warning before you go out buying one. Not all business card holders are created equally and most won't fit your atc's, because business cards are smaller. I just happened to find one that works perfectly.

Here are my cards all ready and filed in their little pockets.

Of course keeping your own cards in a little thing like that is fine, after all they will leave your house soon enough if you really want to trade them. But for storing the ones you receive you might indeed want to spend some money on a good album or make one yourself. There's all kinds of people making all kinds of atc holders/folders/albums on the internet. Again google for it. There's so much out there up for grabs.

In order to receive cards you are going to have to join a trading community. This can be real life or online. I have no experience in real life trading, but I do have some online. There's several groups on yahoo devoted to atc's. They will hold themed swaps where a host chooses a prompt and the amount of cards to make, but you can also go for one on one swaps with a card maker that appeals to you. Just go to and search for 'atc's'  and see if there's a group that appeals to you. I made a link of the search, so you just have to click here.

Another option is swapbot, where just about anything on the planet that can be swapped through the mail, is indeed swapped. This includes atc's. If you follow this link, you will get to their current swaps page.

Another site for atc swaps is atc's for all. Here swappers of all levels can swap atc's. It's a good place for beginners and advanced alike. You can find them here

The more elite sibling of atc's for all is Illustrated atc's. Here you actually have to apply and be accepted before you can trade. Their standards are pretty high. It's a good place for advanced artists who draw and paint and want to trae atc's. You can find them here.

A wonderful source for art traders is the free (!) digital magazine Art Trader Magazine. You can download the magazine as a pdf and print it if you like. It's full of inspiration and ideas and interesting articles on art trading, with a lot of info on atc's. On their site you can also find a bunch of links to atc trading sites. You can find the magazine here. All twenty back issues are still available online.

I hope you'll give trading a try if only to receive some amazing snail mail in your mailbox. If you don't like atc's you might like other kinds of art trading, there's a whole world out there to explore. And if you want to trade for one of my atc's you're welcome to send me an e-mail. You can find my addy in my profile info (please don't do it through the blog).

And with that we come to the end of our five day atc frenzy. It was a humungous job to put together, but I'm very glad I did it and I hope it provides a resource you will like referring to from time to time. I will put a link to these tutorials on my tutorials page next week so they can be found more easily as time goes on.

For now I just hope you enjoyed it and that your are inspired by it. And with that there's nothing left for me to do but to wish you a wonderful and artsy day!