Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Artist Trading Cards 101 - Tips and Tricks

I've been enjoying my latest passion - creating ATC's. I just can't get enough of these miniature works of art. This past week, Mothers and Daughters Creations introduced these little wonders as their weekly challenge.

If you haven't tried your hand at making one, now is the perfect time. In a previous blog post I discussed what they are in general. In this post, I'm giving detailed start to finish instructions for making them.

To "start", you need card stock cut to 2.5 inches by 3.5 inches exactly. If there is one hard and fast rule, that's it. And you need at least two pieces of card stock to make a sturdy base - more if your card stock is thin - less than 110 pound card stock.

You can get 10 panels from 8.5 inch x 11 inch paper by cutting the paper the long way in two 2.5 inch and one 3.5 inch strips and then cutting ATC panels to size from each strip.

With 12 inch by 12 inch paper, you can get 14 card panels. I cut two 3.5 inch strips and two 2.5 inch strips and then cut ATC sized panels to size from each strip.

In my view, a work of art requires a sturdy and well constructed base. Two layers of heavy card stock is considered the minimum standard base by most card artists. A layer of cardboard (the weight found in cereal or cracker boxes) is also an excellent base and I will occasionally use that instead, covering each side with either heavy weight patterned paper, card stock, or layers of both.

Sometimes I use different colors of card stock in creating my cards and if so, I may cut subsequent layers 1/8th inch shorter and narrower to give a matted effect, but my base is always a minimum of two layers that measure 2.5 by 3.5 inches precisely. The majority of my cards have four or more layers of card and paper stock when I'm done.

Adhering the pieces of card stock can be a headache. After much trial and error, here is my fool proof way to make sure the layers don't separate. I use a permanent bond adhesive on a roll-type dispenser. I use either Tombow or my latest favorite, Memory Tape by ThermoWeb (both available at most retailers such as Michael's, AC Moore, and JoAnn's, as well as specialty craft stores). I run the tape all along the edges of both papers I am adhering, being careful to completely cover the corners. I add a few lines of adhesive across the middle of the card piece. Then I adhere them together and run a brayer over them to bind the adhesive. Successiev layers are added the same way.

If I am securing ends of ribbon or brads between the layers, I find that dimensional adhesive is needed to adhere the layers securely.

After I use the tape runner to apply tape to each piece, I add a small amount of the glaze in those areas with a tooth pick and hold the layers together with a plastic clothespin type of clip for a minute or two until the glaze dries.

I think that edging the layers adds both elegance and a finished touch, and so I generally treat all cut edges of my cards at least by inking and often by either embossing the edges or with glitter. But first they must be evened out.

No matter how carefully you cut and line up the edges, it's almost impossible to get the edges of the cards completely, perfectly even. If I am off by a noticeable margin, I trim first with my detail scissors. Then I gently buff the edges with a sandpaper block and wipe them down with a tack cloth.

I've found special "cleanup" cloths for glitter and embossing powder sold on line but tack cloths are readily available at places like Home Depot and even Wal-Mart for as little as a couple of dollars and can be opened and cut into four smaller and more manageable pieces. You can even make your own tack cloth from cheese cloth, turpentine, and varnish.

Gilting, inking, or embossing the edges of your cards is a finishing touch that sets off the art in a beautiful way and adds enormously to the overall effect.

At a minimum, I will at least brush cut edges with the side of an ink pad. This is especially important if you use white core card stock to cut your panels as it will cover the white and finish the edges in either the same or a contrasting color (such as gold).

If I want a bit more glitz, I'll use Versamark and then edge with embossing powder.

The easiest way to do this is to sprinkle embossing powder along the inside fold of a folded piece of scrap paper to a depth of about 1/8th inch. Drag the inked edge of the card in the powder to coat, and then heat emboss. If you find that there is too much powder in some areas, it can be dusted off with a paint brush. If you miss an area, just re-ink and emboss that area again.

Decorative touches can take many forms. In the cards on the left (click on each image for a larger view), I added punched flowers and hearts, painted and cut out stamped flowers and then layered them over the stamped image, and embellished them with Liquid Pearls.

I wanted to finish the bottom card at left with a Prima flower but the ones I have were too large and too dark to coordinate well with the card. The fix was easy. I simply cut it down with detail scissors, brushed the petals with Versamark and dusted it with Seafoam White embossing powder. After embossing, I finishedit off wtih a center of Liquid Pearls.

Recently, my husband and I hosted a Valentine dinner party. I used ATC's as place cards at each place setting. The cards were made by stamping a lovely swag of roses under a computer generated name. I used the Vivaldi font and adjusted the font settings to give a shadowed effect. In Word, click "Format" on the tool bar and select "Font". You can choose from several options including embossing and shadowing effects.

The roses were stamped in Versamark, embossed in Detail Gold, and painted using Dewalt watercolor pencils. I used patterned papers from two different premium DCWV paper stacks that matched the colors in our china. Each layer was inked in gold and the card was finished with an organza bow.

Placed on fan folded napkins and embellished with some sprigs of baby's breath, these ATC's were a lovely place card and a beautiful keepsake for our guests. The napkins were folded with a simple accordian fold and slipped into silver plated napkin rings and fanned over the plates. I simply laid the cards down over the rings and tucked baby's breath under the bow in front and into the ribbon behind them.


Anonymous said...

Cathy - what adorable ATCs and I love this idea of using them at a place setting! I received your Flourishes swap today - it's beautiful. Thanks for swapping!! Ali

Kathy said...

Beautiful ATC cards! Thanks for sharing. I just may do some of these! Thanks for the directions.