Artist Trading Card (ATC) Swap and Tutorial


Hey Blogsters…

Did you think I forgot about you?  No way, I love you guys…

Just to give you a teeny weenie bit a background.. I am a member of “Lovin Mixed Media”.  LMM is a Ning network.  As a matter of fact, if I had to choose one place to just stay and eliminate all my other art memberships, this would be it.  It’s creator is Gary Reef; a fantastic artist who’s honest, fun and plain entertaining.  I want to hang out with him.   Well, the only way to describe Gary is to watch his YouTube videos.  He has an (as he would say) “amaaaaazing” staff running all different aspects of the site.  Gary has put a great team together to run “Lovin Mixed Media”.  You’ll notice right away, the hard work he and his staff do to create a phenomenal place to “hang out”.  It’s a well oiled machine.  Come join us!

On LMM I recently joined a new ATC group.  I’m not a huge fan of swaps because of some recent swappers or swap leaders not committing to the end, etc.. but, I think this one is honest and legit.  The leader is so excited to take this on.. and it continues.. there are no deadlines.

So, with that.. I decided to make my ATCs out of my first love, polymer clay and make it a tutorial so that whoever gets my ATCs can go see how I made them.

Here we go…..

As I said in my buttons tutorial, please keep safety in mind.. please visit that post for my “safety note”.

Here is what you’ll need to make these beauties:

  • One package of Polymer Clay (I like Premo or FimoSoft) – you may get 2 ATC’s from one package.  Light colors clays work best.. I like beige to get my results.  It “antiques” well.
  • pasta machine, acrylic roller or rolling pin.
  • rubber stamps, textures to imprint clay
  • baby powder, water or cornstrach to keep the stamp from sticking to clay
  • 2.5″ x 3.5″ template of ATC.  I made one out of clay, but you can also use a playing card. Glue a bunch together to make a thick template.  Make an ATC window out of heavy cardstock.
  • craft knife or clay blade
  • piece of saran wrap or piece of paper
  • dedicated polymer clay oven, if you don’t have one, read below.
  • acrylic paints
  • colored pencils (not water soluble)
  • paint brushes
  • stamp pad (I like StazOn)
  • alcohol and cotton swabs
  • sand paper (not too rough; 400’ish grit)
  • glitter glue
  • brown paint for “antique” finish
  • sealer (I like Future Floor Polish)
  • blow dryer or heat gun to speed up drying time
  • gold paint or Krylon 18kt Gold Paint Pen

Condition the clay until soft and pliable.
Roll the clay to a 1/16″ inch thickness.  On an Atlas pasta machine, I use #3.
If you don’t have a pasta machine, you can use your rollers and measure as needed.  Here are some ideas from Glass Attic under “no pasta machine?”.

Lay your sheet out on your flat and clean work surface.

Spray with water or use baby powder.  Now push your rubber stamp into the clay making sure you get a good impression.

Lift it up and make sure you see good lines to color/paint in between.

Now take the template/playing card and center over the impressed image.  Cut around it with a craft knife or clay blade.

Here is the image of another one I started; my favorite.  The entire face won’t get on the ATC, but it will still look good… you’ll see.

Now, here is another option if you do not want to impress the clay.   You can stamp right on the clay with the rubber stamp and ink pad, just like paper.  Don’t press hard enough to make indentations, but just enough to get the inked design on the clay.  I’ll do one for you.  Note: You can also stamp it after it’s baked which will allow you to press as hard as you want.

Once the clay is cut to the ATC size, you want to smooth down the cut edges.  I do this with a piece of saran/plastic wrap or you could use a piece of paper.  Just slide your finger around the edge gently, just enough to smooth down the sharp edges.

Now it’s time to bake the clay ATCs according to the clay’s package directions.   I put mine on ceramic tiles to bake.   If you don’t have a dedicated oven, you can use your kitchen oven, but make sure you cover the clay.  You can use parchment paper on a cookie sheet, but cover the cookie sheet with another one or cover with aluminum foil.   Also, make sure your oven is regulated at the correct temperature.  Let it preheat as necessary.  You may want to get a separate thermometer to make sure it’s correct.  You don’t want the oven to spike while the clay is in the oven.   If the temp is not steady, you will risk burning the clay and the fumes are not good.  Remember, these ATC’s are thin; pay attention to your timing.

Now they are out of the oven.  Get I get an “oh ya”??  C’mon people.

Take your sandpaper and sand around the edges.. take off anything sharp;  get it smooth.  Lay the ATC flat and with a firm but gentle hand sand the image.  Specifically, the places you will be coloring.  You want to gently rough it up.  This will allow the color to grab the clay.  Especially with colored pencils.  Try one section with no sanding and the other with.. you’ll see the difference.

Now it’s decorating time.  You can choose to use acrylic paints or colored pencils.  Pencils, I used Prismacolor.  Paints, I have used Golden, Claudine Hellmuth’s Studio Paints and basic craft paints.  Try what works best for you.  Your world, remember?

Start painting in the design.

You can speed up the drying time by using the blow dryer or a heat gun.. but don’t stay hovering over the ATC with the heat too long as it will soften the clay again.  So do it quickly like a fanning motion…. or just be patient and wait.. go have a cookie or even better, chocolate… oh, chocolate.. be right back.

I worked on several of ATCs at a as time seen here.  These are ready for an antique application.

This next step is what will make you go “ooooo…. ahhhhh….ohhhhh”.

After I took the supplies picture, I realized I left out my Golden Heavy Body Acrylic in Burnt Umber which, I feel works best and gives the lines a nice deep color.

With a soft paint brush gently brush the paint over the entire front of the ATC and push the paint into the lines of the stamped image.   Use caution when brushing.  Don’t use a heavy hand.  If you push too hard, you will rub a little of the paint off.

Take a damp paper towel or clean rag and gently, I mean gently, wipe the paint off the top.




Let it dry.  Make sure the deep lines are also dry.

This is another favorite step of mine….. this will definitely make you feel the love.

Time to take out your sealer.  I like Future.  I guess  you could say “Back to the Future”..  get it?  No.. ok movin on.

Again, soft brush.. I gently brush on the Future and let dry.  You could do another coat if you wish.

Here is the ATC done with colored pencils… very pretty.

This just keeps getting better…

After the sealer is dry and you like the finish.. here comes the magic.  The whole process is magic.. each step just gets better and better.

Get out your glitter glue.. I like Stickles.  Start to highlight your image that makes you smile.  Bring them to life.  They are so beautiful, you’ll want to marry them… ok too dramatic?

This one continues to be my favorite.  It actually won 1st place in an ATC contest at a local art fair.  Woohoo!

Here is the ink stamped ATC with glitter…

The finishing touch is edging the ATC with gold paint.  I usually use an 18kt Gold Leafing Pen by Krylon.   After completely dry, brush a light coat of sealer on the edges.

Here’s a photo of my bunch of ATCs finished.   Lots of them will be going to England to begin the journey of finding new owners.

Be creative every day and have fun.

Thanks for stopping by.


I hope you create your own and show me your results.  I would love to see them.  Let me know if you have any questions.

30 responses »

  1. Judy, FANTASTIC TUTORIAL! Tons of photos, information, it’s like taking a workshop! AWESOME, AWESOME, AWESOME JOB! Thank you so much for sharing this and I WILL HAVE TO TRY THIS ONE OUT!
    Have a wonderful WEEK and Keep creating your magic girl!

  2. What a fabulous tutorial, Judy. You do such a great job explaining all of the steps and your passion for your work really comes through in your writing and your wonderful creations. Gorgeous ATCs!

  3. Fabulous tutorial, Judy !! The photos and directions are marvelous, I am so impressed. Having posted my share of tutorials (though not lately, shame on me !) I know what a great deal of work and planning goes into them. I just love your mixed media art, it is always fresh and inspiring. Thanks so much for sharing !

  4. Thank you, Dora and Sandy… love hearing from you and your compliments. Yes, lots of work/hours goes into it but so worth it.. Now all I need if more time.

  5. Besides how beautiful the cards came out, your photos and explanations are so good. You are destined for a crafts T.V. show!

    I remember what a great a job you did at RIPCG demo you once did.

  6. You can use a roller to flatten out the clay like you’re making a pie crust.. but if you use a rolling pin from the kitchen, don’t use it for food again. Thanks for stopping by.

  7. Thank you so much for your generousity in sharing these beautiful and unique ATCs. Lovely and exciting!

  8. Judy, your blog is FABulous! And this ATC tutorial is sooooooo clear and very well done. Looking forward to your visit to RIPCG on Saturday! It will be so nice to see you again.

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  11. Oh Judy! I do ‘feel the love’ with this technique,but please tell me…the option of a second pan or foil(you mentioned),is this to turn upside down and cover the clay or is it for the kitchen (not dedicated) oven to protect something?Sorry since I’m not sure of the reasoning I’m a little confused as to what order things all go in the baking process,guess I’m just too much a visual learner,otherwise I feel like I’m right there with you.And I’m with Dorothy,you are very generous to share this!

  12. Great fun for a tutorial Judy! I love your award winning ATC….ooohhhh….ahhhhhh….glittery eyes. very cool.

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