I’ve always thought Artists’s Trading Cards seemed like a good way to create more finished works in less time thanks to their small size, so when I found some on an art supply retailer’s site, I decided to add some to my next order. They were only a few dollars a packet so I think I ended up buying about 5-6 packets of the Strathmore Assorted ATCs.
Each of the packets contains twelve cards; two vellum bristol, two smooth bristol, two canvas, two textured, two watercolour, one illustration board and one acrylic. You can buy packets of ATCs containing only one type for each of these cards, and I think some of the papers are also available in larger pads.
Vellum Bristol and Smooth Bristol
The first ATCs in the pack are Strathmore’s Vellum Bristol and Smooth Bristol papers. Both are thick papers, almost like card, and both have a very smooth surface. In spite of this, they have enough tooth that they can take quite a few layers of pencil. They also stood up to light washes (the strawberry was done with watercolour pencils, alternating between dry and washed layers), but I don’t know how they’d go if you used a lot of water. The Smooth is slightly more smooth than the Vellum, but there isn’t really a huge difference. You can buy Smooth Bristol cards in packets of 20 but I haven’t seen packets of Vellum Bristol cards.
Though it has the texture of canvas, the Canvas ATC is quite thin, more like paper (I think it might have some sort of coating on it to help provide the canvas texture, though). I slathered quite a bit of paint onto it and none of it bled through to the other side (it seems to have some sort of primer or something on both sides), though when I looked at it the next day, it had curled quite a bit (this can easily be fixing by putting it between the pages of a thick book to press it for a day or two). Curling aside, it stands up well to thick applications of acrylic and would probably take oil pastel quite well, too.
The Textured cards feel similar to a student grade watercolour paper, but they are quite thin. Even though I didn’t use particularly heavy washes on the Textured card for my sample painting, it cockled quite badly. These were probably my least favourite cards, as they were too textured for most dry mediums (at least for my personal preferences) but not really sturdy enough for wet mediums.
The Watercolour trading cards are 300gsm Cold Pressed paper. Strathmore also sells watercolour paper in pads; I’m assuming it’s the same as these watercolour cards but I haven’t tried the pads, so I can’t be sure. This watercolour card did curl slightly, but nowhere near as badly as the textured one, even though I used much heavier washes in the background for the bird. It also seemed fairly forgiving in terms of allowing colour to be lifted. These are much better than the Textured cards.
With a similar textured surface to the Bristol Vellum, the Illustration Board ATC is much thicker, like cardboard, and therefore holds up very well to mixed media use. For this demonstration I used watersoluble crayons but even with several heavy washes on the undrelayers, it didn’t buckle at all. Aside from oil paint, I think you could pretty much use anything on these cards. This illustration board can also be purchased in individual sheets.
These Acrylic cards are much thicker than the Canvas textured cards. Even after slopping on thick layers of paint, the card didn’t cockle at all. Unlike the Canvas cards, which have the same texture on both sides, the Acrylic card definitely has a more pronounced texture on one side.
If you’re looking to get into doing artist trading cards or you just want to try a few different surface types at low cost, grab yourself a few packets of Strathmore Assorted Artist Trading Cards. Keep them at your desk or pop them into your bag as a way to make art on the go. Some of the cards are sold in packs of 10, so you can stock up only on one sort if you find a surface you particularly like. If you sometimes feel intimidated by the idea of painting or drawing a larger piece because of how long it will take, these ATCs will definitely help get you creating art more regularly.