How to organize an ATC Swap (Artist Trading Cards)

"Asian" themed artist trading cards.
My friend Robin-the-Artist first introduced me to artist trading cards.  We went to an art show of "mail art" at the Bath House near White Rock Lake that featured them. The curator explained that the movement developed when artists began mailing small pieces to other artists. Part of the tradition was that ATC's were only given away and never sold.

ATC's are the size of baseball cards (2.5 x 3.5") and can be done in any media.

I've participated in (and organized) many ATC swaps over the years. The idea is that multiple artists participate. There is a theme selected for each month and each artist creates cards on the theme and mails them to the other people in the group. Which means that if there are six people in the group, each artist creates six cards...one to keep and five to mail out.

When you are part of an ATC swap, each month you receive pieces of art in the mail and it is really fun to see how each artist interprets the theme. Plus, the creative challenge of having to produce each month helps you develop your style and can encourage your friends to explore their creativity.

If the concept sounds fun, here is how you can get started:

"Sense of Place"  and "Celestial" themed cards.

How to organize an ATC swap:


  1. Find 5 friends who want to participate. (You will be the sixth member of the group.) 
  2. Decide the duration of the swap. (Six months is usually optimal.) 
  3. Send an invite with: 

          -the mailing addresses for each member of the group.
          -the date by when the cards have to be mailed each month.
          -the theme you've chosen for each of the months (ex. April - black and white, May - floral, June - inspirational, etc.)

It is beneficial to address your envelopes for the entire duration of the swap at the very beginning when you are excited about it because it becomes tedious later when you are trying to make the deadline. (Of course, printing them via computer to mailing labels is quicker than hand addressing, but hand addressing can be more artistic.)

And that is it.  Simple to organize and very fun to participate in.
© Random Cathy
Maira Gall