Adventures in Artist Trading Cards

In my new book, Artful Adventures in Mixed Media, I show different ways that observations and experiences can be turned into works of art.

Wherever I go, one of the things I am always on the lookout for is texture. When I was in Chile last year I went to Valparaíso, a city that is famous for its colorful houses, many of them clustered on hillsides around the city. Some of them are built out of corrugated metal and other found materials. I took dozens of photos, including many close-ups, finding an exciting synergy between the colors, materials, shapes, and surfaces. The peeling paint, the rust—it was all so interesting. I knew I would use the visual memory and the images stored on my camera in my work at some point. I’ll demonstrate how to make artist trading cards, using my images as inspiration.

Artist trading card inspiration
My inspiration for these artist trading cards came from my trip to Valparaiso, Chile, where I discovered great texture and color.


  • Artist Trading Cards (I used ones made out of wood. Artist trading cards are 2 ½” x 3 ½”.)
  • Acrylic Paint (I used raw sienna, green, and titanium white.)
  • Rust finish paint (I used FolkArt Painted Finishes in Light Rust and Dark Rust.)
  • Paintbrush
  • Lip Balm or petroleum jelly
  • Heat tool
  • Rag
  • Water
  • Archival ink pad (I used black.)
  • Rubber stamps (I used stamps from sets 1 and 2 of my Stroll Through the Hood stamps for RubberMoon Art Stamps.)
  • Fude pen (I used black)


  • Craft sand
  • To replicate the look of the photo above as a background for some wooden artist trading cards, I painted the wood rectangles with raw sienna acrylic paint.
Base layer of paint applied to wooden artist trading cards
A base layer of acrylic paint was applied to ATC-sized wood pieces.

To add texture and bring in a variety of rusty hues, I dabbed on two rust-effect paint finishes; each includes include flakes that add texture to my ATCs. You can achieve the same look by adding some sand to burnt sienna paint for the second layer.

Rust effect paint on an artist trading card
Rust effect paint gives these artist trading cards great texture and depth.

After the paint dried I added some clear lip balm randomly to a few small areas of the ATC. You can also use petroleum jelly or anything that is very waxy. These randomly placed sections act as a resist and help create the look of aged and peeling paint.

Lip balm resist effect
Waxy lip balm produces a resist effect when used with acrylic paint.

Next, I painted the entire ATC with green acrylic paint, carefully dabbing it over the lip balm to ensure that the balm didn’t spread.

Another layer of paint is applied to the ATC
Another layer of paint is applied to the ATC.

I dried the green paint with a heat tool, heating it until the paint bubbled and seeped between the brushstrokes.

Applying heat to acrylic paint on artist trading cards
Heating the acrylic paint adds to the texture on the artist trading cards.

Then I used a damp rag to remove all of the remaining lip balm. This is very important! Make sure none is left.

Removing the resist to reveal paint layer
Removing the resist with a damp rag reveals the paint layer underneath.

To finish my ATCs I used archival ink to stamp over the background with my Stroll Through the Hood stamps.

Stamping on artist trading cards
Stamp images over the artist trading cards for yet another intriguing layer.

I also added some white paint and handwritten numbers.

Adding paint and numbers to ATCs
A bit of white brightens the cards.

I love that the ATCs were directly inspired by my trip to Valparaíso, and how the photos led me to create the texture effects.

Series of artist trading cards
It’s easy to create a series of artist trading cards using this technique.

Inspiration for artful adventures is everywhere. Adventures can begin with a single photo, a memory, a quick sketch, and so much more, and all are explored in my book. I hope you’ll join me for many, many artful adventures!

Hurry and order Nathalie’s new book today, and start on your own creative explorations!

Artful Adventures in Mixed Media by Nathalie Kalbach
Discover how to find and use inspiration for your artwork in Artful Adventures in Mixed Media by Nathalie Kalbach.


Blog, Mixed-Media Painting Techniques, Mixed-Media Techniques

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