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Artist Trading Coins-Tips and Ideas

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Artist Trading Coins-Multi Media Art

These little bits of art are fun to create and collect

These little bits of art are fun to create and collect

What Are Artist Trading Coins

Artist Trading Coins evolved from the Artist trading card phenomenon, They were a natural offshoot of this very popular multi-media bit of art.

What Are Artist Trading Coins

Basically, they are circular bits of miniature art. There are no rules for these delightful collectible "coins." They can be in any color, material, or design.

Types Of Artist Trading Coins

  • One-off- An individual coin designed as a one of a kind
  • Series-A few coins with the same theme that is usually numbered in sequence like- 1,2,3,4,5
  • Edition- Two or more coins that were created to look the same.

Why Consider Making Artist Trading Coins

If you are considering creating artist trading coins, here are some solid reasons why you should start creating them:

  1. You can experiment with different media and techniques on a small scale to see if you like them
  2. They are economical. You don't need a lot of materials to create them.
  3. Easy to store and collect. They do not take a lot of space.
  4. They help you use all those scraps of materials and papers you have on hand.
  5. It is an art form you can carry in your purse or bag. Create them anywhere.
  6. The finished coins can be used on cards, scrapbook pages, as tags, or displayed in your craft space.0

Artist Trading Coin Rules

There are just a few rules that all artists who create coins and share them follow. Keeping your work consistent with others makes the experience all the better for everyone.

  • The circle needs to be 2.5" in size
  • The material for the base should be stiff so that it holds up
  • Artist trading coins should never be sold-only given away or traded.
  • It's common to write some details on the back of an ATC: name of the artist – either the real name or the name they use for all their artwork, date – when the ATC was created, title – most people title the card like they would a bigger piece of artwork, contact details – many artists include their email or website details, series – if the card is part of a series, a one-off or part of an edition and notes – you can also include notes about construction or techniques used.

Four Basic Pieces Of The Artist Trading Coin

The pieces for the artist trading coin include 2 pieces of cardstock, one piece of cardboard and the top piece of Patterned paper

The pieces for the artist trading coin include 2 pieces of cardstock, one piece of cardboard and the top piece of Patterned paper

Types Of Bases Used For Artist Trading Coins

Naturally, you might think of paper or cardstock when it comes to making Artist trading coins. And of course, you can use those. But there are lots of other things you can use to create the base for your coins.

  • Cardstock-you will want to use at least 110 lb cardstock- attach two circles to make a stiff coin
  • Patterned paper-Use a second coin to make it stiff enough
  • Watercolor paper-essential when you use watercolors
  • Bristol paper
  • Light chipboard

How To Create Your Coin Bases

There are several different ways to create your coin bases. Gluing three-coin forms together of 65 lb paper will give you a solid coin. Remember, you want good stiff bases that will hold up to your art techniques.

You will want to have three layers per coin. Start by adhering two of the layers. Adhere the third layer, only once you have finished decorating it.

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  1. Use Circle Dies -If you have a set of nested circle dies, check to see if one of them dies is a 2.5-inch die. Then you can cut multiples using your die-cutting machines.
  2. Use An Electronic Cutting Machine-If you have a machine like a Cricut or a Silhouette cutting machine, you can create multiple coins in one pass. Select a circle and size it to 2.5 inches. Duplicate it or add images on the cutting page f your program.
  3. Use a Compass To Create Coins- You can draw several coins with a compass and a pencil. Draw and cut your circles
  4. Use A Soda Or Other Lid-Find a lid that measures 2.5 inches. Draw and cut your coins.
  5. Use A Stamp-Look in your stash to see if you have a 2.5-inch circle stamp. Stamp and cut your coins.
  6. Use a Paper Punch- Use a paper punch to create your artist trading coin. You need a good heavy circle punch that will stand up to heavy paper.

Tips For Using Inks As The Base For Your Images

If you have difficulty getting a clean blend of inks-especially if you are using oxide inks, this may be the right solution for you.

Place some ink on a clear acrylic block. Add a drop or two of glycerine to the ink. Use a sponge dauber it ink applicator in a circular motion. Start off the paper and then move across it. You should get a good blend. (Using glycerine to assist with smooth sponging MAY impact your creation’s archival quality and MAY NOT be scrapbook safe as glycerine is a weak acid.)

You Can Use A Scalloped Die For Your ATC

It does not have to be just round. You can use a scalloped die that is 2,5" in diameter

It does not have to be just round. You can use a scalloped die that is 2,5" in diameter

Cardboard And Distress Oxide Artist Trading Coins

Any time that you have the opportunity to recycle as a paper crafter, take it. We all get cardboard in the form of boxes from the products we use in our kitchens. We also get nice cardboard from the boxes we get from our online orders. This cardboard makes terrific artist trading coins because they have the weight that we need for these coins. This project seems like a lot of steps, but it moves along quite quickly.


  • Cardboard
  • Cardstock
  • White gesso
  • Distress ink refills
  • Paintbrush
  • Black ink pads
  • Watercolor brush markers
  • Tacky Glue
  • Glitter
  • Nuvo Drop
  • Craft mat or parchment paper
  • Small water spray bottle
  • Wink of Stella or any other metallic markers
  • Kryon Spray Sealer
  1. Cover your workspace with the craft mat or parchment paper
  2. Cut the cardboard into 2.5-inch circles
  3. Cover the coins with a coat of gesso. If your gesso is thin, do two coats
  4. Allow the gesso to dry
  5. Drop some of the distress ink refills on your craft mat
  6. Mix the ink with a small amount of the gesso.
  7. Paint onto your coin the colors that you like
  8. Take a fan brush and blend the inks on the coin.
  9. Allow the coin to dry
  10. Spritz the coin with a tiny bit of water.
  11. Again allow the coin to dry
  12. Stamp the images of your choice on the coin
  13. Allow time for the ink to dry,
  14. Color in the images with the brush pens (optional)
  15. Add some more distress ink to highlight areas
  16. Add some tiny Nuvo drops to add color and dimension
  17. Allow those time to dry.
  18. Add some metallic highlights with metallic brush pens
  19. Spray with the sealer and allow to dry
  20. Put some tacky glue around the edges and add some chunky glitter
  21. Allow project time to dry
  22. Back the coin with cardstock or gesso and add the distress inks

The Best Ink Applicators

Using Stamped Images On Artist Trading Coins

If you have been a paper crafter, then you probably have a treasure of stamps that you can use on your coins. Remember that the images have to be 2,5 inches or smaller. The image you chose would be your focal image.

I Like to create a whole bunch of these at the same time. That way I have them on hand whenever I decide to create some coins. Or when you have a stamp set out for another project, look at the set you are using. If any of the images could be used for coins, just stamp a few extra ones.

Here are a few more tips for using stamped images on artist trading coins:

  • If you are using watercolors or watercolor pencils, make sure to use the right ink. Stazon or other water-resistant inks should be used.
  • You can use any markers, colored pencils, or whatever you have on hand to create your images.
  • Use the coordinating does for the stamp set you are using if you have them. That will make a cleaner cut image. Otherwise, use detailed scissors to cut your images.
  • Give dimension to your images by using a glue dot to mount them on your coin.
  • Layer images-if you have a larger and a smaller image, just layer them one on top of the other
  • Consider using a bit of permanent or distressed ink to give more dimension to your images.

Adding Words

Words do count and in this case, adding a word or two gives dimension and clarifies your theme. There are several ways to add a word or two to your artist trading coins.

Using A Lable Maker

A label maker is one of the tools that a paper crafter should never be without. The tapes come in white with black lettering as well as black with white lettering. But there are a host of colors to chose from

Word Stickers

These come in just the right size for your coins. Tim Holtz makes a collection that is perfect for coins and artist trading cards. Remember, to keep the size very small.


Measure the stamp and make a list of the collections that will work on your coins.

Computer Generated

These are fun because you can size them, go crazy with fonts and colors. Remember to use a decoupage medium so that they are sealed into the project

Finishing Your Artist Trading Coin

Process One


  • Sand block/ emery board
  • Matte medium
  • Brush
  • Glue stick
  • Shear wax shoe polish/ brown shoe polish
  • Distress stain/ ink
  1. If desired, sand the surface lightly to help blend the various layers. Apply a light coat of matte medium and let dry.
  2. Apply a generous amount of glue stick to both the paper coin and the cardstock coin. Burnish well.
  3. Use an emery board to “harden” the edge of the coin to ensure good contact along with the edit. Hold the emery board or sanding block at a 45-degree angle and pull gently downward all around the edge of the coin.
  4. Using a clear/neutral wax shoe polish, apply a thin coat and allow it dry for about 5 minutes. For an aged look, use brown shoe polish.
  5. Then, buff, buff, buff. The wax gives a smooth, protected finish and adds some depth of color.
  6. Apply distress stain around the edge of the coin to finish it off. As the final step, sign and date your coin on the back.

Process Two


  • Coin back
  • Glue
  • Bone folder or used gift card
  • Mod Podge
  • Paintbrush
  • Distress or permanent ink
  1. Make a back design for your coin with your name, date, and coin number – I have added some stamping and doodling to this too!
  2. Apply a generous amount of glue to the back of the coin design and the coin base, stick together and burnish them well. Then leave to dry.
  3. Do the same for the back design, so both sides of the coin are in place. Apply a good layer of Mod Podge to the edge of the coin, and then leave to dry.
  4. finish my coins with a distressed look around the edge; I do this by adding permanent ink to the edge along with some embossing.

More Artist Trading Coin Fun

Using Small Circle Dies

Small circle dies mounted on an artist trading coin make simple; and easy projects

Small circle dies mounted on an artist trading coin make simple; and easy projects

Storage For Your Artist Trading Cards

Simple Artist Trading Coin Holder

This is a simple artist trading coin holder. You can make it fast and easily with things that you have in your craft stash. This would be a thoughtful gift if you are in a swap or want to send a gift to someone.


  • Small piece of white cardstock measuring 1.5 inches by 4 inches
  • 4 two and one half inch circles of heavy cardstock or cardboard
  • Scoreboard or ruler and pencil
  • Scissor
  • A Pen
  • PVA glue
  1. Take the long piece of cardstock and place it horizontally
  2. Score the paper at 1/2 inch and 1 inch
  3. Using the scorelines, cut triangles all along the length of one side of the paper
  4. Cut triangles on the other side of the paper (this will help curve the paper)
  5. Roll the strip of cardstock around the pen to loosen the fibers.
  6. Fold the cardstock at the scorelines and curve the paper
  7. Glue one of the circles to the outside of the curved piece of paper (start in the middle and work your way out on either side)
  8. Glue the second circle to the side of the curved paper
  9. Repeat the same process for the other side of the box
  10. Push down on the triangles to help them stick better with a bone folder
  11. Use inks, alcohol markers, or paint to decorate your artist trading coin folder

Create Your Own Background Paper For Your ATC

You can create your own background images for your artist trading coins. Creating these papers is rewarding because you get to create the colors that you like and enjoy. Make sure to cover your work area, cause these papers to get a little messy!


  • Heavy white cardstock (110lb would be perfect)
  • Spray inks
  • Archival inks
  • Embossing ink
  • Embossing powder
  • Heat tool
  • Stencils
  • Small Stamps
  • Blending tool
  • Circle punch, die or template at 2.5 inches
  1. Apply ink spray to your paper in any combination of colors that suits you. You can spray a little water first if you want
  2. Allow the paper drying time.
  3. Place a stencil on the paper and apply archival ink through the stencil. You can use different colors or just one. Use different stencils for different effects.
  4. Allow paper drying time
  5. Punch or cut the paper into 2.5-inch circles
  6. Distress the edges with the ink and allow the ink time to dry
  7. You can heat emboss tiny images onto your coin. Use the stamp with the embossing ink and stamp on your coin. Cover the coin with embossing powder. Tap the powder off. Use a tiny paintbrush to remove any powder that has gone beyond the image. Heat set the embossing powder with the heat tool (use a tweezer to hold the coin).
  8. Enjoy your project

Project Tips

  • You can also use distress or distress oxide inks instead of archival inks
  • Make your own ink sprays by using some ink refills. Take a small spray bottle. use 10 fills of the dropper and add water. You can adjust the amount of ink to change the color. Make sure to shake the spray bottle before using it. Some people like to use rubbing alcohol instead of water, so play around with it and find out what works for you.

How To Store Your Artist Trading Coins

Artist Trading Coin Pocket Storage

Use An Artist Trading Coin As A Medallion

This trading coin was added to a card to create a focal point

This trading coin was added to a card to create a focal point

You Can Use Artist Trading Coins For Other Projects

These coins are most popular for trading, but there are other things that you can do with them. I like to also use them as medallions for other papercraft projects

  1. You can use them as focal points for greeting cards. They make very colorful additions to your cards, especially as they are your own design
  2. You can use them on scrapbook pages as an embellishment. Again, they are a sweet personalized way to add some dimension to your pages
  3. You can use them on art journals and junk journals. Create something that matches your theme to add something special to your journals

Consider being creative by using your artist trading coins in unique ways.

© 2021 Linda F Correa

What Are Your Thoughts On Artist Trading Coins?

Linda F Correa (author) from Spring Hill Florida on August 17, 2021:

Thank you, Denise, for your comment. Artist trading coins are another option and opportunity to express ourselves. When you use the correct layers, they are pretty hardy.

Denise McGill from Fresno CA on August 16, 2021:

I've never seen these before. They seem less handy than the Artists Trading Cards which have readymade plastic sleeves to store them in. But the artistic uniqueness of this appeals to me. Thanks for introducing me to them.



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