How to Make Pretty Frames For Your ATC Collection

ATC frames

Although many of us who have spent any time at all in the world of art or craft have a collection of ATC (Artist Trading Cards), the collection is often relegated to - at best - a notebook or box storage system. And even favorites rarely see the light of day!

I happen to have a very small collection of ATC's. Wanting to display them so I could enjoy them every day, I made tiny little ATC frames designed for hanging in small groupings during the year and then for hanging as ornaments on my Christmas tree during the winter holidays.

Unfortunately I originally shared the ATC frames buried in a post featuring another project (as I often did in my early days as a blogger), and even worse I did not really provided a proper tutorial for making them. I am fixing both problems right here - right now!!

Just so you know - the ATC's above were created just for me by one of my very first "blog buddies" and now someone I consider a good friend - TeriC. She shares her art on her blog Teri's Painted Daisies. Among many things, we share a fondness for Mexican gold poppies and cactus and Teri knows how much I miss the Arizona desert in the spring!



ATC frame process

Except for the tooling foil, you most likely have most of the other tools needed to make pretty little ATC frames!

Scissors, pencil, ruler, hammer, nail, sharpie pen! A bit of glue (I use Aleene's Tacky Glue) and a little heavy card stock if you decide to make the backing.

Although I personally prefer working with tooling foil for small projects like these, some of you may choose to make your little frames an up-cycle project and recycle used aluminum foil baking pans instead of tooling foil.

I have not personally tried this project using aluminum pop cans, but they should work. However, tooling foil is a bit more pliable. And now it is available in most large craft outlets.

You may find it helpful to refer to these previous posts for additional tips before beginning:

Make Easy Napkin Cuffs

Espejitos (small mirrors)

And the original post!

ATC frame process

1. Cut a rectangle from the foil.

Most ATC's are 3 1/2" x 2 1/2". Determine the width of your frame, double it and add that figure to the width and length dimensions of the ATC.

The frame I am building in this tutorial is 3/4" wide so I have added 1 1/2" to each dimension of my ATC. The overall dimensions of the piece of foil shown above is 5" x 4".

2. Center the ATC on the back of the foil and trace the outline using a Sharpie pen, or if you prefer the pencil. Do not apply too much pressure as this line is mostly only a guideline.

ATC frame process

3. Make a tiny dot at the center point of each side of the rectangle. (You can see a dot just under the wood part of the pencil.

These little dots will serve as guidelines as you mark off the frame design.

ATC frame process


ATC frame process

4. Complete your design details using a pencil and straight edge. The pencil will not leave marks on the aluminum.

ATC frame process

5. A decorative edge can be created using Kraft scissors. Just be sure to wear protective goggles while cutting so little slivers of flying metal don't injure your eyes.

ATC frame process

6. To start a hole in the center of the frame, I usually punch through using a hammer and a screwdriver (or make several closely packed nail holes). 

ATC frame process

7. Insert the tip of the scissors into the hole and proceed to cut away the center of the frame as shown.

Be sure to leave at least a 1/8" lip that extends beyond the first little guide mark made along the edge of the ATC.

If this is your first experience, I would suggest that you leave the interior edge straight.

I have actually used the Kraft scissors to cut a decorative border along the inside edge of the frame. It is a bit tricky and fiddly, but if you want to try - leave about a 3/8" edge beyond the guideline, take a deep breath and continue.

If not, use the regular scissors to cut your edges to within 1/8" of the guideline and jump to #10.

ATC frame process

8. Cut slits in the corners as shown - right to the original guideline.

ATC frame process

9. Before cutting with the Kraft scissors, bend up the edge you are planning to cut as shown above. (The edge at the bottom is cut. The edge on the right is lying flat. The edge on the left is turned up. Turning up the edge makes it a little easier to cut close to the guideline.

ATC frame process

10. Cutting the decorative edge with Kraft scissors will likely cause your pretty little frame to warp and bend out of shape. But retracing some of the lineal design lines will straighten it right back out!

Note: This little trick will come in handy anytime your little frame might need a little "touch-up"

ATC frame process

11. This is a good time to add any "punched tin" design elements using the hammer and nail - just be sure if you are using tooling foil to use a light touch so you don't punch through the foil.

And if you wish to add a bit of dimension, simply employ that straight edge to assist as shown above.

ATC frame process

12. The backing for the frames should be heavy weight card stock (equal to two or three layers of cereal box weight cardboard) as it provides stability. Cut the card stock backing just shy of the "flat" portion of the back of the frame. And then cut off about 3/4" from one end as you can see has been done in the image above.

The short backing provides an easy access to your ATC should you want to replace it with another!

ATC frame process

13. Add a bead of glue along three edges of the backing. Make sure the bead of glue is not so thick that glue will flow into the area that will be occupied by the ATC.

ATC frame process

14. Press the backing into place onto the back of the frame. Let the glue dry.

ATC frame

15. Slip in your ATC and you are done!

Note: There are a couple options for hanging. Diane is a huge fan of eyepins! Or you could simply create a little loop using a bit of wire and tape it into position on the backing.

I prefer to simply punch a tiny hole near the edge and hang using an ornament hook.

ATC frames

This very fun mixed media set (from one of my other very first "blog buddies" Chris - Parabolic Muse - who also has become a good friend) is mounted in place using reusable adhesive tack. But there are tiny holes in place for hooks when it comes time to hang them on the tree!

Chris actually made these wonderfully textured ATC's  double sided so when i framed them I had to create a little different system than the one shared here.  You can find the technique here in the original post.

I have one more ATC in my collection!  But I have a different idea for displaying that one!  I will share in May!

In the meantime, if you like playing with metal, you might like:

Punched Tin Butterflies

Sparkling Punched Tin Light Shields

Or my favorite "cross-over craft: Paper "Punched Tin" Angels

what a wonderful idea, thanks

what a wonderful idea, thanks for sharing!

Such a brilliant way to frame

Such a brilliant way to frame those precious ATCs, Pam. I bet the artists in question will be delighted to see their art so taken care of. Beautiful!

You have found a lovely way

You have found a lovely way to frame your ATC's! I don't have any yet, but they look fun to make (and give). Thank you for the detailed tutorial for the frame.

oh, what a lovely idea! And

oh, what a lovely idea!
And great tutorial, too! :)

Lovely, lovely,lovely - since

Lovely, lovely,lovely - since this year I am obsessed with any kind of tin work, this will be perfect to play around with this summer.
Thank you so much for sharing, Pam. You are brilliant!

A great tutorial Pam!!! Now

A great tutorial Pam!!! Now I know what to do with all (well, some) of my ATCs.
My ATCs are so happy to be stars in this great tutorial and then hang on your wall. They look great in the frames. Thank you.

I'm also happy to see you using a watermark!

You are such a sweetie Pam and I'm so happy we met and became friends. I can never see a poppy without thinking of you.


SOME of your ATC's!!!  As I

SOME of your ATC's!!!  As I recall, you have probably hundreds!!

But you could make a few and put them in rotation!! A miniature art gallery!

Meee too - poppies AND daisies! Think of you too.



I love metal crafts, and

I love metal crafts, and these frames are great - they remind me a little of embossed metal art from Mexico.

Well, Leah!  They should

Well, Leah!  They should remind you of the mexican mirrors as they are inspired by them!!!

wooow this is brilliant, such

wooow this is brilliant, such a greate tute as well.
Love the idea, i think someday when i have time i'm sure i will try this out.
I think this is fun to use for dollhouses as well.
I'm a dollhouse fan.XD
thank you for the sharing so much.
many dutch hugs and kisses

These are beautiful! I have

These are beautiful! I have some treasured ATCs in my stash that friends have made, and this is such a fun way to display them and enjoy them every day!