ATC Tutorial 1 – Memories – Digital ATC

This is page one of a free tutorial showing you how to make a digital ATC similar to “Memories,” the artist trading card shown below.


How the card started: I wanted to make a different card… something not quite so “ghost-y” as some of my other ATCs from mid-2005.

I was also thinking about some art by Disney artist & Imagineer, Eric Robison. His art reminds me of Dave McKean’s, but some of Robison’s Haunted Mansion art that was at inspired me as well.

So, I went to and looked at his newest photos. His Palace of Fine Arts photograph intrigued me immediately. At that point, I started writing this page, stream-of-consciousness, so that you can see the process.

photo of san francisco's palace of fine arts First, I reduced the image size and increased its resolution so that it’s five inches wide at 150 dpi. In all likelihood, this will be a horizontal card, not a vertical one.
Next, I altered the color using Hue/Saturation in Adobe Photoshop. I liked the building in blue and the trees in purple, but the sky wasn’t right… yet. same photo with altered color
new layer and pink + orange added to ATC I added a layer to the image, and used the airbrush tool to spray pink and orange onto that layer, randomly. Then, I used the eraser tool to tidy up the areas where I’d oversprayed too much of the palace. Since the layer was going to be made partially transparent, I didn’t have to be too precise with any of this.
I made that layer a 60% transparency, and adjusted the colors as I worked with Hue/Saturation, but I wasn’t thrilled with it. So, I sprayed some yellow onto that same layer and used Gaussian blur on that layer, and kept tweaking the balance of transparency and saturation until I like it. sunset-y layers added

However, that little spot of sky that you can see through the palace looked odd.

So, I…

  • created a new transparent layer for it
  • sprayed yellow onto it, and
  • adjusted the hue to make it a little cooler in color, so it wouldn’t leap forward quite so much.

At this point, I still didn’t have a theme for the ATC, but I liked how it was going. My next step was to adjust the water to reflect the sky.

Next page: ATC Tutorial 2 – Memories – Adding more layers

Haunted New Orleans (#1) – ATC

new orleans haunted ATC Aisling D'ArtThis is my personal journal entry about this artist trading card:

After a research trip to New Orleans, the mood and style of the French Quarter are still fresh in my mind.

The background is my photo (taken from Royal Street, at Pirate’s Alley) from our recent trip. The woman’s face is the Mona Lisa; I love how different she looks in various contexts. The crow on the New Orleans’ cemetery monument is from my January 2005 visit.

Layered over that, I placed a very subtle–mostly transparent–watch image from a 19th century Sears Roebuck catalogue. And, at the lower front, I altered a photo of tree roots from a Stratham, New Hampshire nature center.

The font for all text on the card is Casablanca Antique.

The original of this digital art included ten different layers, more than half of them partially transparent, to get these effects.

To print this card, right click on this link and save the image to your hard drive, and then print it at home. The original image is 3″ x 5″ at 300 dpi. (This is a larger file than I usually post, a little over 1MB.)

You can print the art as a small poster (at 150 dpi) if you like, or at its intended size of 3″ x 5″, or you could scale it down to a more traditional ATC size of 2.5″ x 3.5″.

I retain the copyright on this image, of course, but you can freely print it for your own non-commercial use, as long as you don’t alter it beyond rescaling the size.

Nevermore – Gothic ATC – Edgar Allan Poe

edgar Allan poe ATC by Aisling D'Art

This is another in my series of daily, one-hour ATCs. This is my journal entry about creating this card.

For some reason, I was in an Edgar Allan Poe mood this morning.

When I was little, the very first TV show that I can recall seeing was “The Fall of the House of Usher” on PBS, a dramatization of the Edgar Allan Poe story.

(I must have been about four years old at the time. I’m sure that it made an impression that is today reflected in my love of gothic art and ghostly themes.)

The background is a page from the 1817 Farmer’s Almanac. I own an original copy, and I’d scanned it for my clipart CDs (see below).

Next, I added a public domain image of Edgar Allan Poe, found online and altered to suit this card. I had used this image in my Edgar Allan Poe Shrine several years ago. The raven on his shoulder is art from that shrine as well.

Over his torso, I placed one of my 205 Eerie Images from a New Orleans cemetery. When I first saw this falling-apart grave, I thought of the Poe tale. As I made this art card, adding this Poe-like image seemed like a logical step. Of course, I changed the Hue and increased the Saturation; the latter by about 90%.

Photoshop trick:

To get the cemetery photo to appear only in the black areas of Poe’s clothing, I selected Poe’s torso with the rectangular tool, and made a copy of it. After pasting that to a different window and removing the background, I increased the contrast of the clothing so that it was sharply black and white. I cut out the black areas and pasted them as another layer on the positioned over the existing Poe clothing.

With the Selected areas still outlined, I switched layers so that I was working with the cemetery image. I inverted the selection and cut out (removed) areas of the picture that covered white portions of Poe’s clothing.

Then, I flattened the image.

Finally, I added the word, “Nevermore,” from Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven,” and added a drop shadow to the text.

The finished image is 3″ x 5″ and you can print it at 150 dpi. Right-click on this link and save the image to your hard drive. Then, print it at 150 dpi if you’d like it in the original 3″ x 5″ size.

(Of course, you can reduce the card to the more standard ATC size of 2.5″ x 3.5″ and improve the resolution as well. I’m accustomed to trading art cards in Red Dog Scott’s swaps, and they’re often 3″ x 5″.)

This art is copyrighted, but you can print it freely for your personal use, as long as you don’t alter the design of the card.


  • Scanned pages of the 1817 Farmer’s Almanac (This image is old enough to be in the public domain.)
  • The “Nevermore” font is Black Adder, and the title/artist lines on the card are in Century Schoolbook.

Midnight in New Orleans – ATC

The idea for this started with an illustration in Photoshop Secrets of the Pros showing an eerie, monochromatic image by Joen Asmussen. The clouds in the sky of that image inspired me to try a similar effect, using some of my own graphics.

I started with a public domain photo of a solar eclipse, courtesy of

On top of that, I placed part of a cemetery photo from New Orleans. (I’ve been there on vacation, so I had a lot of pictures to select among.)

Next, I changed the color of the eclipse and increased the saturation.

Then, I cropped the cemetery photo to fit, and adjusted the color to compliment the eclipse.

After that, I added a drop shadow to that layer.

To place the (public domain photo) woman, I used Adobe Photoshop’s lasso tool to isolate her and then pasted her image onto the ATC. (The flowers in her photo perfectly matched the placement of a cemetery urn.)

I erased the superfluous areas of her picture, and created a duplicate copy of her image.

I positioned both of the images of the woman, one on top of the other. I made the top layer transparent, to about 28%.

On the lower layer, I desaturated the picture, reduced contrast, and then made it transparent enough for the background to show through.

With that completed, I began working on the top layer by first adjusting color and contrast to suit the background; after that, I reduced saturation for a vintage effect. Then, I tweaked the transparency of this layer and her other layer, below, until I achieved the balance that I wanted.

The font is Whiffy, a free font which I selected after trying to mix another font with Ruben (a “Disney’s Haunted Mansion” style font) without success.

As usual, this ATC is copyrighted, but you can download and print a full-size 3″ x 5″ card (at 150 dpi), here.

Memories – A Digital ATC

This card was designed to document the creative process when I’m working on digital ATCs.

I’ve written four pages–with thumbnail images of each step–to explain how I work on these cards.  It shows you how to go from initial idea to finished card.

This card, with documentation and HTML work, took about three and a half hours. I think that I spent an hour on the card itself. That’s what I’m trying to maintain as a challenge.

To read how the card was made, and why I made the choices that I did, see How to Make a Digital ATC.

Reality/Imagination – A free poster and Artist Trading Card (ATC)

Free art! This is one of many Artist Trading Cards (ATCs) that you can print from my website.

This card has been so popular, you can also print it as a free mini-poster, about 5″ x 7″.

world of imagination atc by aisling d'art

I was working with photos of smoke.

I wanted to see if I could “lift” the smoke from the biggest photo, and collage it onto other pictures for an eerie effect.

After I’d cut some of the background from the photo, it looked very artsy… which started me thinking about ATCs.

The ATC was made in three layers:

1. A photo that I took outside a Texas restaurant,

2. The altered layer with smoke, and finally,

3. The lamp post that I’d cut from the bottom layer and added as a third, top layer to make the lamp post more prominent.

The text is in the Papyrus font. (It’s the same font used for the original Avatar movie, and it’s a free font.)

I like this ATC so well, I made a second copy of the design that will print as a 5″ x 7″ mini-poster. (If you turn it horizontally, you can print two copies on one sheet of paper.)

To download a printable copy of the ATC, right-click here. This ATC is 2.5″ x 3.5″ (at 150 pixels/inch) since I scaled it down from the mini-poster.

To download a printable copy of the mini-poster, right-click here. It also prints at 150 dpi, and will be 5″ x 7″.

As always, I retain the copyright to this artwork. However, you can freely reproduce this for your personal use, as long as you don’t alter anything except its size.

Face Behind the Words – Free digital ATC

face behind the words atc aisling d'art

I set my timer for one hour, and began this project early in the morning. My goal with each card in this series is to complete all of the art–from concept to finished image–in one hour each day.

This card started with a deliberately random choice of an image from the public domain, an Asian bell that is displayed at SeaWorld in San Diego, California.

The knobby-looking things on it reminded me of the vintage typewriter that I recently purchased at a yard sale, so I dashed down to our garage to photograph the keys. A few minutes later, the letters A, S, D, and F were pasted onto the bell image.

Then I started thinking about the imagery, and the silent women behind the typewriters in offices for most of the 20th century. So, I found an image on my own Shameless Hussies CD, and–after altering the image–placed her where I’d cut out broad areas of color in the bell. (Her image is very faintly repeated, smaller and in another color, towards the upper left side of the card.)

Next, I used another public domain photo of the Grand Canyon as the background for this collage. I significantly altered the hue and saturation in that photo.

Finally, I added the typed words, “I am,” with a drop shadow. Fonts are GF Halda Smashed for the typewriter, and Century Schoolbook for the card title & artist credit.

You can print your own copy of this ATC. Right-click on this link and save the image on your hard drive. Then, print the card at 150 dpi for a copy of the original 3″ x 5″ card, or alter the size to a more standard 2.5″ x 3.5″ card, or whatever you like.

I retain the copyright for this art card, but you can print it freely for your own non-commercial use, as long as you don’t alter anything except the size.


  • Public domain photos including the Asian bell and the background canyon scene.
  • My own copyright-free image CD, Shameless Hussies 1 (available from Cafe Press) for the photo of the woman.

Gold Leaf – ATC Tutorial

My instructions for making this card are for Adobe Photoshop, but you can use almost any graphics program and create the same effects.

It’s not easy to explain this sort of process. It’s vastly easier for me to show you, in person.

If you print out this page and follow it step-by-step, you’ll probably figure out how to create some very cool effects with your computer.

ATC - Gold Leaf
(click on the card for a full-size printable copy)

The figure of the woman is from my Shameless Hussies image CD. (If you already own it, she’s the “clothed-dancer” image in the Performers folder on that CD.)

To isolate her figure for the card, I digitally pasted the image onto my ATC background.

In Adobe Photoshop, I then used Select–>Color Range, and put the dropper over the background color. With that selected, I deleted everything that was that approximate color. I repeated this until the figure was isolated enough.

Then, I used the Eraser Tool in Photoshop–with the soft edges, at 100 pixels–to remove remaining bits that didn’t suit the design.

I added a transparent layer underneath the figure, and use the Airbrush tool (soft edges again) to create a yellow “halo” effect in back of the figure’s head. I really wanted her to glow.

When I add a figure to an ATC, I often have a story in my mind. In this case, I wanted her to be slipping into a fabulous fantasy world from reality, so I wanted a reference to the “tick-tock” everyday world.

But, I didn’t want anything too glaringly modern. So, I used a slim slice of a dated almanac page from my image CD, the 1819 Farmer’s Almanac. I pasted that onto its own layer, and made that layer about a 30% transparency.

Finally, I used the Eraser tool to remove a little of the greenery of the daisies, and reveal the golden straw from an otherwise-hidden layer. The straw restores a sense of proportion to the scene, and it’s also a reference to the gold (another visual pun) in the Rumplestiltskin story.


You can make any layer transparent in the Layers menu. Here’s a picture of what it looks like when you create the layer. The red arrow points to the Opacity setting; adjust that to get the level that you want.

New Layer screen showing opacity

Or, you can adjust the transparency level on the right side of your screen, in the Layers tab. The red arrow indicates where you will adjust the transparency.

Layers tab in Adobe Photoshop
If you play with the layers, tweaking them a little here, a little there, you’ll soon get the effect that you want.

That’s really all there is to creating a graphic like this.

For the story behind the card–why I chose the elements that I did–see my page, Gold Leaf – a free, printable ATC.

Gold Leaf – a Free, Printable ATC

ATC - Gold Leaf

This 3″ x 5″ artist trading card (ATC) started with two photos that I’d taken in Petersburg, Virginia, at a Civil War battleground. Everything was fine until I needed to add a figure as the focal point.

An hour and a half later, I saved all of the layers that I was working with–to reuse later in other projects–and started over with just a few elements.

Adjusting hue and contrast, the card finally came together with the faerie-like sense of style that I wanted.

She is stepping out of the everyday world into her own fantasies made real. Oversized flowers and opulent, old-fashioned colors help her to leave routine behind and dance in a happier, more magical world.

I named this ATC “Gold Leaf” as a pun. Of course, the figure looks as if she’s wearing gold or gold leaf. And, among the plants, “gold leaf” could also refer to the daisy leaves.


Right-click on the image and save the file (gold-leaf.jpg) to your hard drive. Print it at 150 pixels/inch as a 3″ x 5″ card. Or, if you prefer a smaller card, adjust the dimensions in your graphics program.


If you’d like to learn how this ATC was made, read Gold Leaf – ATC tutorial

Ghosts of the Old Saloon – a Texas ATC (R-rated)

Reminder: This image includes female, upper-body nudity (if you really look for it) and may not be office safe.

So, click back to the sitemap (or the previous page) if you don’t want to see this ATC (artist trading card).

Generally, my artwork does not include nudity.  If you know me in real life, I tend to lead a very G- or PG-rated life.  (Okay, my life may be odd, but I’m usually a squeaky-clean, Disney-type person.)

If you’re okay with images with upper-body nudity, scroll down.

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ghosts of the saloon ATC - old town spring, texas

This 3″ x 5″ ATC features a theme inspired by the Wunsche Bros. Cafe, which was a saloon in the “Old West” days of Old Town Spring, Texas. It was known for hard drinking, fast living cowboys, plus shoot-outs from the upstairs patio.

Well-bred women went out of their way to avoid that part of town.

Today, the restaurant is famous for great burgers, informal and eclectic decor, and ghost stories.

The images in this ATC include a photo that I took at Wunsche Bros. Cafe.

If you are at the restaurant, ask for a (free) tour of the upstairs. You can still see the original room numbers over eight different “hotel rooms” that are mostly offices today.


I started with my own photo from the restaurant’s upper floor.

The layer over that is a nude. I altered the colors, increasing magenta and yellow to mimic sepia tinting; then I inverted the color so that it turned out a good, aged-looking blue.

Over that, I placed sections of text from the 1817 & 1819 Farmer’s Almanacs and a yellow rose from (public domain photos).

I tweaked the layers making them various levels of transparent. I also increased the color saturation, and added the words “Old Town Spring” in faint letters over the woman’s head. All of the new text on the card is in the Rockwell Condensed font.

To download a ready-to-print copy of this ATC, right-click here and save the image to your hard drive. Print it at 150 dpi on your home printer.

As always, this image is copyrighted, but free for your personal, non-commercial use, as long as you don’t alter it in any way.