By the Light – printable ATC (artist trading card)

“By the Light…” – a digital ATC for you to print

by the light printable free ATC artist trading card

I was in a frivolous, mischievous mood today, and something just clicked for me when I saw this image of the moon. In other words, the visual puns are entirely deliberate.

I started with an image from the Bare Bottoms folder on my Shameless Hussies 1 CD. (Those images are copyright-free and in the public domain.)

Over this, I placed a new photo of the moon, from I actually used that image twice on each panel: Once, small and exactly as it appears at; the second time I enlarged it to the size of the card and inverted the color in Adobe Photoshop.

On top of the darker moon image, I applied some text and imagery from an old Alchemy book that I own.

After flipping the image and altering the color, I added text in the Rudelsberg Regular font. Then, I filled in the background with a copyright-free flower image from, and altered the colors to match the card.

As usual, I retain the copyright on this ATC, but it’s free to print for your own use, as long as you don’t alter it.

To print your own copy, save this file to your hard drive and print it at 150 dpi. The finished card will be 3″ x 5″.

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Resizing Your Art for Artistamps

3sun-ibQ: I want to make some artistamps by hand, not necessarily on the computer. How do I make my art the right size for stamps? Should I be creating the art in stamp size, to start with?

A: Most commercial artists work much larger than the finished, printed product will be. For example, a standard paperback book cover was often a poster-size painting.

When the image is reduced to the correct size, there will be impressive detail in it without a lot of microscopic work in the first place.

When you’re creating stamps, or any reduced-size art, there are several ways to work:

    Work to size

    Obviously, you can create the work in the size it should be when completed. This is fine for carved stamps, one-of-a-kind work, and so on. However, if you’re working off the computer, or want a lot of detail, this is the difficult way to do things.

    Work larger, then reduce at the photocopy machine

    Create the images you want, in a larger size. Try to work in a size that can at least fit on the glass of the copy machine.

    If your art fills a standard letter-size sheet of paper, and your finished stamp will be less than one inch square, you’re probably including more detail than you need to.

    Next, use the photocopier’s reducing option, until the image is the size that you want. That is, if you’re working h-u-g-e, reduce the image to the smallest size the machine permits, then reduce that copy to the size you need.

    If you’re using a color copier, this can get expensive as you use trial-and-error to achieve the correct size. Experiment with a regular (cheaper) photocopier first. Make note of the percentages you used to reduce to the ideal size.

    Once you’ve figured out what percentage of reduction looks best, switch to the color copier, enter the correct reduction percentage, and print your final work.

    Work larger, and reduce with your computer graphics program

    If you’re using your own color printer, this is one of the best choices.

    Basically, scan your work with your computer scanner, then use your graphics program to reduce the image to the finished size. Repeat the image for a full sheet.

    (Some programs call this “tiling,” others–including Adobe–use words such as “pattern.” You can learn how to do this at my article, How to make a sheet of stamps, with Adobe Photoshop.)

    Finally, print it on your printer.

    If you don’t have your own color printer, many larger copy shops (for example, some FedEx/Kinko’s shops) have computers and color printers for customers to use, for a small fee. Bring them a disk of your completed work, and print it on their printer.

    Work larger in b&w, adding color to the correct-size image

    You can avoid the color issue altogether by designing black and white artistamps. However, if you want colored artistamps and the previous methods won’t work for you, there are alternatives.

    Create the black-and-white line work in a larger format.

    Then, reduce it with a b&w photocopier, and tile with repeated copies, as necessary.

    Hand-color the image/s.

    Finally, either use those as stamps, or visit a copy shop with a color copier, and make multiple photocopies for use as stamps.

No doubt there are other ways to accomplish your goal, but these are among the most popular.

There is no point in using a magnifying glass and a three-haired paintbrush to create eensy-weensy images for the stamps. Work big and bold, and then reduce the images for the best results.

When I work larger for any purpose, I always work at least 33% bigger than the final image, for the best impression of detail in the finished product.

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How to make a Sheet of Artistamps with Adobe PhotoShop

If you’re new to Adobe’s PhotoShop program, it can be overwhelming to figure out all the fabulous bells & whistles it offers. However, it’s a wonderful tool for artistamps!

When I wrote this article around 2002, I was using Adobe 5.0. The commands may vary slightly if you’re using a different version, but the concepts remain the same.

If you have an image that you’ve created with (or scanned into) Adobe, here are the steps to repeat it easily, so the image fills a page of artistamps when you print it:

1. Select the image you want to use. This means it should be surrounded by dotted lines indicating that the Adobe program has “selected” it. If you don’t know how to do this, go into Adobe’s Help menu and look up “selecting an area.”

2. Go into the Edit menu, select Define and then Define Pattern. (Some programs go directly to Define Pattern.) Your image is now saved in Adobe’s short-term memory.

3. Delete your original image, by clicking on the X on the image window, or you can just delete the layer with the image by using Layer–>Delete Layer.

4. Either enlarge that emply window/layer (if you merely deleted the layer) so the Image Size is slightly smaller than the paper you’ll be printing on –OR– (if you clicked on the X and removed the entire image) create a new image (File–>New) in that size.

I like to work with an image that’s about 7″ x 10″ for paper that’s 8.5″ x 11″.

5. Select the entire image/layer. You can do this by hitting Control-A, or by right clicking and choosing Select All.

6. Right click inside the new image/layer, select Fill and then choose Pattern. Your image, repeated to fill the new size, will appear. If you are happy with what you see, you’re ready to print.

7. If your new, repeated image isn’t tidy–and it usually isn’t–you’ll want to remove (crop) the partial images. Use your Select Area tool to surround all of the complete images. Then choose Image and Crop so the loose pieces vanish. Now you’re ready to print.

8. If you’re using nice (price-y) paper for your finished product, it’s a good idea to print a “proof” copy on plain (cheap) paper, to make certain the finished plate of stamps looks pleasing.

If positioning is key, you may want to print on tracing vellum first, lay it over the paper you’ll be using for the finished product, and see if it lines up okay.

9. After you’ve printed your stamps and are ready to close your Adobe program, save just ONE copy of the stamp image, using the Crop feature. You can save the entire repeated image if you like, but that can take up a lot of disk space if your hard drive is nearly full.

Cheatsheet version:

1. Select image area
2. Edit–>Define–>Pattern
3. Delete original image
4. Create new image in size to fit on printer paper
5. Right click to Select All
6. Right click inside area, choose Fill–>Pattern


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Perforations for Artistamps

I wrote the first version of this article around 2002. New perforating options are constantly being developed, tested and marketed.

So, this article is dated, and remains at this site as a starting point for people who want to explore perforating options for artistamps.

One of the first questions people have, is how to make perforated edges so artistamps look like “real” postage.

Many of us simply use the purple-handled Fiskars scissors that create small, wavy edges similar to perforated stamps. You’ll find them around the scrapbooking or rubber stamp aisles of most large crafts shops such as Michael’s.

Others put black or grey dots, similar to the appearance of perforations, on the stamps themselves. Then they cut right next to the dots, with a normal papercutter or scissors.

And some don’t fret about this aspect of the process, and simply leave the stamps straight-edged, or unperforated.

Home-grown perforation options

Another solution to the perforation problem is to create your own holes.

So far, the results with wheels intended for other purposes has been disappointing. The best reviews are from people who use a dressmakers’ marking wheel (on a soft surface so the wheel actually perforates the paper).

Another suggestion is to use a sewing machine without thread in the needle, to punch the holes. These won’t exactly fool anyone into thinking they’re real perforations, but they’re a pretty good substitute.

Use the largest possible needle, intended for sewing through leather or denim. Use masking tape to mark the arm of your sewing machine as a guide, for each line of perforations, so you’ll know how to keep the paper straight as you feed it under the needle.

And, be sure to clean the machine often. Shards of paper and excess dust can build up quickly around the bobbin housing.

However, the only real perforations–so far–are made by a perforating machine.

Professional perforation

WCP-NM (Olathe Poste) sells a variety of perforated papers.

100 Proof Press has artistamp kits and perforated papers.

The Olathe Poste offers an affordable perforating service with a very quick turnaround time.

Home perforating machines

Late in 2005, Dr. Arcane (on the AML [Artistamp] list at Yahoo Groups), created a relatively affordable home perforation machine for artistamp creators. However, his early production run was very limited. Check that list for updates, if you’re interested.

(Search the list archives using the name of the machine, Whizbang, to learn more about it at AML.)

My ex-husband tried to make a similar machine a few years ago, but a major problem couldn’t be resolved: The paper moved too much. The two-handled approach of the Whizbang looks like a fine solution.

Professional and antique perforating machines

Ideally, you’ll find someone who owns one of those wonderful antique perforators. These are massive, heavy beasts that will punch teensy, professional-looking holes in sheets of your stamps.

Frankly, the only way to buy one–except through sheer luck at eBay or a local auction–is to network with printers and other artistampers, so you hear about the infrequent but available perforator when someone is willing to part with one.

Remember that most modern perforating machines are designed to cut dashed lines for tear-out coupons, and so on. They don’t make rows of round holes as on postage stamps.

The next best thing to having your own perforating machine, is to know someone else who owns one, who will swap perforating services for free artistamps, or some other reasonable barter.


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Real, Exotic and Foreign-looking Stamps

These are a few stamps from my own collection of inexpensive, international postage stamps. They are “real” stamps, used on mail.

I like them because they look exotic and/or old, and I gather ideas from them.

I’m providing them as inspiration. You can copy* them, tweak them with your own color and design ideas, or… well, you decide!

Want to see more cool and unusual stamps?

I recommend The Mystery Box, a philatelists’ site.


*No stamps at this site — “real” or artistamps — should be copied or used illegally.

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Glues and Adhesives for Artistamps

Adhesive backing for artistamps

dw1-webIf you’re sending your artistamps for others to use, you probably want to make them as much like “real” postage as possible.

For example, you’ll want the recipient to be able to lick the back of the stamp so the glue becomes moist and will hold the stamp in place.

The following information was provided by members of the AML artistamp list.

These are your three most popular options for glues and adhesives, if you’re creating artistamps.

(1) Buy paper with an adhesive (water reactivated) backing.

You can get dry, gummed paper label paper from a chain store called Paper Plus. (I think this is a division of Unisource, but their demo catalogue doesn’t list any perforated papers.)

One brand in the late 1990s was Nashua Davac, Dry Gummed Label Paper, #7649, 50# offset, and it comes in 8.5″ x 11″ size, and others. (Manufactured by Nashua Label.)

Another resource might be a small quantity supplier of paper. Some of them are “green” paper companies. You can get more information at

If this sounds too complicated, you can have someone professionally print your artistamps on pre-gummed perforated paper.

I recommend Anna Banana’s Banana Productions. As you would expect, her work is very professional.  (The link to her site is broken.  If you know the best link for her products, let me know.)

WCP-NM (Olathe Poste) is another excellent online resource.


(2) Apply lickable (water reactivated) glue.

The glue stuff itself can be purchased and applied to any paper.

One kind of glue stuff is Neutral pH Adhesive, by Lineco. You’re looking for it as product number 901-1008. It’s carried by larger camera supply shops, as photographers use this to mount photos, etc.

You can also find this Neutral pH Adhesive by Lineco, at MisterArt.

Another glue stuff–that I use–is Lick & Stick. It comes in a bottle that looks like a roll-on deodorant, but it has a sponge on the top of it. I sort of paint it on the paper, and it dries. Most curling that occurs when it’s wet, flattens out as the glue dries. The glue is clear and tasteless.

You can order Lick & Stick at directly from the manufacturer, Greensneakers. They offer templates for other paper products, too.


(3) Make your own water reactivated glue.

See my article, Glue Recipes – Artistamps for a variety of homemade glues that you can mix and apply to your stamps.

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Glue Recipes – Artistamps

schoolglueGlue recipes vary from great to disastrous. But, they can be a fine alternative to “lickable” adhesive-backed paper and commercially prepared glues, described in my article, Glues and adhesives for artistamps.

Climate differences can affect how well a glue recipe works. Likewise, personal taste–sometimes literally–can influence your choices.

Artistamp genius Jas kindly sent this recipe for stamp glue, as developed by Bugpost.


1/4 oz. unflavored gelatin
1 T cold water
3 T boiling water
1/2 t white corn syrup
1/2 t lemon extract

1. In small bowl sprinkle gelatin into cold water, put aside until softened
2. Pour softened gelatin into boiling water & stir until completely disolved
3. Add corn syrup & lemon extract, mix well.

1. Brush thinly on to back of stamp sheet
2. Let dry.

1. Double boiler is handy
2. Gum tends to react more slowly when licked than conventional gums
3. Mixture can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator, for a very small amount of time. You may need to reheat it if it’s too gummy and thick.

avegifNote: The lemon extract repels bugs which like to munch on starches (such as gelatin and corn syrup), but you could probably use other flavoring extracts from the baking supplies aisle of the grocery store. Artistamp collectors in tropical countries may choose to store stamps in plastic.

Also, before using another flavor, remember that many people have life-threatening allergies and react badly to anything with peanuts in them.  Since this may include almond flavoring, and perhaps others, humor your tastebuds carefully!

More recipes!

Here’s one contributed by

Arlene Shipley:

6 Tbs. white vinegar
4 packets (1oz.) unflavored gelatin
1 Tbs. mint extract. (or whatever flavor you want)

Boil vinegar in small pan. Add gelatin and stir until dissolved. Add flavoring and remove from heat. Use brush to spread on envelope flaps. Let dry. Moisten to seal. When leftover glue cools, it will set. It may be reused again and again if you take a little caution when storing it. Place it in a small HEAT PROOF container and you can shoot it with your heat gun to remelt it. Or you can place the small glass jar into a pan of water and heat it that way. Just take caution not to break your glass containers when reheating the glue.

Another one, from Linda Mulligan, described as a Girl Scout recipe:

One part white glue
one part white vinegar (you may have to play with the proportions)

Coat let dry and coat again. This taste awful so use a sponge not your tongue when wetting to seal.

Here are a couple from Rubber Rabbit:

18 T (that’s about a cup and a bit) vinegar-bring to a boil; add 1 pkg Jello in whatever flavor; stir til dissolved; let cool; keep in the refrigerator between uses. Brush on and let dry. that one is from Coffee Break Design.

I’m not too sure on this one; someone will correct me I’m sure: 1T each vinegar and white glue; drop or two of peppermint flavoring.

Those recipes were all kindly provided by members of the AML (Artistamps) list at Yahoo!Groups.

If you spot errors, missing links, or if you have yet another recipe, please let me know with the contact form, above, or leave your glue recipe as a comment.

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Artistamps – Definition

aisegyptArtistamps can be described as fake postage. Some people call them faux postage, Cinderellas, postoids, or even real postage.

But at the post office, they may call them “fake.”

In other words, if you use artistamps in place of “real” postage, the post office is likely to return your mail, postage due.

Those of us who make artistamps often insist that they are real postage… just not from generally recognized countries.

That is, we often make up our own countries and/or issuing authorities. We’re not trying to pretend they’re legal postage in the US, or any other country from which we may be mailing these stamps. We create these stamps for fun, whimsy, art, and/or a statement.

tap-jeremy-bArtistamps can be printed or individually handmade. They may have perforated edges like traditional postage, or not. They may have a pretend ‘price’ designation on them, or not.

Artistamps are loosely related (or not) to the mailart movement, which in turn evolved from the Dada and perhaps Fluxus and/or Chaos movements.

Or not.

Mostly, artistamps are art, and they’re often fun, too. Some of us make up our issuing authorities.

We send our stamps–on cards, envelopes, and other items–often to people we don’t know. Those people may respond by sending us artistamps and/or mailart.

Or not. (I say that a lot, in connection with mailart.) It’s a boundariless field, and everyone participating probably has his/her own definitions for this art form.

Here’s one of my artistamps, from my imaginary country of Ballynafae. The picture actually shows the post office in Kilmallock, Co. Limerick, Ireland. The AML designation is from the Artistamp Mailing List, a Yahoo Group that sometimes organizes artistamp mailings and swaps.


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Edgar Allan Poe Shrine

Poe Shrine

The Edgar Allan Poe Art Shrine is one of my favorite assemblages.

The elements include a raven printed on muslin, in three sections.

I found him in a Dover book, and added color in PhotoShop (Image-> Adjust-> Saturation).

Then, I printed him on some iron-on tee shirt transfer paper that works in inkjet printers.

I repeated the design several times on the paper, and then ironed the raven onto plain muslin, which I later cut to size. The edges were treated with Fray Check, a Dritz sewing product that prevents unravelling.

Black feathers and dried Black Malva flowers, plus dried wild rose petals, accent these compartments.

Edgar A Poe's wifeThe portrait in the gold oval frame is Virginia, Poe’s great love.

I found her portrait in an old biography of Edgar Allan Poe, and copied it.

I printed it with sepia brown ink, on my inkjet printer.

The frame is a dollhouse decor frame.

In front of her rest dried wild rose petals, gathered at the seashore. I usually collect them at the park at Cape Neddick “Nubble” Lighthouse, in York, Maine, just over the border from New Hampshire.

(More info about “the Nubble” – Cape Neddick Lighthouse [offsite link]).

A leaf of dried sage is to the right of the portrait. Traditionally, in addition to sage’s popularity in cooking – it’s used in turkey stuffing/dressing – it also signifies healing. It’s also supposed to be an aphrodisiac.

According to Poe’s biography, he never recovered from the death of his wife. So, the healing quality of sage is most appropriate.

Skull and candles in Edgar Allan Poe shrineIn the section to the right of her, there is a skull which was hand-carved from a deer’s antler. I found it at a flea market in Hollis, NH.

That dealer sells all kinds of weird and wonderful antique and reproduction beads and trinkets. He had only a few of these, and while it felt creepy buying one, it also seemed the right kind of creepy for this shrine.

In front of the skull are brass-colored metal candlesticks and dollhouse candles (probably plastic). I really like including dollhouse items in my shrines, especially if they look reasonably accurate. They can be pricey, but I find the best deals at crafts supply shops; these came from A.C. Moore in Nashua, NH.

Poe poemIn the center section, the lines of poetry are from The Raven.

The scan quality isn’t very good in this copy, so here’s what the lines say:

  • Then, upon the velvet sinking
    I betook myself to linking,
    Fancy unto fancy, thinking
    What this ominous bird of yore
    Meant in croaking, “Nevermore.”

Next, a golden and teal-colored pillar represents Poe’s famous Fall of the House of Usher.

In the bottom row, the center image shows a photo of Poe, taken from his biography. I’ve modified this so it looks somewhat pointillist, and a little eerie.

At the far right is a limbless china doll’s body. I’m not certain why I included it, but it adds to the Gothic sensibility of the piece. It also came from the flea market in Hollis, NH.

The outside of the wooden shrine was painted black. On the back, I glued a title card and signed the piece.

The shrine is about 8 3/4 inches wide, and about 10 1/4 inches tall. It was completed in late September 2000, and immediately purchased by a happy collector.

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Tammy Fae Pocket Shrine

Tammy Faye art shrine by Aisling D'Art
Shrine to the goddess of mascara,
Tammy Faye Bakker Messner

Tammy Faye Bakker Messner (March 7, 1942 – July 20, 2007) remains a goddess* today as she was during her brief time with us.

Her continuing optimism was a beacon for all of us. Her sincerity was almost as remarkable as her mascara — or were those false eyelashes…or both?

When I began working with art shrines, I had to make at least one shrine to her.

And, when I had reason to create sample “pocket shrines,” it was clear that one had to be to Tammy Faye. Few women have achieved such distinction in modern society. She was a legend in her own time, and success never spoiled her.

Inside the shrine, I’ve posted one of my favorite quotes from Tammy: “I’m just a small-town girl at heart.”  (How could anyone not fall in love with someone that sweet and naive?)


The box is a plain matchbox, bought at a scrapbooking store in Massachusetts.

If you can’t find blank matchboxes, discount stores and smoke shops carry inexpensive (full) matchboxes.  Empty them and cover them with art.

I lined the matchbox with a glitzy, irridescent pink fabric that I bought at the local JoAnn Fabrics.

The beads which spell dear Tammy’s name came from crafts shops, and the little star bead from a bead shop in Harvard Square (Cambridge, MA).

The photos of Tammy are from several websites, all featuring the readily-available images of our goddess.

The outside of the matchbox is covered with a thin foil, which I got from Gayle Page-Robak.

I cut out a photo of Tammy to feature her remarkable blue eyes. The eyelashes are false, bought for $2.74 at WalMart. They’re the closest that I could find, to the “official” false eyelashes given to lucky members of the audience at the premiere of “The Eyes of Tammy Faye.”

(I have since acquired two sets of the official false eyelashes from the movie premiere.)

I glued the eyelashes, beads and fabric in place with Perfect Paper Adhesive. Everything else was glued with Rollataq, but any paper adhesive would work fine.

And, I’ve been enormously flattered by the many requests, but this piece is not for sale.

*With all due respect to those who take the term “goddess” seriously, I’m being flippant when I use that word in this context.

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