ATCsforALL Forums FAQ

Here you can find answers to questions about how the board works. Use the links or search box below to find your way around.

What's the Difference Between an ACEO and an ATC?

Both ATCs and ACEOs are 2 1/2 x 3 1/2 inch works of art. The only real difference between the two is the commercial (for sale) intent of the art piece by the artist.

ACEO = Art Cards, Editions, and Originals are virtually the same as ATCs, EXCEPT they were created with the intent to be sold
ATC = Artist Trading Cards were created with the intent to trade them only.

What About One on One Trading?

You are welcome to participate in one on one swaps at this website. You can organize trades with other members in the One on One Trading forum or through our private messaging system. Please ensure that both participants are clear on the private trade terms to avoid disappointment.

Cards must be sent within 30 days of trade acceptance unless other arrangements have been made and agreed to by both trading parties.

Once you have received the card from your private trade, you must leave the trader iTrader Feedback. Please see the iTrader FAQ for futher details.

While art is subjective, the quality of craftsmanship and materials used are important when trading with other members.
    Examples of ‘Sub-par’ works are:
  • Collaged elements falling off/poorly glued/glue showing
  • Cards of the wrong size
  • Computer print outs Not made by the ATC maker and poorly drawn over
  • Cards created with little to no thought (i.e. a sticker or rubber stamped image on a plain piece of cardboard with little to no extra effort
  • Scribbles on a plain piece of paper
  • Useless items in supply threads
Sub-par cards/items are not acceptable for trading and may be returned to the owner at the discretion of your trading partner.

Even and Uneven Trading at AFA and AFA-Sponsored Events supports "even" trading at our site and does not allow "uneven" trading or "uneven" swaps. An even trade is 1-1. That is, one card given for one card received.

In cases where different types of artwork are being traded (such as ATCs for Chunky Book Pages or Charms), both traders must reach a decision regarding what will be exchanged before they consider an agreement to have been made. In the past, artists have computed the square inches of artworks in exchanging larger works for ATCs, etc.

In trades of supplies, the determination must be satisfactory to both, using whatever criteria satisfy both traders.

Uneven Trades are trades where two ATCs are traded for one, or are trades where one person significantly receives more "art" or "stuff" in exchange than the other. Trades of these types are not allowed on AFA because they violate the inclusive and welcoming atmosphere of our site. This rule also applies to site-sponsored live trading events, like our yearly event.

If a member is found to have been engaging in or requesting uneven trades, they will be given one warning. Repeated requests for uneven trades subject members to disciplinary action such as suspension, board review, or removal from the site.

If members are asked for an uneven trade, we request that they notify staff immediately so that members making such requests innocently may be advised of our policy in this regard.

What is an Organized Swap?

An organized swap is a group swap organized by a swap host. Participants send in their cards to the swap host who then sorts and sends the returns to each participant. Swaps are normally organized by theme and sometimes by genre. AFA staff does not second-guess hosts' decisions... the swaps are the hosts' and AFA simply provides a forum where trades and swaps may be organized. Members of swaps are encouraged to work together through communication to find compromise when any dispute arises.

How Do I Join a Swap?

Swaps are posted in the Open Swap Forum.

Please read the swap information carefully before committing. Swap information is contained in the first post of each swap thread. If you would like to join, please post a response in the thread indicating your desire to join. The swap host will add you to the participant list and send you the swap guide or their mailing address for your cards.

You can subscribe to the thread of each swap that you join by clicking on the “thread tools” button. This will help you to keep informed on what is happening with your swap.

If you are signed up for a swap and cannot send in the cards for whatever reason, you must withdraw by private message or post in the swap thread so the host knows you will not be sending in cards.

Can I sign my child up for an all ages or kids swap?

Yes, active member artists may sign up their children and/or students for children's or all ages swaps.
All-ages swaps and gallery posts are available ONLY through active AFA member-artists AND only the active adult member may have direct access to the account, including posting, uploading, and arranging trades.

What All Do I Need to Do Before Submitting My Art for Swaps?


All forms of art and media creation are welcomed at Swap hosts have the authority to determine what media is preferred for the swap they are hosting (i.e wire only, Fabric only etc.) This mean that participants must learn what media is accepted for the swap, and submit work in that media only. ‘Open media’ swaps allow all media to be submitted.


You must follow the postage guideline as written by the swap host. Postage requirements may vary. If you are unsure about what you should do, please contact the swap host. Most hosts require that participants in their own country send postage to cover the costs of mailing returns. Participant outside the host’s country: please follow the guidelines set by your host.

A Note about Original Work swaps are usually theme-specific or media specific. Generally, you are not allowed to submit "copies" of work previously done for swaps--digital copies, photocopies copies, colored lineart that has been used before or any other form of "copy" for swaps unless it is stated it is okay in the swap guidelines. Each card must be original and created specifically for the swap.

If you plan on printing more of the same card, then it is not an "original" so please clarify this with each swap host before joining if you plan on submitting digital collages or paintings if you plan on printing multiple ones.

If you are in the same country as your ATC host, please make sure you enclose enough return stamps to cover your postage or a SASE, following the guidelines in the first post of each swap.

Please do your best work for each card that you submit and do not send in sub-par artwork (see the subsection of this area). Artists who continually send in sub-par work may no longer be able to participate in swaps.

When Can I Expect to Receive My Returns from Swaps?

Your swap host has an obligation to mail out returns to all participants within 2 weeks of the swap closing date.

How does a PAT Pick-A-Theme Swap Work?

Pick-a-Theme (PATs) swaps are swaps where participants join groups (usually limited to 5 per group). Each person in the group has chosen a theme. You will make one card for each person in your group in the theme that they have chosen.
In return, each person in your group will make you a card in the theme that you have chosen. All cards for PATs are sent to the host who will swap them out just like a standard swap.

What Is Meant By Prints & Copies, Originals or Series?

Original: When we refer to "original" cards at, we are referring to a unique, single card. This card can be hand drawn/painted, digitally painted or collaged. It is edition 1 of 1.

Print or Copy: When we refer to copy or print, we mean the same thing. Copies or prints can be copies of larger artwork, made to fit an ATC card or they can be prints of an original ATC. If your prints are limited editions, please note this on the back of each card AND in your gallery.

Series: A card series can be a set of unique cards created in the same theme. OR, a card series can be a set of cards that are somewhat original. This could mean that you have drawn your lineart and printed or copied it onto a number of cards but each card is colored by hand (if you create a card using colored line art, you MUST state this in your gallery.) Each can be considered a "series."

A Note on Digital Work

If you are trading more than one copy of a single digital painting or digital collage, you MUST identify your card as a “Print” so people can make a choice about trading. If you are trading only one copy of your digital painting or collage, then please identify it as an “Original.” Some people prefer to trade original for original only and others are happy to trade original for print.

It is up to swap hosts as to whether or not Original digital painting or collage "prints" are acceptable for their swap. You are welcome to start your own Digital Painting or Collage Print Swap if you disagree with a swap host’s decision, or simply wish to create a swap with your own guidelines.

Trading Prints and Copies

You are welcome to trade your prints/copies here through private trades with individual members or through hosted “Print Swaps.”

Please make sure that you label each card in the gallery as a "print or copy" if it is not an original. Not everyone is willing to trade for prints. Prints must be printed with a high quality resolution on photo paper or thick paper. If you do not have a good printer or the proper paper, please get your prints made at a local photo or print shop. It is not expensive to have prints made. The same guidelines apply to lineart. Please print your lineart on a good quality paper.

What Information About the Media I Used Must I Disclose?

Creators of ATC's must truthfully disclose how a card was made. All media is welcome at!

However artists must not claim a card is hand-drawn original art if 1) the card is created by printing out another artist's image and drawing over said image and claiming it is hand-drawn work or 2) tracing over the original artwork of another artist and claiming it as their own. Three reported violations of this will result in a hearing before the board.

Where Can I Find Guidelines for Making ATCs?

ATCs must be 2.5" x 3.5" (6.35 cm x 8.9 cm).

If your card backings are glued on, please make sure all glue is dried before mailing or before putting in a plastic sleeve.

Please put each ATC in a plastic sleeve. Plastic sleeves (also called penny sleeves) can be purchased at sports card or hobby stores. They cost approximately $1 US for 100 sleeves.

Please include your user name, real name and email on each card. If you are sending in cards for a PAT (Pick-A-Theme), also include your group number and the name of the person you made the card for.

Please submit your best work for each swap. If you're rushed and out of time and just want to quickly doodle some cards, it's better to withdraw instead. No one will mind if you withdraw before the cards are due! (See PAT - Pick-a-Theme - FAQ for exception). The other participants will be submitting their best work so it only fair that you do the same.

What are RAKs?

RAKs are random acts of kindness

ATCsforall has one official RAK. The Monthly member RAK. All other RAK requests must go through the same moderation process as swaps and be approved before they will appear on the forum.

RAKs should only be for situations where there is a special, urgent, or very pressing need for one (illness, death, life change, etc.).

Apart from the monthy RAK and sanctioned (approved) RAKs, all other requests should be on a for 1 basis and will be treated as any other private trade.

What is a Circle Journal and a Journal Book swap?

What is a circle journal?
Briefly, a circle journal is a sort of art scrapbook in which many artists contribute pages or two-page spreads. Traditionally, a number of artists would create a group in which each would make a journal dedicated to a specific theme (or none at all, leaving page design to each artist's choice). At intervals chosen by the group, each artist would mail the journal to the next artist on the list, in a circle or round robin fashion. With the last mailing of the cycle, each of the journals would once again be in its owner's hands, now filled with beautiful art by the other members of the group.

Circle Journal Groups at AFA
Mailing entire journals each month can be costly. When members experience a crisis of some kind, it's possible for mailings to go off schedule. Finally, journals filled with beautiful artwork can be lost (or damaged) by the postal service or a member who goes MIA (missing in action.)

For that reason, Circle Journal groups function as page trades. Each member chooses a theme, and at appropriate intervals, members mail individual pages or spread to each other.

The Group Leader is responsible for arranging the mailing schedule, pairing partners for each month of the rotation. (For example, if Alice and Beth are January partners, they will make pages for each other. In February, they will each have other partners for whom to create pages.) Leaders will also check to see that members are active in the group thread and that pages are being created and mailed in a timely fashion. Leaders will also get complete contact information for each member (real name, street address, telephone number/s, email, etc.).

Groups will be composed of no more than six people in each.

To join a group in which pages are mailed, you must have a trader rating of +15 and have successfully participated in three swaps. If the Board changes these guidelines, this post will be edited to reflect the new requirements.

REQUIREMENTS for Book Journals in which an entire book is mailed
Because these types of swaps requires a huge, very long-term commitment of time and resources, and because it is absolutely heartbreaking when a journal book goes missing (unfortunately, it happens), there are special requirements for participation in a swap of this type.

You must:
  • Be an actively trading AFA member (defined as: positive iTrader across 2 swaps in the last 3 months)
  • Have 3+ months in good standing (no neutrals or negative iTraders)
  • Have an iTrader rating of 25+
  • Be willing and able to do your very best work on a strict, inflexible time line, over a long period
  • Be willing and able to complete the set number of journal pages in the themes chosen by your fellow participants depending on the journal group guidelines
  • Have the cash resources necessary to ship the journals around the world using First Class or airmail. Tracking is not mandatory but could be requested by the group.
Note: AFA members of iATCs can use their iATC stats to fulfill these requirements.

Limited sign ups for first-time participants. Individuals new to circle journals and book journal swaps at can only sign up for one journal group initially. After the successful completion of their group, they are welcome to sign up for multiple groups but must check with a Moderator before signing up for more than three(3).

Circle journals and book journals are tremendous fun! Visit the Gallery to view the wonderful art members have created for each other's journals. Then, when you can't wait any longer - jump in!

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