How to Make and Sell ACEO Cards
ACEO Trading Card
- What is an ACEO card? ACEO stands for "Art Cards, Editions, and Originals". They are also known as ATCs, or "Artist Trading Cards". ACEOs are small trading cards that always measure 2 1/2" x 3 1/2". They can be made of all kinds of paper including watercolor paper, bristol board, acrylic paper, etc. They can be original artwork, numbered edition prints, or even photographs. They can be of any medium as well, including pen, pencil, colored pencil, paint, glitter, whipped cream, you name it. Because of their size, they can be collected in albums, just like baseball cards.
- Who buys ACEO cards? Art cards are mostly traded between artists and collectors, but they can be sold as well. As far as gender or age, I don't know the breakdown. But it can be anyone who just plain enjoys collecting other people's artwork who maybe don't have the room on their walls to display many large works of art.
- How much money can I make selling them? Well, a quick search on completed bids on eBay (where I sell them) shows that they've sold anywhere from $0-$200 USD in the last several months. It depends on too many factors, such as the quality, the subject matter, whether it's a print or original, etc. Probably the majority sell for only a couple of dollars to maybe $10. The example I'm showing you right now will probably only get $2 or $3 (UPDATE: Yep, it sold for $3.48). In other words, unless you're really good, don't quit your day job.
I don't sell art cards professionally (can you tell?), so I just stick with the basic art supplies. You can use just pencil, just marker, just paints, or mix and match however you would like. These materials listed are for an ink and watercolor drawing like the penguin above.
What You'll Need
- ACEO cards- You can do one of two things, you can make your own with a large sheet of any kind of thick board material and a paper cutter, or you can just buy some pre-cut ones. Since I just started, I went to my local craft store and bought a pack of 12 for a buck or two. They were mixed and matched as far as paper and canvases, so I could compare one material to another. If you make your own, make sure the cuts are even and crisp. Also make sure the sizes are right, 2 1/2" x 3 1/2".
- Drawing or painting materials- For this watercolor drawing, I used a pencil, eraser, waterproof ink pen, cheap watercolor paints from the mighty dollar store, a couple paint brushes (go even smaller than the ones in the below photo if you want finer detail), a couple sheets of paper towels, and a plastic pallet. The only must when working with watercolor paints is a waterproof ink pen. Don't use a regular ball point pen or it will smear. I recommend the Waterproof Micron Archival Ink Pen (the size I used here was 02 but any size will do).
- Clear card sleeves- I read it's unprofessional to send your card without a protective sheet, and most buyers will expect them. I got a 100 count off of ebay for $3.75 including shipping. You can probably find them cheaper if you go to a craft store or if you buy them in bigger quantities. The sizes are 2 5/8" x 3 5/8" and the package reads "Clear Polypropylene, Archival Safe, and Acid Free- No PVC".
- An envelope and a U.S. postal stamp- If you need help locating these, then you were probably born yesterday, so you should be concentrating on learning other things right now. I kid, just go to Walmart for the envelopes and the post office for some stamps.
- Digital camera or a computer scanner- We'll be listing this on eBay so you'll need to upload your images to the internet. Scanners provide better detail for me, but some of the colors appear lighter in my scans. If you have a decent digital camera, you'll be fine, though.
- Ebay account- You'll need to sign up for one to sell items.
MaterialsClick thumbnail to view full-size
How to Make ACEO Cards
What to Draw?
This is entirely up to you. If you want to draw things that are already selling, search in ebay for "ACEO" and then click the "Completed Listings" checkbox on the left. The listings that have sold are in green. I noticed that a lot of animal themed cards sell. Since I have more of a cartoonish drawing style (which is also quicker to make than a more realistic drawing), I decided to make some fantasy-type cute animal drawings.
How to Draw?
You don't necessarily have to have great drawing skills to create a fun ACEO. Check out some of the cards I made below. They're certainly not Michaelangelos. Here's what to do.
- Find a reference image from a photograph, book, magazine, or online. I often use images.google.com.
- With a pencil lightly draw the image you'd like. Use different images if you'd like to add different objects.
- When satisfied draw over it with your waterproof pen. Note: Some people paint first and then add the ink, but that doesn't work well for me.
- Once the ink is dry (after only a minute or two), erase the pencil lines. Don't worry about getting a kneaded eraser like I use. Any old eraser will do.
- Paint away. If you're not familiar with painting with watercolor, watch Mark's excellent video below. Basically just keep in mind
- paint the lightest colors first (the lighter the color you want, mix more water with the paint)
- finish with the darkest colors (the darker the color you want, use more paint, less water)
- if you accidentally make the paint too dark, wet it with water only, then quickly dab it with a paper towel
- thinner papers curl when you use watercolor. You can flatten it with thick books or you can use thicker papers. You can also stretch the paper before you start painting, but there's no way I'm doing that for just a few bucks.
If your artwork is done in pencil or charcoal, you can spray on fixative or sealant to prevent smearing. My high school art teacher once told me you can also use cheap hairspray. For this drawing, though, I won't need any spray.
What to put on the back
All I've put on the back of my ACEOs are a custom stamp, signature, and the year of the work. If you want to make your card look more professional you should include, in any order you want
- Title of the work
- Signature of the artist, name printed as well
- Contact information (address, phone number, and/or email)
- Description of the work (medium, notes, inspiration, how to preserve the work, etc)
Example Penguin ACEOClick thumbnail to view full-size
How to Sell ACEO Cards
Where Do You Sell ACEO Cards?
There are a couple of sites that I have found to sell trading cards such as artcardswanted.com, but they are not nearly as active as ebay.com. Ebay's the only place I've ever tried to sell them, so if you have any experience with the others, let us know.
How Do You Sell Your ACEO Cards on Ebay?
After you set up your eBay account click Sell Item. It'll ask you what category to use. I sell them under Art-> Direct from the Artist-> Paintings. If I'm not using paints, I use the category Art-> Direct from the Artist-> Drawings. I keep listing fees at the bare minimum so I only use one category and I don't buy any of the frills.
For the Title and Subtitle, use as many descriptive keywords as possible. Instead of typing "Penguin is chillin and hangin out" use something like "ACEO Beach Penguin Relaxing, Suntanning Original Art Card". More people will find your listing with the second title.
A tip on uploading the image of your art card: Don't upload a super-detailed one. Instead of uploading a 1500 x 1500 pixel image, use maybe a 400 pixel image. I've noticed that very large scans of my cards show every imperfection that you wouldn't normally see with the casual eye. Unless you are a super-detailed artist, make the image look like what it looks like in real life (you can shrink it with your Paint program or another free program).
For the item description, I just keep it basic. Here's one for the penguin.
ACEO Beach Penguin Relaxing, Suntanning at the Ocean
Original ink & watercolor painting by King Kong measures 2 1/2" x 3 1/2" on thin canvas ACEO card. Signed by the artist.
Paypal only. Ships promptly upon payment to the continental U.S. only. Thank you!
You can get as detailed as you want. Check out other ebay artists' professional-looking descriptions if you're trying to get premium prices for your cards. I don't plan on selling many of these, so I just keep it simple.
How Much Should I Charge for My Aceo Cards?
First, here's some hypothetical costs.
- 100 blank ACEO cards $9.00
- 100 clear sleeves $4.00
- 100 stamps $50.00 (assuming you offer free shipping)
- 100 mailing envelopes $8.50
- 100 ebay listing fees $43.75 (assuming listing fees between $1- $9.99, and final value fees @ $5.00)
It will cost you roughly $1.15 per card to buy and ship an ACEO in the domestic United States. This is not including the price of art materials such as pens, markers, paints, brushes, etc. (yes, you can lower these costs, but this is just an example).
With that in mind, it's entirely up to you. I've only made a dozen of these and I used starting bids of $1.99, which is low, but I hate relisting them.
$4.99 is a good starting price and $9.99 should work for a good piece. Study the cards that sell for $50 or more and observe the style of the artist, the subject matter, their skill, their product listings, etc. You can squeeze more money out of each piece if you add more detail in your work (and sometimes less detail), research the subjects better, use more interesting medium and colors, take the time to create a listing template, and build up a clientele.
Anyone experienced with selling ACEO cards is more than welcome to share some pricing tips.
How should I ship them?
I just put the ACEO in a clear card sleeve and slip it into a folded piece of oaktag or posterboard for a little more rigidity. Then I mail it in a plain stamped envelope. No complaints so I stuck with that. If you want to improve your image though, consider getting custom presentation materials and using sturdier shipping materials. Either way, try to mail them out as soon as possible after the buyer pays.
Watercolor Illustration Techniques
Some of My Previous ACEO AuctionsClick thumbnail to view full-size
Plain Poster Board Cover
How about you?
Have you ever sold an ACEO card?
Like I said, no Michaelangelos, I don't put much effort into mine. But just because I take the Hans Solo route doesn't mean you have to. There are some fantastic artists out there who spend many hours on each card and add incredible amounts of details.
So those are the basics of selling ACEOs. Feel free to share some of your experiences and selling tips. Also, if you'd like to participate in a community of trading card sellers, join eBay's ACEO art card forum, where they share more selling tips and have contests and other events. Thanks for reading.
Update: Surreal ACEOs I've Sold More Recently (Mid 2013)Click thumbnail to view full-size
Have I stressed not to quit your day job? Ha ha. The cards above I've sold after writing this article. They're mostly colored pens so I haven't been spending as much time cleaning brushes. Surreal cards are more fun for me to make because I can just let my mind go free and doodle, usually while I'm watching Youtube videos or listening to something. I mostly have no idea what these finished cards will be or know what they will even look like when I start drawing.
I listed these at $0.99 bidding (free shipping, domestic only) for 7 days. I usually list a few at a time so I can drop them in the mail all at once. The ones that don't sell I usually just give to repeat buyers as thank you bonuses.