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  1. What is an LTC?
  2. How does embossing work?
  3. How do I figure out postal rates when sending an LTC?
  4. How should I cut LTC cards from 8.5" x 11" cardstock?
  5. How do I trade an LTC?
  6. What do the icons on an LTC represent?
  7. Can I make my own embossing powder?
  8. How do I make my own Glue Dots?
  9. How do I refill a blender pen?
  10. Where do you buy plastic sleeves for an LTC?
  11. What is the best way to cut an LTC sheet from a 12x12 sheet of paper?
  12. What information goes on the back of an LTC?


What is an LTC?


LTCs are Letterboxer Trading Cards.

They are a variant of ATCs or Artist Trading Cards. ATCs are small pieces of artwork created for the sole purpose of trading with other artists. So, LTCs are created with the intention of trading with other letterboxers. What makes the card an LTC is that the design contains an image that is hand-carved and hand-stamped. Other embellishments and stamps can be used, but the hand-carved stamp must be part of the art on the front of the card.

LTCs were suggested on AQ (Atlas Quest) by a letterboxer and became a reality when Mama Cache hosted the first swap. She wrote up the first guidelines and they are still in effect today. You can read about how they came to be and the guidelines on her Letterbox Trading Card page.

LTCs are usually made of card stock or similar heavyweight paper. They measure 2.5" by 3.5" (the size of a baseball card), and can use any medium or combination of media.
Construction paper is a poor choice because of the acid content which will shorten the life of your work. Seek out acid free options to come closer to archival quality (long lasting) art work. Scrapbooking papers and card stocks offer a wide variety of acid free choices. Watercolor papers and some art canvases are also good bases. Cards have been made from a wide variety of base materials such as fabric, fused beads, very thin wood, etc.

More information on techniques can be found in AQ's LTC Category. If you use facebook, lots of help, feedback, and techniques can be found in the Letterbox Trading Cards group.

LTC Examples



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How does embossing work?


OK, here is your handy, pocket guide for embossing, from a rubber stamper:

There are two types of embossing:
  1. Heat embossing; which gives your image a raised, glossy look
  2. Dry embossing; which uses a stencil to give your paper a raised look

HEAT EMBOSSING
Embossing powder is actually ground up plastic that you are melting onto your paper. You can use clear ink with colored embossing powder, or you can use colored ink with clear embossing powder. Each version has a slightly different 'look'.

For embossing to work you need to use PIGMENT ink. This ink stays 'wet' longer, and the embossing powder will stick to your stamped image. Colorbox inks are one of many brands of pigment ink and come in all sorts of colors. VersaMark is also a pigment ink but is clear (and actually gives you a 'watermark' look if you just stamp with it and don't add the embossing powder.) No matter how fast you are, the embossing powder will not stick to an image stamped with DYE-BASED ink. It simply drys too fast. Markers are ususally dye based so if you tried that and it didn't work, that's the reason.

After stamping your image, pour the embossing powder on and then tap off all excess powder. You should be able to tap the paper fairly hard without losing the powder sticking to the image. NOW is the time to look the paper over and brush off any stray particles of powder. Another option is to buy a little bag of rosin to rub on your paper BEFORE you stamp. This will cut down on the static and oils from your fingers, which is usually the reason you've got the extra particles in the first place.

Now, it's time to heat this powder. Don't try to emboss with a hair dryer. They do not get hot enough and they blow too hard, you'll end up with powder everywhere! If you don't have a heat tool, you could hold your paper above a lightbulb, the burner of your stove, or even your toaster... but that's a more difficult way to control the embossing process and you have a greater possibility of burning something (the paper, you, the house... you get the idea). So, I recommend you go ahead and just buy the heat tool in the first place. You'll be buying it eventually, because embossing is such a cool effect.

There are a couple of tricks to using the heat tool. Hold the tool about an inch or so away, and move it back and forth or in circles, just a little. If you wave it around too much, you're not getting the heat to the powder effectively. As you see the powder melt and get shiny, move to another section of the stamped image. It is possible to burn your paper, or the powder, so you do need to watch what's going on. When you see it get shiny, move on. If your embossed image turns out flat rather than raised, it means you had the heat on it too long. Once the powder has melted, it's done, and any further heat doesn't accomplish anything.

You may find it helpful to have something (wooden skewer, a chopstick, tweezers, etc) to hold the paper down so it doesn't blow away while you're embossing and you don't burn your fingers. Also, keep the heat tool away from your jar of embossing powder or you'll wind up with a solid mass of melted embossing powder.

Certain kinds of embossing powders do not raise up as much. The glittery ones are a good example of that. Also Tim Holtz has some new distress powders that do not raise up or change colors. It's really cool, but if you're just starting out, start with just regular embossing powders at first.

If you have trouble with the glittery embossing powder, double check that it really is glitter embossing powder and not just glitter. Plain ol' glitter won't work in an embossing situation because there is nothing melting with it to keep it stuck to the image. You can emboss plain ol' glitter, if you use Heat & Stick embossing powder. In that case, you just emboss your image with the powder, heat it up and then pour the glitter on and tap to remove the excess.

Couple of tips when using the Heat & Stick embossing powder:

Here's a neat trick for getting a multiple-colored embossed image, without investing in a bunch of pigment ink pads: Glycerin. (If you buy special "embossing inkpads", you'll find the ink is glycerin-based, so that's the secret of it all.) This works best on images with large flat surfaces, not as well with line drawings. Dampen your finger and apply a very thin coat of glycerin to the surface of the stamp. VERY thin. Next, color your image with markers. You can do single color or multiple colors. Any nice juicy markers, such as your regular Marvys will do. You have to be careful that puddles of glycerin don't form in tight corners, or the image won't look very crisp. Anyway, after inking it all up, huff as usual, stamp, sprinkle on clear embossing powder, and heat it up. It gives you the versatility of pigment inks without buying them in multiple colors. Of course you can also buy the Marvy Matchable embossing markers, which are really nice too, but pretty expensive. A bottle of glycerin at the drug store is cheap and lasts a long time.

And here's another embossing trick that may or may not work for you. Some inkjet inks will emboss IF you work fast and use the "best" print quality. I have found that HP black ink works best - colored ink does not seem to work at all. Again, work fast or you'll get spotty embossing. Works best with small line graphics or lettering.

Ink from EraserMate pens also is embossable.

DRY EMBOSSING
For dry embossing, you use brass stencils, a light table (or other backlight source) and a burnishing tool. Put the stencil on the light table. Taping the stencil to the light table helps keep it in place. Place the paper on top of the stencil. Then use the tool to "rub" the paper down into the grooves of the stencil. When you are finished, you have a raised image. The stencils can be found in hobby and scrapbooking stores.

A couple of tips when dry embossing:


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How do I figure out postal rates when sending an LTC?


The postal system used to do rates by weight, however, now they are also based on size, flexibility, and thickness. Unfortunately, everyone working at your post office may not have received the best training on how to go about figuring this out, and they may not want to take the time to do so in a larger post office where there is a long line waiting behind you.

So, a postmaster gave some advice to pass along. Go to the web addresses were you can find the information on the standards of mail, and what it would then cost, and take a print-out to your post office. If they quote anything different than what you know to be right, show them the print-out. Or just tell them you know this package is a "First Class Mail Large Envelope" and should cost 80 cents or whatever the case may be.

First-Class Mail includes:
First-Class Mail Cards -- rectangular cardstock mailpiece not contained in an envelope.
First-Class Mail Letters -- small rectangular mailpiece no thicker than ¼ inch weighing 3.5 ounces or less.
First-Class Mail Large Envelopes -- flat rectangular mailpiece no thicker than ¾ inch.
First-Class Mail Packages -- a box, thick envelope, or tube weighing up to 13 ounces.
Presorted First-Class Mail -- for high volume business mail
Priority Mail® - Cost effective delivery in an average of 2-3 days.

References

First Class Mail
Postage Calculator
Physical Standards for Letters, Flats, and Parcels
United States Postal Service

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How should I cut LTC cards from 8.5" x 11" cardstock?


You can cut out 10 LTCs from 8.5" x 11" cardstock by following this template.

Do you have a paper cutter? The rotary kind they sell for scrapbooking? This one has a swing out arm which is GREAT for measuring accurately. If not get one with your Michael's (or AC Moore or Hobby Lobby, etc) 50% off coupon! It'll save you a LOT of time.

Supplies


Directions

  1. Insert your paper into the cutter, portrait (taller than wide)
  2. Line it up at the 2.5" mark
  3. Cut a strip
  4. Repeat step 2 and 3
  5. You should be left with a 3.5 inch strip.
  6. Insert one 2.5" x 11 strip, landscape (shorter than wide)
  7. Line it up at the 3.5" mark
  8. Cut
  9. Repeat step 7 and 8 until you run out of paper
  10. Insert next 2.5" x 11" strip and cut again at 3.5" until you use it all
  11. Insert the 3.5" x 11" strip
  12. Line it up at the 2.5" mark
  13. Cut
  14. Repeat step 12 and 13 until you run out of paper


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How do I trade an LTC?


Trades


Active Lists Automated

When you start creating art for group swaps you may find yourself making a few extra... what to do with the extras? Trade them as individuals! And the easiest way to get a list out of the cards you have available for trade is to give'em a link... a link that automatically keeps track of your active LTCs.


Swaps

Once you've signed up for a swap, the leader will provide details like the number of cards you need to make, orientation requirements, special instructions and the due date. You just need to make your cards, list them on AQ, add them to the tracker and mail them by the "send by" date, or make sure that you send with enough time for them to be received by the swap host by the "receive by" date. Bubble mailers will protect your cards and you can use them almost indefinitely when you prepare them according to the following instructions.

Prepare Envelopes for Mailing with Clear Packing Tape


Mail the cards to the host and you're done. While you are waiting, join another swap, make more cards for trading, or go boxing!

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What do the icons on an LTC represent?


Stamp Types

AttributeDescription
The creator promises you'll find a genuine, 100% hand-carved stamp in the letterbox and not a store-bought or custom-made stamp.
The letterbox contains a unique, custom-made stamp.
The letterbox contains a store-bought stamp rather than a hand-carved or custom-made stamp.

Subtypes

AttributeDescription
The card is a standard sized LTC.
The card is an oversized card (bookmarks, postcards, etc.).
The card is an undersized card (inchies, twinchies, quisps, etc.).

Attributes

AttributeDescription
The stamp used for the LTC has been previously used in some other box, and not necessarily another LTC.
The cards are unusually thick, perhaps because of beads or buttons glued to it or because the cards folds open, and otherwise may not lie flat.


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Can I make my own embossing powder?


yes yes yes!

Contributed By: Mrs Anesha Marshall - England
Use clear embossing powder and Powdered Pearls, or Pearl EX Powders and create beautiful colors of Embossing Powder

In an empty embossing powder jar, mix and shake well, clear embossing powders with what ever color you like of Faerie Dust, Powdered Pearls, or Pearl EX Powders! You can get some really beautiful effects by embossing with it!

Added by FloridaFour: You can also mix different colors of embossing powder. My favorite is to add red or black powder, then just sprinkle a tiny bit of silver or gold onto that.

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How do I make my own Glue Dots?


Glue dots are a fast and easy way to attach layers of paper and embellishments to your cards. You can get rolls of 200 to 400 of them for around 5 dollars. You can make them yourself with Alene's Tack it Over and Over Again glue. These are much more economical and you can create any size you want.

  1. cut strips of waxed paper
  2. drop dots of the glue onto it (leave space between the dots)
  3. let it dry until it is clear

The glue dots are ready to use or you can cover with another strip of waxed paper and save for another day.

Other possible materials for dotting the glue onto are the glossy side of backing sheets from address labels (or any labels) and discarded plastic leftover from laminating projects. Glue dots release from both of these materials very easily. The plastic is very durable which makes it reusable indefinitely.

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How do I refill a blender pen?


Blender pens are often used to blend marker colors together. You can also use them "paint" with stamp pad inks, coptic markers or various other mediums. It will extend the drying time of the ink to allow more time for shading variations. It will also give you more time to add embossing powder to inks that typically dry too quickly.

You can refill the pens to save money and the environment. I found this simple recipe on Splitcoaststampers and wanted to share it with you.

2 teaspoons glycerin
4 teaspoons distilled water
1/4 teaspoon rubbing alcohol

Use an eye dropper to add the solution to the tip of your pen. This will go a long way so don't double it! Store in an air tight bottle or other container.

Happy Blending~

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Where do you buy plastic sleeves for an LTC?


Most hobby stores, comic book shops, art supply stores & some mega stores sell 100 count sleeves for under $1.00; they also sell the 9-pocket pages for displaying your LTCs.

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What is the best way to cut an LTC sheet from a 12x12 sheet of paper?


You can get 16 LTCs from a 12x12 sheet of paper. You start by cutting the 12x12 into four 5x7s, then cut those into quarters. You'll be left with a small square scrap of paper in the middle of the original sheet. Link to a video showing how.

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What information goes on the back of an LTC?


At a minimum, an LTC should include:
Other information that you may want to include:

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