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Help: LTC

  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?
  13. What are some LTC ideas and techniques?
  14. How do I package a set of LTCs for a tracker?

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

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

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.

TIP: I stamp and put embossing powder on 10 LTCs and then lay them on a non-stick cookie cooling rack. Then I use the heat tool to emboss them. No more burned fingers! -Rocklun

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:
  • After embossing the image, RESIST the urge to touch it to see if it is sticky. It is, and it won't be after you've put your fingers all over it.
  • After applying the glitter, and tapping off the excess, you can give the image another quick shot with your heat tool. This will embed the glitter a little more and assures that the application is permanent.
  • Just accept the fact that when you work with glitter, it will be everywhere, including places you are sure were not exposed to the initial glitter application.

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.

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:
  • If you rub your paper, lightly, with wax paper, the burnisher tool moves more easily over the paper.
  • Make sure you reverse the stencil and papers correctly, or you will end up with a backwards image.
  • If you are using a stencil image with an open space, you only need to rub the burnishing tool around the edges of the opening. No need to burnish the area in the middle.
  • You may want to experiment with using the depressed side of the paper, or a combination of the depressed and raised imprints for a different effect.
  • Other backlight sources would be to put a lamp under a glass table, or tape your paper/stencil to a window on a sunny day.

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 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.


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

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.


  • 8.5 x 11 cardstock
  • Paper cutter/trimmer (the kind sold for scrapbooking)


  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

How do I trade an LTC?


  • List your card on Atlas Quest. Requests will start to come in through AQ mail.
  • For faster trading, you can announce your available card on Atlas Quest's LTC: Trades and Trackers Board
  • Finally, you can request trades. Do a search for active LTCs. When you find one that interests you, contact the owner and request a trade.
  • After a trade has been agreed upon, exchange addresses and simply address an envelope to the LTCer in question and send them your card. Most people put the LTCs in a blank note card or piece of card stock to protect it in the mail

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.

  • From the letterbox dropdown menu, click Advanced Search
  • Under search type on the right is a box that starts out saying "Location Search". Click the arrow and under bold "Other Searches", click Stamp Collections
  • Then click the arrow again to click on LTC
  • "Sort by" select "name"
  • In "sub type" click the "not specified"
  • Leave "attributes" blank
  • Under "box status" click "active"
  • Leave all the other fields blank except "letterbox author". Put your name here.
  • Click the "search" button at the bottom of the page to run the search.
  • Once the new page opens up, click the "save search" button at the bottom of the page. It will ask you for a title... I included my trailname in my search title so that whoever I send it to will have it there for easy reference... if it's in a thousand places, it's a thousand times easier to find! ;)
  • Then when you want to let someone know your active cards for a trade outside of a swap ring, in the letterbox dropdown menu, click on "My Searches" near the bottom, find it in the list and click on "search". Once you get to your active LTCs page, verify that it all looks right, highlight the page address in your navigation bar (top of the screen), copy it and paste it into the post or e-mail to whomever you want to trade with.


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

  • Address the mailer to and from yourself before you put any tape on it.
  • Wrap the entire thing in the tape. Cover the flap so that it can not be sealed with the original glue strip.
  • Write the swap host's address on a piece of paper and tape the address over your own. You can either fold a corner under on the tape or add a strip of paper at one end to make removal easier. (Also turn a corner of tape under for the next 2 steps...)
  • If you put your postage on another strip of tape, the stamps and the cancellation ink can be removed with that tape strip.
  • Before you seal the mailer, remember to include return postage. Some hosts want stamps, others prefer you to include cash. Ask them for guidance.
  • Use the tape to seal the envelope (do not cover your stamps with tape). Remember to fold in the corner or put a strip of paper to make it easy to open and preserve your mailer.

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!

What do the icons on an LTC represent?

Stamp Types

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.


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


The stamp used for the LTC has been previously used in some other box, and not necessarily another LTC.
You must solve some sort of puzzle or other challenge in order to 'earn' this LTC.

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.

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.

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~

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.

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.

What information goes on the back of an LTC?

At a minimum, an LTC should include:
  • Title of card
  • Trail name of maker and/or signature stamp (some artists have special smaller stamps they use for LTCs)

Other information that you may want to include:
  • Swap name if it was traded in a swap
  • Number of card such as 1 of 20 or 1/20
  • Date (some use the tracker date, some use the card completion date)
  • The Atlas Quest listing number
  • Info on techniques, name of artist if the carve is based on artwork, background information
  • Your signature or initials
  • The carver's name if you used someone else's stamp
  • Any other info you find useful or interesting

What are some LTC ideas and techniques?

Here is a tracker by FloridaFour, which included links from several people for LTC techniques and tutorials. Many others are available online. Facebook is particularly a good way to discuss ideas, by joining various mixed media, art journaling, ATC and card making groups. Also look to see what groups your artsy friends have joined, and check them out.

How do I package a set of LTCs for a tracker?

Most hosts at this time prefer a taped, reusable flat mailer, because it keeps postage more consistent, and is easier to sort and send.

Here is a link to Chedva's bubble mailer tutorial. You can tape a flat mailer just like a bubble mailer:

Small trackers may use self-addressed stamped envelopes because for just a few cards, it is less postage, but this is less common, so please read each tracker and if you aren't sure, ask the host.