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Atlas Quest

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?
  15. How else might I use my LTCs?
  16. Are there LTC specific events?
  17. How do I host an LTC tracker?
  18. How do I list a LTC on AtlasQuest?
  19. What do the attributes mean on an LTC?
  20. What do the subtypes on an LTC represent?
  21. What should I write on an LTC?

What is an LTC?

LTCs or Letterboxer Trading Cards are a variation of ATCs or Artist Trading Cards--small pieces of artwork (2 ½ ” x 3 ½”) created for the purpose of trading with other artists. The distinguishing feature of an LTC is that it must include one or more hand-carved and hand-stamped images, and usually as part of the design, not just the signature stamp on the back to identify the artist.

LTCs usually begin with a base made of archival (acid-free) card stock or similar heavyweight material, measuring 2 ½ " by 3 ½ ". Any art/craft medium or combination of media is encouraged to showcase the stamped image as long as the materials are secured to the card, toxic-free and legal to mail since swaps are hosted via the USPS. The back of each card is stamped with:
  • the letterboxer’s trail stamp,
  • date created and
  • AQ box #.

LTCs are created for swapping with other letterboxers but is not limited to that as LTCs have also been used in ATC swaps. LTCs are a fun way to do more with a hand-carved stamp before that stamp is planted as a traditional.

History: LTCs were suggested on the Atlas Quest discussion boards as early as 2007. The name—letterbox trading card-- was first suggested by Shadohart, and the first LTC swap-- LTC: Maiden Voyage-- was hosted by Mama Cache in Feb, 2007. (It was listed as a postal tracker.)

To receive a LTC welcome packet which includes a set of example LTCs to start your collection, contact Linden Leaf.

The most current LTC activity is happening now at:
LTC Trades and Trackers
Letterbox Trading Cards.
LTC Fanatics.

Blogs about LTCS and stamp carving:

How does embossing work?

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 the paper. Clear ink can be used with colored embossing powder, or colored ink with clear embossing powder. Each version has a slightly different look.

The best ink to use is PIGMENT ink. This ink stays 'wet' longer, and the embossing powder will stick to the stamped image. VersaMark makes a clear pigment ink pad and also a pen. Avoid using DYE-or solvent- BASED ink or markers; they simply dry too fast for the powder to stick to the card surface.

After stamping the 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. Brush off any stray particles of powder with a small paintbrush or q-tip. Another option is to buy a bag of chalk (sold near embossing supplies) to rub on the paper BEFORE you stamp. This will reduce the static and oils from fingers on the card that attracts the embossing powder.

Next, heat this powder with a craft heat gun. Hair dryers do not get hot enough to melt the powder and blow the powder off the card. And do not use your stove or other appliances.

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 watch what's going on. When you see the shine, 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?

Cut 10 LTCs from 8.5" x 11" cardstock: 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.

How do I trade an LTC?


  • List your card on Atlas Quest. Requests will start to come in through AQ mail.
  • For faster trading, announce available card(s) on Atlas Quest's LTC: Trades and Trackers Board
  • Consider requesting 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 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 host will provide guidelines, like the number of cards you need to make, orientation requirements, special instructions and the due date. 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.

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

When the swapped set arrives, be sure to comment on the cards when logging your "finds."

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 such as Walmart sell 100 count sleeves $1- . Look for "penny" sleeves. These are the least expensive and fit LTCs perfectly. 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.

Template for cutting LTCs from a 12" x 12" cardstock:

What information goes on the back of an LTC?

For Good practice, include on the LTC (usually on the back):
  • Trail name or signature stamp
  • AQ box #

Other useful information to consider including:
  • Title of card
  • Tracker
  • Number of cards; such as 1 of 20 or 1/20
  • Date (tracker date or card completion date)
  • Info on techniques
  • Credit to any original artwork borrowed
  • Carver's name if the carved stamp was different than the LTC artist
  • Any other useful or interesting info

Additional info might also be included in the clue for the listing on Atlas Quest.

What are some LTC ideas and techniques?

Consider simple but powerful techniques:
*emboss the image
*distress the card edge
*add color with pencils, markers, watercolor, etc.
*embellish the card with cutouts, do-dads, ribbon, brads, string, etc.
*layer with a matte or frame
*spritz it with a dye mist
*add shimmer with a Wink of Stella
*sponge a lil color on the surface
and more!

Active groups discussing this topic right now:

LTC: Tips, Questions, and Stuff

Facebook groups:
Letterbox Trading Cards.
LTC Fanatics.

Also search the web for groups, pages and individuals on sites such as YouTube, Pinterest and Etsy with the keywords: mixed media, art journaling, ATC, etc.

Amazon Purchases:
Artist Trading Card Workshop
1,000 Artist Trading Cards: Innovative and Inspired Mixed Media ATCs

Blogs with techniques:
Some LTC trackers offer links to resources:

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

Most hosts at this time prefer a taped, reusable FLAT mailer— letter size or large — because it keeps postage more consistent, cheaper 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.

-Write your trail name on the outside of the mailer.
-Dogear tape for quick removal
-Include return postage.

How else might I use my LTCs?

LTCers have used their cards to support the LB community as well as other communities:

Pet loss support through the Rainbow Bridge (still active):
Celebrate a New Baby, example:
Prayer cards example:

Often event hosts will organize an LTC/traditional tracker to encourage carvings for an event. The carvers then receive a set of the stamped LTCs, example:

There are always holiday LTC trackers for swapping holiday themed cards including postcards. Christmas Tracker example:

Supporting scouting events and self-improvement examples:
Christian Trackers:

All of this within the LTC community of AQ. All of this creates a stronger LB community, and LTCers are proud & productive members of this LB community. Let's keep growing together!

Are there LTC specific events?


More information is typically available through the discussion boards ...

LTC Trades and Trackers
LTC: Tips, Questions, and Stuff

and Facebook groups:
Letterbox Trading Cards.
LTC Fanatics.

How do I host an LTC tracker?

Learn more about trackers and about hosting trackers at:

How do I list a LTC on AtlasQuest?

LTCs are listed on Atlas Quest just as letterboxes are: Add Letterbox.

  1. Select the LTC option then click "Add Box"
  2. Complete the "Basic" information: Some crafters include all or part of the tracker name in the title separated by a colon (tracker: title). Synopsis is a great place to give credit to the original artist of the image, if applicable.
  3. Complete the Attributes form
  4. Complete the Series Info: The carver is the individual who made the LTC. Give credit to the stamp carver on the Basic page or in the clue. No matter how many stamps are included on a single LTC, regardless of its size, it is only ONE LTC. Do NOT list each stamp separately.
  5. Complete the Clue: this is a good place to include info about how the card was made, why it was made, credit to other artists and more.
  6. Restrictions allow you to limit access to viewing/logging the card listing on AtlasQuest to individuals or groups.
  7. Review the information then click save. AtlasQuest provides a "Box" number for the listing. Record this number on the back of each LTC. Each LTC receives a unique number for tracking.
  8. Editing is still possible by clicking the "Edit box"

What do the attributes mean on an LTC?

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.

What do the subtypes on an LTC represent?

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.).

What should I write on an LTC?

No answer provided... yet!