What Are ACEOs and How Are They Used by Visual Artists

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The acronym "ACEO" stands for Art Cards, Editions and Originals. These can be original art, prints/reproductions or photographs. ACEOs are pocket-sized pieces of art that measure 2.5in. X 3.5in. (64 x 89 mm); this measurement is the official size for an art card. If a small piece of art has different measurements than this, it does not qualify as an ACEO; to be considered an art card it must meet this criterion.

artist trading cards, books about miniature art, ACEO
Suggested reference list of books related to this subject. See more details near end of article. 

Art cards are available worldwide sold at events, stores and online shops. The majority of ACEOs are two dimensional; however 3D elements are also sometimes incorporated. Pop-ups, mosaic collages and sculpted elements can all be included on an ACEO as long as it meets the standard measurement of 2.5in. X 3.5in.

Here are the three basic ACEO categories:
  1. Open Edition – Prints or reproductions of artwork that can be printed and reprinted based on demand. There is no set limit to how many can be printed. These may be a miniature print of larger-sized original art.
  2. Limited Edition - These are also prints or reproductions which have a set limit to total number of cards to be printed and sold. These cards have higher value based on the limited supply of each card available. Limited edition cards are usually numbered on the back or corner of each card.
  3. Original - This type of card is a unique artwork made by the artist. It must be 100% original and the only one in existence. This is naturally the most valuable art card.

It is a convenient and affordable way for a fan to own a piece of art that they may not have otherwise had the space or money enough to own a full-sized version. With these art cards art fans may collect ACEOs of their favorite artists similar to the way that sports fans collect cards of their favorite players. There are also art cards referred to as ATCs – Artist Trading Cards. ATCs are only traded between artists whereas ACEOs are bought by art lovers. ATCs tend to be an artistic business card which will usually have artwork very definitive of the artist's personal style.  A fellow artist may remember the artist and want to have a quick reference for possibly arranging group shows or maybe referring a commission looking for a different kind of art that happens to be the other artist's forte.

ACEO artist recommendations for brush sizes tend to range from size 000 to size four. Die-cut blank cards in watercolor stock are inexpensive while still good quality. Experimenting with these is an idea you might want to consider before you invest in a lot of blanks in higher, more costly support material.  Sheets of Ivorine, the plastic “substitute” for ivory are popular for fine art versions of ACEOs. Ivorine is very delicate and temperamental so you would want to approach using this material with some research and only after mastering other support materials in making ACEOs. The luminous feature of the Ivorine base comes through the illustrations which can prove to enhance the final piece and is what makes it so appealing for experienced art card artists.

While some artists choose to cut their own blank cards from quality art-grade paper this may be a technical challenge not everyone wishes to undertake. Die-cut blanks have perfect measurements; a DIY blank at least will have the added character of original artwork with perfectly human cut sides.  This is a choice that is entirely up to the artist. Major art supply stores have wide assortments of pre-cut cards made in various support forms as well as pens and brushes and envelopes specifically sized for ACEO and ATC miniature art.  Good search recommendations are the terms "trading cards" or “art cards.” All this said, there are no limits on the media you can use for creating ACEOs, do not be afraid to think outside the box.

Here are a few books you can use to gather more information and instruction concerning art cards:

  • “Artist Trading Card Workshop: Create, Collect, Swap” by Bernie Berlin 
  • “Big Art, Small Canvas: Paint Easier, Faster & Better” by Joyce Washor
  • “The Techniques of Painting Miniatures” by Sue Burton
  • “Miniature Painting: A Complete Guide to Techniques, Mediums, and Surface” by Joan Cornish Willies

Have you created art cards or traded cards with other artists?  Or are you a collector that has a few art cards of your own?  Please share your experience in regards to ACEOs by letting us know how you have used them or just how you feel about them in general.

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