Home > Artist Tips, Artist Trading Cards, Collage > Masterboard Process for Artist Trading Cards

Masterboard Process for Artist Trading Cards


Mail art swapper jannieb turned me onto a process being called a “masterboard technique” and it is really fun for making artist trading cards.  Online searches run into some confusion with the use of “masterboard” for computers and electronics versus it’s usage for arts and crafts.  The basic idea is very simple, people make one main artwork and then cut it up into smaller pieces for ATCs, labels, greeting cards, etc.  A lot of the example I found used collage and rubber stamps so I tried two of those to start out with, combining paint and coloured pencils, then I moved on to making entirely painted masterboards.

Gel medium works well to adhere the pieces of the paper collage in place and will not dissolve when it has dried.  Glue stick, book binding paste and rubber cement also work well and are not wet enough to warp the substrate. Cereal boxes or similar recycled food packaging is a sturdy surface for collage.  I have gotten to like using a wash of transparent paint over the entire collage to tie together the different pieces.  Heavy watercolour paper would also work well.  With painted masterboards, I have found the gelatin sized paper for painting with acrylics and canvas paper work well.

The benefit is that you are filling a surface with a lot of detail and points of interest but you are going beyond the confines of a 2.5″ x 3.5″ rectangle.  The beauty comes from adding layer upon layer.  You can combine paper collage, different kinds of paints, inks,  drawing media, stencils, rubber stamps and more.  I try to use a minimum of four to five layers of material; a mere three layers used well packs a lot of impact.  Making masterboards has been a fun new technique for me, and I have gotten nice series of up to nine cards for a 9″ x 12″ sheet of board, gelatin sized paper or canvas paper.  I title and edition the good cards from each masterboard to make each one its own ATC series.

ATC Triton 2

painted masterboard ATC

ATC Vintage MB 1

collage with gold acrylic paint wash, rubber stamps using pigment ink pad and coloured pencils cut into ATCs

  1. Sunny
    April 26, 2013 at 4:45 pm

    Thanks! This was quite timely…I was wondering if this could be done and if it is an acceptable practice. Apparently, it is! 🙂

    • April 28, 2013 at 1:12 pm

      It’s really fun! I’ve already traded a bunch of the ones from the set. You get nice layers and it adds complexity. As far as accepted practice goes, there are no rules in art save for what you choose to ascribe to. ☺

  2. Martha
    July 24, 2013 at 10:30 pm

    Love these techniques; I’ve been doing these for years…only just connected them w/ the term “masterboard’! But it’s a fabulous way (any one of them!) for making backgrounds for collage, and for showcasing special embellishments.

    • July 26, 2013 at 1:55 pm

      The use of the word “masterboard” was confusing to me at first but once I caught onto making a bigger piece and cutting it down for smaller art then it clicked. ☺ I now keep grouping my paper scraps by colour so I can do this easier.

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