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ACEO Art Cards: Information & Lesson Plan

written by: Cheryl Gabbert • edited by: SForsyth • updated: 7/12/2012

ACEO miniature art cards can be awesome additions to the art classroom. Creating, collecting and trading art cards make them exciting art lesson ideas. Although any subject or media can be used when creating an art card, this article will discuss some popular ones as well as how to create them.

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    ACEO stands for Art Cards, Editions, and Originals. Dating all the way back to the 16th century, art cards have been around for quite a while. They were first used as miniature portraits, much like wallet sized photos of today. These miniature portraits were created by artists of the day, and nude mistresses were popular objects of the cards. They were commonly used for arranging marriages as well. People would exchange pictures of marriage prospects hoping to find attractive partners. Art cards were also traded among other artists. Artists collected tiny masterpieces long before there were baseball cards. With the advent of baseball and other sports cards, art trading cards took on the standard size of the authentic trading card: 3.5" X 2.5". Today, this remains the one basic rule of the ACEO card. It must adhere to the standard size of a trading card.

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    Today's ACEOs incorporate a huge variety of media and subjects. Anything goes as long as the size is right. Paper can be of any weight, texture or color. Subjects vary in popularity, and trends seem to change over time. Art cards come in every media, and all genres of art are utilized, from abstract to impressionism. Ebay has become a huge market for the ACEOs of today. Art cards are also very affordable, and many can be purchased at very low prices. Truly anyone can own a quality, original work of art created by a real artist with ACEOs. People are buying and collecting these miniatures every day, and quite a frenzy has come from these collectibles. They can be displayed in trading card books or tiny frames. ACEO cards are truly amazing little collectibles.

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    Using ACEO Cards in the Classroom

    ACEOs offer some fresh and new ideas for art teachers. Teachers can collect a variety of cards for display and sharing purposes. Different types of art can be shown in original form when these cards are kept on hand. They can be used to show what different media options look like in a finished product. Even more exciting, however, are the possibilities ACEO cards offer for the student artist. Students can create their own originals, and trade amongst other students. Teachers may even facilitate student cards being marketed on ebay or other online sites.

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    Working with Subjects, Size, and Media

    ACEO miniature art cards, or Art Cards, Editions, and Originals, are great for sharing quality works of art with students in the classroom. These miniature works of art can be bought, collected, and traded, and make great art lesson ideas. Once displayed in the classroom, the next step is to actually encourage students to create their own art cards. The possibilities are endless, as art cards can be done in any media and subject. The only strict guideline is the size: 3.5" x 2.5", the size of a baseball trading card. Get students started by introducing some popular media and subjects. Some of the most popular subjects today include fairies, cats, dogs, and botanicals. Popular subjects tend to change over time, but these are pretty standard. Students might want to start with one of these subjects, or create their own. Media is as unliimited as the subjects, but some of the more popular media include colored pencils like Prismacolors, charcoal, pencil, and pastels. Acrylics and oils are also popular media, but I have found paint to be more difficult to use with such a small canvas. I would suggest prismacolors or pencils as a beginning point when assigning a project with students. A variety of lesson plans for art can be created using art cards. The following is a general art lesson plan for creating a basic art card.

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    Lesson Plan

    You will need:

    5 blank pre-cut 3.5" x 2.5" cards

    prismacolors or graphite pencils


    To familiarize students with ACEO size, subject and design. Students will choose a subject and create their own original design.

    Begin by displaying a variety of art cards for the students to see what they look like. Show a variety of subjects and media. Discuss how the cards can be collected and traded, and talk about the history of miniature art. Now the students will create a set of 5 art cards of their own.

    ACEO art cards can be created on a variety of papers cut to fit the 3.5"x 2.5" specifications, although a very heavy card stock or paper would be best for these purposes. Blank, pre-cut cards can be purchased online. Have students work with 5 cards for the first lesson. Direct students to use a light pencil to block in the design before they begin to fill with shading and color. Students should be encouraged to be creative when creating their own art card. Tell them to keep in mind that the cards can be traded and collected within the classroom if desired. Be sure to make trading optional, because some students may not feel comfortable sharing and trading their designs, and that should be respected. There are so many art lesson ideas using art cards. Why not bring miniature art to your classroom?