ATC Ideas: Improbable Maps

Already know how to make ATCs but stuck on ideas?

Artist trading cards are fun to make, but artist’s block is a legit thing. It’s not always easy to magically be inspired to make stuff.

So today I bring you an idea that I hope will inspire you! I actually don’t know that “improbable maps” is an accurate way to describe them… but that’s how I think of them! I’ve recently been making these abstract “maps” on a ton of cards.

For example, here is the simplest variety:

A black-and-white artist trading card with simple shapes

As you can see, these improbable maps are really just a lot of shapes drawn so that the spaces in between, or the “roads,” are approximately the same width between all the shapes on the card. The shapes themselves are pretty random, but drawn carefully in a bold pen to keep the edges looking clean and straight.

What you’ll need

  • ATC blanks, standard 2.5 x 3.5″ size (thick, sturdy paper like watercolor paper works best)
  • Something to draw with (I used a Sakura Pigma Micron pen, size 08, but this is really up to you and your favorite drawing tools)
  • Patience! Go slow to keep your lines as clean as possible.


This is the fun part–deciding how to vary up this concept to make a unique design. I find that something that feels limited like this simple idea is actually very freeing for creativity.

For example, you can try:

  • Different colors
  • Different pen thicknesses
  • Different shapes (e.g., all straight edges, including curves or not, only triangles or only rectangles, etc.)
  • Selectively coloring some parts but not others, for emphasis
  • Different simple patterns to fill the spaces
  • Cleaner or messier lines, depending on how many times you trace over them
  • Different sizes of shapes or “roads”
  • Structuring the map as a logical grid versus centered around a point or random
  • Looking at real (probable) maps for inspiration!

My examples: photo dump time

I hope that my ATC examples sparked some inspiration for your own art! Thank you so much for reading and I’ll see you soon!


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