Full Mental Cardframe – Altering Commander by James Griffin

Altering Commander: The Sissay Project by James Griffin


I laid out my progress last time, and gave pics of all the cards I’ve worked on so far.  Now, to kick off the other half of the project, I’m going to demo a couple of firsts for me.  Firstly, I’m going to do a full art alter, and alter the main art to increase the colour saturation, and secondly I’m going to do a text overlay, a controversial technique that should lead to a pretty unique result.  Have a look and let me know what you think.

In order to do this justice, I decided to use one of my favourite cards from the set, that I’ve been holding off altering for a while, saving it until I had nailed the overlay technique.  Now Ive practiced lots, and gotten a good enough with it, I reckon it’s time to give the spirited dragon a good going over.

Firstly I cracked out the Acetone (get it from a good chemist from their fume cupboard, or from a lab – nail varnish remover isn’t strong enough for this sort of ink).  I went all around the text, and then took that off too.  It feels wierd taking this much of the card off, the artwork looks pretty small on the card now.  The Power/Toughness will stay though, as I think it balances out the top bar on the card.

I then airbrush the card in brown, add layers of darker brown and scratch off the text boxes, and the dragon to clear the overspray.  One downside to using an airbrush.

It’s time to add some texture to the background, while keeping the focus on the dragon himself.  Its important that the dragon doesnt get lost on the card, but should fill the frame appropriately, and I’d rather do that without repainting the whole thing!   As such, I spray black diagonally across the card fast to give it some texture, and some ‘lines of movement’ – I hope that it’s going to become more subtle as I add more layers.

Next it’s time to bring the focus back on Yosei himself.  I spray off white around the little dude

it’s going to take a load of work to clear him again, but it does mean that we get a good halo effect around the focus of the piece.

I’ve covered up all the cool smokey bits, and it’s time to spice them up anyway.  I add smoke from his nose, because I felt like it, and then set to work on the energy around the ribs. I paint it in white,

and then use some Windsor and Newton yellow ink (really rich yellow tone) to ‘warm up’ the centre of the chest.  I add the same effect to the eye.

The hair on his head gets painted back in and I decide to kick off with the tail.

I paint many little white dots on the tail, it’s a pretty slow process!  Hopefully I’ve been able to extend the tail down far enough that he fills the card a little better.

Then I lay thin white layers of paint around the tail.  This ties it all together and gives the yellow ink a surface to cling to (it works better on lighter colours than darker ones).

I also add some interest to the ground in the style of the original artwork, but on a grander scale.  I don’t know what the texture is, but it gives the dragon a sense of height that  I find appealing.  I painted it on, in case you are looking to paint along, by stroking watered down black paint in patches, and immediately wiping it off with my finger.  Then once I had done that a few times, I painted a little line of black and an opposing line of bone colour, the same shade as I had used for the halo around Yosei himself.  Finally, some strokes of black in the ‘distance’ helped define the ‘ground’ to the ‘air’ (that’s a lot of ‘speech marks’ lol) finish the effect, but gives me a blank enough canvas to re-overlay the text.

It’s time to paint around the little kinks on the border of the title and P/T box.  I use black paint to add back in text that I had accidently painted off.  Then I switch to bone white and tidy it up.  It’s not ideal, but hey, needs must.

Let’s do the overlay.  The dragon is looking good as it is, so I’m going to put the text back on.  What is happening here is that I’ve printed the text I want onto a custom made rub-on transfer.  It’s like those rub on tattoos that you had when you were a kid:

…but infinately better quality.  I’ve matched the font, size and spacing of the letters as best as I can, now i’ve got to a point where I am ready to add them to the artwork.  Yeah, this technique is one way to totally fake cards, and given that’s not what I’m doing here, and don’t want to be accused of making it possible, I’m not being too specific!  The tricky thing is to site the transfer square on the card.  That’s why I’m doing it on a cutting mat with square markings on it.  If I get this wrong I don’t have a second shot without getting another card and completely starting again.  I peel the backing off my transfer to reveal the most insanely sticky and minutely thin piece of plastic which is what I printed the text onto.  This is currently mounted to a piece of acetate.  I hold my breath and push it down onto the card, and then rub it with a lollipop stick (like the one pictured above).

I very carefully use a scalpel to lift the top layer of the transfer off, and the text is in place.  In the right light you can’t see the carrier film that is necessarily left on the card, and once it’s varnished that ought not to be a problem in any light.  Once it’s in a sleeve you wouldnt be able to cut to it or tell the difference in any way from a normal card without looking, so I’m hopeful that this will end up seamless.  Below you can see the completed creature type text (still pre-varnish)

I repeat the same process for the body of the text which you can see here:

At this point I realise that I haven’t lined the creature type text quite right, but hey, lesson learned.  A signature and a coat of varnish at the end of the project should get him sorted and ready for battle.

I hope you liked the finished product, and that it inspires you to have a go at making one of your favourite cards ‘full art’.  Some are saying that using this overlay technique makes the alter ‘fake’ or in some way less valued, but I have to say I disagree.  What do you think?  Let me know with a left comment or two, and until next time, I wish you all the best if you decide to have a go at this wonderful unexplored aspect of our hobby.  Next time will be 2 weeks down the road as real life work impinges on my hobby time, alas.  However I’ve got a whole bunch more alters to go, so see you then.


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