When should I work on Expensive Cards?

“So my goal is to extended border my entire EDH deck. My question is how do you go about altering an “expensive” card. I’m going to eventually do it but I don’t want to go for it and be like ugh I need to get a new damnation or something like that” – u/Punkahmc


What should we keep in mind when we are getting ready to work with expensive cards? People seem to be intimidated with higher cost cards because they don’t want to ruin the value of their possessions. That makes sense. When I start to take on a borderless alter, I look at the artwork before I look at the cost of the card. If I am confident that I can replicate the artist style, then everything should be good! If it has too much of an element that you haven’t mastered yet, then you should probably go study before you decide to take on the project. For me that usually is people…. I still think I’m sub-par at painting people.

Lets into Punkahmc’s work so we can see the areas that can be improved before they start to work on higher end cards.


From what they have posted on /r/mtgaltered these are the first two Magic: the Gathering card alters they have done. For first time alters they are fantastic, in my opinion! The color matching is great. They were able to get a nice light shade on the top of the Hapatra, light shades are normally hard for beginners to do. There is a fair amount of detail to the extension as well.

The biggest area of improvement is that the paint is still thick. When you are working on card alters you want to have the paint to be about the consistency of thick milk. Golden Fluid Acrylics are like this as soon as they come out of the bottle. 9/10 I don’t have to thin out my paints while I work. If you aren’t working with fluid acrylics you can use acrylic thinner or water to get the consistency you want. If you do decide to use water remember not to go higher than a 3:1 ratio of paint to water. If there is too much water in the mixture the polymers will be separated too far and the pigments won’t have anything to adhere to.

Putting down a base grey layer to get your paint on a nice even canvas is usually the way to start. Another process is erasing the ink off the borders… I don’t like this method as much because when you get near the edges you run the risk of bending the card and I don’t think the physically effort is worth it. The layer of grey has to be just enough to make the working area even. If the art is darker you won’t need as opaque of a grey because darker colors are naturally opaque. While lighter colors like the Hapatra will require a opaque grey and I would add a few thin layers of white as well to brighten things up. Don’t be afraid to add thin layers. Many, many thin layers is 500% better for your alter than a few thick ones.

Try not to do a fade to black on the bottom of the card. This can be hard sometimes because the view of the card may start in the artbox, that’s where your creativity as an artist comes in! The Hapatra, for example, has two bodyguards on either side of her chair. So the bottom of the card could have the rest of their body or whatever type of path they are walking on. The Widerbough is a little more difficult. Simple rocks or twigs would have been a nice addition here.

The Hapatra, the earlier of the two cards, has a bit of a shaky outline on the textbox. It looks like the alterist figure out a method to clean them up. Personally I use a toothpick to keep my edges clean. Paint adheres to the card differently in different sets because the printing process isn’t the same. Sometimes the paint will come off nice, sometimes you have to ask more forcefully. I wet the end of my toothpick by licking it the same was I do my paint brushes. Please, please, please, do not a needle or x-acto knife. You can scratch the paint off the card and usually it will make it looks messier then when you started.

Honestly, I think you will have no problem when being able to do high end cards. Keep practicing a more common ones until the paint is thin is the main obstacle you have to overcome. You should be able to take a picture and not see any bumps in the paint. I’ve found that when I look at my work through a camera I can see mistakes that I couldn’t before. I don’t know the science behind it but it works every time! Good luck I can’t wait to see what you produce next!

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