Alter Feedback: Advice for New Alterist

Reddit user u/minhoabernathy decided to take their hand up at altering. They are doing a slightly different version of extensions. I did something similar when the new card frames came out, I called it a window extension. I’m not really sure if it has a name, but that’s what we’ll call it for now. Today we’ll be going over a few main spots.

  • Color Matching
  • Working in layers
  • Clean Edges
  • Extending Details

Color Matching

Right side dot is the printed color, left side dot is the painted color.

Color matching and keeping the paint thin are the two biggest obstacles when it comes to doing card alters. For the most part, the color matching on these cards is pretty good. They really just need to work on mixing to fine tune the colors. Learning how colors mix together is something that I feel is best learned though trial and error. 

A big part of color matching is working with the colors that are printed and not the colors that you think should be there. The example in the top left, Worldsoul Colossus, has buildings that are a green hue. The alterist painted buildings that were brown. While buildings are normally brown, these buildings are supposed to be green to give the card a Selesyna guild feeling.

The Narcomobea’s colors are deceivingly difficult. Since the cards colors are so dark it should be easy to match them right? Wrong. Blacks are never truly black and it looks like out artist found that out. The building on the left side should have a more of a purple/blue hue to it, it is closer to a brown. The color scheme of the art is all purples and blues. The building on the left has the opposite problem, it’s too purple. Not by much though! 

Working with Layers

Layers are your friend! Many thin layers will make you alter look a million times better than a few thicker ones. Not only do thin layers help you build to the color that you need, they increase the likelihood that you’ll be able to use you work. 

The thickness of your paint should be able the consistency of bad milk. Golden Fluid Acrylics can be used right out of the bottle. Cheaper paints and Warhammer type paints need to be thinned down. You can thin your paint with water or an acrylic thinner. If you use water it is possible to add too much. Acrylic paints are pigments held in an acrylic polymer emulsion, so if you add too much water the acrylic won’t be able to ‘hang on’ to each other and your paint won’t stick.

With the Dryad, using thin layers would help get the bright colors even and not as blotchy. Lighter colors, like white, are usually transparent. So you will need many layers to get a nice opaqueness to your piece. The Ceratok seems to have thick paint for the dirt. You can almost see a shadow right above the creature type from the difference in the paint and the card.

Clean Edges

If I had to guess which cards you did first I would say that you did the full border extension and then the window alters. I think this because you were having trouble keeping the edges clean and then thought to use a tape of some sort and then used that to extend the windows. 

In 99% of my alters I do not use tape to keep the edges clean. It can work, and looks like it is doing okay for you. The problem with using tape is that the paint can start to build up against it and form a ridge. You can see that happening in the top picture, there is a ridge starting to form above the type line. 

Toothpicks are the way to go! You can go ham with your painting and then when you are done the paint will simply scrape away. There are some printings that the paint sticks very well to the card, so you need to keep that in mind. If you are leaving the text box and name plate keeping it consistent keeps it clean. There is the color pipeline around those areas. Either get rid of it completely, or keep it. When you use the toothpick dampen it a bit to help the paint come up. Don’t be afraid you go through them quickly the ends start to fray which will give you less control over how much paint is going to scrap off.

Extending Detail

First off I would like to say that I LOVE what the artist did with the tree extension. They also did a superb job with the Colossus’ windows. Remembering perspectives sometimes doesn’t happen.

I personally enjoy simple extensions like the Join Shields. It adds just a little bit to the card without overdoing it. I would have added a drop shadow below the shields to give it just a little more pop!

Human anatomy is hard, to me at least. The arm of the dryad is off. I don’t know enough about anatomy to exactly explain what’s wrong. Just the line on her arm wouldn’t be connected. There would be a break where the elbow bends, you would see the fold in the skin. When doing an extension that pops out from under a plate, it helps to sketch it out to make sure that it is proportional. As I don’t like to paint humans or faces, I would have had the soldier wear a helm so I wouldn’t have to paint the eyes. 

Overall, the alterist is off to a fantastic start. Playing around with new styles and mixing colors is the best way to learn. You can only get so much from reading. There is a ton of potential here, keep at it!


  1. MinhoAbernathy says:

    Thank you so much for this article. I think I will be much better off with it as a guide to my future alters. Also you got it right on, I did do the full boarder extensions first, then the “window” ones. I did use tape for the windows as well. Your alters are absolutely amazing and I hope to improve over time and maybe make it to your level of artistic ability.
    Thank you again,

    1. hurleyburley says:

      You’re so welcome, and thank you very much!
      I’m glad that I was able to help you improve with your alters. I’m looking forward to seeing you improve. Time and practice are amazing tools, don’t give up!

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