Alter Feedback – Elfhame Druid

This is reddit user /u/TheDeadalus’s first Magic: the Gathering alter! They did a fantastic job at keeping the paint thin. They main thing they need to work on is color matching and adding detail. The alterist specifically asked about working with large areas of green so that’s something we will touch on as well. What we’ll be going over today is…

  • Adding detail
  • Color Matching
  • Working with greens

Adding Detail

When you’re working with card alters detail is super important. The area is so small that it can be hard to get tiny details, but you can work your way from broad generic to tiny specific.

With this card the majority of the artwork is darker. Dark cards are easy to do, difficult to master. It’s easy to just paint the borders whatever dark color and call it a day. It’s difficult to change the dark colors ever so slightly so the viewer can see the difference but not make it so they stand out too much.

A few little things the artist could have worked off of are the animal in the background, the elf, and the tree on the right. That animal looks huge, so odds are that some sort of pointy horn thing will stick out from behind the name plate. You don’t have to paint over the plate, but remember to visualize where things are proportionally and see what sticks out. The elf could be brought all the way to the top of the text box. I’m terrible at feet so I’m happy with her being behind it. But having those bits of fabric over the top would be a nice touch. You could add shadows under them to show more depth on the card. The tree on the right just fades to black as it stands. But I don’t think the tree is actually that big. I would have added a little nook to show that the tree ended.

Remember to clean up your edges when you done. A regular toothpick, dampen a tiny bit, does the trick great! I normally start near an area that you can see the border line you want to clean to. Then just evenly work your way around the text box and name plates.

Color Matching

The majority of this card is pretty good! There’s a only a few spots that need work. The artist already knows about them.

“I got to the point where I gave up on trying to do the yellow and white too border and just went for a solid green again. “

Whites and yellows are hard. They are both transparent colors so the require a lot of work. Putting down a nice base and working lighter with thin layers is what you have to do. Work a little, go work on a different section while it dries, then come back and add another layer.

Getting the colors to match takes practice and experimenting with mixing colors. I just picked up Jenkins Green this weekend and played around with it. Now I don’t know how I made greens without it! So don’t be afraid to try new things. Go buy that neat new paint and play with it!

Working with Greens

Green can be a tricky color to work with. If you go too light it almost looks yellow, then when you go too dark it’s basically black. I like to put down a dark brown first when doing foresty areas. If you don’t cover it up all the way in the end that’s fine because there’s tiny wood pieces that show through the underbrush. If you’re doing an area that is grass the brown is just the dirt. Working from back to front with the layers helps add detail into the card without having to do extra work.

” I want to make it look like leaves and shrubbery but It just ends up looking like one block colour on top of another.”

Just adding greens on top of one another will just have them blend and not show. Wherever you are planning on adding a bush/shrub make that area lighter. Putting down a light layer of white or off white will allow the greens to have something to work off of. I’ve found that since we have to keep the layers thin while working on cards it’s easier to work from light colors to dark colors, very similar to painting with water colors. For a shurb lay down your large light layer, then keep going back with slightly darker greens to add the shadows of the leaves. Once all of your shadows are in you an go back with a green highlight and go over the areas that may have gotten darkened and you didn’t want them to.

Overall this is a great first try! Keep in mind of the little details that you could add. Painting on cards is a hybrid of acrylic paints with almost a watercolor painting style. The way that you took the picture, because of the glare, you can see that your paint is thin. That is fantastic! Oh, if you want to reduce the glare on your next picture prop the card up on something. They sell tiny easels for $1 at craft stores, but you can use a deck box just as well.


  1. Craig Nielsen says:

    I think that the paint is too easy to see. you might want to use a wetter paint.

    1. hurleyburley says:

      Correct the paint is too thick in these examples. Using paint that is about the consistency of eggnog is perfect for altering. You can achieve this by using Fluid paints or thinning heavy body paints.

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