Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Deconstructing Card Renders

With the return of the contests looming large over The Factory G+ community, I thought I'd attempt to sit down and write an article series about what makes rendering out MTG cards, at least for me, fun, and the challenges that face each of us when moving from a more "vanilla" render to something that will compete for a top spot in the contests.

First though, let's go back and have a bit of an abbreviated history lesson for those visiting for the first time.


Splendid Genesis

My 1st Render.



No, not that Genesis, but the birth of the modern MTG proxy community could be attributed to the MTGSalvation forums in the now-closed "The Make a Proxy" thread. Right around the release of SOM is when I started visiting, having an interest in MTG and as long as I've played, in proxies. It was a collaborative and engaging, albeit small, community of folks sharing what they rendered, fulfilling requests, etc. This eventually ended when several posts of people printing out proxies using POD sites went unchecked.

That closure led to this blog being established before a revamped "Digital Renders" thread got off the ground. Salvation is still a great place to get your feet wet. Personally, I disliked the restrictions put in place, and am no longer a contributor to the site.



Vanilla

This became Snapcaster Mage.



What do I mean by "vanilla". Basic, potentially bland, though technically adept. At its roots, a vanilla render is one that only replaces 1 or 2 elements of a frame or art and presents itself as close to a WOTC card as possible.

In this example, a card that never saw print was used, but rendered in a way to make the presentation of the card rather blasé. There was little effort made in making it special in any way. Sure, the art had to be sourced, and I found a somewhat suitable blurb for the flavor text, but other then that it just looks like a classic card. Fine I suppose, but if you want to compete in a contest, this is about a 5 out of 10. 

In short, vanilla entries just don't stand out or stir up Judges emotions, which leads to lackluster results.




Vanilla, With Sprinkles

The very first Super Art Planeswalker


Now we know what basic is, what's one or two levels beyond that? Let's call it "vanilla with sprinkles". A basic render, with a touch of creativity thrown in for good measure. 

Here we see an oft rendered Planeswalker, Jace, the Mind Sculptor. 

Loads of differences with the printed card. We can see the border and background texture of the card are gone, and the colors around the title and type bars have gone missing too. The text box has been condensed, perhaps a touch too much. 

We also see "spill". Spill refers to the art covering up part of the card elements, in this case, the head peeking out in front of the title bar. In the current "meta" of renders, this would be considered probably a 6 of 10. Decent, but it's been done to death.


Chocolate

For Franky.

At first glance, this appears to be nothing more than vanilla with sprinkles.

Once you delve a bit further, you start to notice the textures have slightly changed, and there are custom expansion symbols and foil stamp. More work, some subtle, went into this than the Jace we just saw. The spill is more difficult to accomplish. The chosen alternate art needs to fit the card, and while it does in the color spectrum, the vorthos of it fails miserably. Ivy isn't a Giant Shaman, and certainly does not tap for X spell mana.

Scoring on this would be in the 7-7.5 range. Technically and fundamentally strong, but still no wow factor.

Which leads us to....




Salted Caramel






Let's take a look at a card we did previously. Again we see Big Jace, and this one looks a bit different.

For one, the color around the card elements is back. This makes it easier to identify the card as blue. There are the same subtle changes we saw in Chocolate with the texture additions and spill. So what makes this Salted Caramel and puts it in contention to win?

The work put in to make it appear as though it's raining. The water drops on the "lens" of us as a viewer. The little splashed of water hitting Jace's hood and cape. The cleanliness of the render, with no one miscue overly noticeable.

This would score in the 8.5-9 range. 













When submitting an entry for inclusion into any of the contests, ask yourself if there's anything you would change. Chances are a tweak here, or a nudge there changes the overall flavor of the render. Vanilla is fine and complex flavor. But salted caramel is so much better.

I can be found on Twitter @TheProxyGuy 

Questions? Hit me up on Twitter or leave a comment below.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

...We'll Go To Very, Distant Lands...

Adventure Time!

As you may or may not be aware, Card Wars has been available in paper since Oct or so. I strongly suggest giving it a try if you're a fan of the show in any way,

A note on todays renders. They really can't be used for Magic or ADCW as they are the wrong size for MTG and make little sense in Card Wars. This project was more proof-of-concept, merging 2 properties I'm quite fond of. 

The cards themselves are built on the Card Wards landscape frame. All of the arts are sourced wallpapers save the Volcanic, which I color shifted a bit to better match the card.

Enjoy!

Mathematical!












As always, I can be found on Twitter @TheProxyGuy

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Dragons of Tarkir Beta Seven

Theory

For those seeing one of these for the first time, the thought is to take 7 cards from the most recent set and reimagine them as if they had existed in Beta (or Legends, in this case). There will be much discussion of rules text that doesn't work, is broken, or is flat out wrong. I am open to these discussions, but be prepared for references, especially with wording.

Of note if it get's used. "Bury" did not exist until Legends. This comes up a lot. And Legends didn't exist in Beta, but they are used in this instance because, well, they need to be.

Archives

Some point to Day 1 posts as these were once spread out over a week.

The Cards

The 5 dragonlords, and obligatory artifact and land.  I had to stray from the usual fine art territory as there just aren't many usable dragons. I tried as much as possible to mimic the art styles of the era, and I hope you enjoy them!

EDIT: Why the "common" expansion symbol? I just wanted to keep it accurate to the time frame, :)
 















Social Media

Like what you see? Have a request for a render? Feel free to hit me up on Twitter @TheProxyGuy

Art Links

Atarka: http://alexdromero.deviantart.com/art/Dragon-oil-painting-444347107
Dromoka: http://fineartamerica.com/featured/green-dragon-kelly-puckett.html
Kolaghan: http://www.artistdisplay.net/Profile/Index.aspx?id=381
Ojutai: http://mimihollow.deviantart.com/art/The-time-warden-326296979
Silumgar: http://www.ellison-art.com/index.aspx
Vial of Dragonfire: http://www.wikiart.org/en/agnes-lawrence-pelton/mount-of-flame-1932
Haven of the Spirit Dragon: http://www.wikiart.org/en/ferdinand-georg-waldm-ller/rettenbach-gorge-at-ischl-1831


Monday, March 23, 2015

Swords of Nostalgia and Glass

Comfort Zone

This post is 100% out of my comfort zone. Why you might ask? This is the 1st cycle of anything ever that I personally put the art together for. Some I like, some I don't. Some ideas are strong while the execution leaves something to be desired.

The genesis of this idea was Stephen Raphael (@SteveRaffle) and his amazing Eldrazi created in the style of stained glass. You can see his Emrakul here: http://zeerbe.blogspot.com/2014/09/factory-worker-contest-ending-912.html

Below are my poor attempts and re-creating that style as the Swords, using 80's iconic cartoon and video game swords as the centerpieces. I value any and all feedback as I cannot grow without criticism. You can respond here, on the reddit thread, or reach me on Twitter @TheProxyGuy.

The Cards