Thursday, September 22, 2016

Deconstructing the Frame, Part 1

A quick little one shot that may turn into a series, hence the Part 1. A warning, this will be slightly technical and be referencing Photoshop throughout.

Take a look at this;

You know it as the area on a MTG card for displaying a creature's power and toughness. I'll refer to it here on as the "P/T box".

What so special about that, you ask? Well, intentional or not, it looks terrible. The pitting you see is the result of either a really clever way to combat counterfeiting, or lazy design. I'll walk you through how WOTC created it, and show you what the community at large uses in it's place.

Step by step, using Photoshop, we will recreate the WOTC asset.

I'll be creating the box using a single method, then showing you 2 ways to apply the bevel and emboss. One will mirror the WOTC product, one will be nice and clean. We begin by creating a vector mask of the shape using the pen tool. One thing you will notice right away are the corners don't line up on the source image.

I filled the vector layer with magenta to see how close we were to the actual shape. Turns out, not very, especially on the right hand side.

Playing with the vector a bit, we get a reasonable facsimile of the WOTC asset. Kinda lopsided, ah well.

Now that we have our shape, we need to apply the B/E layer style. For the WOTC treatment, first I'll make a selection of the vector, turn off anti-aliasing, and copy/paste that to create a new layer. This creates a rather jagged edge vs the vector layer. In layer styles,apply the B/E as such:

We are left with this, gorgeous yeah? #kappa

Applying the clipping mask for the green texture, this is our final result. Not pixel to pixel accurate to the WOTC, but you can see the similarities. This P/T box as printed is the result of this process.

Remember that lovely shape we had with the vector data? Let's apply the same B/E to that layer and see what happens.

Turns out a whole lot cleaner. Applying the texture we get;

Now, this was quick-and-dirty-from-scratch exercise to show the difference between what is and what could have been. The frame itself shows the same poor process, but the P/T box is where it's at it's most visible. For reference, here's a at-card-size shot of the green P/T box I use in my personal templates. I've turned off the custom texture layer to better represent this vs the above ones.

The biggest difference is in the printing process. A postscript printer can print using the clean vector data, and it can be scaled to any size without losing fidelity. The bigger you print a MTG card now, the more obvious the "flaws" are.

Hope you enjoyed the read. As always, you can find me on Twitter @TheProxyGuy


Friday, September 2, 2016

A Few Updates From a Semi-Recluse

Yes, I'm Still Here

Though it has been a good long while since I've shared anything here. I am still very active on Twitter, and lurk through the subreddit from time to time, not responding to avoid my prevalent COMS. (Cranky Old Man Syndrome)

But that's not why you're here. You want me to shut up and post some renders, so here they are. A few #BONSWZFLI (see Twitter for explanation) and a cycle of Kaladesh basics done in the BFZ full art frame.

A quick COMS note. The Beta wording will be "wrong" to many of you. Kindly keep it to yourself. The endless debate over how I'm obviously an idiot is what ended the Beta Seven in the first place.

The CN2 Beta Sev....Five

 Kaladesh Basics



You can always find me on Twitter @TheProxyGuy

Art for basics from
Sanctum Prelate:
Stunt Double:
Thorn of the Black Rose:
Grenzo, Havoc Raiser:
Selvala, Heart of the Wilds:

Thursday, July 21, 2016


Leaving the blog intact for now, but have little to no plans to post new content. Enjoy what is here!


Friday, February 12, 2016

Lighting Bolt 11 Ways

This post dedicated in memory to Christopher Rush, 1965-2016.

Let's talk about frames shall we? WOTC has many many official frames, far more than you might realize. The history of the frame really doesn't seem to have too much written about it. I'll leave the particulars to Evan or Mike for that. I'm going to instead focus on the purely visual, and then break form with some custom looks.

Bolts. Lots and lots of bolts. 

In the beginning, there was Alpha.

A fine frame really. Iconic today. The printing process' of the day provided almost unreadable text on some cards if you were more than a foot or so from it. Alpha and Beta are the only sets to ever feature the double border. Whether this was intentional or not, it's a nice touch to the dawn of the game.


Revised's text box was actually much lighter than this. This will be a recurring theme.

Basically the same frame, though brightened and far more readable. The large rules text used prior is gone, now scaled down to a maximum 9pt. Sure, Revised was a white border set, but most folks look down their noses at WB so I've done all the renders today in BB.


Further color changes that became much more uniform as the game aged. The textbox was widened to the same width as the art, and the card title became left justified to the art as well. The artist info eventually migrated to be centered under the art. This was the frame until...

8th Edition

A radical change, New font for the title and card type. Especially for the red cards, the artist and set info became completely unreadable. This frame underwent very few changes in its time in the limelight. In fact, the only major frame change between this and the M15 frame is up next.

Future Sight

Wrong font. Should be Matrix, used Beleren. Lazy.

Thought the 8th Edition change was radical? This at first glance looks like a completely different game. Things innovated with this frame are the mana cost of the left, and a symbol to easier tell you what kind of card it is whilst in your hand.


The current (as of Feb 2016) frame. When this was 1st released, it was  dismissed as the wrong direction to go by the community at large. brand new font again for the title and type. This is my favorite of the frames thus far. Fixing the set info makes sorting much, much faster. The border was shrunk, the frame pushed out towards the border, which resulted in more room for the art. All in all, excellent changes.

Custom Frames

Up until now, we've looked at official frames, anything you could find in a booster pack. The beauty of the process for me is seeing what might be possible. What could frames have looked like?

First up is a side-by-side. I've mentioned I'm a big fan of the M15 frame, and I am. That doesn't make it sacred or exempt if from tweaking. Here's the previous M15 Bolt next to the tweaked one. Can you spot the changes?

They appear pretty close at first. I added overlays to the default textures for the title and type bars (Twins in the parlance of proxy templates) and a textbox background overlay. The complete intent of these changes is to visually make them look different than an official card. The most important part of physical proxies, to me, is to take away the shadow of doubt that a card might be real.

Here are some more examples of cards that are obviously not official. 

The modern frame using the classic textures with some brightness tweaks were needed.. It mostly works. Not a bad frame in any way.

I dubbed this FutureFuture Sight. New frame, huge art area, but keeping the FUT mana cost idea. This frame passes the "Progenitus Test", something the original frame does not. The test is simple, can you put 10 mana symbols on it?

Modern classic. Modern border, classic frame elements. One of my favorite custom templates. This one was a lot of fun to visualize and create.

Ahh, my eyes!

This is ugly, really really ugly. Classic fame with Modern textures. Super busy visually. This works on exactly zero levels.

We've had a look back at the amazing Lightning Bolt art by Chris Rush, and the many faces of Magic cards through the years. The possibilities when creating proxies are limitless, and there is no way for anyone to create a master list of those possibilites. And don't get me started on white border variants...

Social Media

As always, I can be found on Twitter @TheProxy Guy Thanks for reading!