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Altered Reality – 3D Craw Wurm


In the past year, I have intentionally destroyed over three hundred rares and mythic rares. Wait, let me explain.

What’s your favorite part about LEGOs? Okay, maybe you haven’t built any spaceships in years, but think back—was it the experience of creation? The joy of finding the perfect piece or perfect process to do what you wanted? Did you spend hours playing with your creations, or skip straight to destruction by crashing your boat into the wall or hitting your LEGO house with an imaginary explosive?

For the past three years, I have been making 3D TCG cards, a hobby that combines all the best parts of playing with LEGOs—except that the destruction part comes first, so I’m left with a sweet finished product. For the past year, I’ve focused mostly on making 3D Legendary creatures since I can then use them during games. Normally, the extra thickness of 3D cards makes them unplayable, but for Commanders, it’s not a problem. I’ve gone so far as to make the Commander of my Pauper deck 3D:

Today, I’m going to take you through my process for making 3D cards. I’ll be cutting up a cheap common so you can follow along at home if you’d like. First, here are the supplies I use to make most of my cards:

  • Xacto knives with #11 blades
  • Self-healing cutting mat
  • Floracraft Make It: Fun Styrofoam Glue
  • Sakura PIGMA Brush Pens
  • Faber-Castell PITT Artist Pens: Shades of Gray set

If you’re just trying this out, I suggest a simpler list:

  • Xacto knife
  • Thick stack of paper/newspaper
  • Any non-Sharpie marker
  • Glue

A thick stack of paper does a good job as a cutting surface as long as you throw out the top few sheets when they get ragged. From talking with others who have made 3D cards, I have learned that Elmer’s glue tends to warp the cards and superglue dries too fast to work with easily, so I’d recommend against those.

When I still played with LEGOs on a regular basis, one of my favorite Magic cards was Craw Wurm. Despite being a common, Craw Wurm was one of the most valuable cards in our play group. Recently, I acquired a huge quantity of Revised cards, so digging up a bunch of Craw Wurms to destroy wasn’t a problem. In fact, I ended up with way more copies than I needed, so if you want to follow along at home but can’t get your hands on some Revised Craw Wurms, e-mail me and I’ll send you a bunch.

My basic process begins with cutting out the layer furthest back:

Next, I take another copy of Craw Wurm and cut out the layer next furthest back—in this case, the horizontal section of the Wurm’s body underneath his head.

The next two layers are tricky—as far as I can tell, there’s no clear indication of which should be further back. In this case, I could either leave them both in the same layer, or just pick whichever one I want to be further back. I chose to cut out the part under his head first.

I cut a layer of just the head and neck, then make a top layer of just the card’s border.

In order to put some depth between the layers, I cut out the art from a bunch of commons and insert one of these “spacer layers” between each Craw Wurm layer.

For more depth, you can add more spacer layers. Some people use adhesive foam for their spacers instead of actual cards; I prefer the more solid feel using cards gives.

Okay—let’s stack it together and see how it looks!

Not bad! It’s already looking pretty nice, but something is off. It looks a bit ragged around the edges; you can see the inner white of the card along the edges of the border and white spots all over the Wurm’s head. That’s what the markers/pens are for. I trace the edges of the card—anywhere I can see the white from the inside of the card. I usually match my edging to the card’s art, so I outline most of the Wurm and the card borders with green, using a little gray, red,, and orange on his teeth, tongue and ears. However, you can get away with using just one marker, too. I’d recommend using a gray or a black.

Much better. If I had made this card a couple of years ago, I would have stopped there and been very happy with the result, but I think the Wurm will look even better if I add some detail to the head. Using the picture from the border-only layer and an extra copy of Craw Wurm, I cut out these pieces:

If I were working on a more expensive card, instead of using an extra copy I’d steal those pieces from a further-back layer where those parts wouldn’t be missed.

I cut out a section of the Wurm’s mouth, slip the tongue through the hole, and glue the pieces together. I also decide to cut out the nostril. After attaching the Wurm’s left ear to to other side of his head, I move on to the border:

To raise the card’s border and text box, I remove those from the extra Craw Wurm I used for head detail.

Now, it’s time to move on to gluing the layers together. In order to connect the neck to the body behind it more smoothly, I remove the spacer between those layers. I also decide I’d like to make the Wurm’s head reach out of the art more, so I bend the next a bit so it’s slanted forward. To give room to do this without reaching very far beyond the card’s top layer, I put two spacers between that layer and the top border layer. The finished stack is like this:

Bottom Layer: Craw Wurm
Layer 2: Spacer 1
Layer 3: Craw Wurm minus background
Layer 4: Spacer 2
Layer 5: Craw Wurm minus horizontal section
Layer 6: Spacer 3
Layer 7: Craw Wurm minus vertical section 1
Layer 8: Spacer 4
Layer 9: Craw Wurm – main body & head/neck only
Layer 10: Craw Wurm – head/neck only, bent forward past Spacers 5 and 6
Layer 11: Spacer 5
Layer 12: Spacer 6
Layer 13: Top border (full art cut out)
Top Layer: Raised border and text box

I glue two to three layers together at a time by spreading a thin layer of glue on the parts that will touch, pressing them firmly between a couple of stone coasters (any firm, flat objects will work), wiping away any excess glue that seeps out, then leaving the layers to dry under a stack of heavy books for fifteen to twenty minutes.

After gluing everything together, the finished product looks like this:

The same basic process can be applied to start bringing out the 3D nature of most Magic art. If you’d prefer to start with a more recent card, here’s a few for which figuring out layers is fairly easy:

While that’s the basic process, as you start to work with more complicated art, you’ll realize that there’s a lot more techniques you can use to maximize the 3D effect depending on the art of the card.

If you have questions about how to tackle a tricky card, I’m happy to give my thoughts. Remember, though—there’s no “right way” to do this. Just like with painted alterations, everyone has their own process. Lindsay Burley has been selling her own 3D cards at Magic events for the past couple of months, and it’s pretty clear just from a glance that her process is vastly different from mine. Ted Knutson recently posted pictures of his 3D Time Stop done by Seishiro Ookubo, and it’s breathtaking.

All it takes to start is a lot of patience and a willingness to experiment!

Drew Sitte

AlteredCity at gmail dot com

@AlteredCity on Twitter

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