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Altered Reality – 3D Sygg


I love trying new things and attempting new challenges. It’s part of what makes me love Magic, and it’s part of what makes me love cutting cards. It also means that I rarely make a second copy of a 3D card. Actually, “rarely” is an understatement—until recently, I’d only made a second copy of a card once:

A significant portion of the time I spend working on cards is just staring at the art and trying to figure out what to cut and how to piece it together. Curious about how much of my time is spent on the thinking side versus the doing side, I decided to remake a card in order to get a sense for the difference.

I chose Sygg, River Cutthroat for this, since the process of making Sygg involves a couple of techniques I’ve only touched on briefly in the past.

Getting Started

The first time I sat down to cut this card, I spent a while trying to figure out how to best handle the river and the trees in the far background. There were a lot of possibilities, but eventually, I decided that any detailing of the background trees would be counterproductive. In the art, the river, trees, and fog blur together, so leaving them that way would look the best.

To accomplish this, I kept the foreground river the same layer as the background—simply bent and folded back.

Two major layers will be in front of that one. The first one I cut is the big tree in the foreground:

Note that the smallest branches from the top of the tree have been removed here. Because they overlap with the other thin branches in the art but should be behind those branches in a 3D version, they need to be set back a bit and made into their own piece, which I’ll cut later.

Next, the other major layer: Sygg himself.

If I left Sygg flat like this, his body wouldn’t look like it’s actually coming out of the water, so I’ll need to do some bending and shaping of his body to match the river.

Before I work on detailing Sygg, though, I cut my final couple of layers: the small vines in the corner behind Sygg.

Cutting layers with so little in them might seem wasteful, but I plan on putting the removed art to good use. I know from last time that detailing Sygg’s body takes a lot of copies of the art:

For another copy of Sygg’s art, I cut my top border layer as well:

The Details

The first set of details I cut out will make up Sygg’s head:

  • The longer whisker from piece (B) needs to go behind one of the teeth on piece (A), while still overlapping another part, so I cut carefully around that tooth and jaw section.
  • The top fin is cut away from the head so that it can tuck behind the side fin on piece (A). Attaching the smallest piece of whisker to the rest of the head will be tricky, because it’s a tiny piece with an even tinier section where it makes contact with the other whisker for glue to be placed.
  • Both the leather strap and the lock of hair have the backs removed and are shaved thin.

Next, I cut the two sets of pieces that will go into making the arms:

With the head and arm pieces finished, I move on to the final detail bits:

  • This piece, part of Sygg’s lower body, is partially shaved to make it lie as flat as possible against the river.
  • Because of how it overlaps with (D), it won’t work for this piece to simply be shaved flat. It will need to actually go into the river. That’s why the piece is so much larger than the visible section.
  • Just like piece (E), Sygg’s tail-fin piece will be going through the river layer, so it needs to be longer than the visible section. The tip is also longer than is visible, so it can go behind the foreground tree.
  • Here are the tiny branches that I removed from the foreground tree earlier—ready to be attached to that tree.

Finishing Up

Assembling all of the pieces of Sygg, I end up with this:

Notice anything else that has changed about Sygg, other than the addition of detail pieces? Check out the raised arm. The slightly discolored lines are where I painted away the branches of the foreground tree.

I don’t often use paint on my alters, but in some cases, it can be invaluable. When I showed the steps I used to make a 3D Kiki-Jiki, I said that “when an object is both skinny and far from the next layer where it exists, it is more distracting in the background.” That’s the case with the branches here.

If an object is sufficiently far from the next layer where it exists, it doesn’t need to be skinny at all to be distracting. In this case, Sygg’s upper body is leaning forward, so there’s a huge distance between it and the river layer, which is the next one where it exists. The tree is even worse. To reduce the distraction, I do a lot of painting:

The color-matching is not great, but it’s close enough to tone down the distraction and to keep the focus where I want it. Not everything needed to be painted away—just around the edges, where it would be the most distracting.

In that picture, you can also see that I’ve attached pieces (E) and (F) from above by inserting them through holes in the water. Here’s a picture of those holes. Note how, instead of shaving the detail pieces, I needed to shave the base layer to get the pieces flush with each other.

The last step before assembling the card is finishing up the foreground tree:

The small branches, piece (G), are attached. I also cut away the tree from the border of the card in multiple spots. This gives me more freedom to bend and shape the tree itself, rounding the trunk and branches with my pottery tools. This is one step I did not do the first time I worked on Sygg, as I was doing less shaping of pieces at the time.

The finished stack is like this:

Bottom Layer: Random common
Layer 2 : Spacer 1 with Layer 10 bent back into the space
Layer 3: Spacer 2
Layer 4: Sygg: Far vine
Layer 5: Spacer 3
Layer 6: Spacer 4
Layer 7: Sygg: Near vine
Layer 8: Spacer 5
Layer 9: Spacer 6
Layer 10: Sygg: River/background, bent back
Layer 11: Sygg’s body
Layer 12: Sygg: Foreground tree and text box visible
Layer 13: Sygg: Art and text box removed
Layer 14: Info boxes and black border raised

I was shocked to discover that this Sygg took about 40% less time than the first one. I knew that planning took up a significant amount of time, but I didn’t expect it to be that much!

Paint isn’t always necessary, but if you come across a situation where it might be helpful, give it a try! Hiding the background isn’t the only way to incorporate painting into 3D art. In a few weeks, I’ll be back, along with the Master of Painted Alterations, Eric Klug, to talk about the full crossover: 3D extended art!

Drew Sitte

AlteredCity at gmail dot com

@AlteredCity on Twitter


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