This entry is part 4 of 15 in the series Journey to Nowhere

by Judson AKA GUDoug

GUDougHas it already been two weeks?  Time sure seems to fly by.  Let me find where I left off on Next Level Sharpie Alters Part 1.  Ah yes, here we go.  Our brave intrepid protagonist, myself, had journeyed to the depths of the Magic the Gathering  internet alteration cache and emerged triumphant schlepping a style of hodgepodge techniques cobbled together with bits and pieces of eraser crumbs, tape, and markers.  Unscathed and unfaltered by an onslaught of “Sexy Anime Chicks Presenting” on basic lands, I have returned to channel this amalgamated knowledge on to you like a conduit of the oracles.  What the hell am I talking about?  I am clearly a little too full of myself.  So enough of this BS mumbo jumbo nonsense,  let’s walk you through  how I alter a card and show you that ANYONE can do it.

First thing you need to do is pick your card, get an image to alter, and gather up all of your supplies.  Since I am making this alter for a certain loudmouthed podcaster and self proclaimed EDH scrub, AKA GHoooSTS, Fearless Leader himself Andy (don’t tell him that I had anything to do with this alter it is a secret #GIANTSHARKGATE), what better card than the all powerful face melting juggernaut Giant Shark.  Seriously it melts faces like Salvador Dali melts clocks.  I found an image of Jabber Jaw, fitting for the ringleader of a podcast as well as pretty on point, and set it off with a little Good Mister Captain Sir , Internet Skype Yelling, Baller Pimp Panache by adding a headset (SWAG).

Jabber Jaw     Andy AKA GHoooSTS

Now that we got that out of the way lets get these supplies gathered and unfurl this ship’s black sails and set course into the sunset,  towards sweet sweet maker bliss.  First and foremost you will need a hard surface to work on.  I do not advocate or condone my actions but the top of my senior year homeroom desk is perfect for this.  I will not say how I got it into my possession or the details of its misappropriated journey other than that desk top is one of my most favorite, most handy, and most useful things I have ever had…and it went out the front door of the school in an Oceans 11-13 type heist.  Along with that I have my card I want to  alter, a sized image I want to put on the card, pencils, markers, tape, white eraser, and a movie with complimentary subject matter to my alter purely for value.  I will give more detailed information on each item as they come up, except Jaws.  You should really watch that movie if you haven’t because you’ve just been wasting your life thus far if you have never seen it.  It is like money from the sky, but in the water eating swimmers getting that BLOOD IN THE WATER, making Brody, Quint, and Hooper look the fool.  Fun Fact:  Kevin Smith loves Jaws.  Brody, Quint, and Hooper are all characters in Mallrats.  But let’s get to altering this shark with a shark.  Damn wish it was sharks on sharks on sharks.  One shark short of that, but I think two is enough.  Three sharks might be too many.  “Y’all know me. Know how I earn a livin’. I’ll catch this bird for you, but it ain’t gonna be easy. Bad fish! Not like going down to the pond and chasing bluegills and tommycod. This shark, swallow ya whole.”  Cool, a Jaws quote out of nowhere!


Go ahead and hit play on Jaws and bust out your card and tape.  You can use masking tape but I have found painters tape to be a much better option.  Having used both effectively, I sometimes have had problems with regular masking tape not wanting to let go of cards.  Really who likes accidentally pulling off the top layer of a card?  Painter’s tape is a little more money (both monetary and awesome wise) but well worth the investment.  Come on  it comes in many different widths and it is blue.  What else is blue? The water.  “You go inside cage, cage goes in the water, you go in the water. Shark’s in the water. Our shark.”  Jaws digression!  Where was I?  Oh yeah…When I tape off a card I usually leave the black line of the card’s border just visible to see inside the exposed area I plan to remove.  When I am done altering I always re-ink the border and with the original border gone you won’t have to touch up anything after the card is finished where you didn’t tape off the frame equally and can see the original border.  Also if I am doing a full frame alter on the newer framed cards I rip a little piece of tape off and apply it over the power/toughness box to cover  it up since it rides higher into the text box.

Step 2

Once you are taped up grab your eraser and start removing the picture from the card.  You can also use the acetone method but having never used it myself you may want to do a little investigating around the internet to find out the correct type to use and how to apply it.  The best advice I can give you on erasing a card is to try and go along the edge of the tape while being careful not to jam the eraser into it too much or too hard as it can loosen the seal it has or push the edge all wonky.  The process does take a bit of elbow grease but it is nothing horrible and quite easy to do with just a little bit of work.  “I’m not talkin’ ’bout pleasure boatin’ or day sailin’. I’m talkin’ ’bout workin’ for a livin’. I’m talkin’ ’bout sharkin’!”  Neat another Jaws quote.

Step 3

OK the Jaws deviations should be over.  Grab your image and put a piece of tape on the top.  It may not be real easy to see in this picture but with the blue tape the border is visible through the paper, making lining up the position pretty easy.  “We’re going to put on the extra- the extra summer deputies as quickly as possible, and then we’re going to try and use, uh, shark-spotters on the beach.”  Pardon me, I apologize.  I’ll try to not let this Jaws stuff get out of hand.   Let’s get back to it…um…paper tape the paper tape, something about tape.   Oh yeah being able to see the taped border through the paper is another bonus of using painter’s tape.  Make sure to not tape the bottom of the picture down because this is important to have it loose for the next step.

Step 4

The next thing that I do is flip the picture up and coat the back of it with pencil graphite.  Any pencil will work but I usually use an artist pencil with a 9B graphite.  I am sure that only made sense to a few people but I thought I would mention it none the less.

Graphite Grades
(Pencil Graphite Grades)

For anyone who is not in the know, a 9B is a soft graphite pencil that coats well and is pretty dark.  A standard #2 pencil I believe is graded at HB.  It isn’t necessary to use a 9B but that is the one that I like to use.  As long as the whole area that contains a picture is coated with some type of graphite you are most likely good.  Whole?  “I don’t want no volunteers, I don’t want no mates, there’s too many captains on this island. Ten thousand dollars for me by myself. For that you get the head, the tail, the whole damn thing.”  Is that even a bargin in Amity?

Step 5

Now just flip the picture back down over your erased area, making sure it is nice and flat and still lined up correctly, and put a piece of tape at the bottom to hold it in place.  Then take a pencil and trace all the lines, making sure you go over all the lines that you want to put down on the card as a guide.  Try to be careful to make sure you don’t press too hard or you will dig into the cardboard and leave indentures worse than shark bites “… and I’m not going to stand here and see that thing cut open and see that little Kintner boy spill out all over the dock.”  Jaws!  Won’t happen again I promise.  Anyway, this is where having the 9B lead helps as it transfers really well without having to press hard.  Again you can use any pencil to trace the lines in this step but I use a mechanical pencil because it has a consistent fine point perfect for the task.  It should be noted I left out the drum sticks in this picture since they are completely unnecessary and a little odd for what I was trying to achieve as a finished product.  A little too Garth Algar for my taste.

Step 6

When you are done carefully loosen the tape on the bottom edge of the picture and flip the image up to make sure that everything transfered correctly.  Try not to loosen the whole image because sometimes you miss a spot or your graphite coverage on the back was inadequate and you have to apply more graphite.  If this is the case carefully re-fasten the image and retrace over the problem areas to touch up your graphite transfer.  Make sure to stick your image next to your card as you can use it as reference and scratch paper.  Reference?  “That’s a twenty footer..Twenty-five. Three tons of him.”  So to continue, Jaws quotes aside (I can’t stop it), the best picture I could get of the finished transfer is this blurry mess, but you can just make out graphite transfer.  Rest assured that in real life you can clearly see the light graphite guidelines you just applied to the card.

Step 7

Now we move on the the permanent inking of the card.  If you aren’t planning on adding color and only doing black and white for your image you can skip this step.  All the markers that I use are a brand called Prismacolor.  Do you need this specific brand?  No not at all.  They tend to run about $3-$6 a marker and can be a little spendy.  I think any permanent marker that you can find is just fine.  Try out what you have available on cards you are willing to potentially ruin to see what works best for you.  These just happen to be the ones that I use since they have worked really well for me and I already had several of them.  The Prismacolor markers have a fine and a large tip on either side which I like a lot and both tips come in handy frequently.  I had asked ehan16 one time what type of markers they used and was told Micron.  There are so many different brands out there.  I am sure that Sharpies would work just fine as well but the color availability is a little limited.

Over the many alters that I have done I discovered that putting the color on first has the best results because if you have your black outline already laid down first it can be bumped or smudged and run into your color.  “…until he bites ya, and those black eyes roll over white and then… ah then you hear that terrible high-pitched screamin’. The ocean turns red…” So yeah, you don’t want smudge it.  Something about the card surface makes the markers a little smudge prone and drying seems to take a little longer than usual.  You can color up to you graphite line without going over it to leave it intact since your black outline will cover it up.  This is the optimal way of doing it so you don’t lose your lines.  Also don’t be afraid to test colors on your print out image.  Sometimes it pays to have more than one to try out different things before you apply them to the card.

Step 8

Once the color is on it is time to ink the outline.  I have a set of 5 Prismacolor black fine line markers in tip sizes .005, .01, .03, .05, and .08.  The variety is useful in making certain parts more bold or for doing fine delicate line work.  “Course I don’t know what that bastard shark’s gonna do with it, might eat it I suppose. Seen one eat a rockin’ chair one time.”  Jaws Jaws Jaws!  Again any permanent fine tip marker is fine and a fine tipped sharpie will probably work well for you.  When I initially ink the outline I use a finer tip and in this case I used a .01.  I tend not to ink big solid black areas until I am finished to avoid anything bleeding or smudging into anything.  If you find that you did not apply your color close enough to your outline be careful and do the best you can not to bump the black or just make you black line thicker.

Step 9

I personally am not a big background guy.  You can go in and add details and minutiae and bears having picnics, ducks playing horseshoes, bananapires, upside down/inside out/backwards ceiling tea parties attended by purple giraffes eating scones, or whatever the kids are digging these days if you like, but i usually just do a solid background and maybe blend a few colors to give it a little kick (I start like this and blend it).  I picked a fairly dark blue for this and as hard as I tried I could not really get much color variation.  If you do use blended colors make sure you scribble the other colors off of your marker or you will ruin it and/or whatever you work on next.  You can see in the below picture where I have done this to get the dark blue off of a green and lighter blue and visa-versa.  To get up close to the border I used the fine tip of my marker or carefully used the large one, making sure not to bump the line.  The background is usually pretty forgiving since the marker ink is applied thicker and any black you pick up can easily be blended away.  After that I inked in the solid black areas and then went over the outline again to freshen it up with a thicker black (.03) to make it stand out more and clean up anything else.  “You’re gonna need a bigger boat.”  Shut up Jaws.  “The torso has been severed in mid-thorax; there are no major organs remaining…”  Really that quote isn’t related to anything that I am saying?  “Right arm has been severed above the elbow with massive tissue loss in the upper musculature… partially denuded bone remaining…”  Ehhhhh.  “The left arm, head, shoulders, sternum and portions of the rib cage are intact…”  So anyway, “what we are dealing with here is a perfect engine, an eating machine. It’s really a miracle of evolution. All this machine does is swim and eat and make little sharks, and that’s all”.  Moving on, when going over an area that you already have applied marker to it is important to keep your tip clean on your fine tip markers as it will pick up gunk, gum up the works, and the ink will not flow properly or sometimes at all.  Just make some lines with your marker on a sheet of paper to clear the residue off until the ink flows correctly.  If you don’t do this your marker will get ruined quickly and cease working.  You can see where I have done this several times on the below image.

Step 10

The final step before you remove the tape is to re-ink the border.  When I have used my fine tip markers this step I have ruined more than I care to admit, getting them clogged up. “I think that I am familiar with the fact that you are going to ignore this particular problem until it swims up and BITES YOU ON THE ASS!”  Hey that one was pretty relevant.  Way to go!  “Well I’m not talkin’ about hookin’ some poor dog fish or sand shark. I’m talkin’ about findin’ a Great White.”  Wow I’m starting to lose it. “I’m not going to waste my time arguing with a man who’s lining up to be a hot lunch.” What?  “Farewell and adieu to you fair Spanish ladies. Farewell and adieu you ladies of Spain. For we’ve received orders for to sail back to Boston. And so nevermore shall we see you again.”  Huh?  “Here’s to swimmin with bow legged women.”  Sure who doesn’t?  Got to keep it together.  Well anyway I started using a thicker tipped marker, in particular a chisel tipped one as it didn’t clog and made a good solid line for the border.  Again a regular sharpie is probably more than adequate for this.

Step 11

Now all you have to do is carefully take the tape off and clean up any….UH OH. “You pulled the wrong one. You screw around with these tanks, and they’re gonna blow up!”  No not quite.   “Yeah, but I’m not drunk enough to go out on a boat.”  Ahhhhh!  “Wanna get drunk and fool around”  NO!!!  “Show me the way to go home / I’m tired and I want to go to bed / I had a little drink about an hour ago and it got right to my head / Wherever I may roam / by land or sea or foam…”  Yeah pretty much.  “Smile, you son of a bitch.”  I screwed up.  “When I was a little boy every little squirt wanted to be a harpooner or a sword fisherman.”  Huh?  I botched it.  “The summer is over. You’re the mayor of Shark City.”  You Got that right, so what did I do?  Long story short in my attempts to add diversity to the background color I got a little heavy handed and the ink got under the tape and ran into the border area of the card.  “Little shakin’, little tenderizin’, an’ down you go.”  I swear this is the first time this ever happened (what an awkward phrase).  “ I don’t believe it! Two barrels, and he’s going down again!”  It’s OK. “Are you going to close the beaches?”  It is not that bad. “This is not the time or the place to perform some kind of a half-assed autopsy on a fish.”  Sure it is, mistakes happen. Accidents will arise sometimes and you can work through them with what you got and a little fortitude and stick withitness. “This was no boat accident.”  I know, I know.  So I got some little lines coming off the corners of the border where the marker ink flowed down the tape and I need to fix it.  “You have city hands…You been countin’ money all your life…All right, all right. Hey, I don’t need this… I don’t need this working-class-hero crap.”  It can be fixed.  I just took a marker and tried to extend the border corners and make it look like I intended it to look that way. “Eleven hundred men went in the water; 316 men come out and the sharks took the rest, June the 29th, 1945. Anyway, we delivered the bomb.” What?  I fixed it.  It looks good. “I can do anything I’m the chief of police.

Giant Jabber Jaw

Is it Perfect?  No, but the finished product looks pretty good to me and has a little more character now than it was going too. “It’s only an island if you look at it from the water.”  That actually is pretty poignant.  I think I will end with that before I jump the shark again and lose my mind a little more.  Hopefully I showed you that this type of altering is very accessible and you don’t need to be Leonardo Da Vinci to pull it off.  Andy I hope you like your card if you ever find it in your piles of sharks, not that I know anything about that #GIANTSHARKGATE.


Email me at: judsonjg(at)yahoo(dot)com
Follow me on Twitter:!/GUDoug

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