Let's get stARTed!!
Faiths_Guide has offered to give all of us aspiring artists some advice and inspiration for Artful August, so let's not waste any more time!
Advice and General Good Practice for Creating MtG Card Art
There is no strict set of rules to creating MtG artwork, but a good first step is to decide what kind of card you're making. Most of us are inclined to focus on creature cards because that tends to be the most straight forward, conceptually. My advice would be to follow that inclination as people generally have the strongest connection to creatures (more than lands, enchantments, instants, etc.) and I'm going to proceed under that "creature card" assumption. If you decide to go with another card type most of these steps will still apply, but I recommend researching existing art to see what other artists have done. Landscapes, objects, and scenes require very different approaches than creatures.
Decide what kind of creature (or scene) you are going for: Human, Sliver, Dragon? Make some tiny sketches of your creature to get a good idea of its proportions and maybe play around with some poses that you like. Getting comfortable with your subject will make the actual act of creating the final piece more enjoyable and improve your result.
In general, MtG card art has a 3x4 landscape ratio. This is very important for you to think about when you proceed to placing your creature(s) in a scene. It is generally good practice to make a couple very small practice sketches with the correct ratio to get an idea of what you want to capture and work on composition. MtG art ends up being very small in the end anyway, so it is important for the artwork to read well at very small sizes so that anyone that looks at it will recognize exactly what you created. On creature cards you want to have the creature(s) take up a large portion of the image so that they can be seen easily. Don't worry about details at this stage. Details might separate good art from bad, but no amount of small details will save a piece that wasn't laid out well. Focus on big shapes and forms.
To get the most positive reaction from other's that see your work, it helps to build in some kind of narrative through surrounding scenery, expression, or activity for your creature(s). This is something that could/should be thought about while working on "thumbnail" sketches in the previous step.
Now's the time to take your most refined thumbnails and sketches and turn them into a finished piece. If you've got your own favorite style of art it's a good idea to stick with it even if it doesn't really match MtG's style because you'll be more comfortable with it and your final piece will reflect that. Otherwise, imitate the style of some of your favorite artists from the game to render your piece. Try to make important parts of your image pop from their surroundings with a lot of contrast. Simple lighting and obvious contrast are best for art pieces that will be displayed as small as MtG cards' are.
Don't overwork your art. If working digitally, zoom in and out while you work and flip your canvas often. If working traditionally look from close and far away and also in a mirror. The benefit is that you'll notice mistakes faster when you keep seeing your artwork in different ways.
Remember to have fun because you can usually see if the artist did or didn't.
Special thanks to Faiths_Guide for his ongoing support to Artful August and the Cardsmith Community!
Resources are available!
Not everyone has Photoshop, but there are other resources available to you. If you use DeviantArt, they have a free drawing platform called Muro. To use it, just sign in and then click "Submit". A link below will show up for Muro!
Working on an ipad or an iphone? Procreate is available for a small $10 or $5 fee https://procreate.art/
In addition to Muro, Deviant Art also has a multitude of professional tutorials available. https://www.deviantart.com/search/deviations?order=recommended&page=2&q=tutorials
Here is one you might enjoy!
We've given you a few resources above, but if you know of some we missed or have any you want to share, make sure to drop by the forums to let everyone in on your secrets!
Check out this month's two featured Cardsmiths... Usaername & SteampunkDragon!
We've been enjoying Usaername's cards since 2016 and if you've spent any time over there, you'll notice that he has recently become a stalwart on the Official MTGCardsmith Discord channel, offering advice and merriment alike! We think you'll enjoy looking at Usaername's cards just as much as we do so go check them out!
SteampunkDragon is one of the Cardsmiths that we think has flown under the radar for too long. Since 2017, SteampunkDragon has been making his own cards, making a few custom mechanics and all that while helping other Cardsmiths fill out their sets! If you haven't favorited a bunch of his stuff yet, go check out his cards and make sure you do!
Each month we're excited to highlight a few Cardsmiths that have helped make MTGCardsmith the best interactive online Card Creator. We hope you'll take some time to check out their creations!