A few months back, I received a small package from Alter Sleeves, an up-and-coming custom “perfect fit” sleeve manufacturer that features work from artists all around the globe. These specially printed inner sleeves allow Magic players to customize their decks with altered cards in a way that doesn’t damage or jeopardize card condition. I was never a collector of altered cards for this very reason, but it seems this product has completely changed the game.

I’ll give you a bit of their background first, and then we’ll hear a few words from the Alter Sleeves co-founder Chad Brown, as well meet six of the artists over the next two days. Ready? Here we go!

From Kickstarter to Kickoff

The first big push for Alter Sleeves was a Kickstarter that ended in May 2019 and saw 1,286 backers pledge $62,059 towards the launch of this product. Tiers included all level of sleeve choice, customization, and even some commission slots from some of the Alter Sleeves artists.

In December of last year, they opened their website to the public, and the rest was history. They now have a fully functional and ever-growing website with thousands of sleeves available for purchase for whatever card or deck you may need.

From the Founder

I caught up with Alter Sleeves co-founder Chad Brown for a bit of background on this new company and some exciting things that are on the horizon.

My name is Chad Brown. I am originally from Wisconsin and currently live in the Netherlands—30 minutes from Amsterdam. I am a Magic collector and player. I initially started playing in 1995 but after taking a number of years off came back to the game around Shadows Over Innistrad. Currently I am playing a lot of different formats and, even though I am not particularly good in any of them, I really enjoy hanging out and playing the game with friends and making new ones at LGSs and GPs.

One of the things that I have always loved about Magic is the feeling art can bring to make the game more immersive. I got excited when I returned to playing and began seeing altered cards showing up in my LGS display case. This added a whole new dimension to building decks and playing the game, a very personal one. However, after I picked up a few, I came to the realization they were a bit of a two-edged sword, on one hand allowing me huge freedom in personalization but on the other making it often very difficult to sell or trade since many people see alters as damaged. There was also the risk they could not be used in tournament play, and due to how much time is invested in each one they are often very expensive. In 2017, I was using a sharpie to make some notes on inner sleeves of a deck I was learning and had the idea this same process could be done with a printer to create high-quality alters. I knew that I couldn’t just commission a bunch of designs and sell them directly because the number of cards and personal styles would make that impossible. So instead I went about making a platform where any artist could create their own designs and upload them. Alter Sleeves gives alterists a venue to sell their artwork around the world and earn royalties off of every sale. Not only did this attract a lot of traditionally painting alterists to start bringing over their work as a secondary stream of revenue, the platform also opened up a new door to digital-only artists. I really like seeing how our alterists take completely different styles and mash them together to make something new. Now players can bling their deck and dress up their favorite cards at an affordable price!

We hear daily from our customers and Alterists which gives us inspiration for new products and offerings. We also take our customer feedback and ideas very seriously. Based on suggestions from our artists and customers, we are planning on rolling out some features that will make it easier to be an artist and to find the perfect sleeve for your deck. As an example, we are rolling out a new feature that enables customers to make requests directly to Alterists for custom commissions that will add an incredibly unique piece to their deck.  We have a number of projects that we will be announcing later this year which will bring some exciting new products to the Magic community!

We have also just opened a second production facility in the U.S. which will speed up worldwide delivery time. The U.S. team will also be heavily involved with local game stores and tournaments.

We are always looking for more artists, anyone who has been producing alters or their own art can join.  We just ask they have some sort of social portfolio to share as a means of demonstrating their work.  We offer a 20% royalty on every sleeve sold and often have ways for artists to get bonus commissions and projects. Artists make all of the work and retain the rights to them.

[Author’s Note: Interested in joining Alter Sleeves? Find more information here.]

Meet the Artists

I had the opportunity to take a look at a few of these Alter Sleeves up close, and as I do, wanted to reach out to each artist to hear their story. I asked each artist about how they started altering, if they have any favorites, their inspirations, and what it means to be a part of the Alter Sleeves platform and community. You’ll see the sleeve I received at the top, along with the link to each artist’s alter store and their social media links. I’ve also sprinkled a few others of their sleeves throughout each section, with purchase links below each image. Let’s take a look:

Smothering Tithe (120114) by Targa Alters

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Targa Alters, aka David Justino (Portugal)


I’m David Justino! I’m 23 and from Portugal, and I’m a full time traditional and digital artist! I’ve been altering cards for the better part of, about maybe two years now? Time flies! It felt like it was just yesterday when I painted my first “alter” with nail polish and cheap acrylics with some friends.

Mountain Collection

I love doing my Japanese style alters, full art replacements with reference from Edo period paintings and woodblock, but honestly I can’t just pick a favourite. Ask me any other day and my answer will be different! But one is my flowery Lorwyn Island/Swamp combo!

Lorwyn Island and Swamp

I take inspiration from older works, but since a lot of my work is border extensions, I guess I could say I take inspiration from the original art. I do a lot of pixel art recreations, so that applies too. I absolutely love seeing what other artists have done with the same cards I’m currently working on, seeing what worked out best for them, and learn from others.

Alter Sleeves has been an absolute godsend, and I’m thankful for their existence every day. I used to work at an LGS, during a year I got off college, to earn my own money and get away from the pressure of college life. During this year I also found Alter Sleeves, and decided I wanted to grab this opportunity by the horns. I remember I must have submitted almost 600 or so designs only during the Kickstarter period (I have almost 900 now!) both digital and scanned and treated works of my traditional alters; and ever since, I’ve been investing my time in the platform. It earns me enough money, along with commissions in and outside the platform, digital and traditional, to allow me to keep doing what I love to do full time!

Lord of Atlantis (86408) by DamarideNeurommancer

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Damaride Neurommancer (Italy)


Hey! I’m Damaride, I’m from Italy (Bari) and I’m a molecular biotechnologist/alterist. I started with hand-painted alters around late 2017-early 2018, as it was suggested to me by a dear friend. I’ve always been enthusiastic about art due to my family, and it was a pleasure to finally channel a hobby into something my friends could enjoy and treasure. Then, when the Alter Sleeves project was recruiting artists for its Kickstarter launch, I was contacted by its lovely founders, Chad and James. I’ve been involved ever since and never regretted it!

For my favourite alter, that depends. If we are speaking about sentimental value, then I have to choose this Lord of Atlantis: it was a commission reward for one of the pledges of the Alter Sleeves Kickstarter. I definitely wanted to bring more life into the background of the card; plus, knowing that this was a result of the support for the Alter Sleeves project made me ecstatic.

The Tarot Collection

The Tarot Blood Moon and the whole Tarot series are a testament to the type of aesthetic I enjoy.

Tarot Blood Moon Full Art

Art replacements (total overpaints) are always fun to make! They take a bit longer to complete, but re-imagining a card is very satisfying.

My inspiration comes from lore. Whenever I have to come up with design ideas, I go read the lore of the card, or make one up that can help me visualize important elements of the made-up or proper narrative. Aside from that, classical art, Christian iconography and symbolism, and cyberpunk/sci-fi imagery. And Sailor Moon.

The Creation of Adam Sol Ring


Having my work on Alter Sleeves is highly satisfying. It allows me to work at my own pace, produce designs according to my inspiration, and have access to a community of artists that is always evolving. The platform itself is getting better and better thanks to the fantastic Alter Sleeves team, and this allows us artists to reach more clients, get our art in their hands and gain passive income!

Marath, Will of the Wild (34041) by Leah Sayles

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Leah Sayles (Atlanta, GA, USA)

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My name is Leah Sayles, and I am an Atlanta-based freelance artist, designer, and illustrator with a background in graphic design and marketing. I have always worn a plethora of creative hats, and currently focus on providing clients with graphic design and illustration services, for needs anywhere from logo/branding to editorial/layout to illustrated icons/assets to full blown illustrations, and everything in between.

I started altering Magic cards in 2015, when I met my husband. He was an avid EDH player and created altered cards himself, for fun. I was a student attending art/design school, with very little knowledge of Magic other than a deck I’d made myself sometime around 2012 (that looking back, I believe fit no format currently in existence). He taught me EDH, and I helped him paint better, as well as started painting alters myself. We would make dates out of playing EDH and altering cards together, and it was a blast.

I didn’t start offering alteration services until two years later in 2017, when I was also working full time on an in-house marketing team. I quickly found several online communities that valued my skills, and spent free time altering cards as a professional service, which then led to traveling the region with Star City Games. My success in this community, as well as in the graphic design and illustration field, led me to break from the mold and build my own creative services business, which was launched in mid-2018.

My favorite alters include the Marath (seen here), and a Gaea’s Cradle that was altered and inspired by Bag End, which I have heard has since done some traveling but has found a home in a dedicated Middle Earth CEDH deck.

Since I launched my creative business in 2018, I have increasingly focused my energy on original illustration, which has led me to move away from altering as frequently. However, I do take original, full art alteration commissions on a very select basis.

Goblin Chieftan

Where I gather my conceptual inspiration, and where I gather my stylistic inspiration is two parts.

As an empathetic and spiritual individual, my conceptual inspiration comes from a variety of avenues: Nature, flora, fauna, myths, and legends. Strong and aspiring individuals. I am often inspired by narrative, and interaction, and finding a balance between elements via shape, value, line, and color; by organic, flowing, and/or well-designed composition to create those shapes, values, and lines. I am inspired by publications or books that I read, and often by stories that need to be told or haven’t been told, whether fictional or otherwise.

Much of my stylistic inspiration comes from artists that have come before me and that currently work in the illustration industry today. These inspirations include Yuko Shimizu, Justin Gerard, Chuck Lukacs, Danny Schwartz, James Jean, and so, so, so, many more. I even have had the opportunity to mentor with Steve Brodner and Grant Shaffer via the School of the Visuals Arts (summer 2020), and am mentoring with Scott Fischer and Greg Manchess via SmartSchool this fall (2020).

Alter Sleeves is an absolutely wonderful company and subsequent community. Although I have moved away from altering as frequently, Alter Sleeves is an amazing way to get my illustration work and select alter work onto sleeves to share with the Magic community, and serves as a great way to gain passive income.

Doge of Paradise

Wrapping Up

That’s all for today folks. Tune in tomorrow to meet the rest of the artist and learn more about how you can get your own Alter Sleeves!

Donny Caltrider has been playing Magic since 2002 and collecting original Magic art since 2017. He has an M.A. in Museum Studies from Johns Hopkins University and enjoys telling stories about art, objects, and the intersection of fantasy with real-life. You can find him on Twitter talking about #mtgart, museums, and other #vorthos related goodness. Follow along and continue the conversation!

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