Magic: The Photoshopping

Creating a set of custom 'Magic' cards using images from the Library of Congress

Nankivell, Frank A. , Artist. Let in the light / Frank A. Nankivell. , 1905. N.Y.: J. Ottmann Lith. Co., Puck Bldg., March 8. Photograph.
Magic: The Gathering was introduced in 1993. I was six at the time, and while some of my older friends and kids in the neighborhood collected, traded, and battled cards against each other, I felt the nuances of the game were too complex for me and my parents thought the artwork was too mature.
And while I still avoid playing with Black decks because I'm scared of zombies and vampires, I've grown to appreciate the subtle complexities of the game and the unique abilities and stories behind every card. Magic: The Gathering has become the game my friends and I play most frequently at times we're all together. Even on our annual camping trips we'll buy boosters and draft ahead of time and play in our tents at night.
Over the past few years, my friends (who, admittedly, are much better at MTG than me), have been perfecting a version of BANG! EDH, but with a medieval/fantasy backdrop and characters to better fit within the existing MTG universe. ​
Now that we've agreed on what seems to be the best set of rules and abilities for each role, I thought it would be fun to create custom cards for our group using images sourced from the Library of Congress.
The Library of Congress has a vast collection of public domain imagery, and one of the most common publications to come up in visual searches is something called 'Puck,' a political satire magazine. It was the first of its kind published in the United States. Think of it as the late 19th Century's 'The Onion'
Period indicators likes certain words or the bandolier of bullets in this image for example had to be removed before the images were ready for cards.
"The yellow peril" / Keppler
Retouching with Photoshop's Content-Aware, Spot Healing Brush, and Clone Stamp
Photoshop has made retouching easier with every release, but as anyone who uses it daily will tell you, if robots rise up Photoshop will mistake us for wax figures and vice versa.
The precision of the Apple Pencil paired with an iPad Pro powered by AstroPad allowed for more natural retouching movements and helped speed things up.
Invincible., ca. 1887. Photograph.
Finding a Variety of Art Forms and Styles
The editorial nature of 'Puck' covers made for great source material, but I wanted our card artwork to have as much variety as the actual game. To accomplish this, I used a 19th Century oil painting that I thought was kind of eerie for the Queen.
Chapman And Hall, George Baxter, and Louisa Seyffarth. Jenny Dean's interview with the queen / printed in oil colours by G. Baxter patentee from a painting by Mrs. Seyffarth. Great Britain, None. [London: chapman & hall, strand, between 1837 and 1840] Photograph.
Not all images were depictions of medieval times. Since most editorial images I was finding were from the time of the Great Depression, some included technology like trains or modern-day settings that had to be cropped out if not retouched.
Keppler, Udo J., Artist. "O death, where is thy sting?" / Kep., 1913. N.Y.: Published by Keppler & Schwarzmann, Puck Building. Photograph.
Crawford, Will, Artist, L. M Glackens, and S. D Ehrhart. Signs and divinations / Will Crawford., 1908. N.Y.: J. Ottmann Lith. Co., Puck Bldg. Photograph.
The entire set is made of 20 cards, including 5 Castles which I chose to make Full Art lands to take advantage of some interesting castle imagery.
Click each image to see the artwork in more detail and read through the rules we've established.