What are Alter Sleeves?
And how do the site and the product actually function?
Under 3 Minute Read.
In this article, we cover what Alter Sleeves are and what you can do with them.
An Alter Sleeve is a high-quality printed design on a perfect-fit inner-style sleeve that changes the appearance of a collectible card game card without making permanent changes or alterations to the actual card. They are, in essence, “alters” that “sleeves” onto a card, thus Altering with a Sleeve. It is also the name of the company as well as the marketplace that produces and sells these Altered Sleeves.
The purpose of these sleeves is that they can provide customization to a card while keeping it from being a permanent choice; this means it is more likely to be allowed in tournaments and making it removable which allows the player to swap designs or even remove it if they no longer care for it. It allows people to express their creative side by finding or even creating new alters in a much easier and more durable fashion. Some Alter Sleeves can even be moved between cards as the player wishes. Currently, we only offer Alter Sleeve designs for Magic: the Gathering, but this may change in the future.
To explain it further: Alter Sleeves is a web platform, or “marketplace”, for artists to upload designs to that can be printed as Alter Sleeve perfect-fit inner-style sleeves that fit under normal protective, or “outer”, sleeves. We call these artists “alterists” and use the two terms interchangeably. These designs can be anything from changes to character art on a card, frames that wrap around a card adding adornment to it, to even total replacements of the card’s original art or other elements. The possibilities are almost limitless. After these designs are approved by our staff, they appear on the platform and are purchasable by anyone. Alterist makes a royalty on each design they have uploaded that is sold each time it is sold. Then the design is printed and shipped by the platform to the customer, you, the artist, do not have to do anything. Alter Sleeves is currently located in the Netherlands, but ships worldwide.
The platform also comes with a few other benefits beyond allowing artists to sell Alter Sleeves. The company itself will also, not only market, but advertise your unique designs for you as part of its own marketing campaigns across social media and other digital avenues while also providing the platform-tools for potential customers to find the exact alters they want to own. This allows our alterists to generate passive income off their creations in an almost “send it and forget” manner. On Top of that, using scanning and editing technology that is widely available, artists can create physical alters for customers and then reuse that design later as an Alter Sleeve, maximizing their potential reach and profit of their craft without compromising or hurting existing business ties or opportunities. This revolution in the alter space widens the field by a huge margin. Basically, we here at Alter Sleeves will do everything for artists besides the actual creating of art. We get your designs seen and out there, deal with payment, shipping and even sorting any customer service problems if they arise.
As touched on above, Alter Sleeves also are in a unique space when it comes to tournament legality. At times judges will not approve altered cards, however, Alter Sleeves are removable and often designed in a way to enhance the card and not obscure vital data. Alter Sleeves also do not provide any noticeable thickness or unevenness to cards. As with any altered cards, it is up to the head judge of the event or store. At the worst, all they can do is ask you to remove the removable Alter Sleeve; something a normal alter can not do.
The Short: Yes and Yes. In detail though, Alter Sleeves do not use or reproduce any copyrighted material on them and thus are wholly legal as a distinctly unique product. In terms of tournaments though, it is a bit more complex of an answer. For the most part, most Alter Sleeves should be allowed in tournaments; however, like any type of altering it has to meet specific guidelines, and its allowability is limited to the judge’s decision. Though a benefit of Alter Sleeves over a normal alter is that you can remove them, something that is very helpful in a tournament setting instead of having to find another copy of the card. The key things judges look for are as follows:
Is the card still identifiable from across the table?
The designs on Alter Sleeves that are most likely to be approved are things like border extensions or full art extensions that do not cover or change the original art.
Can the sleeve be distinguishable from other sleeved cards in the deck (so you would be able to easily cut or find it)?
The feel of the designs we offer on the Alter Sleeves website vary slightly by color and type of design, but most designs are indistinguishable without significant pressure when they are in double sleeves.
Is the design in any way offensive?
We normally do not allow offensive sleeves, but the meaning of “offensive” can vary between judges.
Is there substantial strategic advice?
This is a bit harder to define, but judges may not allow cards with sideboarding help or when to cast the spell on it. Or, if the design makes one card look like another card of different value.
A good example of this is an alter of a lightning bolt with a bird on it, implying the “bolt the bird” saying.
We have tested Alter Sleeves at several GPs and Magic Fests with little to no issues, but again, it is always up to the head judge’s call.