Update 2: I've started adding the newer attempts to the gallery linked on the top bar. If there are any major process changes I'll likely make another post about it.
Update: It seems allowing the cards to soak for long times (that is, overnight) has mixed results. One of the two I tried came out perfectly, the other had some minor cracking though I'm not sure when it developed. Moving forward I'll probably keep it to 2 hours and make sure to use cold water when removing the residual paper. Hopefully I can update with more results this weekend!
I'd spotted some really excellent work posted up on reddit by users djpattiecake and bigupalters and became interested in giving foil alters a go. In short, the idea is to carefully peel away the foil layer from one card, trim it down, and glue it onto another card for visual effect.
My first attempt at this turned out to be rather ambitious, transferring a gnawing zombie I'd happened to have onto the text box of a swamp. I started primarily following the guide put up by bigupalters on facebook, here. Using a hobby knife I picked at the edges until I was able to get at a layer with mostly foil and very little paper. I thought it wasn't an issue, but it turns out having the fibrous layer beneath makes cutting small accurate segments very difficult and results in ragged white edges. A second gripe, once peeled the foil has the tendency to want to coil up like a scroll. I did try to flatten the foil out by pressing it under a stack of hefty books, but that didn't work.
A M14 Gnawing Zombie composited onto an 8th edition swamp.
For my second attempt I decided that getting a paper-free foil was absolutely key. I followed the advice given here. Namely, I got some acetone and rubbed the corner until it managed to dissolve the adhesive between the paper and foil layers, giving me a good clean peel. However, this still had the issue of yielding a very tightly curled foil layer.
At this point I decided to science at it a little bit: what causes the curling? Internal stress from the peeling process. The 'curl' clearly aligns with the direction of the peeling, likely due to alignment of the polymer in the film. We can, in principal, remove internal stress by heating the material up with it in the desired orientation, essentially ironing. I used two advertisement cards (generally regarded as worthless) to sandwich the foil flat, and kept a scrap of parchment paper on top. This stack was ironed for 10 seconds, cooled for 10 seconds, ironed for 10 seconds, then cooled for 10 seconds. This did indeed flatten it out, however the glue remelted and stuck it to one of the cards. After carefully pulling it off of that card it was much less curled, but it did begin to wrinkle and crack in several regions. Testing with a foil scrap showed that a single 10 second cycle produced substantially less wrinkling and cracking.
Joint Assault composited onto a Shards of Alara Forest. Note the cracking.
The peeling process itself was the cause of the problems. It got me thinking, "If only we could lift it straight off of the paper-adhesive stack without tensioning the film, we'd be golden", and it turns out we can. Given that the peeling method is destructive anyways, it opens the door to a lot of other methods I would normally shy away from. Short story: intentional water damage. When soaking the to-be-peeled card for long periods in water the adhesive eventually dissolves, the paper backing soaks up water and breaks away as it expands. The foil layer is a polymer, a water-proof plastic with water-proof ink on it, so it survives unscathed.
Below is an example, I wanted to composite the art from the 2012 Lifelink onto a 10th edition plains.
Two cards to composite
I used a small tupperware with room temperature tap water. Linked are images taken immediately, at 10 minutes, 30 minutes, 45 minutes. Below the card after 1.5 hours is shown. I'll be honest, I did get a bit impatient and started tugging at the corners after 45 minutes, hoping for a clean separation. This may have influenced the resulting curling, and I'm planning to let one soak over night to see if my impatience was a factor.
The card submerged in water.
The card after 1.5 horus
The foil layer was easily separated from the backing, with any residual paper removed by rubbing it under running water. Once the entire foil layer was smooth it was dried by pressing it between paper towels a few times, then being left to air dry. Some curling is still apparent, and this may just be a property of the foil as curling of foiled cards is an established problem. It is, however, much less curled than the peeled foil. From here we can simply cut it to size and glue it to the host card.
The foil layer removed from the cardboard backing after drying.
From here on I cut out the art from the foil. In order to get the art the right size for the text box on the plains, I went ahead and made a template using a newspaper, artist's tape, and two advert cards, yielding three well-defined edges.
The foil layer cut apart, isolating the art
The template allowing me to cut a rectangle with the correct angle and height.
After the art was cut out, all that was left to do was to gingerly glue it in place and trim any stray edges.
Gluing the art in place
The round handle of the hobby knife was used to roll over the glued region to ensure it lay flat. The final product actually looks pretty nice!
The final product!
As with everything in life, there are many right ways to do it, but I'm happy to say I've found a method that works for me.