Our Story

Creating custom graphics, designs and now 3D printed models

Hi it's Sid and Niki from Shiny Upgrades and we're happy to meet you!

For the past 15 years, Niki has been a studio photographer, graphic designer, and most recently 3D modeler.  

We love technology, shiny things - and board games.  Shiny Upgrades is where three different hobbies and a lifetime of creating fun things comes together: board games, design, and technology

A Background in Photography and Design

In 2008, after years as a hobbyist, Niki began professionally working in studio photography.  She photographed people, as well as touched up photos and designed flyers and cards in Photoshop, InDesign and Illustrator. Around this same time she was also pursuing her degree in Studio Arts, which included courses around sculpture and modeling.

In 2012 she completed her degree in Studio Arts and continued working as a photographer and studio editor until 2015, when we started our family.  Spending more time at home also led to another hobby...

Introduction to Modern Board Games

About 10 years ago we were introduced to "modern" board games - Carcassonne, Catan, Pandemic and Splendor were the first games we learned. We started playing frequently, and one day discovered that folks had designed customized tiles and other pieces for Catan.  From there we discovered the wide world of board game upgrades, and purchased different tokens, coins and bits to make our games just a little shinier.

Fast forward to today and we have dozens of games in our collection.  Some of our favorites are the games you see we have upgrades for - Azul, Wingspan, Dice Forge, and many others (you can find us on BoardGameGeek - we're new!).

2020... and Discovering 3D Printing

In 2020 ... well, we all know what happened. Everything changed and we started spending a lot more time at home.  We both were curious about 3D printing and starting researching and learning about it - but it wasn't until 2021 we would purchase our first 3D Printer, an Ender 3 Pro.

From there, we first printed out things other folks had designed:  An insert for Century Golem so sleeved cards would fit. Little toys and treasure chests.  

Then Niki began experimenting with creating small 3D models, and discovered the design tools were similar to what she had already used in the past. After learning about some of the different ways things worked, she designed and printed our first upgrade ... wine bottle player markers for Viticulture.

And from there we were hooked.  We saw the potential for creating our own designs, because sometimes we just couldn't find quite what we wanted - and why not use this time at home to play around and try out some new things?

From there she designed our custom "chunky style" Wingspan Food Tokens.  There are other options we found, but the Wingspan tokens we found online either seemed to make them flat or too large to comfortably fit in the player area. We soon learned why: it is hard to design something very small, and it's even harder to create it with a 3D printer.  Just like drawing fine details requires a steady hand, printing very small tokens with a high level of detail requires precise design *and* a precisely tuned machine.  

Sharing What We Created

Initially we just got the 3D printer for ourselves, and to print out items other folks had designed, so we could use them at home and enjoy.

After we started designing our own upgrades, we shared them with a few friends - and they loved them. That got us thinking...maybe other folks would enjoy these as well

Who We Are and What We Do

And that's what brought us to where we are today - a literal mom and pop shop offering carefully designed board game upgrades - tokens, quality of life board game parts and perhaps inserts coming soon.  

We are based in the USA and print everything ourselves.  Each piece is individually made and inspected by us - there is no outsourcing of your work, and we are a small team (literally just the two of us).

Niki has dual degrees in computer science and art studio, as well as professional training at a national photography studio.  Sid has a background in computer science and is mainly here to help tinker.

Whether you are looking for one of our personally designed board game upgrades, or would like something custom designed for you, we hope you find what you are looking for.