Introduction: Alien Face Hugger Adjustable Prop and Decoration
I wasn't originally intending on making an Instructable for this project, but in my efforts to create this creature I was left disappointed by the lack of other recreations online. That being said, I've been a long time lurker on the site, and although this is my first attempt at a project like this and a respective tutorial/walk through, I'm going to try my best to make this as useful as I can for other makers.
Going into this project, I was looking for a quick and cheap Halloween costume that I could make using the materials and tools I had at my disposal. Unfortunately, as the deadline drew closer I came to realize that the best way to accomplish this may not fit my original goals. At the end of the day, I spent around $50 and around 10 or so hours to make this. Considering I have no prior experience with any of the techniques or materials in this project, I'm pleased with how much I learned along the way and how it turned out.
If you're looking for some more inspiration, be sure to check out the "Odin Makes" and "Bloody Disgusting" takes on this monster; they certainly helped me get through this and I would recommend you give them a look for some advice.
Below is a list of the items I purchased for this build. Keep in mind, there are many ways to do this, so feel free to deviate. Before purchasing/acquiring anything, I would recommend you see the last step of this Instructable where I re-evaluate the effectiveness of these items. Maybe one day when I give this project another shot, I'll come back and update the list with better stuff.
Materials used in project:
-Liquid latex (I got at Party City b/c they were nearby; I would advise looking elsewhere for less expensive and higher quality latex)
-Metal wire (purchased at nearby Joan's craft store; make sure it is considerably strong, yet easily flexible)
-Unraveled cotton balls
-High density foam
-Template/reference images (see below)
-Plaster of Paris (or other molding compound)
Step 1: Reference Images and Scaling
In order to make sure everything is as accurate as possible, a good first step for any film prop is to gather some reference images and scale them to the appropriate size. In this case, I took an image of the official Face Hugger display product that can be purchased online. From that image, I was able to create a simplified and resized image of the creature using Powerpoint.
I'm not going to go over the specifics of this process, but the first thing I did was remove all the details, creating an outline that I would use for printing. Then I cut the image in half and mirrored one side to make the template symmetrical. I happened to have a paper mache mask lying around that was built off my face, so I just included the dimensions of the mask in my template. At that point I shrunk the image down so that it would match the size of my face.
Because the whole monster was bigger than a standard piece of printer paper, I cut the template into different pieces for the fingers, tail, and spine. One thing that I hadn't considered while making the template was the movement of the fingers. All of the fingers were based off the general size of the middle left finger, which was bent in the reference image. If you're using this template, take note that the length of the finger is not accurate (the width should be fine).
Once I got all the templates sorted out, I printed them and made sure the dimensions in the Powerpoint matched the size on paper. When printing, make sure you do not make the image to fit the page, as that will distort the sizes of the template.
Step 2: Mold Making
I took the template I had made online and placed it on a flat sheet of plastic. After sculpting the general shape of the body using the template and reference images, I went back and smoothed everything over.
From here, you'll want to start creating a plaster mold for your body. Start off by mixing thinner plaster in order to retain as much detail as possible in the mold. As you add on more layers, make the plaster thicker for better support. For some more info on mold making and latex creatures, be sure to check out Will McDaniel's "Breakup Buddy" tutorial on Youtube.
Once the mold has fully hardened, wash out the clay and leftover templates stuck on the surface. After a couple of failed attempts to create a solid cast, I modified my mold to decrease the severity of certain angles. To elaborate, make sure that you don't have too many sharp edges on the inside of your mold, as the latex will have a harder time collecting in extremely elevated/isolated areas. In this mold, I had problems around the muscles/veins at the top of the creature (where I didn't build up any clay on the template). I had to sand it down a bit to make sure the latex could reach and collect properly.
I poured a thin layer of latex into the mold and spread it around into all the crevices. After putting on another layer, I soaked tissue paper in the latex and layered it on the cast for extra support. If you follow this technique, make sure to put another layer of latex on top of the tissue paper layer for some more flexibility and strength.
Before pulling the mold off, be sure to sprinkle baby/talcum powder on the latex to prevent it from sticking to itself.
For the skin on the other side, I spread latex onto a flat surface in the desired shape before repeating the same process for the mold latex.
NOTE: For my first attempt at this project, I did not create the ovipositor. If you were to do so, you would make a mold using the same process. I will go back and include a template for the ovipositor if I ever make one.
Step 3: Constructing the Endoskeleton
At this point, you want to start thinking about the main functions of your prop. You need to find a proper balance between strength, stability, and weight, so keep that in mind.
Using the top layer of skin, I created a wire structure to fit inside the body. Depending on the strength of the wire, double wrapping may not be necessary. I ended up running out of wire because of poor resource management, resulting in a shorter tail and lack of abdomen support structures- which was less than ideal.
Afterwards, I cut sections of wire to around the same length before wrapping them around the main structure. It's important to round off any sharp edges, specifically at the tips of the fingers. Although there will be a layer of foam over the metal, any wire that frees itself over time will be sharp enough to cut right through any latex and potentially ruin you build.
For the body, I just cut a piece of foam to match the inner diameter of the wire structure. Once the center was filled with foam, I went back and covered any exposed wire with hot glue and excess foam bits.
To create fingers, cut your foam into long strips and hot glue them at the base of the finger. Wrap the foam around the wire until you reach the end. Make sure the tip of the finger has been thoroughly wrapped before hot gluing in place. Hold the foam together until the hot glue dries. I ended up wrapping each of the fingers twice with the foam thickness I purchased. In hindsight, this probably isn't the most secure way to do this; some of the fingers unraveled as I was gluing them in place due to the tension. If I were to redo this, I would've used a stronger foam to act as bones for the fingers and leave space in between to allow for flexing only at the joints.
Covering the tail was a little more complicated. Because the length of the tail creates too much tension on a single layer of foam wrapping, I had to change strategies. I covered the wire in a layer of foam on each side and glued them in place. Once the glue dried, I shaped the foam into a thinner and rounder shape with a blade. Double check to make sure both layers of the foam are tightly secured, as the tail needs to be able to flex and maintain structural integrity.
Step 4: Assembly and Shaping
Here's where everything starts coming together. It's important to make sure everything stays lined up at this step, as that is going to determine how "realistic" the face hugger will look.
Starting from the back, I began to connect the top and bottom layers of skin. Keep in mind, because I didn't include the ovipositor, I was a bit sloppy with the size and shape of the bottom layer. Ideally, the bottom layer would've been considerably bigger than the top, but I ended up adding more dried up latex and tissue paper to fill in any gaps and problem areas. After hot gluing the two layers together, add latex to seal the joint. Repeat the process around the rest of the main body. As you wrap around, stuff polyfill inside appropriately to add some depth/support to elevated areas of the skin.
When you reach the fingers, hot glue the base of the finger so that it lines up with the appropriate muscles/veins on the top layer. Hot glue around finger and hold in place before applying latex.
Once the skin on the main body is attached, apply a layer or two of latex and tissue paper before you begin to shape the tendons on the fingers. I found that soaking the entire finger in latex then wrapping it in tissue paper seemed to work well. Once the tissue paper is placed, brush on some latex to hold it in place. Be careful not to apply too much pressure on the wet tissue paper, as that could lead to the paper coming right off with the brush. Cut your strips of tissue paper into smaller and wider bits that can cover a considerable area without ripping. Repeat for all the fingers.
To shape the tendons, unravel cotton balls and soak in latex. Less damp cotton may take up more space, but won't hold its shape when you apply additional latex, so do yourself a favor and really soak that cotton. Once the cotton is wet, shape with your fingers at the appropriate intervals. Keep an eye on your reference images and locations of the tendons in relation to the other fingers. Allow for the latex to dry before applying several additional layers of tissue paper skin on top.
Repeat this process where the fingers meet the molded layer of the main body. It's important that the transition between the fingers and body remains as consistent as possible.
By the time I got to the tail, I was really tired and frustrated, so I hastily threw it together. I only did one layer of latex and tissue paper, which was comprised of one or two large pieces of paper forcibly shaped onto the foam. To get the details on the tail, I cut rubber bands, cut them to length, then hot glued them in place. If you follow this approach, make sure to put on a ton more layers of tissue paper skin on top of the rubber bands, especially if you have an accurately sized tail. Keep in mind, the tail needs to be able to wrap around your neck several times while anchoring the face hugger on your head. Repeat the same shaping process for transitioning the tail to the main body.
In hindsight, I would've either applied more layers of latex and tissue paper on the flexible bits or just skipped out on tissue paper entirely- just rely on the finger shape from a mold. However, I was having some issues with making sure the latex cast retained its shape and didn't stick to itself. If I had more time, research, and patience, I would've followed this approach instead. Additionally, I would've come up with a different method for the details on the tail.
Step 5: Painting and Sealing
Almost there. By now, you should be done with any shaping, so make sure that you are happy with the overall details in the body before painting.
For a base coat, I mixed black acrylic paint with the latex and generously applied a layer. Using a hair dryer, I accelerated the dry time of the paint before applying another layer. I chose black as the base coat because the reference image from the original Alien had a somewhat transparent green on top that revealed a darker color underneath. I'm not too good at painting, but I realize that probably wasn't the best decision. My guess would be to go for a darker version of the main color as a base rather than straight up black.
Once the base was dry, I threw together a somewhat recognizable color and latex for the main coat. I only applied one layer, which I would heavily advise against. Due to the wet paint and dark base coat, I couldn't weather the creature without severely ruining the main color. However, I was able to create contrast by creating a lighter color and applying paint to the elevated areas of the body.
I haven't quite figured out what I did wrong with the painting, but for whatever reason, mixing the acylic paint with the latex wasn't as flexible as I would've hoped. However, the acrylics I used were ridiculously old, so that may have been apart of the problem. For future reference, I'd look for a paint that's made for a material as flexible as latex.
Step 6: Happy Accidents and Other Reflections
So if you've made it to this point, congratulations. By now, you've probably already noticed all the little reflections I've sprinkled throughout this, but I've still got more to address.
Although I'm satisfied with the end result, I am aware of several small details that make all the difference regarding the accuracy and visuals of this project. For starters, in case you didn't catch it, I never got along to putting finger nails on each of the fingers. Additionally, the color and texture leaves more to be desired. Fortunately, when I displayed this to my peers, not many people understood the reference (which was somewhat discouraging in itself- Alien is not THAT old, is it?), so they didn't know what to expect.
Other than that, one of my original goals of the project was a pose-able Face Hugger that could also function as a mask WITHOUT any additional support. When I ended up throwing it onto a casual scientist costume, I had to secure it to a helmet and safety glasses with duct tape in order to keep it in place. To solve that issue, both the fingers and tail need to be longer. Some support in the abdomens wouldn't have hurt either.
All in all, I'm glad I was able to finish in the allotted time (started the weekend before Halloween) and learn a ton about some things I have never used before such as modelling clay, plaster, wires, high density foam, and latex...
Be sure to leave any pointers or questions in the comments. Thanks for reading.
Participated in the
Halloween Contest 2018