Intro: Alien Warrior Costume From Aliens
Step 1: Inspiration and Goals
My initial idea for Halloween this year was to take my Queen and Loader and put them into a makeshift haunted house in the garage, with an Alien Warrior costume (and maybe a facehugger and egg) for additional scares. However, my aunt told me about a fashion stroll event in the city. We contacted the organizers and they liked my work and invited me to bring them up and put them on display. The Warrior would be a great costume to go along with that display, being a great challenge to undertake.
This wasn't completely new territory to me: I had made an Alien costume back in 2007. The results were...less than impressive. It was ambitious for its time, and I did start experimenting with plaster strips for the first time, but ultimately, it was pretty ugly. But, after having made all sorts of creations in recent months, I knew this one had potential to be more respectable. It was refreshing to work on a project on a more manageable scale. Heh.
I wanted this costume to be something I could "easily" get into by myself. I wanted it to have a lot of detail and be very accurate. And, as always, I wanted it to be cheap, quick, and easy. If I could make a full-size Queen, a little drone should be easy, right?
Again, I drew a lot of reference from the movies themselves, the behind the scenes and photo galleries, and hi-res images of statues and replicas. It was fascinating to watch them in the movie frame-by-frame; you can easily see how the costumes are basically body suits with some outer detail on them. But you never see that watching it in normal speed, as they were lit, shot, and edited together so well.
Step 2: Materials and Cost
Foam boards, hot glue, and plaster strips would come in handy for a few parts of this costume (yet again). Beyond that, other materials were obtained from craft stores, hardware stores, or thrift stores. A rough budget estimate on the materials of the costume:
Latex - $25 (about a half gallon worth)
Tight shirt, pants, gloves, socks - $9
Pipe insulation - $7
Tubes - $7
Foam sheets - $6
Foam boards - $5
Hot glue sticks - $2
Velcro - $4
Spray paint - $3
Paint - $2
Around 70 dollars total, give or take a few things I already had lying around, like extra plaster strips and cardboard.
Step 3: The Body
Much like Stan Winston's crew, I started with a skin-tight suit for a base. I would have skintight pants and a shirt that I would be able to add details on top of. As a start, I painted some latex onto the pieces to make them look less like cloth and more like a slimy alien skin.
The arms and legs have specific details which are like exposed parts of interior tubing. I had seen on another alien costume on Instructables made by creatrope who had used corrugated cardboard to make those tubing ridges. I credit him with that genius idea. I would paint some layers of latex onto some of the corrugated layer, cut it into the right shape, glue it onto an outline cut out of foamie sheet, and then glue the whole thing onto my arms/legs. Very interesting to do with hot glue, seeing as I had to be in the clothes while I glued them on to make sure they were positioned correctly. I never once burned myself while making this costume, which is probably a first for me. Heh. I added those weird bony extensions on the arms. They were occasionally difficult to work with, especially when suiting up, but as they were simply glued onto a stretchy cloth, it was flexible enough to still be practical and give a good range of motion.
The arms were easy to have those details on because the shirt was easy to slip on and off. The pants were a different story. Slipping into those was more difficult, with the legs wrinkling up a lot, so I opted to have partially removable details on the legs. I'd attach the main details onto the groin area, because that kept shape pretty well while suiting up. I then glued on small pieces of Velcro at specific spots. These would correlate to Velcro on the back of the detail pieces, which after having the pants on, would be able to attach and have the detail on skintight.
Step 4: The Head
Ah, the dome-less Aliens head, resulting from ideas of aesthetic and more practical stunt applications, passed off as a sort of mutation or development of species. To make it requires more complex details on the head, but it does mean you don't have to make the dome, which would be very difficult to make without vacuforming or some sophisticated technique.
I started with a skeleton of the top half of the skull, made with a base of foam boards cut and hot glued together and covered with plaster strips. I then filled out the shape of the head with cereal boxes, more foam board, and random tubes bought from thrift stores. A lower jaw was made, and clay teeth were made and hot-glued onto the rims of the jaws. An inner mouth was made out of more foam board and clay teeth. The tendons between the jaws were glued on, cut up pieces of latex.
The jaw was a simple hinge that would be allowed to freely swing. I glued a piece of foam board onto the lower jaw that would be able to fit under my chin, allowing me to open the mouth of the alien when I opened my jaw. I also attached some strings to the jaws of the inner mouth and attached those to the foam board. When you're up close, you can see that the inner jaws bite together when the main jaw opens, but it was a very subtle effect. The tension of the latex tendons between the jaws (and also the tube attached to the bottom of the jaw) helped it to stay in a closed position until I wanted to open my jaw.
An adjustable baseball cap was attached onto the underside of the skull for my head, like a helmet. I then added some stretchy black cloth to cover up the "neck" (aka my head) that would tuck into the top of the suit.
Step 5: Hands, Feet, and Tail
For the hands, I would use a method similar to the tentacle on my Davy Jones hand; make extended fingers, and then attach them onto regular glove fingers. I sculpted the fingers out of clay and then dipped them in latex (mixed with some black paint). After the latex dried, I would then peel the latex off of the sculpt and be able to glue that onto a leather glove, and blend the seam with a little extra latex. I glued on claws made out of Sculpey clay.
For the feet, I started out by making a "cast" of my foot with duct tape. I then took this cast off, stuffed it with newspaper, and covered it with plaster. I would then be able to use aluminum foil or pieces of foam board to build up details and shape the foot. I then covered the whole thing with more plaster strips and smoothed it all out. I then painted layers of (black dyed) latex onto them. I painted about 10 layers or so on, then peeled it off. I was then able to glue these onto the shoes, which were tight black water shoes. Claws were made out of a piece of foam board covered with plaster. I opted for that instead of Sculpey so that they would be more easy to walk on the ground with and avoid them potentially cracking or breaking.
The tail was initially going to be a water noodle (similar to my earlier alien costume, and also the Queen), but as I was roaming through the hardware store, I happened upon some foam pipe insulation that was smooth and flexible rather than the regular stiff "foamy" texture I was used to seeing. I made one end of that tail thinner, to give it some good shape. I took some sticky-back foamie sheets, cut them into quarter-inch strips, and attached them down the length of the tail. Lengthy and tedious, it took about 2 hours or so. Then I added some strips of duct tape and electrical tape running along the length. I cut some pieces out of foam board for the "scales" and hot glued those on. I made an end spike out of foam board covered with plaster strips, and glued that onto the tip. With the help of some Velcro added onto the base of the tail, it would be easily detachable from the ribcage/torso piece.
Step 6: Ribcage and Back Tubes
The tubes on the shoulders were made of the same pipe insulation that the tail was made of. I attached it to some foam board pieces and then glued them onto a t-shirt, which would be the base of the upper torso/ribcage piece. I was initially going to make a more solid piece for the torso, but I realized how flexible I needed it to be in order to suit up, so I had to use something flexible. A t-shirt, covered with some latex, ended up looking alright.
The back tubes were similar to the head; a foam board skeleton covered with plaster strips. I then added some corrugated piping onto them, much like the legs and arms. I also made the neck spine piece at the top of the back. This was all glued onto a single piece of foam board and then glued onto the back of the shirt (from the inside). A small extension at the bottom of this had Velcro on it for the attaching tail.
The ribcage was more foam board, cut into some rib strips and then glued together at a sternum. Detail pieces of tubing and spines were added and the end of the ribs were glued onto the back. In order to be able to slide into this piece, I had to cut through the ribs on the left side. I then added Velcro pieces that would be able to attach ribs again.
Step 7: Suiting Up
Dressing up was relatively simple. I'd have to put on the pants first, and then the feet which were attached to the pants. Attach the details on the legs with the Velcro tabs. Then the shirt. Then the ribcage, which I'd slide my right arm into, then my head through the top, and then seal the left side. Add the tail onto the back with the velcro, and then put the head on. The gloves on the hands last, after everything is on.
Being in the suit was great. It was pretty mobile and comfortable for the most part. I could walk normally, use my arms, and even sit down since there wasn't much on the backside. The head was pretty well balanced between the front and the back side and so it wasn't a strain to have it on there. Vision was definitely limited, but not as much as it might have been. The cloth over the "neck" was see-through and there was some good space to see out the front between the teeth. I added a string onto the tail that would hang from my wrist and be nearby and dynamic. Lots of people took pictures with me at the events I went to, and I definitely unsettled some small children. Hee hee.
Step 8: Final Thoughts and Advice
For making a similar project, or using methods like the one I used, these are the main bits of advice and warnings of potential problems:
- Velcro is one of the greatest things ever. This costume would simply have not been possible without it.
- The paint job helped a lot on this. With everything plain black, none of the details stood out. Some highlights of silver on the appropriate areas added a lot to it, and clear lacquer on the head helped it shine.
- Foam board is great, but it is hard when sometimes the paper lining rips off. I should use the higher quality foam board from craft stores for certain things.
- Having just the right materials makes a lot of difference. Use the right tool for the right job (i.e. the right clay for the right teeth or claws).
- I had to be on my toes for this costume. I'd have an idea in my head for something I thought would work for making a certain part, but then the literal application wouldn't work out. I had to be creative and think of more practical methods.
- It's humbling to have a small experience to help you understand just how masterful Stan Winston and other artists are. They have to take a lot into consideration to make these characters come alive.