How to create sci-fi props

When learning how to draw or create anything sci-fi – for the Star Wars universe in particular – there are a few thoughts to consider. For one thing, the visual aesthetic has changed somewhat over the years.

The original Star Wars trilogy, the prequel trilogy, and 
the video games (I'm mostly thinking about The Old Republic here) each have their own specific look, but there is a thread of Star Warsiness (that's actually a technical term) that runs through them all.

Key to designing Star Wars aesthetic - main items

In a galaxy far far away, a bounty hunter must to be able to handle rancors and Jedi alike. These items will help

Here I've drawn a spread of bounty hunting equipment as an example of the shapes and textures of a galaxy far, far away.

When starting off, there are two main approaches I use. If the object has some kind of real-world counterpart, such as hand guns for blasters, or axes for vibro-axes), try mixing and matching parts with thumbnail drawings – much like the way a prop creator kit-bashes construction models of aeroplanes, cars and ships.

Nailing the Star Wars aesthetic - use real guns!

Use real life guns and modify them to create a realistic Star Wars universe

In the second image I've combined several pieces of real-world guns to create something that feels unique, a bit otherworldly, and yet still recognisable as a projectile weapon. Try adding a few futuristic shapes to your silhouettes and voilà! You're on the road to Star Warsiness.

My second approach is for when you want to design something that looks unlike anything from our world. Take space ships, for example. Boba Fett's Slave I and the Millennium Falcon are based on a radar dish and hamburger (with olive toothpicked to the side) respectively, which should give you some idea of how far you can take things.

Use inspiration from the objects around you and then imagine how something with that particular silhouette would function as a vehicle.

Artist's secret: Describe – then draw!

Key to designing the Star Wars aesthetic - silhouettes

For creating something unique, I draw thumbnail silhouettes before fleshing out the design.

When designing a prop it's best to start off with adjectives that describe the feeling you'd like the item to convey. So for a blaster being carried by a bounty hunter, I'd label it with words such as rugged, weathered and dangerous.

Words: Tony Foti

Tony Foti is a freelance illustrator whose work can be found throughout the publishing and gaming industries, most often for Fantasy Flight's successful Star Wars lines. This article originally appeared in ImagineFX issue 129.

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