Off-Topic Discussion > Arts & Talents

Designing unique looking aliens

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One thing that annoys me about most mainstream science fiction is how unoriginal the alien species are. In the first category, you have what are basically humans, just with some minor feature to distinguish them. Humans with pointy ears, humans with bumpy foreheads, humans with fangs, different colored skin, fur, tails, etc. How boring!

Then you have the second category, which is slightly more creative, but still getting overdone. That's animals from Earth with humanoid features. Lizards, dogs, cats, birds, etc. that walk on two legs and have opposable thumbs. I've seen enough of those to last a lifetime.

It can somewhat be excused in older live-action series like Star Trek TOS since they had a limited budge and CGI wasn't invented yet, but when it comes to mediums like drawing/animation or prose, you can do whatever you want, but so many people stick to the uncreative humanoids.

This is why I love the Shivans so much. They are so unique looking, it's hard to think of any other alien that looks like them:

Some other designs I like include the Shadows from Babylon 5:

Elder Things from H.P. Lovecraft:

(He came up with this almost 100 years ago!)

Mycon from Star Control:

What are some of your favorite aliens that truly look alien, and what are some good tips for designing them?

I can not post Alex Rie fast enough

I LOVE how he manages to make things that are utterly alien, yet with a familiar context.

He is honestly a massive inspiration for me.

i think the arachnids from starship trooper looked cool, or the shrimp from district 9

General Battuta:
Simply familiarize yourself with all the forms life has taken on Earth, in every various niche and adaptation, and then, once you have all that in your head, draw something different

Iain Baker:
I agree absolutely, it has always been one of my bugbears, and one of the reasons I have 'gone off' most popular sci-fi. Once you have seen / read / listened to descriptions of truly 'capital A' Aliens the 'humans with bumpy heads' and 'big weird Ant' aliens seem amateurish in comparison. Which is why I wrote the three-parter below.

FS actually does a better job than most - the Vasudans are physically unable to speak 'human' and I assume we are physically unable to speak Vasudan - hence the need for the translator. BPs take on the Shivans, Vishnans, GD etc. are also far more interesting than most popular sci-fi aliens.


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