Once more, Alien day (4/26, April 26th) were upon us! If you don’t understand why this kind of “celebration” exists on that day in April, know that it’s a reference to the name of the moon on which Aliens, the second movie of this series, is set.
Hence, as the Alien movies stand as some of my favorite sci-fi/horror/space movies of all time, I thought I should draw something for this day! I’ve watched all of them countless times — though it’s not a surprise that the second one, Aliens, is my favorite of them all — and I really love the production design, the original monster aesthetics, the art direction, the scary ambiance and the whole mythology of these movies. It’s the kind of these few genre movies that has hooked me since my childhood.
This time, I started with a rough hand-drawn draft of the monster — sometimes, when the idea is very fresh on my mind, I just make a quick draft of what I’m planning.
Next, after I’ve scanned it, I placed the jpeg in Illustrator.
Then, in Illustrator, I’ve traced the artwork with the Pen tool, adjusting the lines and adding any extra detail (I NEVER use Illustrator’s Auto Trace tool because of its limitations). Since the Alien is the only vector graphic in the poster, the final image is ready to be taken to Photoshop.
With the drawing I’ve scanned already put in the poster file, in Photoshop, I worked through several layers, combining another graphics and effects. As you can see below, over the original Alien vector image, I have added a halftone effect only to the detailed orange colored parts of the monster in the foreground (on the head, arm, and torso).
Afterward, instead of a halftone filter or something else to reproduce this effect, I have used the excellent Halftones brushes from Kyle T. Webster, available through the Adobe Creative Cloud for Photoshop. In my opinion, this method is more appropriate when you need a little more control over the halftone output in the image. Mind you that there are several ways of creating a halftone effect while working in Photoshop — applying these brushes is just one of them.
Aside from Kyle’s brushes, I’ve also duplicated the Alien artwork and turned this copy into a complete halftone image (through another technique, this time using a Photoshop action just for this purpose). Then, I changed the color overlay and placed it in the mid-ground.
I did this same process for a few copies of the Alien’s highlighted parts, changing their colors to shades of green and distributing them in a careful order also in the mid-ground. In this step, I tried several arrangements to avoid a clutter composition.
To polish the work and provide it with a rough, dirty and dark appearance, I used some tricks: a matchbook texture (to give it an old/vintage touch) and some orange bars to make a slight reference to a spaceship wall (creating a high contrast between the Alien and the dark background). I also applied some brushes to complete the overall look and feel of the poster.
I had to create a Levels adjustment layer that would only affect the matchbook jpeg file, because any texture can affect the visual/mood of an image — always remember that textures are details or enhancements to the artwork and, thus, don’t need to be so evident. I also have added two more adjustment layers, but this time to the image as a whole: one for the Vibrance, to make the colors pop, and another one to crank up the Brightness/Contrast. At this point, I find that the image can be considered finished.
In the first version, the last touch was the typeface that I chose for the title: one that reminds me of the ’70s, when the first Alien movie was released (and that I’ve posted to Instagram). However, I find that there’s no need to place a title on this artwork, as the Alien is such an iconic character in the pop culture/geek world. [See this project].