Garrus – Planning and Concept Sketches

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I’ve seen many people create costumes based on him – and every last one of them has my utmost respect. He’s a difficult character to choose to build! Turian anatomy is close to that of humans, but there are distinctions that really do make all the difference.

Rewind to late 2012. A latecomer to the Mass Effect series, I had stormed my way through all three games and finished the last just before the release of the Extended Cut. I found myself completely fascinated with turians, and particularly, Shepard’s own squadmate, Garrus Vakarian.

Here are a couple sets of practice sketches, trying to get a better understanding of turian head anatomy. They are a wonderfully designed species, and quite complicated to get right!

The costume started with one simple concept, an idea for how to build the head and neck to more accurately imitate the aliens we see in game. Masks, after all, were something I was already familiar with, and I would have time to worry about armor later!

The first sketches are those you see above. The first idea was that the main portion of the face needed to be away from my own face, the top of my head making up the curve of the neck. This would give a more accurate profile than I had seen in many of the costumes. Second, the entire top half of the face was going to be a separate mask piece! This made it easier to get the mask (indeed, the whole costume) on and off. It was also a safety feature, an easy escape from the confines of the mask in case of emergency. I try to plan ahead! (Get it? Plan a head? Ehh, never mind. 😀 )

Third, and perhaps the most important, was that this concept meant I would not be using my own eyes as those of the character. On the one hand, this was great, because turian eyes look nothing like human eyes! It’s an old artist trick: the eyes are the window to the soul. If they don’t look right, the entire costume will suffer for it.

On the other hand, it meant a lot of preplanning for how I was actually going to see out of the thing! I decided to take advantage of every crevice I could, and built in vision points around the eyes, nose, mouth, and even down past the mandibles.

Though I would not be starting the armor for months yet, I also drew up these sketches before I even started sculpting the mask. I wanted to make absolutely sure I knew what I was getting into, and the level of detail I wanted to achieve!

Note that this is not how I ended up doing the feet. Even the way I DID do the feet did not turn out how I wanted. More on feet later!

Here are a couple more early sketches, coming up with ideas for how the carapace armor was going to work. At this point, I was relying on screenshots. It wasn’t until later that I discovered Troodon80’s extremely useful cache of reference images, and later still, a program called XNALara which allows you to view and pose 3D models taken from in game. These two discoveries saved my hide when it came to working on the armor.

Not everyone starts out with concept sketches, but I find they really do help me as I start to brainstorm how I want a project to turn out. Some people conceptualize better with 3D tools, and everyone does it differently. Hopefully this first peek has proved interesting. The next post, Sculpting Garrus’ Face, will be devoted to the mask sculpting process, and I’ve got lots of pictures to share!

View all Garrus costume blog posts