How I create sci-fi designs
Visual worldbuilding is essential for me to have an image of my designs and worlds that isn't just a concept in my head. By illustrating key elements of my story, I can more closely work with the details of scenes and bring the characters, ships, and planets off the page. I spent a lot of time (perhaps a bit too much) intricately planning the races, organisations, governments, and histories of my novel series over the past half a decade or so. Worldbuilding is always something I can find myself lost in, which is why its important to know when to indulge in it and when to actually, you know, write.
When I get the creative energy to design an element of my worldbuilding that needs to be visualised, I first consider what medium would work best for it. This can range from a quick pen sketch to a full-colour digital illustration to a LEGO model that can inhabit a 3D space. Today, I am going to show you how I came up with the design for an alien weapon/vehicle using different methods (for those interested in some lore, its walking turret used by the titular Cryp'lar species).
I started the design for the Cryp'lar Stalker (name pending) by using LEGO pieces I had to hand. While the final model isn't as functional as I'd like, I believe I created a striking design with a good level of detail. As the Stalker is basically a giant railgun on legs, I wanted to put emphasis on the power of the weapon while making a conscious effort to figure out how it would work in-universe. This is something I like to do for all my designs - function often coming before form.
Next, I rebuilt the model piece by piece in a program called Stud.io in order to keep the LEGO design while being able to use the real life parts for other stuff. Then, I rendered the 3D model with realistic lighting and texture. While tedious, the process is great for keeping my LEGO creations in a digital form forever.
Finally, I traced over the render in GIMP (with just the mouse) and removed the LEGO studs. The blocky-ness actually works well for mechanical designs so I made sure to keep that. I also made a few small adjustments and added minor details with the line art. If I were to colour it, I would use the Stud.io render as reference.
And there you have it, one Cryp'lar Stalker ready to be put into words. Of course, this was only an example of one way to design an element of my worldbuilding. The starship seen in the featured image of this post was inspired by a UNSC frigate from the Halo series, so I took many of the visual cues from that design philosophy and blended it with my own. This resulted in a ship design for humanity's future military organisation.
I love visual worldbuilding when I get time away from writing, or even when I'm stuck in a certain part of the story for what an object would look like. Hopefully, these illustrations help me to tell a more immersive story - even if the reader never sees the images I create to better my own understanding of the novel. I also hope this was an interesting look into how I create sci-fi designs for my stories. Feel free to share this post with others who might find this stuff cool.