Tutorial - Building an Aliens Costume

The kit in this thread refers to one based on the James Cameron refined Giger “Aliens” design where a number of latex pieces were sewn onto a black spandex body stocking. Though it may have looked less impressive close up (you could see the spandex) it did allow the actors far more movement which greatly influenced the look of the film. I believe the same system was used for the Alien War costumes and a number of prop makers over the years have supplied kits based on the same overall principal, such as the one below.

Overview

The kits consist of a number of parts...

- Latex Aliens head with injected foam interior.
- Latex and foam tail, back spines and thick back section. Latex Chest section
- A number of sew/stick on latex appliances for groin, lower back, arms and legs
- Latex hands and feet

So when you open the box - this is what greets you..

Assembly - What you need to do

1) Clean and trim the parts of excess latex
2) Sew/stick the latex applications onto a black Lycra body stocking
3) Affix the 5 spines into the back section and glue this to the chest piece (and add a harness)
4) Assemble the head and neck, including upper teeth and lower jaw (possible minor animatronics here). Note there’s no 2nd set of teeth for this kit.
5) Fill-in sections of bodysuit not covered in applications with liquid latex (optional)
6) Paint it, either by hand or spray.
7) Wear it and scare the Bejeesus out of people
 
Detail
1) Starting off, cleaning and trimming
Self explanatory. Clean with wipe down with warm soapy water. Trim excess latex with razor, modelling knife, scissors, Dremel and nail scissors. Note, don't run with scissors :lol

Below, a before and after

To get rid of any remnant flashing, TI350 suggests....

Lacquer thinner and a terry cloth rag. You trim down, fast and dirty, your seam - and rub with the direction of your texture. The little nurnies (of terry cloth... I don't know what else to call them!) find their way into the wrinkles and what-not and - POW! Real fast.

After you've done that, try it with De-Limonene. Works even faster, and your shop now smells citrus-y fresh to boot!!!

For finer work on latex masks and castings ... sanding with wet'n'dry sandpaper and dish detergent 'n' water as a lubricant. The detergent gives a good slip, no nurnies so you can see what you're doing, and when you're done it washes off with water.

 

I found the best solution (below) was to follow Frosty's advice and use a Dremel with the curved sanding block. You can be quite rough with it and like using an eraser, move the head up and down the seam and the side of the sander makes light work of the latex flash. Keep it moving so as to not cause dents in the surfact, however if you do they can be filled easily with liquid latex...

2) Sew/stick the latex applications onto a black Lycra body stocking
If you’re going to use this for costuming then you’ll need to sew and stick the latex applications to the Lycra unitard. Note you need to do this with the Latex bodysuit expanded so either you’re going to have to wear it (ouch) or you’re going to need to get a mannequin (otherwise the Lycra will bunch up and possibly tear when you put it on).

The first stage is to pin the latex applications to the bodysuit in their required placings. You only need a couple of pins per part so its not going to damage them. Note the gaffer tape on the wrists (and ankles). This is to ensure the Lycra is fully stretched before the parts are affixed and this is especially important before you do any Latex painting (see part 5)

When you're happy with their positions, mark the under suit with chalk and then stick the latex parts down. I’ve used "Evostick Contact adhesive” which seems to work really well. You apply it to both surfaces, let it dry for a few minutes and then place them together. Don't apply glue to the raised areas like the tubes around the groin and the inside legs (these are dips when your working on the inside) as you don't want these parts to stick down but to stay as raised features.

To fix down any loose edges just use superglue gel. If you do decide to stitch, just make sure you don’t glue too close to the edges, otherwise you won’t be able to get your stitches through.

 
3) Chest, back, spines and tail
You need to cut the “t shirt” chest piece, removing rear section (thanks Andrew!).

This will then be stuck with Superglue to the back plate which despite being over 2” thick is actually not too heavy. Note that in order to make this suit look “right” the chest section needs to be tight so you may want to trim the back section down more than the curved line shown above. However make sure you keep the wavy line since this corresponds with the area it joins on the back secion.

Notes on glue, Its been suggested by the Bat boys (thanks Bats1047) that the best glue to use is "Dap Weldwood" - however since that's not available in the UK. I've used Superglue for most of the Latex to Latex joins, with EvoStick Contact Adhesive for Latex to Bodysuit.

Below, a close up where the back and rear chest sections meet, before gluing.

Moving onto the rear spines, Its important they're secured well so I bought a length of 2cm plastic (just under 1") tubing, which was then cut into 15cm lengths (about 6"). I drilled holes into the spines and inserted the tubing (securing with superglue) leaving about 7cm/2" exposed which was then inserted into the similarly drilled back section.

To fully secure the spines, I used contact adhesive on the main sections that are joined (the base of the spines and the areas on the back section) and superglue on the plastic tubes inside the spines and back. Note that these tubes come in handy later on if you decide to add a harness as they can be reinforced to provide great anchor points.

Any overlapping latex as each spine meets the back was stuck down with Superglue which is just superb for Latex to Latex joins. These areas have been marked in yellow in the pic below, as is the connection between the front rib cage and the back section which again was secured with Superglue - which practically welds the sections together.

This is a great solution as the tubes are on really well effectively now part of the back section. There are hardly any join lines and these can be further smoothed out with liquid latex if required.

Given the back section is quite heavy, its worth adding a harness underneath it to support the weight and stop it pulling the front section up, pulling at your throat and squeezing the dear life out of you!. I bought a cheap shoulder harness from a local Army Surplus Depot which I've secured to the back section.

Remember the  plastic tubing we inserted into the back to hold the tubes into place?

Well these can form excellent anchor points for the harness (see pic above). Find some wooden doweling that will fit into the tubes and glue it in place having drilled a pilot hole first. You can then screw plates through the webbing on the harness and into the wooden doweling.  In my case I've done it on just the neck section where the top spine sits . I've also added extra strength by gluing the webbing to the back section.

The harness can also be used as an anchor point for the tail (failing this you’ll need to attach the tail to a thick belt around your waist via a tube inserted into the tail as described by “monsterroom” ). More pics to come.

Finally, in order that the shoulder “bones” retain their shape, you should pack them with foam

4) Head and Neck
You need to trim the neck section as per the following pics (thanks to Monsterroom)
When its finished it should look like the pic bottom right. The top part of this section is then superglued to the base of the head section, where there is a 1cm "platform" running around the base of the alien head part where your human head will fit (marked in yellow below)

More pics of neck connection to come........
Below, head section showing mouth plug which needs to be removed.

Below, with plug removed and upper teeth and lower jaw pinned into place.

Below, the dome has now been sanded (with a Dremel) and the upper teeth/lip has been superglued. The lower jaw is next to be fixed.

Below, the lower jaw is now fitted with 2" bolts and washers to help it pivot. The head of the bolt will be trimmed down later before covering with latex and painted so it cant be seen

Next part will be to add an upper and lower “lips” covering the teeth, which could be retracted through some kind of basic animatronics. I think I read that for the Movie they used Condoms for lips and mouth tendons! Off the the Chemists for me!
 

5. Fill in Lycra suit “blank” areas (optional)

Here's what the suit looks like before the latex is added. All the black areas showing are the Lycra under suit which will be covered in Latex producing (hopefully) an all-Latex suit.

Paint on liquid latex and build up in layers to any sections of the suit where there isn't already a latex part. Add any addition detailing required. As with the sewing this HAS to be done while the suit is stretched over a mannequin, as otherwise the latex will force the Lycra suit to shrink. It might be an idea to mix in black Acrylic paint into the latex so you start closer to the colour you’re looking for.
The next part of the process is now consigned to the garage as the mixture of acrylic black paint and latex is both smelly and very messy. Above, a couple of shots showing the part-painted suit sitting on the mannequin. I started with the Lycra areas (as you can see from the arms), building up a number of layers of the black-latex paint. After this I moved onto the latex pieces, which only needed one coat of the latex-mixed paint. Note that I've gaffer-taped the wrists and ankles to stop the Lycra from shrinking after the latex paint is added.

 

6. Painting
You need to use Acrylic paints mixed with Liquid latex in order to produce a finish that will last and not crack every time you move.

Below, the bolt holes have been filled with kitchen roll soaked in Latex (thanks Frosty!) and the heads had its base coat of black latex paint

It's starting to look a bit scary!

Teeth – given these need to be as shiny and “chromed” I've gone with a black base with dry brushed Enamel Chrome on top, built up in layers. Its not perfect as I would prefer a chrome look but for now  it will have to do.

This is the first stage to painting the head. I've gone fro shades of grey/blue as aoopsed to the browns style seen in Aliens. I've used a few different shades and blended them in using a combination of brush, sponge and dry brush.

Ordinarily it would make more sense to use a spray gun but as the acrylic paint needs to be mixed with liquid latex, you need to have a decent spray system (which I don't have). I have however done a light dusting of acrylic black to darken it a little and will finish with Krylon triple coat gloss lacquer (which IS available in the UK) - thanks again to Frosty!

The teeth are not finished yet and need to be more chrome,  a hard effect to achieve on such a rubbery material. Note that I've added some upper lips using a condom (yes really) which has been painted black using the latex paint.

Below the head's been sprayed with the Krylon now, and works started on the chest section, blending in greys on the rib cage

Below another shot under different lighting (non flash) which has given a warmer palette.

And below I've gone for a  wide-screen type shot (with a bit of film grain) to try and see what it would look like on-screen. Now that IS looking scary!
Nearly Finished! - I managed to get some time over the Christmas period so I have made some good progress and its nearly finished. Got to waer it for the first time too!

We took these b/w images and the really show off the contours and shading of the beast. Note that only one hand was painted which is why you dont see his left :)

This was my first chance to wear the suit and it fit really well. In addition its quicker to geet into than Stormtrooper Armor - although a fair bit hotter!

 

7. Final prep and wearing it!
If you’re feet are larger than US size 9.5 (UK Size 8.5) then you may have to cut the bottom of the foot out and affix to a plimsoll. I take size 9 and could just squeeze in. Even if you fit okay it would still be a good idea to follow TonyRB’s advice and stick some soles on the rubber base so they don’t wear off and provide you with some grip. Like Stormtroopers, Aliens look funny falling over on their arse!
For more pics of this costume in action go to........
Alien Encounter -  June 2006 National Space Centre Event

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