One of the things on my list that I'm working on this summer for my portfolio is to design a humanoid alien race. I've been working on it all last week and I narrowed in on what I wanted until I was pretty happy with the concept. Where I started was that I wanted a race that would be suitable for a game and would be something that players would find attractive, so it needed to have humanoid characteristics while still being alien. This was the rough framework. From there I started looking at pictures of different animals. I ended up with a lionfish and a mudskipper and thought it would be a fun idea to have an aquatic species that appeared to be in the process of evolving from water to land. I threw in a little octopus to keep it aquatic and push the alien side. Here are some of my concept sketches:
Lots of suction cups, camouflage markings, webbed digits etc. I threw in a tail because I thought it pushed the whole evolution-in-process idea. At the same time I kept the silhouettes very idealized human. As I worked I developed a concept for the race as a whole:
These people were exposed to space flight by other alien cultures, they didn't invent the means to travel off world themselves. Their society is tribal and it was determined that no male of the species would lower himself to leave the world to parlay with the interlopers, so the females became delegates for the species. This has become extremely attractive to the females of the species, who enjoy a sort of empowerment off world. Many do not return. Males generally only leave if exiled.
While the species can exist for short periods outside of water, for prolonged periods of time they need to either undergo surgery to adapt their lungs to oxygen or wear head pieces. These head pieces serve two purposes: they recycle and filter water to allow their gills to breathe and they also provide an environment for their kelp-like hair. If the hair fully dries, the follicles will seal and the hair will never grow again, so the head piece is necessary if they wish to retain their hair. Because it is taboo, if a male leaves he shaves his head and adapts his lungs as a rite immediately, knowing he can never return. For females to cut one's hair is unthinkable, it would be like going native in the worst way. Women of the species are usually very proud and outgoing off world, probably as a counter to their oppressive culture.
Once I decided on the general look, I went through several types of eye shapes and head pieces. I worked on the coloring, I wanted something aquatic, but not too stereotypically aquatic, so I went more for green than blue. I ended up with a look that is somewhat salamander-esque. The body is covered in markings and suction cups. For the eyes I wanted something large like a fish, but still not creepy looking. Despite trying a number of shapes I went for something pretty human, just because straying too far made her look odd and unattractive.
Finally I played with different costumes and color schemes for clothing. Because of how proud they are, I thought bright colors would be best. These are not intended to be clothing for the culture, but rather off world clothing shared by a mix of alien societies. The center is my favorite. I wanted a look that was sexy but also strong and proud.
They are still a work in progress, but they are coming along.