Before I start building the human characters of my project, I wanted to make their key art to establish posing, colouring and overall design. This will be very useful when I bring the images into Illustrator to make either their static asset, or position to rig in AE.
Here are the builds of the Normal Alien and Alien Inspector. For the alien I kept them fairly similar to the experiment apart from altering the layers, and the arm pattern. I experimented with blobs of lighter colour instead of the gradient as it was difficult to apply to the limbs. I think this makes the alien visual a lot more interesting, and makes it so they differ from the humans more.
I applied the same visual to the inspector, though this time I added the vest, pin, beard and alternate eyebrows to them. It is good we can see that the inspector and aliens are the same species, but the inspector will stand out as a unique character with the alternate colouring, and sharper features.
Overall building characters in Illustrator was wonky at first as I had to refresh myself with its tools and abilities. However the process is going very well now. Building each part in vector shapes is much easier than painting each part like in photoshop, and the files import into AE seamlessly.
As for the aliens with clothing on, it was a matter of adding the parts to parts of the body already made, such as the torso, hip and arms, or make a new layer for additional pieces like collar, tie and hat. This process went smoothly, and I like how each piece of clothing contrasts with the alien’s skin colour.
Rigging is a tedious process but is a very important part of my project. I start by importing the illustrator file into a new scene and setting up the composition to its size. I make sure each body part is masked to its size, and the anchor point is moved to where the main position of movement will be. I make nulls of each body part, labelling correctly, then placing the nulls to the anchor points of the layers. Once this is done I parent the layers to their labelled null, and parent the nulls together based on hierarchy e.g. Hand to Elbow to Arm to Torso. Lastly I place an auto rig on the legs from the DUIK plugin. This helps keep the feet grounded to the floor, and it is easier to use for walk animations.
As for the head the same process applies, but more is included. To make a head turn I need to keyframe the up, down, left and right pose of each part of the face. I highlight my keyframes and add the properties to a 2D Connector from the DUIK plugin. This remote helps me to move the head position and keyframe when needed. I also applied this for the head shape separately so it looks like the jaw is moving left and right, for a better look when the face turns left and right. Furthermore, I applied a slider control effect for the eyebrows and mouth so that its multiple shapes can be swapped over whenever needed. Lastly I placed pins on the antennas so they can warp when positioned.
Because the front alien is rigged, I can copy this file add in the aliens different clothing, save them as separate files, then I get already rigged versions of Alien Boss, Alien Operator and Alien Cook, with just little amount of adjustment on each one. This helps speed up the process to move onto the next rigs.
The same process is done for the inspector, however it required a bit more work on the head, especially for the beard.