BTS #2: Darth Vader - The Making of a Dark Lord


One of the galaxy's most feared, most iconic villains (and in his TIE Advanced X1, one of X-Wing's fan-favourite pilots too).


It's no wonder that (despite TONS of requests) we've struggled and taken so long to finally do him justice! 


Every piece of art we create begins with place and time. A setting. A theme. For some pilots, it writes itself. A bounty-hunter carrying out a scummy deed in the underworld. A hero of the Rebellion being... heroic. For others - like Vader - things are a little more nuanced. 

Vader's been, in some way or another, there from the beginning. Through Episodes 1-6, the Clone Wars animated series, Rebels, comics, Rogue One... we've seen his grooming from a young, rage-filled Anakin, his fall to the blade of his own mentor, his apex as reborn apprentice of the Sith, and finally his end.  Picking a single point of time from his very vast, very long career to pay homage to was one of the toughest choices we've had yet. A choice that... has taken us a good part of a year / lots of debate / sketches / attempts / scraps to make. With the Second Edition fast upon us, we finally made the call.



For a plethora of reasons, the fiery planet clicked.

It was where, in many ways, Vader was 'made'. His fear and anger tipped him over, and he fell - losing both limb and soul - in a bitter fight with his own mentor and friend...the hatred he felt then carrying into his transformation and rise as Darth Vader. We know that he returns to the planet at some point (even staying there for extensive periods of time), and wanted to imagine the very first time he stepped foot back on the planet - now no longer as Anakin, but in the black boots of Vader.


With the hard part done — we could get to the fun stuff: doodles! 


We did a dozen or so sketches, trying various ways and places Vader could be on Mustafar, eventually settling on a scenic one that would allow us to really play up the violent "attitude" of the planet.

Angry spits of lava, melting, crumbling infrastructure... and of course Vader himself — silhouetted and ominous against the planet's toxic fumes — holding his TIE X1 above the magma via his dark powers.


Then comes the building and piecing together. 


We build everything out from scratch and start putting the skeleton of our scene together, from jagged terrain to the planet's infrastructure and of course Vader's iconic ship. The process is a long labour of love that involves being as detailed as possible...without crashing the PC! 


Textures are painted on, and we start to get a sense of the darkness and contrast our final scene is going to have.

We also get to tweak and play with our cameras here, opting to shoot it from the bottom-up with a 35mm wide-angle camera to better pull out the depth of the scene. 


We then start really bringing the mood into the scene by lighting the ground up — so the scene is lit primarily and purely by the lava without external scene lights, giving us a truly fiery, high-contrast tone.


After a good few days of straight building and assembly, we've setup a scene we're happy with. Now it's off to the finishing stage, where it gets really brought to life with all the "VFX" layers — namely smoke, fires, more smoke, and more fires.


Aaaand there we have it! Vader, in his final form. From sketch to model and final scene. We thought it was poetic that he'd return — to the place that "created" him (albeit traumatically). 

Darth Vader - TIE Advanced.jpg

Rivers of thick lava snaked below, sending great towers of flame high into the air. Molten rocks and ash oozed from the pores of the planet, constantly shaping and reshaping its desolate landscape.

"This place unmade me... but I too, shall remake myself..."

A figure, clad in black, emerged through the the noxious fumes, silhouetted against the evil glow of the molten river below.

"And I will make them pay. 

ALL of them.



And there we have it! We hope this has been an insightful little window into the concept and art-working process that you support us to do, and that Vader does you proud on the table with the Second Edition!

See you out there,


Ryan Ho1 Comment