"It was a very simple sketch, beautiful in its simplicity of a ball with this little dome on top." — special effects artist Neal Scanlan describing how BB-8's design was based on a sketch by The Force Awakens director J. J. Abrams
Officially licensed Star Wars artwork BB-8 and BB-9E by Oktopolis: The Art of Brian Miller
I remember standing in awe at Star Wars Celebration Anaheim in 2015 when BB-8 rolled out onstage during the panel for the upcoming Star Wars film, The Force Awakens. This spunky little droid captured the hearts and imagination of Star Wars fans young and old alike. It was difficult to even conceive how this little spherical droid could even work, lat alone seeing him rolling around and interacting with others on stage.
Throughout the past three Star Wars films and the animated series Star Wars: Resistance BB-8 has become an integral part of the Star Wars universe. From his adventures with Poe, Finn, and Rey to his covert missions with Kaz Ziono and the Ace Squadron on the Colossus, BB-8 is as vital to the resistance as other popular droids like R2-D2 and C-3PO.
Audiences were introduced to Imperial astromech droid BB-9E (humorously nicknamed BB-Hate) during The Last Jedi. BB-9E discovered that Supreme Leader Snoke's flagship, the Supremacy, had been infiltrated by Resistance operatives. As a result of the droid's actions, Captain Phasma's stormtroopers arrested Finn and Rose Tico before they could disable the Supremacy's hyperspace tracker.
BB-9E would reappear in several episodes of Star Wars: Resitance where the Imperial droid caused all sorts of trouble for our heroes.
When I was approached to create an illustration featuring BB-8 I initially worked up 3 concepts. I like to use basic silhouettes when making concepts and work in grayscale. I know if I can create a strong composition using basic forms then it will also work when color and detail are added. I like to reduce everything to the minimum and remove any visual clutter or distractions to create strong iconic imagery.
The concepts ranged form a simple pose of BB-8 in front of some Resistance tech, to a more elaborate art-nouveau inspired illustration pitting BB-8 against the enemy Imperial droid BB-9E, and finally a propaganda style Resistance enlistment poster featuring BB-8 rolling through a hanger full of X-Wings toward a waving Poe Dameron.
In the end the art-nouveau inspired concept was chosen and I was ready to start drawing!
Starting with the grayscale comp that will evolve into the final color design I start drawing the droids. The illustration was created using Adobe Illustrator Draw on Apple iPad Pro using the Apple Pencil. Use a handful of layers to keep each droid and the art-nouveau style background organized. The Adobe Illustrator Draw app for iPad features shape guides that help me draw all the intricate straight lines and curves of the detailed background. The sorts of details that would be nearly impossible for me to draw freehand.
The finished grayscale artwork is then exported to Adobe Photoshop where I can start to add colors and the star field inside the background shapes. I make any final tweaks requested by Lucasfilm and then carefully create the final color separation to ensure the limited edition fine-art prints will match my illustration exactly.
The limited edition fine-art prints of BB-8 and BB-9E debuted at Comic-Con International (aka San Diego Comic-Con) and were also made available to collectors attending EPCOT International Festival of the Arts. Now Star Wars fans young and old can proudly display these BB droids as part of their Star Wars collections.
Star Wars © & ™ Lucasfilm, Ltd. This artwork officially licensed by Lucasfilm and released by Dark Ink Art. Illustration by Oktopolis, the art of Brian Miller.