What Makes Darth Vader so Special? The Dark Side Design Secrets

Darth Vader, one of the most iconic villains in history is as special as other pop culture icons. As the villain of the Star Wars trilogy, he captivated audiences with his iconic design, voice, and history. He’s so cruel but… we love it! Why?

It was May 1973, when George Lucas had an explosion of ideas and the name of General Vader, a tall Imperial commander was mentioned. This character was described as a strong and dark looking general.

The Best Ideas Always Come from the Dark Side

The development of Vader’s character and backstory was heavily shaped by the American conceptual designer Ralph McQuarrie. When he learned that Vader was to cross through the cold vacuum of space to enter Leia’s spaceship, he added the mask.

darth Vader sketchLawrence’s costume from the movie Lawrence of Arabia was such inspiring for Lucas. He suggested that maybe Vader could be in a silk robe that always fluttered as he came in, and he might have his face covered with black silk.

Lawrence main characterStar Wars New T-shirts

Lucas was trying to create a strong personality for the character. He was searching for something like a feudal Japanese Kabuto, a type of helmet worn by the samurai warriors that frequented the Akira Kurosawa films.Kabuto HelmetJohn Mollo, a military uniforms expert saw McQuarrie’s art, and immediately made the comparison between Vader’s suit and pieces of trench armor worn by the SS German soldiers in the First World War and Nazi combat helmets.

German SS Soldier and tree

Darth Vader on Screen

In the spirit of McQuarrie’s paintings, Vader’s first paint job was in an all-black color scheme, didn’t actually show up on screen.

The face mask and shoulder armor were then given a two-tone paint scheme of gloss black and gunmetal silver. The contrast between the colors stopped the costume from washing out on screen.

Darth Vader is the most inspiring character in all of the Star Wars universe. I have recently designed some t-shirts. You can see it here.

What makes Darth Vader so special? Let’s share it in the comments!


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Hello, I’m Darruda, you’re welcome! Some things you need to know about me: I’m a graphic designer and illustrator based in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. I focus on the conceptual value of the images. I use minimal elements to create a logo. I tell stories with my illustrations. I’m available for new commissions and licensing existing images. Don’t miss out on my Shop and my Blog.

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