• We have updated our Community Code of Conduct. Please read through the new rules for the forum that are an integral part of Paradox Interactive’s User Agreement.

Stellaris Dev Diary #265 - The Art of Toxoid Clothing

Hey all! My name is Alec Beals, one of the several concept artists who worked on the Toxoids Species Pack. Today I’ll be taking you on a very fashionable walk through the seriously expanded clothing component of this pack. In a later dev diary we will go into more detail examining the design process of a species, so this will be an informally focused look at our experiences creating the clothing of Toxoids.

The Art of Toxoid Clothing

A Quick History of Toxoids

At the end of our visual development process we found ourselves with a diverse array of species for the Toxoid pack. Our intention was to give around a third of them something to wear. By and large, we don’t specify which species will or won’t be clothed at the start of this process. Most artists generate concepts for creatures designed to wear nothing at all, as well as many with clothing designed specifically for that species in mind.

Once we are sufficiently satisfied with how much we’ve explored what is and is not a ‘Toxoid,’ the actual process of deciding the characteristics of our species begins. This is a fairly quick process where we assign common traits (scholar, brute, aggressive, needs pants, etc.) To everyone, after that’s done it’s time to start the clothing process!


Toxoids represented a great opportunity for us to try out some aesthetic choices that had either been missing or only slightly touched on before in Stellaris. It also represented a recurring challenge: “How do we create a series of space-faring civilizations that maybe aren’t so neat and tidy without making them look like a bunch of post-apocalyptic hitchhikers?” In the end, we vaguely defined three broad areas of inspiration: High Tech Survivalism, Wasteland Toxpunk, and Protective Fashion. While we drew from each, we decided to avoid the wasteland aesthetic since it clashed the most with our sci-fi setting.

Finding style

After this, we are at the point where we feel comfortable with both having a unique style while also ensuring that it fits well into the grander scheme of Stellaris.

For this pack, we especially wanted to reference some of the great work done on the ships in the clothing we designed. Another decision made early on was in keeping with the visual and narrative theme that roles like Scientist and General should have a decidedly more roughed-up appearance. After all, Toxoids aren’t afraid to get their numerous hands dirty.

Role Exploration

Initially we do not focus too much on what roles each outfit will end up as and more with what makes interesting design. Here are some rough sketches I did using a basic human to explore quite a few styles.

Making it Unique

“What’s so special about all this!” You say, between rounds of Caravan Slots. For all prior Species Packs, clothing has been a relatively straightforward process of creating a single outfit per role, and giving it several different sizes. These have always done a great job but they come with drawbacks; they mask the creature from the neck down and generally come with more limited animation opportunities.

Making Things Unique

A comparison of a role outfit amongst multiple species from earlier Stellaris and Toxoids.

With the new camera settings requiring clothing designs far beyond the original scope as well as our diverse cast of candidates, we felt that in order to do these designs justice we were going to need to create outfits more specific to each species:

Clothing Refinement

Some early stages of concept and refinement. Some designs such as the Ruler seen here lasted for quite a while before being changed.

We also decided that robots shouldn’t be left out of the fun, so Toxoids is introducing the first ever clothed machine! With support of our fantastic animators, we even discussed the idea of introducing masks, backpacks, and more as ways of adding variety. Eventually it was decided that each species would get more or less a tailor-made outfit.

Materials and Styles

A continuation from the above image, this time with color and material passes, as well as figuring out how to apply each design uniquely to each of our clothed species.

Making Things Unique, Part 2

An example of how assets are re-used and modified and also how small details can make noticeable differences between species.

Achieving this would require re-using as many assets as possible while still making enough changes, new details, and species-conforming components that each one felt as if it was designed for the individual wearer.

Masks, Packs, and More
An example of ways we were looking to expand the clothing even more, also look how many artists are on this single page!

As previously mentioned, we wanted to explore add-ons such as masks, backpacks and more. Some of these concepts were not new to Stellaris, but we still felt like they could be expanded.

For the most part, during our initial development phase these proved to be costly in terms of time (complicated with the layering of species, gender, role and color variant) or in terms of the in-engine animation budget. This is the nature of the job, and it’s important to know when to push towards a solution and when to recognize something isn’t feasible.

Robots with Skirts

As mentioned above, we have a robot with clothes! This was an aspiration I specifically wanted to see as a long time Stellaris player. After all, even a cold and calculating near-immortal machine might want to try on an outfit or two for a change.

Initially, I had hoped we could have both different heads and unique back components for each role, as well as animated sub-components. However, as with some of the other designs for non-machine clothing, these added up substantially, and quickly exceeded what can be done in-engine. Eventually it was settled on using different heads as well as a specific back component for the Ruler.
Robots Playing Dressup

Personally I think this adds a nice variety to our machine species, and I hope you agree because I would love to draw robots with pants next.

Bringing it to life

Once the designs and rendering are done, the next step is to separate and export files for animation. Breaking out and cleaning up each separate layer can take a while. Across all our species there’s around 150-200 total assets just for the clothing. Separating these for animation can also be a finicky process. Depending on the complexity of the costume, the method used requires all assets to line up with one another, since they will have to be layered over the original character.

Any additional components (such as the cape for a governor) need to also fit in a space unfilled by anything else. Below is a .gif showcasing how this works across an entire set:

Putting it all together

Not shown: the dozens of stray pixels I had to hunt down during cleanup

The next step is animation, which deserves its own Dev Diary for all the effort and complexity it entails, but for now I would like to shout out our amazing animators Hannah and Mota for all the work they’ve done on this and everything else for Toxoids.

For the clothing, assets just shown being broken apart are reconstructed and layed in a 3D program (by Maya in our case). Here’s an example of what that looks like outside of the normal in-game Stellaris view:

Robot Reconstruction

Here you can see the robot being re-constructed in Maya

Extensive work is then done rigging and preparing the 2d images to actually be able to warp and bend in a way to help stimulate more fluid animation. This can take a variety of forms, such as creating nodes where fabric and banners can bend to areas where the 2d art will stretch and pull during animation. This is also where the animation budget I mentioned before rears its ugly, if not sensible head. All the points of articulation you see add up quite fast when you also include the character beneath the clothes.

Robot being manhandled

The art can take quite a beating in the process of being rigged for animation

Robot making funny gestures

You’ve heard of T-pose, and A-pose, but have you ever heard of the ‘You want HOW MUCH for alloys!?’ pose?

Further complicating everything is the need for the clothing to work with some pretty dynamic animations for characters. Luckily, our animation team is amazing and was able to pinpoint any clothing that may have needed to be removed before this part of the process began. Originally there were way more hanging banners than we see now.

Coming together, final thoughts

Finally it’s all pieced together, beautifully animated, and in game! After the requisite amount of corrosive sludge, sweat and tears, we’ve got some finely attired Toxoids. Minor tweaks aside, at this point the work is done:

Final Product

This individual has never once considered if there’s more to life than being really, really, ridiculously well dressed.

Believe it or not, there are even more steps and miscellaneous details that I’ve completely passed over as to not turn this into a novel. To my knowledge, this was the most intensive and experimental clothing development cycle of any pack so far. For a variety of reasons, quite a bit of what was attempted wasn’t able to make it into the final build. However, I still feel like everything done for Toxoids can push Stellaris even further going forward.

Thanks for reading. I hope you learned something and best of luck in your future space endeavors!

Next Week

Next Tuesday we'll be back with
The Tale of the Questing Knights

See you then! Pre-Order Toxoids Now!
  • 57Like
  • 34Love
  • 6
  • 2
I absolutely love the art direction you have taken with this pack and hope you keep doing this in the future. Having more customisable clothing options is always fun and clothing styles unique to different species only enhances this. I’m aware it’s a lot of work for the artists but it really adds to the gameplay experience. <3
  • 9Like
  • 1
The cutest toxoid is a flying tiny one... With my words flying halfling... And also are we getting an update on fantasy creatures Like Dragonborns and can we have mutant creatures like Lithoid-Humanoids?
  • 1
  • 1Like
Thank you for letting us see behind the curtains of production. Species packs are some of my favourite content for the game, because of the creative passion and effort that goes into the art.
  • 3
  • 1Like
  • 1
As usual art is to notch, good job from artists and animators.

By any chance would be possible to get this level of quality makeover to older species at some point in the future? Probably not, but man can dream some toxic sludge induced dreams, right?
  • 3
  • 2Like
Man, Stellaris puts so much work into making unique and awesome aliens, I love it. The work put into designing these spicy guys is more than I could've guessed, and robots with clothes is something I've been waiting for!

Kudos to all the artists who worked on these awesome aliens (and machines) !
  • 6
  • 4Like
clothed robots is great, it always felt really impersonal that synth ascended empires would not be wearing clothes or any kind of personal accessory, kinda sad the robot role faces could not be implemented though.
Really looking forward to next dd, what little snippets i caught of KoTTG online were really damn interesting.
  • 2
Fascinating stuff, and I’m intrigued by this language about new camera settings. Does this mean tweaks to existing species and clothing? I know it might be a sensitive subject, but I’d be interested in seeing the human models getting another pass.
I really did notice that the clothing on Toxoids was full of character compared to the other species packs.

Really looking forward to Knights of the Toxic God origin. Definitely going to be my first playthrough.
  • 1
Now we'd just need a little update on the older portraits I feel like, put them a little bit more on par with the new packs, including plantoids.

Those Toxoids (why not Toxicoid?) look gorgeous, most having a really "alien" feel to them instead of just rather standard humanoids (like many necroids were, not that they looked bad, far from it). Gotta say they do bring me a -lot- of inspiration for my RPG sessions.
  • 1
  • 1
Sometimes you forget how wonderful the art of stellaris is, but it's actually one of the most important parts of the game. And it seems to me that it is getting better and better.
  • 1