Offworld Blaster from “Blade Runner”
"Blade Runner" is my favorite movie of all time. Everything about it is beautiful (in a dark, dreary kind of way). The production design is amazing. It’s so atmospheric in terms of visuals, music and effects. Designer Mike Kammerling is of the opinion that "Blade Runner is the best designed movie of all time". I couldn’t agree more.
As a personal project, a challenge to myself, I decided to create Rick Deckard’s Offworld blaster in Photoshop. This started off as what I thought would be a quick one night project that spiraled into almost a month of research, reading, failed starts, and technical experimentation. This led to the final piece you see above, which I am extremely proud of.
I began the process by looking for a good photo of the actual blaster prop from the film. I came to find out that the Offworld blaster has become one of the most sought after movie props of all time. It is also the subject of much high level scrutiny and many, many fan recreations. Even Adam Savage of Mythbusters created his own blaster with painstaking attention to detail.
I’m not going to go into detail on the storied history of the blaster. Phil Steinschneider’s Creating the 2019 Detective Special article does a much better job than I ever could of telling the back story of the prop. This article also provided much needed reference material in the form of many photos of his replica parts and how they fit together for a final blaster.
Propmaker Richard A. Coyle’s Blade Runner blaster project was also a fantastic reference for me and like Steinschneider, he really did his research as he painstakingly recreated Deckard’s weapon.
I began by using this photo of different versions of Coyle’s blaster as a template. I placed the image in Illustrator and began tracing all the various pieces. This was my first false start. I realized that I was just looking at this as a flat object. It was at this point that I jettisoned the Illustrator file and began doing my research on the blaster and how I found Steinschneider’s and Coyle’s articles.
Looking at many different angles of the replica blasters that these men provided gave me a better sense of the depth, weight and structure of the weapon. This was a turning point in the process: I decided to fully use Photoshop from beginning to end.
Instead of tracing all the parts of the blaster I decided to keep the photo to the side of my Photoshop document on a separate layer and use the shape and pen tools to draw all the parts separately. I stayed as organized as possible with all my layers and layer groups, naming them appropriately. The only parts I traced from the reference photo were the handle and triggers; I just couldn’t seem to get them right freehand.
Layer styles upon layer styles
Things started to come together when I began adding layer styles to all the vector shapes. I created reusable and editable gradient overlay styles to mimic the shiny gun metal. This allowed me to adjust the gradient based on the part of the blaster I was working on: make it darker, lighter or adjust the spacing of the gradient.
After finalizing the gradients I began to add combination’s of inner glows, outer glows, shadows and color blends. I would duplicate shape layers, set the fill to 0% add more styles there. This kept everything aligned.
I don’t want to ramble on too much more. Let’s just say that it was a long road of styles, masks, color and texture experiments and refining to get to this final piece.
I learned a lot with this project. I tried and failed with some techniques. Some techniques came from mistakes or careful thought and research.
I would have to say that the research into the history of the Offworld blaster was the most valuable part of the project. It’s amazing how fans can obsess over a small, almost inconsequential part of a film. It’s a testament to things we love, things we enjoy, and that inspire us.
But overall…this was just fun and satisfying. You can’t ask for anything more.