For most audiences, the introduction an upcoming film is the poster. In some ways, it’s very much a lost art. Poster design is too often relegated to generic shots with the film’s stars floating about the title.
The days of great, artful, innovative work of the late Drew Struzan are passed. In Frank Darabont’s The Mist, lead character Tom Jane makes a career painting posters – the opening scene shows him working on a fictional adaptation of Stephen King’s The Dark Tower. The character is a tribute to Struzan, whose memorable works of art for films like Star Wars and the Indiana Jones films are as recognizable as the movies themselves.
Occasionally, you find artwork for films that is striking, but they’re less common today. If, however, you’re interested in design, there’s always a market for quality poster design. Here’s a quick guide to help you on how to create a movie poster:
1. Convey a Message
Before you even sit down at the computer, you should have a good idea about how you want to market your film. Some audiences judge what they’re going to see just off the photo. If there’s a key scene – like The Shawshank Redemption’s iconic shot of Tim Robbins standing in the rain – it’s often useful to base the image on that.
No one has ever bought a ticket based on a collection of floating heads. Be as creative as you were when you were making the film itself. The more memorable the poster, the better. Once you have a sense of what you’re going for, visit Pinterest for inspiration.
2. Learn Your Way Around Photoshop
Obviously, you’re going to want to have a good understanding of the software tools involved in creating a poster. Fortunately, this is something you can teach yourself, as there are numerous videos on YouTube detailing the ins and outs of Photoshop.
It’ll be especially important to learn how to manipulate photos, adding titles in Movie Poster font and editing in smaller photos without making them look out of place. Doing it yourself will also save a lot of money.
3. Find a Focal Point
Like any good photograph, the poster should have a focal point. This should be the main draw – typically right in the middle. Since very few posters are straight photographs, you should start by selecting the object or person that you want and put in on a blank canvas. Be sure you set your background to transparent first.
4. Add Some Effects
Every poster has some effects or at least slight manipulation. But what kind of effects used should not be random. Rather, they should emphasize the importance of a certain image. It can be as simple as adding some blur to the top and bottom of the poster, making the focal point more pronounced.
5. Add Credits
We can’t stress this enough. Adding credits to the bottom of a poster, complete with the studio logos, is done for two reasons. The first is simple legality and contractual obligations, but It can also help as a selling point. More serious cinephiles will scour the bottom text, remembering the director’s name. The easiest way to organize credits is to take them from an existing poster, copy/paste it to yours and then change the text.
6. Add a Tagline
The final touch is to include something clever. Some of the most famous and successful films have memorable taglines. Alien’s “In Space, No One Can Hear You Scream” or Jaws 2’s “Just When You Thought It Was Safe” have been parodied multiple times, making them as recognizable as the film itself.
7. Cut! Print!
Once you’ve created the poster, it’s time to start printing. Movie posters are typically printed on high quality, glossy paper, or recycled matte cover. This is probably the most expensive part of the process, as obviously a home printer isn’t going to cut it. Typically a poster is 24”x36”, so you would have to send it to a print shop.
You have a few options after saving the file as a PDF and dropping it off at the store: digital printing, litho printing, or you can even try flexographic printing. Most books and mass-produced magazines and posters are printed using litho. Litho is more expensive and time-consuming, but if you’re willing to shell out a little extra, the quality of the gloss is noticeably superior.