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How to design a poster

How to design a poster

Poster is a simple printed image which is designed to be attached to the wall or any other vertical surface. It includes both textual and visual components, though it may consist of only one of them. Poster is a frequently used tool of advertisers since they are eye-catching and informative.

However, currently there are so many new techniques and advertising technologies, why do we even need posters? The answer to that is laziness. Posters are lazy. Nope, they are not an easy task for a designer, but they are EASY on a reader. The main point of a poster is shortness, catchiness and briefness – an upper-hand of a poster over long commercials that are over 10 seconds long.

Posters convey the idea to the audience using just color and text.

Here is a list of criteria for a great poster:

– Clarity: the brief message should be clear to the reader. Researchers say that people can remember a mean of no more than seven items. Carefully decide what you want to be in your poster to not overcrowd it with text and art elements.

– Briefness: every word on a poster has to be necessary for understanding. The information has to be as short and catchy as possible.

– Appeal: poster has to attract reader’s attention, but colors shouldn’t distract him or her from the message of the poster. Simplicity is the best answer. Bold letters and bright colors.

– Readability: the text at 5 inches should be just as readable as at 5 feet.

However, even if you are familiar with all those criteria, a good poster is not created in a day or even in two. Okay, how do you begin to work on a poster?

The first thing you should do is brainstorm your topic: start writing down the issues that should be represented in the poster, cover essentials:

Who is going to be your target audience? Teens? Your peers in mid-twenties? Stay-at-home moms or office workers? If you know the answer to this question or it was already set by a client- think about possible locations for the poster. Location is an important factor for deciding on the poster size. Common poster sizes are 8.5 by 11 inch letter, 11 by 17 inches and 22 by 34 inches. Large format poster sizes are commonly 24 inches by 36 inches. Consider all the details and pick the best for this purpose.


Next problem is “What people should DO after seeing it?” Should they stop drunk driving? Or buy a ticket for some indie music camp-festival?  Or go shopping at the last day of the season sale? Come up with the main catchphrase. Designers often use so-called “one-liners” – short and memorable messages that provoke and/or encourage reader’s mind to dwell over the issue.


Think of a sequence that will grab and hold reader’s attention, lead his or her eyes from the top to the bottom. Sketch possible poster layout, while keeping in mind the location for its future placement.

Key information in a poster should be easy to read from a distance, so you r task is to create a certain hierarchy within the text. You can separate text in a poster in three different levels:

Headline (the main and the largest text element) which acts as an addiction to the art element. Here it’s better to use the typeface that is interesting and unusual.

Detailed information: What is it about? When is it going to happen? Where? Answer those questions in the next text level. You may drop the size of the headline by half for the clear hierarchy or use the same size, but different typeface.

Experiment with colors. Researches show that there are only 3 to 5 second to grab one’s attention, so don’t stick to dull colors and well-known motives. Let your heart wonder over the bright color pallet, forget about pale pastels.

Nonetheless, remember to have fun. Designing of a poster is a challenging process, which allows you to try something you have always wanted, but never knew how. Play with colors, try various background images or come up with your unique artsy background. There is plenty of room to stretch out your creativity.

If you are new to poster design and currently on your first one, we recommend you to try out those tutorials:

Create an Inspirational Vector Political Poster

Design a Retro Inspired Sci-Fi Film Poster

Make an Inspiring Artistic Poster with Drawn Elements

Make a Vintage Planetary Landscape Poster in Photoshop

Create a Dramatic Western Style Movie Poster in Photoshop

If you have tried those tutorials and ended up with awesome killer posters, please share your results with us in the comment section below.


Posted on June 27, 2016

Category: Designing, General, Graphic design, Graphic designer, Tips

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  • Aaron Wood

    Thank you for the compliments and thank you for taking the time to write this really great review! I appreciate it.


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