Emma Taggart

Emma Taggart

January 11, 2022
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January 11, 2022
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Around since the 19th century, the poster is one of the earliest forms of visual communication. The large printed graphics on paper were first used to advertise product sales, promote political parties, recruit soldiers, celebrate culture, and hype-up events. Around 200 years later, creative posters are still used as promotional tools and have become a staple of graphic design. 

Almost every graphic designer has a poster design in their portfolio, but mastering the art of conveying ideas and information in a single canvas can take some practice. Whether you want to promote your own band’s show or you’ve been commissioned to design a movie poster, you’ll want your design to grab attention and make an impact. You could even create a poster to advertise your graphic design skills!

When faced with the task of designing a poster, it’s easy to become overwhelmed. And there are plenty of poster templates available online that might tempt you into opting for a quick and easy workflow (no judgment here, we promise). However, creating a poster from scratch is easier than you might think, and we're here to help you along the way. This guide will help you transform that blank page into a beautiful poster you’ll be proud to post in the real world or online. 

Do you have an idea for a poster? Read on to discover 9 things you should consider when designing it, plus some examples of posters we love.

Image of music posters on a wall
Image: Unsplash

9 Poster Design Tips For Effectively Promoting an Event or Idea 

Start by Sketching and Planning

Even if you intend on designing your poster using digital tools, starting with a pen or pencil on paper is a great way to brainstorm ideas and plan out your composition.

Once you’ve decided on your poster’s message, you can begin to visualize your design by sketching out the elements you would like to include and write notes about what should go where. This is also a good time to decide if you want to include text and what it should say. 

Close-up image of a person drawing on a light box
Image: Unsplash

Consider Size and Format

Once you’ve got a rough composition, it’s time to decide on the size of your poster. If you’re using Vectornator, we have plenty of templates to choose from. Plus, working in vectors allows you to scale your design to any size later. 

What type of poster do you want to make? You can create a physical printed poster in any size, but perhaps you’ll also want to reach an online audience through social media. When a poster is scaled down to the size of an Instagram post and viewed through a smartphone, it should still make an impact while keeping all of the details visible. We’ll discuss how you can do this through typography and image choices in the next tips.  

Remember: When creating your canvas, don’t forget to choose the CMYK color mode if you intend to print your poster.

Make it Legible 

The purpose of a poster is to quickly translate an idea, so it’s important that any text you include is easily legible, even from a distance. The key to achieving this is to create a hierarchy in the text. 

There should be three distinct text layers in your design:

1. Headline 

The headline is the main and largest typography element of a poster design. The font you choose should be easy to read, but don’t be afraid to get creative with artistic typefaces and playful compositions. 

The headline doesn’t necessarily need to be placed at the top of your design. It could be at the bottom, to the side, or the letters could even interact with the visuals. All that matters is that the headline grabs the viewer’s attention right away and immediately conveys what the poster is about. 

2. Details

With the second level of text, consider all of the details your audience needs to know. If it’s an event, where will it be held? And when? Who is involved? And what can people expect to see or experience? 

For the text that provides the details, we suggest using a font that’s about half the size of the headline. In this section, it’s important to deliver information in a clear and concise manner. Therefore, consider using a non-decorative, sans serif font that’s easily legible.

3. The fine print 

The fine print is commonly used in movie posters in order to provide more information or credit those involved. Depending on your poster’s message, this section isn’t always needed. But if you have more to say, keep your text small and out of the way of larger elements. 

Struggling to choose the right font? Read our guide on typography

Decide on a Color Scheme

A color palette is a powerful tool for conveying a mood, so it’s important to select hues that help you to further convey your message. For example, a flyer advertising a screening of a classic black and white film will likely have a grayscale palette, while an event poster for a summer music festival might feature bright colors that convey sunlight, outdoors, and vibrant energy.

A good rule of thumb is to use 3 to 5 colors. In general, your poster should have a primary color, a secondary color, and an accent color.

If you need a refresh in color theory, read our blog article on how to use the color wheel to create designs.

Create Contrast

One sure-fire way to stop someone in their tracks and entice them to read your poster is by playing with contrast. 

Rather than use a monotone color palette, try experimenting with contrasting colors and shades. You could layer saturated elements over a dark background, or dark motifs over a light background.

You can also achieve eye-catching contrast with gradients, using two different types of fonts, or creating interesting juxtapositions with graphic elements. 

Make a Statement With Visuals

One of the hardest things about designing a poster is deciding on the visuals. A dominant image such as an illustration or a photo has the potential to grab someone’s attention and communicate a message, so why not go big? Using one dramatic image will allow your poster to stand out among the others and create a lasting impression.

Think about your visuals carefully, but don’t be afraid to go bold. You can use a close-up of someone’s face, a striking illustration, or experiment with extraordinary letterforms to allow beautiful typography to take center stage.

Create Space

Creating exaggerated space can work wonders in a poster design. 

The negative space in between individual letterforms allows more readability from a distance, whereas tight kerning can create a blur.

Leaving extra space around other design elements such as illustrations gives them more power as it draws the viewer in. 

Another way to creatively use white space is to create a white border around the entire design. You can also experiment with bold colors to add an extra level of interest to your design. 

Embrace Minimalist Design

Now that you have created the first draft of your poster design, it’s time to refine it. 

Remember: a poster is supposed to quickly communicate an idea, so a cluttered poster is pretty confusing to anyone reading it. Take some time to step back from your work area to really examine everything you have placed in the composition. Then, simply remove any unnecessary elements from your design.

Decide on Your Printing Processes

Once you’re happy with your poster design, you might be thinking your project is done. However, the printing process is another chance to flex those design muscles. 

There are a number of creative printing processes that can help elevate your design and give it extra character. For a handcrafted feel, you could try a traditional printing technique, such as screen printing or lino printing. Or if you want to make your poster look and feel opulent, you could print your design using a letterpress. 

One technique that’s on trend right now is Risograph printing. It’s similar to screen printing, but instead of manually pushing ink through a mesh screen, Risograph printing involves using a Japan-made copy machine from the ‘80s, aptly called Risograph. The process happens one color at a time (just like silk screen printing), so the more colors your design has, the more times your paper needs to go through the machine. A mix between analog and digital processes, the results look charmingly textured and vibrant.

There you have it! Now that we’ve revealed our poster design tips, we hope you’re feeling inspired to start making some design decisions. 

It’s easy to get sucked into following graphic design “rules,” but don’t forget that rules are often meant to be broken. This article includes basic guidelines to help you get started in your poster design journey, but we also urge you to get creative and push the boundaries of the art form. 

If you design your poster using Vectornator, make sure to tag us on socials. We love to see what you’re creating!

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