Art of the Poster - Posters.org

This  workshop Art of the Poster is intended for photographers looking for new set of skills to incorporate their stock images into marketable posters. 

Posters represent values, tendencies, and important events reflecting on epoch from which they originate. The poster acts as a test bed shaping attitudes and trends and therefore is an excellent mirror of the times. Posters should be a normal element in recreations of historical situations, and promoting posters play an important role here with their manipulative demonstrations of the messages.

A poster is any part of printed paper designed to be hanged to a wall, shop-window or any other vertical surface. The poster is a composition of words, symbols and pictures, or symbol and words alone, frequently with a various graphic expression. Also, posters are designed to be informative, interesting, understandable and visually striking. Interest in what the poster has to say must be initiated in the perhaps stressed and distracted casual observer. For that reason, a poster designed with text alone needs spectacular composition to reimburse for the lack of an appealing pictorial element. Posters who were only textual have a long history: they advertised the plays of William Shakespeare and made citizens aware of government announcements for centuries.

Of course, we all know that posters are a frequent tool of advertisers (today mainly of happenings, bands and movies), publicists, protesters and other groups trying to send an important a message. We can take the U.S. for example, for at least 80 years; posters have been a dominant tool in America’s for social change. However no single poster changed national policy, many brought important issues to light, and helped sway lawmakers, nationals and political leaders. Posters focused attention on political issues, national agendas, cultural icons and zeitgeist topics.

The first known posters are most significant of enlarged newspaper ads with text and, rarely, interesting and provocative illustrations set in columns. The first printed posters appeared in London in 15th century.

The modern poster, as we know it, however, dates back to the middle of 19th century when the printing industry perfected color lithography and made mass production possible. Artists from Europe, mostly Swedish and German, were influenced by this kind of art, and of course with French artists, and in the beginning of the 1890 they formed the society named “Artistic Posters” This society did not last long, but gave life to very valued series of posters. 

Historically, the text part was usually fairly brief. For more than 170 years, posters have been a significant part of the array of information we meet every day. They may be designed to spread information that brings people to a theater venue or informs them about important changes in public policy. And of course, a large number of them were about selling merchandise, letting people know that the taste of a specific bear is something not to be missed.

The form of artistic expression that became known as the illustrated lithographic color poster was a phenomenon that attracted huge interest between artists, critics, critics and collectors during the last two decades of 19th century. Today, in general, we tend to meet such posters in the form of illustrations in books or as freestanding reproductions, and these posters appear quite tame compared with the newer industrial images, such as huge digital billboards, that now occupy space in the major cities. However at the time, the vividly colored posters were experienced as a fresh, innovative and extraordinary phenomenon.

Posters were posted everywhere rather than being limited to paid spaces rented by poster posting companies. This system was usually used during elections, but that kind of posters were typically glued over within few hours. In order for posters to have a more durable presence, promoters paid poster posting companies for frequently posting fresh copies on billboards rented by the poster posting companies. This caused the commercialization of the public space. Building walls and billboards were turned into income producers for building owners, corporations, and municipalities.

When we are talking about posters, a lot of people undoubtedly think about movie posters. In the early days, movie posters were unknown creations in the form of “insert posters” that were not principally suited to taking the attention of busy people. The designers limited themselves to presenting scenes from the movie under an inexpressive headline.

But some time into the 1920s, design became very important at approximately the same time for numerous poster genres. For a second time, the focus was not on the creative aspects, but rather on bringing people into the theaters by any means required. The silent movie posters are still so attractive from an artistic point of view due to their size to combine the commercial and the artistic.

Movie posters were produced in a never-ending stream, which according to many has had a negative effect on their worth and quality over the years. Factors that an artist must keep in mind are to bring out the star, hero, to show a romantic or dramatic scene from the movie, and draw the actors in a portrait-like style. Also, the audience must recognize their matinee idols.

The innovation for the artistic Swedish movie poster came in the 1920s, the glory days of silent movies in Europe. Also, the years before WWII formed the style of the classic movie poster for a number of decades to come. Photo collages were mixed with drawings. The photograph provided information from the movie and the illustrations drew attention to the poster.

Posters are favorite design projects to many artists because they can bend the rules on so many different ways. Posters are creative, brave, and fashionable and can provoke so many different emotions. Some posters can make audience very excited and some others can make them feel depressed. Some others are full of information and some may contain much more information than others.

Today we have:

• Propaganda and political posters

• Movie posters

• Music, events and band posters

• Travel posters

• Railway posters

• Boxing posters

• Blacklight posters, they are very interesting because they are only visible under ultraviolet light

• Pin-up posters

• Affirmation posters

• Comic book posters

• Educational posters


We also have three main types of posters:

Roll-up poster - The most popular poster type is the roll-up poster. The roll-up poster is generally printed in A0 format and can be transported rolled-up (in a plastic protective cover). This is the easiest and most attractive way, provided that there is a suitable plotter.

Though, there is not always such a plotter. In addition, print-outs in A0 format can be fairly expensive. A few software applications as a result offer the option to create an A0 poster made from 16 pages (the pages are A4 format). These 16 pages then have to be glued or taped together.

Modular posters - A modular poster is made of different single pages in A4 or A3 format, organized on a pin board. An advantage of this poster is that can be easily created as well as transported. Furthermore, this type of poster needs well-structured text or image blocks. On the other hand, such posters give the impression of not being very professional and are for that reason they are no longer very common.

• Digital posters - they are not printed but projected. One will therefore not need a suitable plotter; on the other hand, there are still some things to consider. Not all projectors are suited to present colors satisfactorily. It is therefore essential to increase contrasts as well as font sizes, due to a projectors' low resolution. In order to reduce compatibility problems, it is best to create a PDF file with implemented fonts.


The key of making an excellent poster is finding the right balance with visually striking details, images and logos. When you have achieved that, you have got one fantastic poster. Knowing your audience and product/service/event is the first step of crucial information for a poster. After that, your mood, emotion or reaction will lead to colors, fonts and graphics that accompaniment the information.

Make a some kind of list off all the things that you want to say with your poster, and put them in the order of importance. You may try to select only the first three points as the focus for your poster, for example text, color and illustrations. You need to think what is the key point of the poster? What poster needs to support? Would bulleted points be more effective than running text? Beginning with an outline, which is an information order, will help you make things easier.

Remember that poster is going to give a quick overview of work that you presenting. Too much text is not a good idea; much better idea is a strong image in the poster. If you want to provide deeper information, you may try to make a well-written handout.

First step in making the great poster is choosing the right colors; color is the only one phase of the design that is wide open for you to experiment. Colors create energy, provoke a mood and attract the eye. Depending on the poster's theme the colors can be bold, subtle or romantic. Also, colors that are natural like grass green and ocean/sky blue are great and interesting color, and they are catchy. Furthermore, colors could be implied by setting or culture or could be the color of a national flag. Photos that you want to include in your poster hold lots of colors that you can put in a graphics some application and after use for image borders, bullets or even backgrounds of your poster. Colors set up in these ways will help to make your poster look awesome.

Two or three correlated colors will give your poster a whole look. The colors should preserve the balance so they don't conflict with poster's message. It is a rule of thumb that colors having something in common usually go well together. Green and blue, be careful not to make to much light and dark combinations, are great choice and the really go nice together because they have blue in common.

On the other hand, bright red and any kind of blue have little in common and they contrast sharply, which is not good idea for poster. If white is added to both red and blue so they have white in common, then that is a good combination. For some children posters, pink and powder blue become interesting and they o well together. Adding black or another color can have the same effect. If you use a standard twelve section color wheel on PhotoShop or in any other program it is important to know that any three neighboring colors will work well together. For contrast in small quantities, the color directly across the color wheel can add impact. A soft blue or green background of the poster can make your display look attractive, clean, and most important professional. Also, orange borders are very interesting.

Also, bright and saturated colors can be jarring or distracting to the viewer. On the other hand, the primary colors, red, yellow, and blue, tend to look to showy. These colors can take away the viewer from your message or make watching unpleasant enough that someone may choose not to bother.

Most design sources agree that red, yellow, and orange can overpower message of your poster. In many Western cultures, these colors suggest a sense of warning, urgency, or even a danger. So it is important to use them carefully, because you don’t want to send a wrong message. Of course, these colors aren't automatically wrong; they can add warmth to photographs and may be very interesting and of course, if it has a positive effect, use it.

If you are not very good with matching colors, you may also use blocks of solid colors. They guarantee that the colors you choose work fine together, and you will be able to make an outstanding background for your poster.

The title is top center, the key position of the poster. Next, viewers look at the upper left; there you can put an outline that concisely states the question you are asking and why it is important. You also may include simple supporting information.

So much can be conveyed in an event poster from just from the fonts. Show significance with a bold sans serif, improve elegance with an italic serif or you may express playfulness or fun with an interesting handwritten font. When you are selecting fonts for your poster, choose at least two types. One for the headline and one for body copy.

Of course, try to not play too much with fonts, the most important rule is that they must be readable. Make it interesting and simple for people who does not have too much time to get the information they need, and for people who doesn’t want to spend 3 minutes of their time trying to understand the message. Also, pay attention on people with glasses; they cannot read well blurred fonts. If observers are used to fonts of your poster, reading speed and understanding are much better. There is a general rule, especially in print media that serif fonts are easiest to read and provide fast understanding.

Use sans serif fonts  for titles but with some consideration,  the distinctive serif strokes might  be problematic and very hard to read within certain graphic envitonement. Sans serif fonts for titles and headings can go very well with serif fonts in the body; but you can also use a larger, bolder type of your serif font in the title.

Of course, not every type of sans serif font works nice with every serif font; if your arrangement of two serif fonts doesn't look nice, you may try a some other sans serif font. The sans font Helvetica is often combined with Times New Roman.

As I said before, combination of two fonts is very nice, but if you use more than three or four fonts your information gets confusing, more than two kinds of fonts is very hard to keep up, and as a result your poster may starts to look very disorganized.

If the body copy is Times New Roman and the title is Helvetica or my personal favorite Arial that is two fonts. Adding Times New Roman but in Italic for photo captions makes three. If you then use Times New Roman, Italic and Bold for a sub head for example, you are adding a fourth font, and so on… If you put to many fonts, the poster gets harder to maintain, which is not good.

The combination of uppercase and lowercase letters can look really nice on the poster. Fast and easy word recognition helps people easily read a text. If you use all capital letters, the shape of every word is a rectangle, which is boring and hard to read.

The rising strokes above an h, b, or d and the descending strokes below letters a g, p, or j all help to create a unique shape for a word. This shape makes the word easier to identify and of course to read. The alterations in shapes also help the reader keep up their place as they are reading.

Often a poster title will be set using all capital letters. It is harder to read than upper and lower case letters combined, but in short phrases, all capitals can add impact.

The third step is photography, use photography that is in or out of focus to give more weight to the text. Or you may also crop a photo tight to show the most important feature. This will create drama or to lead the eye around the page.

Also, don't place all of your photos on one side of the poster. Images should be spread equally over the surface, pulling the viewer’s eyes to all part of the poster, also empty space looks ugly. You need to lead the viewer through the material. There is one interesting fact; photographs of people looking to the left will lead the viewer’s eye to the left. If a photo of someone looking to the left is used along the left side of a poster, the observer is distracted away from your poster. If it still makes sense and has to be on the left side, flip the photo in a graphics application.

Also, you may try using the all kinds of shapes. Shapes create other shapes. They create guide lines that lead the reader’s eye everywhere around the poster. Whether used to contain text, create an thought-provoking composition or lead the viewer’s eyes in a particular direction, the use of shapes in poster design is useful and unquestionably effective.

The other important rules are:

• A poster colored with neutral colors on matte board is more attractive to the eye than one colored with very bright colors.

• Organize your material and edit your content to remove confusing visual noise, if there is too much visual noise you will only confuse audience. When you are in doubt, edit you poster while you still have time; make sure that every item on your poster is absolutely necessary.

• Text should be big enough to be seen from five feet away.

• It is important to know your audience so that you can talk to them most successfully. It is important to know who will view your poster and what you need to tell them. Don't wait until the last minute, start making your poster early.

• Sketch out your ideas first. Print out all of your photographs, illustrations and other materials that you want to use on your poster. Look at them from a distance of 3-4 feet’s. There is a small chance that colors may print differently than they appear on your computer screen.

• If you are making your poster by hand, make sure all of your background materials and illustrations have square edges and even borders; use a ruler and a razor knife to cut out components such as charts, graphics, photos and text before pasting them into place.

But, in the end, if you know your audience, finding images, colors and fonts that hold the message will lead to a great design. Should it be just simple words, a very large photo or some very cool illustration? Maybe bright color of the background and black letters? Or maybe combination of simple and elegant design? The field is wide open. Now go create and sell! Also, once you know the rules of the poster, you may push the limits. Experiment with colors, dimensions, fonts you have never used before or a couple that you think don’t go together. Try something new, be the artist. 

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