Raise your hand if your walls were plastered with posters as a teen or if you have at least one Pinterest board with inspirational or motivational posters.
Yes, to both, right here.
Posters are one of my favorite design projects because you can bend the rules so many different ways. They’re creative, bold, groovy and can provoke so many emotions too. Some posters get you excited, such as music or event posters. And then others are chock full of information. Some may contain much more information than others. The key is finding the right balance with headline, copy, images, and logos. When you’ve achieved that, you’ve got one sweet poster.
Knowing your audience and product/service/event is the first bit of critical information when making a poster. After that, the mood, emotion or reaction will lead to colors, fonts, and graphics that complement the information. Below are 25 tips to finding the perfect design theme to convey the message.
01. Use color to create energy, elicit a mood and attract the eye.
Color is one aspect of the design that’s wide open. Colors will create energy, elicit a mood and attract the eye. Depending on the poster subject, the colors will be bold, subtle or romantic. You can really go all out with color.
In this example, Brian Stauffer's design for the Savannah Music Festival poster uses soft, springtime colors. This makes sure the viewer knows it’s an outdoor concert with charming music and not a rock concert.
Another idea is to use blocks of solid colors. Ensure that the colors you choose work well together, and you’ll be able to achieve a striking background like this design by Allan Peters.
The Colorful Illustrated Music Festival Poster template grabs attention with its bright colors and bold lines.
Or, limit your color palette. Note how this event poster by Graphic Pla achieves an eye-catching contrast using just black and red.
02. Experiment with typography
So much can be conveyed in an event poster from just from the fonts. Show seriousness with a bold sans serif, enhance elegance with an italic serif or express playfulness or fun with a loose handwritten font. When selecting fonts, choose at least two — One for the headline. One for body copy.
To create greater impact, experiment with typography. See how these two beautiful event posters by Kittaya Treseangrat and Drew Melton and Neil Hubert Photography have drawn inspiration from their subject: food! This is an example where an experimental composition really succeeds in giving an audience a taste of what’s to come.
If you’re going to experiment with typography like this, make sure your accompanying fonts are clean and simple.
This is another clever example where the subject has been taken into consideration to influence the type (a poster by Will Miller promoting an annual typography event). What better opportunity to get creative and inspire budding designers who plan to attend?
How you use type helps in the message you want to send. Check out the Music Fest Student Council Poster template.
03. Create visual hierarchy
Posters should grab attention and be a quick read. Rank information in order of importance. If you’re working with little copy, go for a bold, simple graphic or photo like the Columbus Creative poster by Mike Jones. If you have lots of information, have the type be your focus. Think about a big headline and group information into chunks.
How you place and arrange the words on your design helps create an impact. Get the look with the Orange Speech Bubble Gender Equality Quote Poster template.
04. Use negative or white space to form a clever composition
Creating an image from another image is something like magic. When it finally pops out at you, it’s amazing. It’s great how the Melbourne Food & Wine poster by Kaushik Design creates wine glasses from the fork prongs. Another way to use negative space is to draw the eye into a small object of focus with lots of negative space around it to let the viewer’s eye breathe. Drop your copy into the open space to draw the eye but don’t fill it.
Don't be afraid of empty spaces in your design. Check out The Lumineers template, and how it leaves an area on the sides.
05. Remove unnecessary elements. Say more with less.
Sometimes, less is more. It intrigues the viewer. A single word or dramatic image can communicate so much more than lots of words or intricate photos or illustrations. Don’t add extra graphics or words just for the sake of adding more. This poster by Chloe Morris is a perfect example.
Notice the similarities between the poster above and this poster by Null Artless below. They both feature one dominant word to draw in the attention of the viewer, a lack of color and clean and simple type.
Minimalistic elegance we’re sure continued at the actual event.
Do more with less. Check out the simplicity of the Blue Modern Simple Coffee Poster template.
06. Create a point of focus
Use photography that’s in or out of focus to give more weight to the text. Or crop a photo tight to show the most important feature. This will create drama or lead the eye around the page. The poster for the Theatre National de Chaillot by Michal Batory could’ve used a photo of a woman’s entire face but by using just the lips, it creates passion and intrigue. Notice the bonus result of the lips forming a heart?
07. Use shapes to create visual interest
Shapes create other shapes. They create guide lines that lead the reader’s eye around the poster. Whether used to contain text, create an interesting composition or lead the viewer’s eyes in a particular direction – the use of shapes in these event poster designs by Emilio José Bernard, James Rivas, Malissa Smith, and Joey Ellis are versatile and undeniably effective.
You can create interesting areas in your design by using shapes. Break it up by using rectangles that can act as frames, as with the Vintage Yard Sale - Poster template.
08. Be clever with your composition
Once you have your information, photos or illustration, think about how to break it up and put it back together so it reads easily to the viewer. Put pieces of information together like a puzzle. YOU decide how the viewer will read the poster and get the message. Pay attention to how graphics interact with words or letters.
This event poster for the Malaga Festival by Calamargraphic cleverly creates a focus towards the text in the top right of the composition by picturing several colorful figures running in that direction.
09. Play with layering to create depth and dimension
Layering images, colors and words create depth and dimension. It sucks you into the little world created on the board. This Cultivate Festival by Invisible Creature poster layers a city with farm life. Words and images overlap each other.
This Valentines event poster by Andersdenkend also features a nice sense of depth, using strong shadows to make the composition seem 3D. Also, note how the designer has placed the text in the layout next to objects that relate to their meaning. Clever.
10. Emphasize elements to create energy and drama.
When you use exciting, exhilarating photos, illustration and even fonts, like Kaarel Vahtramäe's poster design below, you’ll create a serious impact and most definitely get a reaction from the viewer. They’ll be drawn in by the emotion and energy. Drama can usually be accomplished using fewer words too.
11. Take the viewer’s focus on a journey with a clever perspective
Life isn’t always lived on a straight line. Different angles and points of view can make for a more exciting poster such as Doe Eyed's below. Change the point of view of a photo. Take it from up high or down low. Use words on a diagonal instead of straight line. These Phish posters lead the eye either up or down across the page instead of just being straight and boring.
Or take this film festival event poster by Andrew Pfund, which draws your eyes right “out there” with cleverly hidden type.
12. Don’t hesitate to use humor
Be silly. Have fun. Create a play on words. Use unexpected imagery, unless, of course, you have a serious subject. This poster designed by Alistair Palmer for the Bicycle Film Festival could’ve been designed a hundred different ways from intriguing to exciting but they chose to be humorous and that piques the viewer curiousity as to what kind of fun they’ll have at the festival.
Humor attracts attention. Check out the Light Brown Dog Animal Rescue Poster template.
13. Ensure your composition is balanced
Using symmetry, centering, and repetition creates balance for the eye. You can balance colors, the weight of graphics, amount of text or a mix of them. Balance doesn’t mean the poster has to be perfectly centered. It doesn’t mean that to be symmetrical it has to be the same on each half. It means that one side isn’t heavier, it doesn’t contain all of the information or all of the graphics. The poster design by DKNG below is a great example of balance.
14. Use photos to lend credibility to your poster
A beautiful, dramatic photo may convey your message. Photos lend credibility to your product. It makes it real and viewers can see the quality.
In this case, the Letman has taken a creative approach and layered his own type onto a photograph of a model for a fashion event.
In another creative example, designer Jeff Finly has used a nice balance of photography and graphic design to create an interesting composition with an organic feel.
Add photos to your poster. Get the look with the White Vegetables Photo Farmers Market Poster template.
15. Use creative illustrations
Photography may not always suit your needs or you may not have the budget for photography. Instead you can create your own drama or characters. You can open up an entire world designed specifically for your purpose. Illustration can be flat or have layers and depth such as these poster designs by Aaron Kim and Design Sponge.
Illustrations offer a different perspective for your poster. Try the Charcoal and Yellow Rocketship Business Launch Poster template for inspiration.
16. Embrace the odd and the unusual
Use an odd color or a unique photo. Go for unusual fonts. Put contrasting images together. Or align images and information to create something else altogether. The Bologna Festival poster does just that. Do you see the violins first or the man with the bowtie?
17. Ensure all of your graphic elements flow together
Know how you want the reader to get the information. Achieve that with use of color, lines, size and weight of text. Create a path for them to follow. The Salida Winefest poster by Sunday Lounge literally does that. The viewer follows the path of text like wine flowing in the glass to consume the information.
18. Make dense information legible
Being legible doesn’t just mean that the viewer can actually read the poster. Make sure the viewer knows what you’re advertising, selling or promoting. That it’s easy to read and understand. Make sure you can see it from a distance too.
This gallery event poster by Ali Gray contains a large amount of information, but has been designed to make sense to viewers from a distance and up close. Given the dense amount of text – this creative layout achieves legibility in a difficult context.
It's sometimes unavoidable to have a lot of information in your poster, but it is possible to make it easy to read. Take a look at the Navy Blue Red Medicine Kit Natural Disaster Poster template.
19. Pay attention to formatting and size
Not all posters are designed the same, nor should they all be the same size. Vary the actual size of the poster if you know space will allow it. And it doesn’t always have to be vertical. Try horizontal or even square. Go big, bold, different.
20. Design your poster to evoke emotion. This will make people more likely to share and engage with it.
A single word or image can evoke great emotion – love, anger, sadness. A photo of a woman crying. A man crossing a finish line. The word “fire.” The viewer gets emotional and needs to know more. This poster by
This poster by Helmo uses a fragmented composition made up of different facial expressions to mimic the feeling of the jazz event – beautifully capturing the vibe.
Get people to help by appealing to their emotions. Check out the Black and White with Red Text Homelessness Poster template.
21. Create consistent templates to use for multiple events
When you have different events or products for the same music band or product line, should there be more than one poster? Will a series of posters help showcase different products and events? When creating a series of posters, keep in mind that they should almost be the same except for image and color. But yet they should also stand on their own without the rest of the series. These Dave Matthews Band posters designed by DKNG are almost the same but yet different. Each one works if posted alone too.
22. Design for your audience
You have to know your audience before you attempt to promote or sell to them. Make sure the design matches their likes, buying habits and culture. Jose Berrio's poster design for The Black Keys is sure to attract their rock fans for a beach-side concert.
23. Play with contrast for a more interesting composition
Achieve contrast in a variety of ways. Choose opposing colors such as blue and orange or go for black and white instead of color. Partner bold, dramatic fonts with thin ones. Or use loud pictures with soft colors. These poster designs by STUDIOJQ, Sam Wood, and Ugar Sayan all use composition beautifully.
24. Experiment with different graphic elements like colors and fonts
To make it interesting, try a variety of materials and fonts. Use some illustration over photography like in this poster by Veljko Zajc. Try romantic fonts with a gripping photo. Even combine any of the above tips since at all posters fit into one category.
Don't be afraid to play with your design elements. Check out the Yellow Photo Background Sorority Fundraising Poster template.
25. Once you know the rules, push the limits and break them
Once you know the rules, push the limits like Atelier Martino & Jaña did with their poster design. Experiment with colors, sizes, fonts you’ve never used or a couple that you think doesn’t go together. Try something new.
It’s your turn!
Once you know your event, service or product (a leadership retreat, an indie movie or a cool, new car) knowing your audience is key (yuppie, Gen Xer or middle-aged executive). From there, finding images, colors and fonts that embrace the message will lead to a great design. Should it be just words, a large photo or a one-of-a-kind illustration? Maybe bright and bold, or simple and elegant? The field is wide open. Now go create!
From there, finding images, colors and fonts that embrace the message will lead to a great design. Should it be just words, a large photo or a one-of-a-kind illustration? Maybe bright and bold, or simple and elegant? The field is wide open. Now, go create!