I like seeing fan made posters of upcoming films and past films, I like seeing some amateur (or sometimes even professional) using promo photos and other elements and coming up with a completely different design to what gets officially released, in fact some of the ones I’ve seen end up looking better than the real stuff the studios produce. So what makes a good fan poster? Personally, the good ones look like the real thing, someone who’s taken the time to make things look official. In this workshop I’ll give some tips and tricks to give your fan posters more of an authentic feel to them.
Part 1: Choose Your Poster
Before diving head first into the design phase, it’s best to think beforehand what kind of poster you want to do. Teaser Posters are generally minimalistic, often a single image of some sort and little in terms of text. Character Posters are what the title says, images depicting a certain character again usually with minimal text. Official Posters are busier, usually with a collage of characters, design elements, text and production credits; these are generally the last poster that gets released. With the latter, try not to go overboard with the collage and have a main image as the focus point. Have a look at some examples to get a feel of what the norm is.
Part 2: Give Me Credit!
Official posters usually have credits somewhere at the bottom of the layout. One could if they really wanted to spend the time creating their own custom credits, however the font used for real is one you have to buy, and in terms of free alternative there’s nothing really close (not that I’ve found anyway). The easiest thing to do I find is to just pinch the credits from a real poster. If you’re working on a dark background poster, copy the credits from an equally dark real poster. Once pasted into your doc, set the transparency mode to Screen so that only the text shows through. If working on a light background find an equally light real poster or alternatively, invert the credits on a dark poster so that it becomes black text on white, then simply switch the transparency mode to Multiply.
Part 3: Font Overload.
Don’t go crazy with fonts, general rule of thumb is to limit the number of fonts in a design to 2, 3 at the absolute maximum. Keep in mind the type of fonts, the two main categories are Serif Fonts (eg, Times, Garamond, Goudy Old Style, tails and stems) and Sans Serif Fonts (eg Arial, Futura, Helvetica, no tails and stems), generally these two font types don’t work together. Big bold Sans Serif fonts are usually the most used font type for blockbuster posters, they’re clearer and easier to read. Also be weary of font effects, drop shadows gradients and raised effects are fine, but use them subtly.
Part 4: Add Some Mystery
The posters I find the most intriguing are the ones that are somewhat ambiguous, where it leaves you guessing as to what the film is about. Try adding a sense of mystery to the design, maybe making a character or design element not in full focus or view, or perhaps in deep shadow with high contrast, or add in a few elements that may hint at the story. Get people’s minds actively thinking about what’s going on in the image.
Part 5: Colour Consistency
Most posters have a dominant colour running throughout. It’s good to try and keep things all within a similar colour range and to avoid multiple hues; however this is not a set in stone rule, some contrasting tones and colour applied to certain design elements can really help to make things pop.
Part 6: Studio Logos and Extra Garnishing
For that extra bit of authenticity add some studio logos. It helps to sell your poster if you’re using the correct studio logos for which ever studio has the rights to the character/franchise. Again like the Credits, try and get white logos on black background, paste them in a new layer into your design and simply switch the transparency to Screen if on a dark background, invert the process and set transparency to Multiply if the background is light. For some added believability add a website address of some sort (either official or made up). Finally, if you’ve got your marketing hat firmly on try adding a tag line, but try and avoid anything corny or clichéd like ‘This time it’s personal’, take some time to think about the character/franchise and the story you have in mind and figure what phrase best represents it all.