Making Movie Posters from Scratch

As Annie mentioned, my computer took a little time-out at the Apple Store last week, and I wasn’t able to write this lovely long post about poster making. Everything is all sorted now, so let’s get down to bit’ness! *rubs hands together*

First of all, a small warning: Poster-making is Photoshop intensive. I have learned soooo so much about Photoshop from trying to make posters. I learned way more than I can squeeze into one post. Instead of detailing the exact steps I took in Photoshop to create these posters, what I’d like to do is take you on a little journey through my learning process, and point you in the direction of the websites and resources I found helpful.


When we were first thinking of making posters, I quickly realized that we needed to have a photoshoot to get lots of high quality pictures with lots different poses to choose from. I dragged my siblings, our dSLR, and the tripod outside in the freezing intermittent drizzle and tried various different things.

1. We have these big sheets of poster paper that we used to create a white background. Someone would stand behind our current model, and hold the paper while I took the picture. We did this so later it would be much easier to remove the background in photoshop so we could just use the person in our poster.

Lizzy movie poster

2. We held the white paper like a “bounce board” down below camera. The light from the sky reflected off of the white paper and onto the model’s face, making the picture very evenly lit.

Lizzy poster 2


3. We got lots of different poses, lots of different faces, sometimes had weapons, sometimes not, sometimes used the white background, sometimes not. We took, at the very least, 15 pictures of each person. In retrospect, it would have been better to take even more. Closer to 20-30 would have been better.

Annie Poster

Here’s what I learned from the photoshoot:

  • It was a really good idea to take these pictures when it was cloudy outside. Even though it looks good with your eyes, direct sunlight is much harder to take pictures in. Clouds help diffuse the light- spread it out and make it very evenly lit. This is perfect for taking this kind of pictures, especially if you don’t know yet exactly what style of poster you want to make.
  • If I ever do this again, I want to have a system down for getting all the poses I want from everybody. I was giving directions willy-nilly, and some of the poses that we really wanted to use later on in our posters didn’t have a white background, and some people were just missing poses that we didn’t get. This made it a little bit harder to do what we wanted. I’d almost want to create a checklist of sorts: facing right, facing left, facing front, facing right with white board, facing left… etc.
  • Like I said before, I took at least 15 pictures of everybody, and chose about 6 of my favorites of each person from that pool. We did end up having enough, but if I do this again, I want to take closer to 20-30 pictures to choose from.


So now I have all of these awesome pictures…. What do I do with them all?!? Being a first time poster-maker, I did what I always do when I don’t know how to do something- Google it!

I spent quite a while poking around on various websites trying to find what I was looking for. This is what I found:

Here is a tutorial I started with. Mostly what I needed was some new techniques to use in Photoshop. By following the tutorial, I learned the techniques I needed to make what I was seeing in my head appear in Photoshop. By the time I got to the middle of the tutorial, I didn’t really need it any more, and I was able to move on to adapting what I learned to the poster I wanted to make, instead of the poster in the tutorial. I also used this tutorial for inspiration and ideas.

Here are the process pictures of the first poster I did. I uploaded them to the private Facebook group we use to share ideas with each other. I got lots of really good feedback from everybody, along with suggestions and help.

poster 1 first try

1. This my first attempt while I was learning the techniques used in the tutorials. At the time, it looked really cool. Looking back at it, I think it looks… like a first attempt that got much, MUCH better later on. I didn’t have pictures of Max and Micah yet.

poster 1 second try

2. I decided to put some of the color back in. I also found a font that I liked for the title and played around with that a bit. I got some new watercolor brushes for photoshop (downloaded for free somewhere), and that made it WAY better.

Poster 1 third try

3. Max and Micah had their photoshoot and sent us their pictures. I spent hours tweaking little things like getting the little bits of white outlines out of everybody’s hair, and getting the color balance just right. I know how to do those things WAY faster now.

Poster 1 fourth try

4. After sending everybody a new copy of each try, this was the version that everybody said was finished! I moved Lizzy into the middle because it looked too balanced before. It needed to be balanced, but interesting.


One of the most important things I’ve learned about creating graphics, in Photoshop or otherwise, is how to use textures. Textures provide our eyes with that little element needed to know that what we are looking at is real. Pure color just looks wrong, but add a subtle texture to it, and our brain accepts it much better.

Textures can also help cover up and smooth over mistakes or imperfections.

For instance, here is a copy of the first poster I made without any of the stone or watercolor textures I added.


Now you can see any mistakes I made, or any little imperfections. They are glaringly obvious.

Here it is again with the stone textures added in:


And the finished one with the watercolor textures back in:

Poster 1 fourth try

I’ve found several sites that provide wonderful textures to download for free. I just love them! You can also take pictures yourself to use as textures once you know what you are looking for. I must admit to being slightly addicted to downloaded textures, especially antique paper and cool stone packs. *guilty face*

Here are my favorite free texture sites:

Lost and Taken
Zen Textures
Design Instruct

Also, here is where we like to get free fonts:

In Conclusion

I learned so much by just trying and seeing what would happen! Every time I ran into a little problem, our whole little movie group was there to help me with advice and ideas, and of course, I read many tutorials and articles on Google and lots of videos on Youtube to fill in the little gaps.

If you are making posters and would like another set of eyes to look over it and give you constructive criticism or help, I am more than happy to give it. Just send it my way! Often we learn the best from someone else editing our work.

As always, I anxiously await comment notification emails, so don’t be shy! We all love to read what you think about what we are doing!

And that’s the way the cookie crumbles!




About Rachel Poling

Rachel Poling is a serial hobbyist and one of those sopranos who can sing really high notes and likes sparkly jewelry. She enjoys researching, mulling, doodling, and implementing costume, makeup, and hair ideas. She also enjoys working on film scores, doing color correction, and generally having a toe dipped in anything pre-production. She has yet to act in any films, but she hopes to play an evil queen someday. View all posts by Rachel Poling

5 responses to “Making Movie Posters from Scratch

  • Michelle G

    AH! These posters are AWESOME! You all look famous already! Phillip makes such a GOOD BAD guy! Love your updates!

    • Annie Poling

      Thanks Michelle! I though they were so awesome too. And I can’t wait until we’re actually filming and get to see how much a bad guy Phillip can be! Thanks for reading (and commenting 🙂 )

  • MattM

    Wow, I had no idea that that much editing and photo-shopping went into those posters! I thought it was really interesting that y’all used a white board as a background–I’ve never heard of doing that (I’m a little editing-illiterate :)) , and I also was surprised to learn that cloudy weather is better for lighting than sunny days (embarrassed face-palm). I love all the posters, and I’m super excited about seeing some real movie footage in the (Hopefully near) future!

    • Rachel Ann Poling

      Hey Matt! I didn’t really know those things either, I’ve just found them out by accident. The Seattle area is great for taking pictures, no? All those clouds create perfect lighting 9 months out of the year. 😛 We are hoping to get some test footage soon… The script is in a good place for the rest of pre-production to start moving along. 😀

      • MattM

        LOL no kidding right? Rain–love it! Good to hear y’all are almost ready to start at least shooting some test footage! 🙂

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