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Graphic Design Movie Poster Assignment

In this University project we had to learn how to design a movie poster. We had to consider the role of imaging in a graphic design context and the task involved the conceptualisation, design and production of an original cinematic film poster.

The Brief

In this fictional example our brief was to create a poster for a film that is being re released for a contemporary audience. eg. recreate King Kong for a modern audience in a refreshed manner.

We were given a list of 8 famous movie directors and we could choose any of them to base our poster on. Once we had chosen the director we then had to choose a movie that they had directed and then we had to create a modern day poster for the movie.

We had to use photography as the prominent piece of the design and we could not base the design on existing movie posters.


When you first encounter a brief the first thing you should do is research. I researched the eight directors to find a style and a movie that I wanted to create a poster for.

I ended up coming down to Alfred Hitchcock’s classic movie “Suspicion“. A very short synopsis of this romantic physiological thriller is below.

Johnny Aysgarth is a handsome playboy who lives by borrrowing money from his friends. He meets and marries shy Lina Mclaidlaw, but after their honeymoon, the girl finds out Johnny’s true character and becomes suspicious of his behavior. Lina starts believing her husband is a murderer and she fears that she could be his next victim.

I then researched into the film category which in this case was film noir. I read through the plot on Wikipedia highlighting important facts / figures / items as I went along and I gathered the frames below from the original trailer for the movie on YouTube as well as the original posters released for the movie which I found on imdb. You can see all of this in the image below.

I also researched on what current movie posters looked like today and this site was a huge resource for me. Be careful clicking on the link because it is a big load.


After a lot of research it was now time to start brainstorming up different concepts and poster designs for the movie. You can see some of my sketches and brainstorming below. Scratch that, not even worth scanning, I didn’t realise how bad they were.

Anyway this is a good time to get creative. I actually have written two articles on how to be creative and how to boost your creativity so you may want to check them out.

Remember the key poster design points that I outlined in this poster design tips post.

A poster should be:

  • Aesthetic – It should get attention so the message is delivered.
  • Focused – It should focus and communicate on a single message.
  • Ordered – The sequence should be well-ordered and obvious.

You should also remember a poster is going to printed in a relatively large format so anything you do should be done using a high resolution. ie. Use a high resolution setting on your camera or scanner when digitising your concepts. A good starting point is at least 150ppi.

You should also consider other factors of the poster design such as the film title, classification, leading cast, distributors, directors, producers etc. The best way to find out what should be on a poster is by looking at other poster designs.


After you believe you have an idea of where you want to go then this is the time to bring it to life. Go out and take the photos you need, get the material you need and begin creating the poster.

Remember to experiment and play around with your original ideas as you can always improve on your original ideas.

Concept Behind My Poster

For my poster, the idea I came down to was using the “infamous glowing cup” that was featured in the movie (illuminated by a hidden light to make it seem surreal) as seen above. There is a story behind this cup which I will tell you know…

The movie as you guessed is based around suspicion and Lina, the wife of Johnny gets so suspicious of him that quoted from the plot synopsis “She cannot even stay in the same room at night with him, and when he brings a simple glass of milk to her before bed, Lina is filled with dread. She fears that Johnnie now plots to poison her, and collect the money from her life insurance.” – In simple terms, she is so suspicious she can’t even trust a glass of milk from her husband.

It is actually quite interesting because in the original novel she knows the milk is poisoned (and it was) and she gulps it down knowingly however in the 1941 movie, the milk is left untouched and there is an alternate ending (a car chase) which leaves viewers thinking whether or not Johhny was innocent or not proving how important this glass of milk is to the central theme of the movie.

Anyway, after reading about this glowing milk I just had to incorporate it into the poster some how so I focused around this point in my brainstorming and came up with the idea of showing Johnny just about to walk up the stairs to give her the poisoned milk – I wonder what he would be thinking?

I purposely made the glass of milk very white and even gave it a slight glow. I made the actual scene black and white and grainy to depict the original black and white film noir style and to give a mysterious look. The red colour was to used to portray murder which is a constant theme throughout the movie.

Resources Used

Above you can see the original shots that I used for creation of the poster, one featuring my lovely hand that was flipped for the poster and the other pic, a nice staircase. The rest was up to Photoshop. It was shot with a 7.1mp Olympus 720SW Handycam on the Macro setting. The staircase is actually curling around like in the original 1941 movie which is another small detail that you might have picked up on?

The fonts I used were Blue Highway Condensed for the title, the oh-so-famous movie font (Trajan), for the cast titles and the classic Steeltongs for the condensed type at the bottom.

The edges of the border were done using Photoshop brushes and masking. The movie logos seen at the very bottom of the poster were grabbed from Brands Of The World.

Final Poster

Let’s see how my poster sums up to the tips I mentioned above.

  • A poster should be Aesthetic – It should get attention so the message is delivered.
    The bright contrasting red and unusual white glass figure draws attention into the poster.
  • A poster should be Focused – It should focus and communicate on a single message.
    The black and white style portrays the film noir style of the film as well as portraying a mysterious feel to the poster overall – the image leaves you wondering what is going to happen.
  • A poster should be Ordered – The sequence should be well-ordered and obvious.
    A large heading and a large image draw your eye into the image and there is a clear hierarchy of information. There is a balance between the word suspicion and the glass of milk which makes you think they are related, ie. What is suspicious about the milk? The next thing you would probably read would be either the “A film by Alfred Hitchcock” or the bottom tag line which both are red. The key parts of the poster are all in red which helps help give the reader a hierarchy of information.

And there we have it, that is how to make a movie poster. As always, harsh constructive criticism is welcome, it is due in 2 weeks so I have time to improve things. Oh and the movie is due to release early 2009. (Just kidding, but I wish it was.)

Update:Top 100 Posters of all time. A great resource. I am thinking maybe the Casablanca (#12) font could work for my poster. My favourite is #77 the A.I Cover and #7 just because it is so cheeky.


After receiving some great feedback from the comments below, here are some revised versions.

Milk Photo above is All Rights Reserved of OhSillyMonkey.

Below you can see the revisions from the original.

  • Changed typefaces to Futura.
  • Darkened the whole poster, removing more of the greyscale.
  • Moved stairs further up in the poster
  • Added glow to milk
  • Moved title to bottom of poster
  • Added suit sleeve + white shirt onto the arm.

2nd Revision

After receiving some more great feedback from the comments below, here are some revised versions and a mock up.

Quick Mock Up

Another Version

Final Poster

What do you think of the revised versions?

COM 322: Corporate Publishing

As you've learned, posters are often used to promote an event, concert, or presentation. Within the corporate environment you may be asked to create a poster as part of your company's efforts at reaching out to a particular group of stakeholders or to the larger general public. You must design a message which cuts through all the other messages competing for the reader's attention (and dollars). This can be one of the most creative and challenging tasks asked of you.

As a way of making this tsk more fun for you (and me as well), you are to pick a favorite comedy or dramatic movie and research the types of posters that were created to promote it. You will then create your own design with yourself as the star of the film.

Concentrate on dynamic balance and contrast to attract and keep your reader's attention. Illustrations, typeface, reverses, screens, rules, active white space:  these are your tools.

Before starting anything, create a PROJECT FOLDER into which you will place or save everything related to this assignment. I want you to name it yourlastname_COM322F10_Project01. This way when you create your .zip file for placing on Blackboard, all the elements will be there and you won't create a file with which a print service would have problems. Within this you can have a folder (or subfolder, to be completely accurate) that contains your photos, a folder with any clipart , Illustrator elements, or company logos, and your Word document (on which you ran Spellcheck) and InDesign and Photoshop files.

The Links pallet will display a red question mark if a graphics file has been deleted, moved, placed inside a new folder, or renamed since being placed on the page.
The Package command will also present you with a final check of your links. Always pay attention to this information.



This prompts you to relink using the options seen at the bottom of the pallet.


[Show me a sample of what you mean!][Let me see a higher resolution version PDF.][Return to Schedule]


While it may seem like there's an infinite variety of sizes, the truth is that there are common sizes used by printers and designers. While there are differences between countries, the standard movie poster sizes here in the US are:

One Sheets:

  • 40 inches tall by 27 inches wide (This is the size you will be creating for this project.)


Other Sizes (provided for your entertainment and enlightenment only):

  • Window Card (WC): 14 x 22 inches, are printed on card stock and come flat. These smaller movie posters were usually used for off-site advertising e.g. in windows of local stores in exchange of movie passes. Top four inches were left blank by the printer for the local exhibitor to fill in. For this reason, WC posters are sometimes found with the top 4 inches trimmed off. There is also - though not so common among movie poster sizes, a Jumbo Window Card (JWC), measuring 22 x 28 inches. A Mini Window Card (MWC) is also available, measuring 11 x 14 inches; these are also printed on cardboard.

  • Insert: 14 x 36 inches, usually printed on card stock and come rolled though many pre-1960 were distributed folded. Later ones were printed on thinner stock.

  • 1/2 sheet: This is probably the second most popular among movie poster sizes. It measures 28 x 22 inches, is printed on card stock, and come rolled. Image is usually different from that used on 1-sheet; instead, it is often the same as the first, or title card, in the lobby card set.

  • Lenticular: These come in approximately the same poster size as the one-sheet (approx. 27 x 41 inches); lenticular posters are printed between composite sheets of plastic and lit from behind to create a 3D/holographic effect.

  • 30 x 40 Heavy Stock Movie Posters: 30 x 40 inches, printed on heavier card stock. Image invariably same as 1-sheet but may be silk screened instead of lithographed. These posters come rolled and do not exist for many film titles.

  • 40 x 60 inches: Printed on heavier card stock, otherwise similar to the smaller 30 x 40 heavy stock posters though the image may differ, and again may have been silk screened. Designed for use outside the theater, on an easel, exposed to the elements. This is sometimes, incorrectly, referred to as a 2-Sheet.

  • Banner: These movie posters measure approximately 81 x 24 inches. Older ones were printed on bookbinder's cloth or light card stock. Modern ones are vinyl or light card stock or paper, while banner poster sizes are highly variable.

  • 3-Sheet Movie posters: 41 x 81 inches, printed on paper stock on two and rarely, three separate sheets using lower stock paper. Often pasted onto wall outside of theater. From the 1970s on, three-sheets were sometimes printed in one piece and issued as 'international' versions.

  • 6-Sheet Movie Posters: 81 x 81 inches, printed on paper stock, usually in four sections, and come folded; for use in larger U.S. theater lobbies and movie palaces, or on the outside of the building. This poster size is not so popular, and therefore rare to find.

  • Billboard or 24-sheet Movie Posters: These measure approximately 106 x 234 inches, but may come in various poster sizes, usually in 12 sections, for use on roadside billboards.

As you walk around our building, particularly in the staircases, you will see a number of these sizes on display.



Your task is to create a one-sheet that follows the tone of the posters of your selected film, but is your design.  You will set your design in both InDesign and Photoshop at 27 x 40 inches at at least 180 dpi (dots per inch) or as high as 300 dpi. This is going to create some BIG files, so be prepared for that. At the start of your project you are to create a folder yourlastname_COM322F10_Project01. This is where you will place your images and artwork and save your Photoshop and InDesign files.

You will need to:

Have a number of photos of yourself taken in various poses in front of a solid-colored wall. This will make it easier for you to eliminate the background (as you did with the iMac computer image). You can envision the poses you will need based on your ideas for a poster. These images need to be the highest resolution you can produce given the size of your poster work area.

Using Photoshop, eliminate the background and make whatever alterations you feel should be made to the image. You can composite several images here (you may use your friends as the others in the poster), use filters, etc. at this point. You may decide to use Photoshop in some creative way for headline or movie title, but do not use Photoshop for the body text of your poster. Save that content for InDesign.

Uising InDesign, create your poster. Create layers to hold each element like images, text, artwork (so you can lock a layer when you don't want to use it). Make use of the tools that InDesign provides:  Layer effects, text manipulations, etc.

You include the following information in your ad:

Film title, director, producer(s), writer(s), stars, and a tagline. YOU, however, will be the lead star of the film.

You also should include information about the studio that produced the film and the distribution line that it follows. Find their logos and include them in your poster. Include other contributors to the film or reviewers' quotes as needed.

Take a look at Williams & Tollett pp. 146-49 and review the lecture I've placed on Blackboard on Poster Design. Go out on the web and look at what movie companies and designers have done. Take inspiration from them but don't

When you are satisfied with your design, go File > Export and save it as a PDF (Adobe PDF Preset = High Quality Print, Compability = Acrobat 7 [PDF 1.6]), and use this PDF for printing. Why? Because when you print a PDF you have the option of scaling the image to fit your paper. [After all, printing 27 x 40 inches would print out a lot of pages for you to cut and tape together, and you don't want to do that!] Print this last version, the one you are turning in, in color, to turn in at the start of class.  Go File > Package to collect the files and fonts you have used. Next go to the Finder, select your folder that the Package step created, and go File > Compress. Upload this compressed file to Blackboard's DropBox. You must do this to have completed the project.

[Show me a sample of what you want!][Let me see a higher resolution version PDF.][Return to Schedule]


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