How to Design a Movie Poster

movie poster design

Before you sell the film, you’ve got to sell the idea of your film. The number of sit-ins and movie purchases has a lot to do with the way the film is promoted. So, we’re talking about millions of dollars of revenue all linked to promotional content – trailers, teasers, movie posters, and so on.

Graphic designers have a lot of work to do when a movie is just about to be released. A lot of attention goes to the movie poster during this phase and rightly so. That being said, the opportunity to design a fabulous movie poster is one that any talented graphic designer can’t miss. Some movie producers organize competition of movie poster design, allowing artists and designers to submit their versions. If you’re one of the many who would like to take part in one of those and win a reward, here are a few steps to follow when you’re designing a movie poster.

Get a Brief

Just like for any other design project, you need to first familiarize yourself with what exactly you are promoting. This is obviously going to be the movie in this case. Go over a few details and have the following questions answered:

  • What is the movie setting?
  • What’s going to be the basic plot-line?
  • What are a few similar movies in similar genres? (you can get ideas from their posters)
  • How does the title connect with the movie?

Of course, this isn’t all. The more information you gather, the more you know what theme to follow and use for your poster.

Get Some Inspiration

Metropolis movie poster

Considered as “the crown jewel of movie posters”

Although we wouldn’t argue with the fact that every movie poster, design, or artwork should be unique – and of course original—a little bit of research is required to study structure and typical elements used in the specific design. That specific form used in most posters has a “balance” that can’t be overlooked. Stick to the conventions or you’ll end up creating something that does not look like a movie poster at all. As we mentioned in the last point, going deep into the genre or type of movie would yield you examples that could be used for inspiration. Go deep into what works and doesn’t work while sifting through the worst and best designs.

Pick Your Elements

Once you have your design brief and a few similar examples in mind, you should have a fair idea on what you want to create and communicate. Now determine your own movies poster design elements in a step by step process:

Style and Imagery

Based on the genre or overall “mood” of the film, you are going to decide on a style for your poster. Is it going to be girly with pinks and whites or is it going to be intense and dark with blacks, grays, and red?  Perhaps, you want to portray a “light mood” with the help of light colors such as white and yellow.

sinister bridesmaid poster

Notice how the colors and overall “style” of the two posters with two very different genres vary. The sinister poster features “evil” or “dark” imagery. Bridesmaids, on the other hand, gives an overall “girly” or “funny” feel to the design with the help of colors, poses, and expressions.

Selecting your images is going to be the most difficult part, especially when you don’t have images of any actors or movie scenes. Nevertheless, you can use symbolic images to express the mood of your film. Using illustrations and representative drawing is another alternative to movie posters if you prefer those over photographic visuals—but this will also depend on your genre. Not every genre works well with illustrate graphics. This one does though…


The text is the next most important element and one that also has to be selected carefully for you movie poster. A movie poster generally contains a title, tag line, names, and maybe a release date. The title is always given the most emphasis. Depending on the “mood” of your movie as discussed previously, typography will do more to convey the movie’s message. Usually, the tag line is given importance after the title- probably since the tag line sends off an even clearer message—while all the remaining text elements are kept smaller including the names, billing block, and release date.

whiplash movie poster

Alternatively, you may want to place more emphasis on the actor or director names. For example, if several top-paying actors and actresses are present in your movie, you want to make sure you highlight these names and set them in larger, bolder, fonts. This goes for anything that will point out something special about your film (based on a true story, famous director, remake of…)

what to expect

What to Expect When You’re Expecting movie focuses on just one name—Jennifer Lopez. The designer knew well that for the audience—she’s good enough. Period.

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