Posters continue to be one of the most popular visual communication formats. A stunning poster design won’t fail you if you need to inspire action, convey information, advertise a product or promote an event.
In this article, we want to show you how to make a poster from scratch in six easy steps.
Whether you are a small business owner, a marketer, a healthcare professional or a student, by the end of this guide, you will be able to create a professional poster design in minutes.
I invite you to follow along by creating a free account for Piktochart’s online poster maker.
Learn how to make a poster in six steps and start creating stunning posters:
But before we get started, let’s first look at the:
A brief history of posters
The custom poster first emerged as an advertising medium in the late 19th century, when French painter Jules Chéret revolutionized lithography with his “three-stone lithographic process.”
This trend would usher in an era of artistic poster design, led by Cheret himself, who created more than a thousand posters with his own poster designs throughout his illustrious 30-year career.
Over time, custom posters have been used to express different cultural zeitgeists.
Notable examples include the art nouveau movement in Britain and Paris in the 19th century, the Golden Age of Wartime Propaganda during World War II, the psychedelic movement of the 1960s, and the explosion of pop-culture posters adorning teenagers’ walls in modern times.
Today, posters are used for more practical applications, such as political campaigns, public-health drives, education, and safety.
Types of posters
Below are some of the most common types of posters in use today, along with a brief description of what makes them different from each other.
1. Event posters
Even in today’s digital world, event posters continue to be a primary medium for promoting any upcoming event including concerts, plays and musicals, fairs, sporting events, conferences, and trade shows.
Almost any type of public event is advertised with a poster of some kind, with some leaving a lasting impression on our collective memories. Want to learn how to make a poster for events?
2. Advertisement posters
Advertisement posters or ad posters have given us many of modern history’s most iconic pop-culture images.
Since the turn of the 20th century, brands like Coca-Cola, Camel, Apple, and Nike have produced posters that withstood the test of time.
Many of these ads were designed to be multi-purpose print ads, distributed through magazines, newspapers, billboards, and posters around cities.
Customers are more likely to trust poster ads because they appear in public places, making them more credible to a broader audience.
3. Political posters
Some of the most famous posters are associated with major moments and conflicts in human history.
During World War I, the U.S. Army produced the “I Want You” poster depicting a commanding Uncle Sam urging the viewer to join the war effort in Europe.
In World War II, Westinghouse Electric released the “We Can Do It” poster to boost employee morale and reduce absenteeism.
In 2008, the iconic Barack Obama “Hope” poster, designed by artist Shepard Fairey, came to represent the energy and optimism surrounding the former president’s campaign.
4. Movie posters
Of course, no discussion about posters would be complete without movie posters.
These are perhaps the most popular and sought-after print materials.
This is especially true for posters of classics like The Godfather, Jaws, Star Wars, Pulp Fiction, and Terminator, among many other hit films and franchises.
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5. Motivational posters
Anyone who was in high school in the ‘80s and ‘90s would probably remember a motivational poster hanging in the classroom or principal’s office.
You’ve seen it before: a photograph (usually of natural landscapes, animals, and people) enclosed by a black border paired with sentiments about perseverance, hard work, and teamwork written in bold text. Admittedly, these posters can look dated.
If you’re looking for motivational posters that come in more contemporary designs, Piktochart’s poster templates like the ones below are a good choice.
6. Travel posters
Posters are perfect for the travel industry because they make a strong visual statement through graphic design.
Tourism agencies, tour companies, airports, and local governments have used travel posters since the early 20th century to encourage travel to different destinations.
Wondering how to make a stunning poster? Just use a dramatic image of a location, add the name of the place, toss in a CTA, and you’ve got yourself a poster that just might get people’s wanderlust going.
7. Educational and informative posters
Educational or informative posters are used in both the academic and corporate worlds.
Their goal is to convey information, increase knowledge around a specific topic, share interesting facts, or bring attention to company announcements.
Unlike other poster types, informative posters are always going to be fact-based. Thus they usually are more text- and data-heavy.
8. Infographic posters
Last but not least are infographic posters. This type of poster is very similar to informative posters.
An infographic poster uses graphical elements to grab the audience’s attention like illustrations, icons or photos combined with text to explain complex information clearly and visually. Infographic posters can serve as a helpful learning aid at schools, offices or any kids’ room. These types of posters are perfect for explaining anything from climate change, the immune system, or the pros and cons of AI.
Our favorite infographic posters are created by the popular YouTube channel Kurzgesagt. See the below example:
How to design your own poster with free poster templates in six steps
Perhaps the biggest draw of poster media is the graphic’s ability to be eye-catching and artistic, but also leave room for text that can have a call to action.
For businesses, this could be an invitation to an event, a special promotion, or a simple announcement.
If this is your first time creating a poster from scratch, here’s a quick guide on how to get started with free poster templates.
1. Start with your foundation
The first step to making your own poster design is to put a few things on paper.
Every successful poster design piece begins with the pre-design process.
This is where you and your team hash out specifics like the design’s goal and objectives, who it’s for, and what you wish to accomplish with it.
Identify your brand image and personality
For brands and companies, any poster template you create will automatically be a reflection of your organization and what it stands for. As such, it’s important for the poster template design to stay true to your brand’s image and personality.
This can be a problem if you’re not sure what your brand is and if you don’t have a brand style guide to adhere to. How do you want people to see you? What values do you stand for?
If you can’t answer these questions, your designs will feel all over the place and lack any sort of cohesion. Here’s an example of a stunning poster from The North Face that stays true to the company’s image and personality of toughness and outdoor adventure.
Identify your poster’s audience
If you don’t know who you’re designing for, your design won’t have the impact you expect. Worse, the finished product may end up feeling inauthentic and irrelevant.
Before you start to design or even make a poster, take a moment to define your ideal viewer:
- Who is my target viewer?
- Why would that person be interested in my poster?
- What kind of content would they most likely respond to?
- What are their needs, challenges, and pain points?
- What can my brand/company/business do for them?
These questions will help you have a better understanding of your poster’s audience, allowing you to make logical design decisions.
Define your poster’s message
A picture, as they say, is worth a thousand words. It’s a cliché, but it became one for a reason. Your design doesn’t need a lot of text to say something. It does, however, need to have a specific message, which you can then refer to for all of your design decisions.
For example, if you want to promote an upcoming fun run, you’d want your design to communicate a sense of energy and movement. That could mean using excited and encouraging language, as well as bright colors.
2. Draft an outline
You need to create an outline before you make a poster to ensure any information you’re presenting is clear, clean, and concise.
It may seem like a good idea to place as much information as you can on the poster. In the case of an event, the details would include:
- Event date
- Complete details on ticket pricing, including early-bird discounts
- Event rules
- Parking locations
However, less is often more when it comes to posters.
The more information your poster has, the higher the risk that it will confuse and overwhelm the reader.
Here’s an example of a poster that tries to do too much at once.
To minimize confusion, go back to the objectives of your custom poster. If it’s an event poster, it should have the following information:
- The headline/name of the event
- Pertinent details (i.e., the what, when, where, and how of the event)
The pet adoption drive poster template below is a good (and adorable!) example.
3. Decide on your color scheme
Your design’s color scheme is probably the first thing your audience will notice about your poster (especially from afar), so it’s important to get it right.
The color selection might be one of the most basic principles of visual design, but it can take time to figure out if you’re someone who’s unfamiliar with color theory.
60-30-10 color rule
One technique we recommend using is the 60-30-10 color rule. Basically, you want to pick a shade of a primary color: red, blue, or yellow. Next, pick two complementary colors. Use a tool like Adobe Color to choose colors that match your primary color.
Your primary color should take up 60 percent of your poster design, while the two other colors can take the remaining 30 and 10 percent.
You can always add one or two more colors, but the point of this color rule is to follow a hierarchy in your design. Here’s an example of a poster using this rule.
4. Add your images
Dramatic and relevant photographs have been a staple of poster design for decades.
Take a look at the example below. The poster on the right can give you a huge boost in visual appeal over the one on the left. In fact, your image can convey much more than regular text ever will.
The right image can give your design a huge boost in visual appeal. In fact, your image can convey much more than regular text ever will for eye-catching posters.
If you’ve already identified your brand image and personality, choosing an appropriate photograph for your poster should come easily. Here are two things to keep in mind at this stage.
- For starters, you want an image that’s actually relevant to your message and poster objectives.
- Use a photograph that can facilitate a balance between your text and image. Look for images with a focal point, which you can then surround with text and other visual elements.
5. Add your copy
Now it’s time to take your headline and details from your outline and insert them into your poster-making.
There are two things you’ll need to deal with at this stage to ensure your text elements jive with your images and other graphic elements.
The fonts you choose will also have a significant effect on your poster’s mood and message.
For example, if your poster content has something to do with a modern theme or concept, consider sticking with a clean sans-serif typeface.
If you have a more serious poster design in mind or want to communicate class or a sense of whimsy, a serif typeface should do the trick.
You can also experiment with decorative typefaces, which allow your headlines to grab the reader’s attention. The Halloween poster template below is a good example.
One thing to remember with typefaces, however, is to avoid combining more than two different typefaces or four type variations (i.e., type size, and bold or italic style).
When in doubt, stick to a sans serif font and serif font combination, or a decorative font for your poster headline and sans serif fonts for all other text.
The way your text is laid out on your poster is just as important as your typefaces.
The rule to remember here is visual hierarchy.
You want to use the size and position of your text elements to tell the reader where to look, like your headline and call to action.
This can be a complicated topic but our guide to creating a visual hierarchy with fonts can help you learn more about it.
6. Make sure your CTA is easy to spot
If your poster has a call to action (CTA), make sure it’s clear and visible to the reader.
The whole point of a CTA is to get people to take action, so it only makes sense to draw people’s attention to it, but not so much that it overshadows your headline.
As a good example, check out the job ad poster template below.
Beautiful poster designs with Piktochart
This guide only scratches the surface of the poster-design process. If you want to design and print an eye-catching poster and learn more advanced poster-making skills, our free online poster maker, and free online visual storytelling course can help you learn how to communicate through visuals more effectively.
To recap, here are the steps you should remember if you want to make a poster:
- Build your foundation
- Draft an outline
- Choose your color scheme
- Add your images
- Add your copy and graphics
- Make sure your CTA stands out
When you’re ready to get started, sign up for free on Piktochart to customize our large collection of poster templates with our online poster maker.