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How to Make a Poster Eye-Catching and Effective

Not sure how to make a poster? Here are some easy poster design techniques you can use to create your own cool poster to promote your upcoming project or event.

Finally! You’re ready to share your photography series with the world. Or new art show. Or illustration project. But how do you get the public—and potential customers—out to your event? A great poster is a great start. Never had to make your own poster before?

We’ve rounded up some simple poster design tips that will help bring your poster ideas to life—and make sure your next event is packed! Let’s dive in.

Sketch It Out First

Before you get started making your own poster, you’ll need an idea of how you want to present the data to your audience. While it’s tempting to cram as much information as possible on there, don’t overdo it! Crowded designs overstuffed with too much copy and information are actually less effective than simpler poster designs. If in doubt, cut it out.

Sitting down and sketching out your poster ideas on paper is a great way to help you mentally organise the info you want to share with the viewer. If you prefer to work digitally, consider wireframing your design before you get started in Photoshop (or whatever your tool of choice is).

Need some inspiration? There are tons of innovative poster designs out there making use of dramatic black-and-white minimalism, bold color choices, creative photo placement, and retro styling to lure in audiences. Browse design contest winners or cruise gorgeous online design portfolios for more ideas on how to make a poster. Feel free to download some poster templates to get started. Don’t be afraid to try new things and push boundaries to grab the attention of viewers.

Pick an Attention-Grabbing Headline

Your headline needs to snag people’s attention. It has to get them to look at your poster and read the rest of the information you’re trying to share with them.

Halloween Party, wedding, comic convention—sometimes the headline takes care of itself. This is a nice plus, since it means you can devote more time to other areas (such as typography) of your poster design. That doesn’t mean you can’t use some creativity here: a Halloween party can easily be renamed to something more spooky and ominous without sacrificing the message.

For poster designs where a headline is less obvious, it can be challenging to summarize your entire idea into a single sentence (or even a single word) that perfectly encapsulates what you wish to convey. Take the time to get this element right. Be creative! Just make sure it isn’t misleading or confusing.

Select a Nice Color Palette

Your color palette can significantly change the look of your poster design and influence viewers in subtle ways you did not expect. Chosen colors matter a great deal and can completely change the tone of your piece.

Bold colors won’t suit every design, so avoid the temptation to use super-saturated hues or bright primary colors in every poster you crank out. A band poster might look great with a black and white monochrome palette, but if you’re promoting a vegan food market, you are probably going to want something calmer and earthier.

Another popular choice these days? Pastels and earth tones. See if these trendy shades are a good fit for your next project. Just experiment and see what happens: you can have a lot of fun trying new color combinations that completely change the look and feel of a design.

Narrow Down the Details

An uncluttered poster is an eye-catching poster. Carefully consider the details you want to include. Keep only those ideas which are absolutely essential for your design. The more straightforward your presentation, the more effective the result will be.

For example: say you’re trying to promote a two-week showing of an art show at a local gallery. As a short-term event, very little info is actually required. You don’t need to put small thumbnails of every piece the artist will be showing there along with a personal biography, their photograph, and a heap of other information. Your goal is simply to pull people to the venue itself, after all. Rather than inundate people with tons of text, you need to keep it simple!

Instead, tell them the artist’s name, the location, and when they should be there and use only the artist’s best (or most recognized) piece as a sample on the poster. That’s it!

Create the Visual Hierarchy

Simply put: hierarchy is the display of information based on the importance of its role in the intended design. It determines the size of the text as well as its placement. It also guides the eye through your poster and helps the viewer to comprehend the flow of your information more easily. A good flow leads to a good design.

Now that you’re ready to create your own poster, simply rank the information you are presenting in order of importance. If your poster design contains very little text, then you can get away with a bold and simple graphic or icon. If the design is loaded with textual information, then you’ll want the text to be your focus. For that sort of design you’ll want a big headline, with the text broken down into chunks.

There are three basic elements to this text hierarchy: headline (which we discussed earlier), subheading (a statement or bit of information that supports or reinforces the headline), and body text (the rest of the text content). Keeping text appropriately sized is important, so be certain that your headline is largest, your sub-headings medium in size, and your body text is in the smallest font. Typically, you’ll want a single headline, but there are no limits to the number of sub-headings or chunks of body text. (Just don’t let it get too busy, remember!)

Test Your Typography

Why not focus on font instead? Using clever typography can be a super-effective method to create a minimalist design that makes a lasting impression. Here are some tips to help select the right fonts for you:

  • Can it be easily read at a distance? Not everyone has 20/20 vision and you want your poster to be readable. Legibility is extremely important.
  • Have a cool, short headline? If so, you can have a bit more fun here and choose decorative or unusual fonts. A graffiti-style font would be ideal for an urban-themed event, for example.
  • Are your fonts complementary? Try to make sure they match in mood and personality, or at least work well together.
  • Consider the context and use type that is appropriate for your design. A fundraising event would call for a very different font option than you might utilize for a gig thrown by a metal band (unless it’s a metal fundraiser!).
  • Limit your font selection. Ideally, keep it at two. More fonts tend to quickly become visually confusing.

There’s a lot more to it than just that, though. You also need to consider kerning (the spacing between letters), leading spaces (the distance between two adjacent lines of type), font size, weight (light, regular and bold), line height (the distance between two lines of text) and case (upper, lower, small caps) when laying out your typography for your poster design.

Remember when we mentioned not over-crowding before? That is especially important in super-typographic designs. White space is the key to this design style: with little else to look at, your entire attention is drawn to the beautiful lettering—and your message.

Ace The Imagery

The imagery you select to create a poster is probably one of the most important aspects of your poster design. A good selection (whether it is a hand-drawn illustration, a photograph you snapped yourself, a stock image, or anything else in between) will bring your creation to life. The quality and composition of the selected images matters a great deal. A few rules of thumb apply here:

  • Check the size of your poster: Is the image resolution good enough? A 640px x480px image is not going to work at all on a 24 inch x 36 inch printed poster. You don’t want jagged pixels ruining your design!
  • Use high-quality images. Go for the 20MP photo over the 4MP photo.
  • Match the color-mode of your project. Using a CMYK image on a RGB poster is going to produce some unusual hues that are likely to differ a great deal from your intended palette. (This is even more important if you intend on printing the poster and placing it in the physical world.)
  • Is the image protected by copyright? If you aren’t using your own creations, you must check whether or not you are legally allowed to use the image. Using random images you find via Google is not okay.

Work That Negative Space

Using the space available to you in new ways is a marvellous way to create unique and inspiring designs. You can effectively convey a lot of meaning without using many (or any!) words in your work. Utilizing negative space is a neat way to create impact without overloading the viewer with too much visual information. Consider experimenting with this fundamental aspect of design and seeing where it takes you! The results can be truly amazing and could prove to be a valuable artistic skill.

Slip In Some Shapes

Some designs use shapes to create visual flow and grab viewers’ interest. These sorts of designs are fun and impactful and can really catch the eye. Even better? This design challenge can really push you out of your comfort zone.

Design for your Audience

Every element of your creative should be carefully chosen in order to maximize its visibility to your desired audience. A poster design that doesn’t speak to them should be tweaked so that you are more likely to catch their attention. For a great example of design for a particular audience, look at concert and club posters/flyers found in most cities. Typically, they are high-contrast and stylized and feature almost no information beyond the who, where and when.

Fundraisers, on the other hand, appeal to a different sort of audience and often use less imagery in favor of more text in their designs in order to provide the required information to the desired audience and hopefully spur them to open their wallets.

Include a Good Call to Action

The call to action (CTA) is meant to get the viewer to actually act on the information your poster design provides.

To be effective, the CTA needs to be highly visible—and the most eye-grabbing part of your design. It may be a simple colored square that asks them to RSVP with an email or attend a party. Your poster design should lead their eye to the CTA and make them want to act on it. Don’t forget to share your poster online after it’s all said and done!

Here’s wishing you a sold-out event, every time—all thanks to your poster design!

Want more ideas on how to create great design?
5 Designers Reveal How to Get Clients With Your Portfolio
Ten Steps to Creating a Personal Logo That Stands Out
8 Graphic Design Projects to Cure Your Creative Block

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