How to make a movie poster – with example!

mendedposter_finalI am in charge of creating all of the promotional materials (poster/flyer/tshirts/website) for my friend’s movie: “Mended.” I created this poster and I wanted to share my process with everyone.

STEP 01: Research

The themes of this movie include heartbreak, recovery and surrealism. The director described the film with certain words and I spent hours on the internet finding imagery that depicted her themes. Forest, creepy, eerie, curious, surreal, heartbreak, revival, interaction, engaging, dark, intriguing.

GREAT blog posts about Movie Poster Inspiration: Design Fix / Smashing Magazine / Inspirdology / Well Medicated (posters from poland) / Design Feedr / Smashing Magazine : Asian movie posters

Random Articles: How to Mend your broken heart / Recovery from a broken heart

Images: Here are some sample images – I saved a bunch in an “inspiration” folder for reference.



I don’t have my sketches handy, but I believe that all designers MUST spend time with a pencil and paper doing thumbnail sketches of their ideas before they go to a computer!


I wanted the poster to have an artistic, hand-drawn vibe and because I don’t have a wacom pad yet 😦 I have to do it the old fashion way. I think it’s more fun anyway! I draw on art vellum (transparency paper) so I can do many different versions and lay them over each other to decide how I want the final image to look. I did one version in outline only, and then I did a version with texture.


STEP 04: We go to the computer

livetraceI scanned my line drawings into the computer.

PHOTOSHOP: select > color range > choose white

This separated the black img out, but it still had a slight white border. You can continue selecting pixels to get ONLY the black, but I prefer to take it into AI.

ILLUSTRATOR: Bring in the PSD file and click object > live trace

You can play with the options to get a clean vector img. I love vector images and Illustrator files. 🙂

STEP 05: Color and Texture

I created a new layer in Photoshop and added some red behind the hearts and some brown behind the trees. I also found a great underground texture from This is a great source for free high-res images. I also found these great texture brush downloads from to add some texture. I created different layers with different opacity to give it that rough, texture on the edges.


Download these brushes: urban decay / cracks / oil stainsbrushes

STEP 06: Version 2: New Texture and highlight

After creating version 1, I decided to step back & go more dramatic. I added some texture for the hillside, taken from an actual photo of the forest. Then I drew a ground line and scanned it in. I also made more grunge layers in black. I finished it off with a radial gradient the came over the hill, but behind the trees to add the the mystery. Simple shadows on the ground add depth to the image.



text21We all know that fonts play a large part in the emotion and mood that the poster conveys. I spent some time on downloading some sweet new fonts. I didn’t want to over-design, so I spent time with the basic helvetica, futura and garamond as well. These are are some of my favorites. Ultimately it’s up to the client.



Our final image turned out like this and Diliana was very happy with the outcome!

mendedposter_final1Now I have to create a flyer, poster with more info and website that incorporate this art. I also have to think about the difference in screen and printing colors. At home this poster is fairly dark, but on my screen at work it’s almost all black. Plus, different printers have different inks and if I print this with a company like CalCopy, I need to make sure I like the way they print out! (Not too dark) I’ll keep you updated on all of the promotional material. If you have any other questions about any of the steps, or how I created this image, feel free to ask! This movie is currently being edited, but I’ll let you know when it’s complete and where you can go see it. 🙂


16 thoughts on “How to make a movie poster – with example!

  1. Mel, this is a fantastic post. You are incredible! I can’t believe how helpful it is to read this stuff. It really helps the “marketing and sales” people like me understand what you do, and gives me a great understanding of the time and detail that go into creative work.

    Thanks for taking the time to share this.

    -Pat (your #1 fan, well, maybe behind your mom)

  2. haha – Thanks Pat! It can be a long process, but it’s hard to rush creativity. The final product is worth the wait! 🙂 This was a fun project and I can’t wait to see it posted around town.

  3. Wow… Awesome work! Love the incorporation of the sketches into the final project.

    Thanks for laying out the process so clearly. Keep up the quality work!

  4. Thanks Matt – Glad you liked the post!
    I love seeing the “behind the scenes” peek into a designers process.

    It’s like seeing the Wizard of OZ. He’s not so big and scary, but someone who you could totally kick-it with. 🙂

  5. Hi, I was looking for sites to show my class on the process of creating posters and movie posters. I was hoping to be able to show yours to my class, if possible may I have permission to do so?

  6. Hi Tony,
    You can definitely share my post with your class! Where do you teach? I would love to hear how it goes and I’m glad that my post is helpful. 🙂

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