Create a Dramatic Film Poster in 5 Minutes Using Photoshop

Create a Dramatic Film Poster in 5 Minutes Using Photoshop

Designing a film poster is pure fun. There’s no question about it. It’s one of those projects that you look forward to as a designer. Designing a film poster can also be incredibly fast and easy… Given the right reference photos and subject matter, a stunning poster can be created in minutes. In this tutorial I will walk you through some easy steps to do just that.

Here’s a look at what we’ll be creating.

Step 1

After some searching I found an excellent photo [unfortunately no longer available] to use for our poster. The girl in the photo is very sinister looking, which is perfect. But I want to exaggerate her evilness a little bit further. We’re going to use the Liquify Filter to accomplish that.

Click ( Filter | Liquify ) to load the filter window. Will be using the Bloat Tool (B) to make her eyes larger, and we’ll use the Forward Warp Tool (W) on her mouth and eyebrows. Below you can see the brush strokes that I made with these tools.

The animation below shows the before and after effects of the Liquify Filter.

Step 3

Next I want to brighten her eyes to the point where they look inhuman, and I also want to darken the shadows under her eyes and around her face. I used the Dodge Tool on her eyes and the Burn Tool on the shadows. Below are my results.

Step 4

Lets sharpen the image using the High Pass filter trick. Duplicate the layer and select (Filter | Other | High Pass). Enter 15 for the amount.

Set this layer’s blend mode to Opacity.

Step 5

Now we’re going to add some adjustment layers to enhance the contrast and detail of the image. First up, a levels adjustment.

Next, we need a Hue/Saturation adjustment. We’ll remove some of the saturation and slightly adjust the hue to a cooler tone.

Now lets add a Photo Filter adjustment to further the cooling effect.

Finally, lets add a Curves adjustment.

Step 6

Now we need a new layer above the image, but below our adjustment layers. With a large, soft white brush, with an Opacity and Flow set to 30%, begin to lighten the image taking the edges to completely white.

The adjustment layers apply the same cool blueish tone to our white brushed area, completing the cold effect we want for the image.

Step 7

Now we need to apply some type to complete the poster. Your typography can make or break your poster design. It seems that there is sort of a go too style when it comes to movie posters. If you choose to go outside of that style make sure you do it with the intention further the impact your poster is trying to convey. Here is one great example of going outside the typical film poster style.

For the list of actors at the top, I went to IMDB and chose some actor names at random. I used Myriad Pro Condensed for the first names and Condensed Bold for the last names. Any condensed sans-serif font will work well for this step, if you don’t have Myriad Pro.

For the title I chose Trajan Pro. Love it or hate it, it’s a good looking font, and it’s used a lot for movie titles for it’s dramatic look and feel.

I applied a slight drop shadow and inner glow layer styles to the title font.

For the credits, I used a font called SF Movie Poster. This is a great condensed font, excellent for adding a ton of names into a very tight space.

Below is the finished poster. I hope these techniques gave you some insight into how fast and easy a dramatic film poster can be created.


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Nathan Brown

Nathan Brown is a graphic designer who loves working with various media. He combines traditional art styles with a little experimentation and digital flare. Nathan's works have contained everything from ink and paint to leaves and a box of dirt. Everything is fare game when it comes to his approach to art. Nathan lives in Austin, Texas where he has been working as a designer for 10 years.


(+add yours)
  1. awesome tuts, man… I’m a big fan of movie posters… great job here! What I always wanted to know is the ideal dimensions if I would like to get a nice looking print? cheers!

    • Duncan Craig

      Good question on getting posters printed – dimensions and resolutions would be useful.

      Presumably 300dpi as a minimum?

      • Most movie posters you see in a theater are 27″x41″… I would design at 300 dpi minimum. Some printers might request as much as 400 dpi, though.

  2. Great Tutorial Nathan, I’m going to have a crack at this with another photo, I also seem to mess things up when it comes to altering levels, any tips?

  3. Barron

    Good work Nathan but why are you the only designer on WG? Where is rest of your team? :-)

  4. Wonderful! So many great tips, all clearly explained. Can’t thank you enough.

  5. sonia

    me encanto la simplicidad de este tuto. Muchas gracias!

  6. What Sonia said. I’m not a print designer but this is really useful. This was a great step by step on creating some really dramatic changes to a simple photo. Thanks for the lesson.

  7. Margalus

    The outcome is AMAZING, great job!

  8. This is a great tut, my results were pretty close to your final. However, I know there is a “greek” credit block for the bottom of the poster and you didn’t clue in as to how to attain it. Or did you do all that yourself, logos included? Can ya help a brotha out?

    • Hi Roy… You can find the logos around the web. Mostly in vector format, or if you can find a jpg with a white background you can set the logo’s layer to Multiply to hide the white. For the font, use SF Movie Poster. It’s excellent for credits.

  9. Matthew Martinez

    Thank you so much, found a lot of inspiration around these pages!

  10. sophie

    what photo editor?

  11. Steve

    Thanks for the tutorial. I think for step 4 you meant blend mode: Overlay and not Opacity… still was able to follow the tut beautifully!


    • Scott

      Thanks for posting this comment! I was confused on setting the blend mode to opacity!

  12. Prel
    • Looks like someone found the tutorial useful. :-)

      • phoenix25

        Look at the publish date…

  13. Emery

    Which photoshop product do you use? They have like eight different options and I don’t know if they all do the same thing?

  14. Dan

    Hi Nathan!

    Absolutely love your movie poster! Do you make ones without the characters/actors photos? Concept/teaser movie posters?

  15. radhakrishan

    nice one thank you

  16. Kevin

    This is exactly why most people find movie posters today to be bland and devoid of any sort of creativity whatsoever. Movie posters used to be created by real artists.

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  21. Andrew Amir

    It’s so cool, but i need the originals photo cause I cant download it please anyone send it to “”

  22. Tetley

    Hi, the link for the stock photo seems to be dead. I appreciate that this post is a few years old but does anyone happen to have a copy or link to this original stock image?

    • Brad Lenox

      Hey Tetley, you’re right about the link. However it looks like the stock photo is very hard to find now, and I unfortunately cannot find a good replacement. However, I can suggest for really high quality stock photos.

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