Design a Quick and Easy Indie Rock Gig Poster

Design a Quick and Easy Indie Rock Gig Poster

Gig posters are great fun for a designer. Typically you have the band’s music for inspiration, and beyond that, anything goes. These posters are often abstract and can often be incredible expressions of art. But, more often than not, you are working with a limited budget and limited time. So you need to create something incredible, quickly and inexpensively. Lets take a look at how that can be accomplished.

A lot of times gig posters will be illustration based. But since we don’t have the time to create a custom illustration, our poster will be photo based. Lets gather some interesting photos and textures that might work well together. Here’s what I found.

- Dead Tree
- Black Birds
- Single Tree
- Grunge Texture

Note: When using images for printed commercial work, be sure to check licenses and ask permission from the photographer before using.

And here’s a look at what we’ll be creating with these resources.

Step 1

Create a new document 11×17 at 300 dpi. Then grab the image of the single tree. To convert it to a solid black shape, we’ll desaturate it (Cmd+Shift+u), and then apply the Threshold setting (Image | Adjust | Threshold). You’ll need to bump the setting up just a bit to get enough black.

Now with the Magic Wand Tool (W) select the black area and copy and paste it to the poster document. We want the tree to be more gray than solid black, so select (Image | Adjust| Hue/Saturation), and bump the Lightness slide up a touch.

Lets repeat the exact steps for the dead tree / roots photo. We’ll place it on the canvas and flip it to position the image as tree roots.

Step 2

Now we’ll add some secondary elements. For the image of the birds, desaturate it (Cmd+Shift+u) then adjust the Levels (Image | Adjust | Levels) to remove the gray sky area.

Place the image on the canvas above the tree, and rotate it to appear as though the birds are flying from the tree. Set the layers blending mode to Multiply to hide the white background behind the birds.

Now using the Ellipitcal Marque Tool (M), hold the shift key and draw a circle selection on a layer behind the tree layer. Fill that layer with a medium gray (#919191), to create a moon.

Step 3

Next up, lets add the background texture. The texture I chose was not quite large enough to fill the background of an 11×17 poster. So I duplicated the texture 4 times and positioned each copy to fill the document. Then I merged all four layers and used the Clone Stamp Tool (S) to hide the seams.

Next I created a border by using the Rectangle Marque Tool (M) to draw a selection around the edge of the document. Then I inverted the selection and filled it with a light gray (#efefef) on a layer above all others.

On a layer between the tree and moon, use a large soft white brush to paint a highlight behind the tree. Set that layer’s blend mode to Overlay.

Step 4

Now lets add some text. I chose two font faces for this poster. For the main title font I used League Gothic. This is one of my favorite type faces. It’s bold and condensed, and works great for titles and headlines. For the secondary font I used Myriad Pro Condensed Bold. This font comes with most Adobe applications so you should already have it. If not, choose a condensed font that compliments League Gothic.

I placed the type as follows.

Step 5

Now it’s time to add some color. To do this add a Gradient Map Adjustment Layer above all other layers in the composition. Set the adjustment layer’s blend mode to Overlay, and use the following gradient.

There you have it… A finished gig poster done very quickly. I hope you picked up some new techniques from this tutorial and can apply them in your next project.

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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. ad

    the dead tree and the single tree is the same destination. ya should check it

  2. Alex Molett

    where did you get the living tree photo from? i cant find a good enough photo to reproduce the effect with :(

    I also tried thinking of other scenarios instead of trees but couldnt think of any

  3. Mai B

    Where’s the single tree?

  4. Hi Nathan

    Just realised that you have used my Flickr image of the dead tree as a root system!

    Great work and really pleased that you liked my photo enough to want to use it.

    I might have a go and create something myself now that i’ve seen your easy to follow instructions.


    • Hi John! Thanks for the kind words. It’s not every photographer who sees a dead tree as a photo op… So I really appreciate your creative eye.

  5. Great! thx a lot!

  6. Arun

    Hello Nathan,


    First of All congratulations for your Great Effort.Appreciated!

    Well,i am a Manager of my Rock Band called “The Living Saints”(The Messengers).
    What photo you’d like to suggest for it who can Justify its name.
    I want to make a Poster for our upcoming Show/Gig

    We’re short of Budget at the moment as our Beginners.

    And do suggest some Picture to Design LOGO,for the same Name.


    Arun Fialok
    Manager-Band The Livings Saints

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    Can i use this for my tshirt designing themed “Beyond the horizon”?

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