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Tutorial: Creating a movie poster

Final imageIn this tutorial, we are going to create the sample movie poster to the right by combining a stock photograph, a free font, and some image adjustment and masking techniques.

If you would like to follow this tutorial, you can download the two files below:
PreparedGoat_rose.jpg   TheGodfather-v2.ttf 1

For information about installing fonts, see

Begin by setting up your document

When you are making a poster or a flyer, it is best to start by creating a document that is the correct size. It is much more difficult to change the size of your design after the image has been created. For this tutorial, we are using a relatively small size.

Create a document with dimensions 8.5 in x 11 in, 72 ppi.

New File Dialogue

These dimensions are for this example only. If you are creating a real document for printing, you should use a much higher resolution. Most printers require at least 300 ppi for color images.

Add the image that will be used in this posterScaling a goat

You can click File > Open, and select the preparedGoat_rose.jpg image. I have already modified this image in several ways for this tutorial.

Once the image is open, you need to bring it into your new poster document. For instructions on combining images, please follow these directions from the previous tutorial, and then navigate back to this page.

You will also need to change the size of the goat image to fit within this document. I used Edit > Free Transform and scaled to about 53%. I positioned the goat in the lower left corner of my document.

Remember: If you are clicking and dragging on the corners of your image to resize, you can lock the width-to-height ratio by holding the Shift key on your keyboard. Also, when using Free Transform, it is helpful to hold the"Ctrl" key and press - or = to zoom in and out of your document. If you are using a Mac, hold the Command key instead of Ctrl.

Fill the background

For this poster, I filled the background with black by selecting Edit > Fill, and choosing black. You could choose another color, a photograph, or a gradient for other poster designs. Make sure that you select the background layer before filling with black, or else you will paint over your goat image!

Adjust the appearance of the image

Image Source (Via Google)

The poster in this tutorial features a distinctive effect that is similar to one theatrical image released for the movie "The Godfather." We want to adjust the image so that most of the color is filtered out and turned into a greyscale image.

For this tutorial, we will create an Adjustment Layer. You can click Layer > New Adjustment Layer, or select the Adjustment Layer icon at the bottom of the Layers panel.

Adding an adjustment layer from the menu
New Adj Layer
Adding an adjustment layer from the Layers Panel
Adjustment Layer Icon

The first Adjustment Layer that we need for this effect is "Black & White." The image will appear to be greyscale, and a new layer will appear in your Layers panel. You do not need to modify any settings for this adjustment; the default settings should be fine.
Black and White applied

We're closer now, but we still do not have the effect from the movie poster. The problem is that there are currently too many shades of grey--we actually need less detail than what we have. We need to add a second adjustment on top of this one!


Go back to your Adjustment Layers menu and add a Levels Adjustment. This kind of adjustment allows you to narrow down the range of greys that are available in your image. To achieve the effect from the poster, click and drag the Black Input and White Input sliders until the image looks the way you want.

The values that I used can be seen in the image below (178 and 212), but these amounts will vary from image to image, according to the effect that you want to achieve. You may use the same values that I used to get the same looking image, but play with the input sliders to get a feel for how this adjustment works.

With Levels adjustment applied

Adjustments vs. Adjustment Layers.

One way to apply an adjustment to a layer is to choose Image > Adjustments, and select the type of adjustment that you would like to make. The disadvantage to this method is that you cannot make corrections to your adjustments after they have been applied. When you are doing design work, this is usually not the option that you should use, because it takes away your option to change your mind later in the design process.

Adjustment layers appear in your Layers panel like ordinary layers, but they do not contain image content. Instead, they change the appearance of layers beneath themselves. You can manipulate adjustment layers at any time, making this method a much more powerful design technique.

Clean up the Image

It's very likely that your image is not quite perfect yet. In mine, shown below, some parts of the background did not dissapear when I applied adjustments, and these must be removed manually. To make the extra white areas vanish, I simply selected the layer containing the goat picture, and chose a brush brush tool with black paint. I painted over the area that needed to be removed.

Touch Up

This section is complete!

At this point, you should have something like the image below. In the next section, we'll look at how to integrate text into the poster, how to add a nice border around everything, and how to make the rose turn red again.

Black and White Goat

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Last modified: Oct 22, 2010, 12:49 EDT
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