29 Poster Design Tips from Leading Illustrators and Designers

Useful advice on how to design eye-catching posters for sale or clients – covering composition, creative process and colour palette.


Inspiration is everywhere. I love Matisse and Calder. Classic poster designs like those by Saul Bass and the Swiss school are inevitable inspirations.

One of my favourites from the region is Igor Hofbauer, with his wonderful, twisted, comic-like concert posters. Also, Japanese graphic design is special and different.

Monika Lang (Serbia)

Sketching with a pencil is the most spontaneous and quickest way for me to capture an idea. Also, when you browse through your old sketchbook after a while, you can always find something forgotten, begging to be developed further and implemented.

Monika Lang (Serbia)


A necessary first step is to undertake serious research, consideration of ideas and concept drawings. Also, the choice of a suitable colour palette for the topic is an interesting part of the work.

Sometimes I use digital collage, and in that case I need to collate various elements, which will find their place in the poster.

Monika Lang (Serbia)

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I try to keep the message very simple. Sometimes I ask people without an design background about their opinion to double check.

Daniel Treindl (AT)


For clients work I start with an sketch or an mockup and try to keep things clear, but in my personal artworks I mostly start with an rough idea and sometimes I draw shapes and patterns to build an library to play with.

If I feel I have enough material to work with, I start to do a couples of quick explorations to see which composition works best. By choosing my favuorite exploration I work step by step more into the detail. At the end I work on colours, contrast and cleaning up the file until it feels right.

Daniel Treindl (AT)

Image: elements Daniel created for the previous poster.


Even if the elements are not perfectly drawn, a good layout and composition can be very powerful and make the poster very interesting.

Daniel Treindl (AT)

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Make the things you want to see and put them up around places yourself. Collaborate with your friends – and your favourite bars and clubs.

Lucy Sherston (UK)


Posters are such an accessible art form and have a direct purpose.

People come into contact with posters in their visual landscape everyday, and I think they can influence the viewer without them realising it as they blend into their everyday life.

Lucy Sherston (UK)


I generally start with the information or the text that I've got to include, and then begin to play around with how I can lay this out to fit in all the information. Then I'll begin making a list of relevant visual ideas that would sit well alongside the text. I do loads of thumbnails and rough sketches in my sketchbook to establish a rough composition.

Lucy Sherston (UK)

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I always use hand drawn text – so I'll look through reference material to establish what sort of lettering will be appropriate. Then I'll scan that in and begin working with it in Photoshop. I have a folder of hand drawn and paper textures so I'll begin to combine these elements. The rest happens quite organically, seeing what has worked and adjusting things on Photoshop accordingly. 

Lucy Sherston (UK)


I'm inspired by how forms fit together and how to create a balance between the minimal and the detailed - between composition and information. I'm really inspired by artists who have their fingers in many pies, and keep pushing the boundaries of their own work.

In terms of posters, I love Sister Mary Corita's hopeful and bold designs, and how they so beautifully marry shape and text and are so full of positivity.

Lucy Sherston (UK)


I get to look at lots of beautiful magazines. I found the last issue of The Gourmand really inspiring in terms of graphic design (and obviously all the beautiful and interesting content).

Lucy Sherston (UK)

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I normally have two sketchbooks on the go: one to unload my brain into and one to refine any of those 'brain unload' ideas if they're any good. I'm also a big Pinterest fan and constantly find inspiration on there.

Lucy Sherston (UK)


Posters are probably my favourite format because of their sheer size and their final use. They need to be seen on the street and they need to make a big impact. The main challenges of poster design relate to how the poster will interact with its display environment. You have to keep reminding yourself of that and try to visualise your design out of your cosy studio and on, say, a busy street.

Veroncia Fuerte (ES)


Another challenge is the way you design all the content. When a poster has visual elements and text, they can often have different functions that need to work alongside each other.

Veroncia Fuerte (ES)

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Start by sketching out your ideas. The concept needs to get it noticed. So work that out in rough first of all so you can explore and develop your ideas as much as possible.

Getting the sense of scale and balance right on a poster is also very important. If everything has the same weight it all blends together so nothing actually stands out and the poster won't have any impact. The balance between graphics and text is important here.

Veroncia Fuerte (ES)


Printing your design at full scale is also very helpful. You can hang it up and see how it works from further away. It's easy to misjudge how something will look in the real world when it has been designed on a screen on a very small scale.

Veroncia Fuerte (ES)


Explore a lot of different options before choosing the best one. Try, try again and keep trying until you find the one that works best. Surprisingly, small changes in the composition can result in big differences in the end so you just have to keep working at it.

Veroncia Fuerte (ES)

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The Film Commission Chile was created to promote Chile as a movie production destination. The FCCh visual identity is inspired by duct/gaffer tape. The tape is omnipresent in the world of movie production – tapes unite, join, mark, hold, point, remind and help people to work. Due to its flexibility, the lines and shape of the tape resemble the classic movie celluloid film.

The variations in the colour palette represent the diversity of landscapes we can find in the Chilean territory.

Veroncia Fuerte (ES)


Decide what you want to be seen first. After that proportions and work on the composition. Colors are quite important too, depending the environment the poster will live. Dark place? Maybe try to use more contrast. Light place, street for example, you have more freedom. After this break all of it and experiment new things !

Marta Veludo (NL)


I worked in a nice project for the Frenchfourch label for the Paris Graphic Design Festival, where I needed to create a poster that would be printed in silkscreen and travel around the world. I decided to make about love and fighting.

It was more technical challenging than anything else, but I had so much fun doing it.

Marta Veludo (NL)

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Design a lot of posters – and practice! Try, fail, try again. Find new ways of communicate and mostly focus in an environment where you would like to develop them.

Marta Veludo (NL)


Posters are almost like hieroglyphs – both a graphic and semantic language. The poster almost always is a metaphor – and almost always this is two things that are compared to each other.

Ivan Velichko (RU)


You're working with meaning and for. Create the most exciting meaning as possible and the most strange and unpredictable form as possible. \

Ivan Velichko (RU)

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As Marshall McLuhan said, "the medium is the message". Very often it happens that the shape is itself the content of that thing you do.

Ivan Velichko (RU) 


Whilst I’m working on the final piece, I’m always trying out ideas as I go – changing up colours and shifting things around and adding elements to see if it improves the design.

Ian Jepson (ZA)


I always start with super rough thumbnails, that’s something that has stuck with me since college. If a layout works on a small scale, it’s going to work on a large scale. Once I’ve got a few ideas I’ll try them as rough sketches to see what works best and make a decision on a direction.

From there I’ll do a clean sketch over the rough, and then finally ink and colour the design. This is mostly done digitally, drawn on my Wacom Cintiq.

Ian Jepson (ZA)

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There has to be a hierarchy of information that designers must pay attention to: the title/band name, the venue, the date, the support acts etc – it all needs to be balanced and clearly readable without distracting from the overall design. Of course, tying that all together is making sure you have a strong concept executed in a visual striking way that captures the the vibe of whatever it is you’re trying to promote. 

Ian Jepson (ZA)


One of the most striking things that I really like about posters are the limitations. You can do whatever you want inside that space, and even if it sounds odd, the limitations are part of that freedom.

Very often those limitations are my own. I want to work with a restricted colour palette, or just one font. So I need to push the design to the forefront.

Horatio Lorente (AR)


The priority is to define how the actual message is going to work – what are you going to say, which is the first important element that you're going to read or see? Is the illustration or image the main component of the message, or the typography?

Horatio Lorente (AR)

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Working with a simple grid is very useful to arrange elements and give importance to the content. Remember: Less noise; more space; simple geometric shapes and typography. The most important thing is to make an impact and to achieve the main goal: to deliver the message.

Horatio Lorente (AR)


Sometimes a single spot colour can make a difference and turn a dull and boring design into something interesting.

Horatio Lorente (AR)