How to Create a Poster Using Only Photoshop!

By Katie Houghton on June 27, 2019

Creating a poster can be done in Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign or even in all three. Today with paragraph and character styles there may be little reason to leave Photoshop in the first place. The steps of designing still remain the same in Photoshop, the difference is that you will not need to learn how to navigate through a lot of extra applications to create a fun and engaging poster. Follow this step-by-step tutorial on how to create an dance poster!

PS with Layers

  1. Figuring Out the Size, Color Mode, and Resolution

Canvases come in all sizes, resolutions, and color modes but determining your ideal canvas is dependent on the project you are going to start. It is important that you make the poster the size and resolution you need for output. Most posters are at these sizes: 22" x 28" , 24" x 36",  36" x 48”. Photographs for print should be a minimum of 300 ppi for a high end print jobs. For lower end printing (office postscript printers) your resolution may be as low as 150 ppi. The resolution is based on the LPI of the printer so check before the project is started.

If you are not sure 300 ppi is the magic number. Our color mode will always start in RGB with usually a working color profile of sRGB. Sometimes based on the printing process the RGB color mode may need be converted to a CMYK color mode at the end, but we can always start in RGB and convert color modes later.

 PS Starter canvas

  1. Start with a Preset

Let’s create our canvas! The size of the canvas for this project will be 22”x28”, RGB at 300 ppi. We can use the preset Poster under Art & Illustration, which will set most of these properties. Only the dimensions need to be changed, since the preset size for poster is 18” x 24”. Change the dimensions to 22” x 28”. Before creating the canvas, it is also a good idea to save a Preset for future use. Click on the Save Preset button and call the preset “Poster 22x28”. Once the preset is created, click on the Create button. Let’s save it and name it Poster.

 

  1. Open an Image and Add it to the Poster

PS 1. Girl addedLet’s open the image in Photoshop, so when the Smart Object is created the Smart Object will be correct. The flexibility of a Photoshop Smart Object layer is needed vs a limited JPG Smart Object layer. If the image is placed directly in as a Smart Object the layer would be a JPG Smart Object. This distinction is important as JPGs can not have alpha channels nor layers ‒ thus limiting our ability to edit the image. Once the image is open, right click the layer and Duplicate Layer. In the field for As: type Girl in the Destination Document field and choose the Poster.psd file.

  1. Create a Smart Object and Resize if Needed
After we have out image duplicated into our project file, right click on the new layer named Girl and Convert to Smart Object. (This will make the image into a Photoshop Smart Object). We can resize as needed, but make sure to not enlarge the image too much, since the resolution can distort the image in print. If you really need a larger image, find one taken at a higher resolution to keep the quality of the image sharp!
  1. Add a Background Solid layer

PS 2. BG addedNow to create a background for our poster, choose the Background canvas layer then click on the Create New Fill or Adjustment Layer icon. From the menu select Solid Color. Let’s move the mouse to the canvas area to choose a color from the image. At this stage, the Solid layer will be hidden from view by the Girl layer, but this will change once the girl’s background is cropped out.

 

 

 

6 Cut it Out

To crop out the background in the Girl layer, double click on the Smart Object of the Girl layer. This action will open a Photoshop Smart Object. Within this project file, choose the Quick Selection tool, then use Select Subject from the Options panel. This option will select too much of the background, but we can refine this!
PS 3 Girl cut out

Clean up the selection via Select and Mask found in the Options panel. Use the Polygonal tool and choose Subtract from selection from the Options bar. Select the highlighted parts in the background that should not be part of the selection.

Use the Refine Edge Brush tool to brush over the areas that are partly in and partly out of the selection, which in this case is the tutu and the dancer’s hair. This will make the tutu translucent by subtracting the background color pixels. There will also be no helmet head since the Refine Edge Brush tool can keep the hair fly aways by adding them back in.

The final refinements may include choosing to Smooth out the path under Global Refinements and Decontaminate Colors under Output Setting.

Once the selection is done. View the selection under View Mode to see it under different circumstances. If the selection is satisfactory, can finalize the changes and choose Out to: New Layer with Layer Mask under Output Settings.

Make sure to save your file before closing the Smart Object! The image will update in the project file after saving.

  1. Add a Shape Layers

PS 4 Shape LayersNow let’s add some shapes to make the image more dynamic! Choose the Solid layer below the Girl layer. For large visual graphics, we can add a Shape Layer by choosing the Custom Shape tool in the tool palette. Choose Shape from the pop-up menu in the Options bar. Here, we can select our desired shape and color to draw. In this case, we are going to use white and the bullseye shape.

 

 

 

  1. Add a Layer Mask to the Shape

PS 5 Layer masks addedTo add some effects to our newly created shape, let’s make the object fade near the edges. Let’s add a layer mask with nothing selected. This action will create a white layer mask, which will not hide any part of the layer. Next, we can choose the Gradient tool. In the Options bar, choose Radial Gradient as the Style. With the dropdown menu for the Gradient picker choose Black, White. Check on Reverse in the Options bar so it changes to White, Black instead. Make sure the layer mask is selected in the Layers panel for the Shape layer, then click down in the center of the shape and drag out past the shape, only releasing the mouse when you are done drawing the gradient start to stop points.

  1. Add Point type

PS 6. Point TypeAfter we are done with our design, we can now create the title by clicking down once with the Type tool. After you type in your message or title for the poster, select the line of text and change the character settings and paragraph settings. We can create a Paragraph style by clicking on the Create new paragraph style icon in the Paragraph Styles panel. After doing so, hit the return button to create the second line of type. Select the second line of text and change the character settings and paragraph settings. Continue to create a paragraph style by following the above steps.

  1. Add Paragraph type

PS 8. Paragraph TypeTo add blocks or lines of text, click and drag to create a bounding area to hold the text. After typing in the first paragraph, change the settings then choose a Paragraph style in the Paragraph Styles panel. Do the same thing for the next paragraph. The final two paragraphs ended up with the same paragraph style which again is created using the Paragraph Styles panel.

If needed, we can also create a Character style for character setting changes in the Character Styles panel. In this case a character style was used for creating bold text in the same paragraph.

  1. Add Type on a Path

PS 9. Type on a pathTo take things up a notch visually, we can also create type along a path instead of having blocks of text throughout the poster. To create type along a path, make sure that there is no shape layer selected. Choose a shape like the ellipse from the tool panel. Make sure Path is selected from the drop-down menu in the Options panel. Pick a shape to create a path then click on the path with the Type tool to put type along this path we just created.

 

 

  1. Add Finishing touches

We are almost finished with this design! Time for some final details and finishing touches. We can add finishing touches like Drop Shadow or other effects using the Add layer style icon in the Layers panel.

  1. Use Layer Comps

We can make choices about the background using the Layer Comps panel. For example, we can add a Color Overlay Effect to the Solid Layer. Each time the Color Overlay is changed (double click on the effect to make changes to the effect), choose Create New Layer Comp from in the Layer Comps panel. This will help view different color background choices all in one document.

PS Layer Comp teal PS Layer Comp Green PS Layer Comp orange


Benefits and Downsides

The benefits of only using Photoshop for poster design, you will only be working in one application instead of navigating through multiple applications. As long as you keep Photoshop as a Photoshop file or as a PDF file, Photoshop can keep the path and type in vector format, which is ideal for printing. Once you save your project out to another image format, it will become just an image at the resolution of your canvas.

So, if used correctly, Photoshop can be a great alternative to using Illustrator and InDesign, though each program brings something more to the table… but that is for another day!

Topics: graphic design, shapes, print design, posters, adobe photoshop, tutorial

Author: Katie Houghton

Katherine Houghton is a graduate of the Rochester Institute of Technology with degrees in Graphic Design and Industrial Design. She has held multimedia, graphic design, and consulting positions at numerous companies including KPMG LLP, one of the big five Accounting Consulting Firms where she managed the Multimedia Department. During the ".com" boom of the 90s she was promoted to Vice President of Confidant Inc. where she managed the entire look of all visual materials including their marketing and Internet presence.
Currently, she teaches classes in Premiere Pro, Illustrator, Freehand, Director, Photoshop, InDesign, Quark, After Effects, Final Cut Pro & Acrobat.