Handy Tips on Making a Poster

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Adapted by Giovanni Spezzacatena (www.rabideye.com)

Powell River is often referred to as a ‘poster town’; people tend to browse bulletin boards such as at Safeway, VIU, Base Camp, River City Coffee, the Powell River Public Library, the Texada Ferry (also the ferry terminal) and Quality Foods as well as shop windows all along Marine Ave and in Lund. An effective poster will reveal all the important details (title, location, dates, costs — easy!) as well as give an overall impression of the type of event or business at hand, graphically (more difficult, but more fun too).  Get inspired!

I thought I’d throw some information out there to help you out; these are very basic guidelines that can be used to create your own poster (also feeding into other design aspects to your business or event like business cards, Facebook cover or event images, icons, etc.)

Basic Principles

  • Remember, you are trying to catch the audience’s attention, and then get them to focus on details.
  • The size of the poster (and proportions) will depend on where you will be displaying it, and how close people will be to the poster, etc. Sometimes a smaller, differently shaped poster will be more eye-catching that a large ledger-sized poster that is almost impossible to find enough space to post.
  • Important info (size of type indicates how important this should be on your poster:
    • WHO is presenting the event (name of organization; logo) size eg. 20 pt.
    • WHAT (event title) size eg. 40 pt.
    • WHEN (day, date, time) size eg. 50 pt.
    • WHERE (event location) size eg. 36 pt. bold
    • COST (and where to buy tickets) size eg. 20 pt. bold
    • Who again… contact info. (don’t forget web address!) size eg. 20 pt.

Graphic Design Tips

  • A successful poster will have a unified look based on the kind of event and the type of people you want to attract. Is it a slam poetry reading? A tea ceremony? The look must follow the content.
  • Use colour carefully and sparingly. Stick to 3 colours maximum (+ white and black). Many of the best posters are monochromatic (black, white + one colour). Repeat colour used throughout at least a couple of times (eg. Bright red shoes on a character in your poster might be repeated in the title of the poster’s event, etc.). Think about why you are using colour; it is especially useful for emphasis and differentiation.
  • Fonts are the style of lettering. Choose a clear font with large inner space (i.e. the space inside the loops of letters such as ‘o’, ‘d’, ‘p’). Good examples are Arial, Verdana, Georgia or Helvetica.
  • Balance: this is probably the hardest thing: creating a unified look requires balance. In general, small dark or textured shapes will visually balance with large lighter, less-textured shapes.
  • Use all the space at your disposal, but do not cram in the content – white space is an important part of the layout, and good use of it can make a poster elegant and arresting.
  • Avoid colour combinations that clash (e.g. red on blue) or cause problems for people with colour-blindness (e.g. red and green in proximity).
  • Keep the word count as low as possible. Is your main info clear enough? Shrink the poster down to playing card size and make it greyscale. Is it readable? If not, then rethink your design.

Creating your poster

You can use Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, Publisher, Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator… a pen, a brush, some collage elements, a photo…or a mix of all these to create your poster. When the poster is designed, you should convert it to PDF for printing, using PDF Creator or Adobe Acrobat.

Emailing your poster

  • Email your image as a pdf or jpg (title the file after your event’s name) and keep the file size under 200k; If you want to, supply a link to the larger version of your poster on your website. Resize your larger print version to a smaller size (maximum 500 px wide or tall) and ‘save for web’ to reduce the file size.

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