How to Create a Basic Poster Using Photoshop

If you would like to try your hand at designing a poster in Photoshop, this tutorial will help you learn how to do just this while following the right guidelines. All poster printers require designers to follow certain guidelines to prepare a design for print, so make sure you set yours up correctly to avoid costly setbacks. The steps below will help you create a poster that is print ready, but do be sure to contact your printer if you have any questions regarding their requirements.

Step 1
Download a poster template from For this tutorial, we will be using the 11x17 template. If you open the folder you downloaded, you will notice several different files, including front and back design templates available in horizontal or vertical layouts. You can also choose from PDF, JPEG, and AI file formats.


Step 2
Open Photoshop and then open the template. Go to File>Open, find the poster folder you downloaded, and choose the file named 11x17 - Front - Portrait.jpg. If you want to design a double-sided poster, then you will need to design the back using the 11x17 - Back - Portrait template, but for this tutorial we will only be working on the front.


Once opened in Photoshop, the template will have red, blue, and green lines. The red, Bleed line indicates how far you need to extend background images and other graphics you want to extend to the very edge of the poster. The blue, Trim line shows where the poster will be trimmed to size. The green line is the Safety Zone line, meaning that all important graphics and text will need to stay within this line. Cutting machines are allowed a small margin of error when trimming, and keeping your important design elements within the Safety Zone will ensure none of it is accidentally cut off.

Step 3
Make sure your color mode within Photoshop is set to CMYK. Your poster printing company will print in CMYK colors, not RGB. If your colors are RGB, the printer will try to match them up with CMYK, but you will get more accurate results by making the change yourself. To do this, go to Image>Mode>CMYK Color. Also, at this point make sure to save your document as a PSD (Photoshop) file and continue to save it periodically along the way.


Step 4
I prefer turning on the Ruler and setting up Guides for the Bleed, Trim, and Safety lines. Although you will still see the lines from the template along the edges of the poster, you will not see them across the actual background of the poster, but creating guides will place these lines on top of your poster design. First, to turn on the Ruler, go to View>Rulers. You should now see rulers along the top and left side of your document.


Step 5
Now to create guidelines, go to View>New Guide. In the box that appears, enter the location of the first vertical line on the template. You will do this for each vertical line and then for each horizontal line. The inches for each vertical line is as follows: .375, .5, .625, 11.375, 11.5, 11.625. For the horizontal lines, you will enter .375, .5, .625, 17.375, 17.5, 17.625.

Step 6
Create a new layer above the template layer. The Create a new layer button is located at the bottom of your Layers palette and looks like a large box with a small box in front of it. If your Layers palette is not open, then go to Window>Layers to bring it up.

Step 7
You now have a couple of options for your background. You can either use a solid color and add effects to it or you can use an image or texture. To fill your poster background with a solid color, first double-click on the color icons at the bottom of your Tools menu and choose your color. Then select the Paint Bucket tool and click on your document to fill it with your selected color. You can then add effects to the colored background if desired.


Step 8
To use an image or texture for your background, you can open the file in another location and drag it onto the new layer you created. Or you can open the file in Photoshop, hit Ctrl + A and then Ctrl + C. Go back to your poster document and with the new layer selected, hit Ctrl + V to paste the image into the document. You many need to expand your image to reach the bleed lines, so grab the Move tool and hold down Shift while dragging one of the corners. This will resize your image evenly, keeping the same dimensions and avoiding a warping effect.

Step 9
Now you are ready to add other graphics and text to your poster. Be sure to keep every item you do not want cut off within the Safety line. All blocks of text should be on separate layers to make sure that they are easy to position. Each graphic should also be on a separate layer for the same reason. Also, make sure that the size of your text and graphics are appropriate for the size of the poster. You will have a good idea of the appropriate size while designing, but you may want to print out your poster and view it from an appropriate distance to make sure everything is readable to passersby.

Step 10
Finally, you will need to flatten your image to create a smaller file size to send to the printer. First, delete the template layer by dragging it onto the trash can icon at the bottom of the Layers palette. Then, click on the drop down menu located in the upper right corner of the palette. It looks like a down arrow with lines next to it. From there, choose Flatten Image. Now, instead of saving like you have been, choose Save As and name the file differently than you have previously. In this way, you will have a flattened file ready for the printer and one that you can still go back and edit if desired.


Of course, the most time-consuming part of poster printing design is actually choosing the background, effects, text, and graphics. If you find yourself to be clueless in this area, look up some poster tutorials and other graphic effect tutorials online and incorporate these into your design. With a little bit of practice, you will soon be able to create a number of eye-catching posters that are sure to work for your business!


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