Poster Design Tutorial

From product marketing to calendars to even ads for online marketing, retro posters never go out of style.

Create a Retro Poster in Photoshop

A trend that never seems to go out of style is the retro look, especially when used for poster printing. Retro posters have so many applications from product marketing to calendars to even an ad for online marketing. Making a poster to fit your needs and one that is ready to send to your online printing company can be a time-consuming challenge, but with a few tips you can save a lot of time and get amazing results.

In this tutorial, we will show you how to pull together some resources and build out an 11x17 retro poster from scratch. We will be covering some intermediate to advanced topics like using vector layer masks, actions, and blending modes. But don't worry — we'll take it one step at a time.


To start off with, here are the files you will need to download prior to starting this tutorial. The font is the main file to gather at first since you must have it saved to your computer's font folder before opening Photoshop.

Font: Bazaar

Old Car graphic

Three Color Action | Source

Old Paper Texture


Getting Started — Background

You do not have to do exactly as we do with the background or any part of this tutorial. But for the sake of making sure we don't skip any steps, we will walk you through every part of this poster.

First open up Photoshop and create a new file that is 11x17 at 300 pixels/inch. This will give us plenty of quality for printing, and the file size will be manageable as well.

Main File


Grab the Paint Bucket Tool and change the foreground color to #7bb1d0 and fill the background layer with the blue color.



Using the Rectangle Tool, make a rectangle and use the color #7b6f2a.

Rectangle Tool


Using the Move Tool, hold down shift and rotate the rectangle.



Repeat this process making more lines to taste. We added two more lines using the colors #fe5022 (red) and #f0d91a (yellow).



Step 2 — Typography

Using the font you downloaded from the resources, or your own favorite, add the following type across the top using 72pt font and the red color #fe5022:



With the text layer selected, go to Layer -> Layer Style -> Blending Options.



In the Stroke panel, set the size to 35px with the color set to our brown #7b6f2a.



Repeat the same for the type along the bottom. We made the font our red color #fe5022 and the stroke color the yellow #f0d91a.



Step 3 — Car Design

Import the car image from the resources above into a new layer. You will have to stretch the graphic, but don't worry. We will be making a lot of changes so the resolution will not matter.



In the Layer palette, with the car layer selected, click the Add Layer Mask button.

Mask Layer


Using a brush and the foreground color of black, start tracing around the car to mask out the background. If you cover too much, just make the foreground color white to restore the section need.



Once finished, you should have a clean outline of the car. Right-click and select "Apply Mask."



Hide all the layers but your car layer. Then go to Windows -> Actions and run the above "3 Color" action from GoMediazine. If you are prompted to continue or stop the script, just click "Continue." The action was originally designed to only run with a single layer, but it still works great for our purposes. You should now have three layers — gray, white, and black of your car layer, plus the original.



CTRL+Click on the "Car" layer to select the area of the car only, and then go to Select -> Invert to select everything but the area of the car.



Now select the Gray layer and hit delete to clear out everything but the gray around where the car background remains.



With the Gray layer selected, go to Layer -> Layer Style -> Blending options and set the Color Overlay to our light blue color #7bb1d0.



Now, in the Stroke panel, set the width to 80px and use the same blue color #7bb1d0.



With the Black layer selected, go to Layer -> Layer Style -> Blending Options and set the Color Overlay to a dark blue #1155a1.

Dark Blue


Your car layer should look like this now with all the other layers visible:



Step 4 — Texture

Using the texture from above or one of your own, import the old paper into a layer on top of the other layers.



Set the Blending Mode option to Overlay with an opacity of 50%.



If you need to adjust for the change of tone that a texture can add, simply add an Adjustment Layer. We added a Brightness/Contrast adjustment layer with the following settings:



Final Results


With all adjustments and textures applied, our retro poster product is complete. Just remember that you can always reduce the file size of your image before sending to your online printer. In your Layers panel, just go to the drop down menu located in the upper right corner and select "Flatten Image." This also adds a measure of security to your design, since your steps are no longer visible. Keep in mind, though, that before flattening you will want to save a PSD version just in case you need to edit it later. Flattening the image is a permanent move once saved.


You can click the final image below to get the full-sized version (1.5MB).


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