How to Prepare a Poster Digitally — The Fundamentals of Poster Design

Posters are a means of communication that demand careful design to insure your audience understands and resonates with your purpose. By following these tips, you will learn how to prepare a poster digitally that will impress your audience; as well as learning the value of your design efforts.

Step One: Who’s your audience? 

Determining who your audience is, is a vital step in any designing or marketing process. Designing without the correct audience in mind can hamper your success. Some helpful ways of determining who your target audience is going to be are:

  • mind mapping
  • writing down what your purpose is
  • writing down who you are trying to persuade your vision is the way to go (i.e movie enthusiasts, car enthusiasts, music festival goers, etc.).

Step Two: What is your message?

Determining your message or your purpose is the second most important part of this process. This can make or break your poster. Your expected reaction/end-goal will most likely not become realized if your message and purpose is unclear. Once you decide on what you are selling, making a call to action to, or advertising for, making your poster will be one step closer to done.

Step Three: Start to Prepare your Poster Digitally!

Now, let’s move on to the fun part! Here are some fundamental tips on how to engage your audience visually and keep them interested enough to find out more.

Make your Poster Easily Readable from a Distance

A good rule of thumb is to keep your content’s font between a minimum of 16 and 24 pt size. Doing this ensures when your material is printed that it will match the proportions of the poster itself. Along with the size of your font, the font-type will change the feel of the entire poster; clunky thick font-type will make the poster look unorganized if it used too often or mixed with too many other font-types. When first starting to prepare a poster digitally, stick to using between 2-4 font-types or styles to avoid a messy feel. In reality, the more simplistic yet concise your verbiage and font-type is the more understandable and successful your poster design will be.

Engage your Audience and Convey your Message by

Trying to limit clutter and excessive text. A single word or dramatic image will communicate much more than a lot of words, intricate photos, or illustrations. A good way to land on some key words to implement in your poster design is again:

  • mind map
  • play word-association games
  • ask friends and family what your certain subject makes them think or feel

Even if surveying doesn’t give you GREAT ideas for your poster, it’s sure to get your mind rolling and ready to brainstorm.

Use Color to Create Energy, Enhance a Mood and Attract the Viewer’s Eye

Color theory would be a great thing for every potential DIY designer to know in-depth, but that’s also not in the forefront of every DIY’ers mind. For a more in-depth article on color theory. However, here is a quick and simple rundown:

  • Red: Red shows the emotions of passion, aggression, and the feeling of importance or empowerment.
  • Orange: Orange is a safer version of red. Used correctly it shows playfulness and energy used incorrectly can show lack of value (a.k.a – cheap).
  • Yellow: Like orange, yellow stimulates happiness in some, and anxiety in many others. Yellow signifies happiness, friendliness,or warnings.
  • Green: Green elicits a feeling of prosperity, quickly associated with money and success.
  • Blue: Lighter blues are serene, calming, inviting, and trustworthy, darker blues signify knowledge, power, trust, and integrity.
  • Pink: Pink signifies youth, femininity, and innocence. However, unless used sparingly pink can make your poster unappealing and, in a sense loud.
  • White: White helps create a main focus in your design, or utilizing white-space will help it look cleaner.

Create a Point of Focus:

Creating a main point, or main “destination” on your poster will draw your consumers eyes and attention in whichever direction it leads them. Using white-space (or empty-space.. for posters of different background colors) is an efficient way to create drama that leads eyes to your designated point of focus. Another way this is used is to draw the viewer’s eye into a small area of focus with negative space around it to let the viewer’s eye breathe. 

Keep your Poster Looking Clean and Professional

A good habit to keep when making posters is to keep your margins and spacing uniform. Having things too close to each other with little to no room between, will make your design look messy and crowded. While this might not seem important compared to your colors chosen, or fonts and font-size; the spacing and uniformity of a design, and a poster in particular will completely offset all of the great choices you made prior.

This is something to experiment with! Start with a setup you prefer aesthetically, with margins and spacing the width you enjoy. Afterwards ask people you trust to give honest feedback, and see if your potential viewers enjoy it the same.

Get Feedback Before or After Printing

The easiest way to make sure your design and vision is successful is to go out into the masses and get opinions. If you’re in a time crunch and your poster needs to go out immediately, ask for feedback after; learning from one poorly designed poster is better than continuing to produce the same quality.