How To: Make a Classic-Looking Poster
Make a poster that appeals to audiences now and those to come.

Design Master

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If you want to make a poster that will look good today and for times to come, you’ve come to the right tutorial. Here are some basic rules to follow when creating your own classic-looking poster.

The use of text should be minimal. A prominent headline can say more than an extensive body of text, especially when paired with superlative graphics. Text should be illustrative and evocative. All classic posters represent aspirations, feelings and longings.

How to Make a Classic-Looking Poster 1

Source: Charlie Chaplin’s “The Kid.”

Images are the main ingredient for any poster. Since images should be the center of attention, they should be given prominent placement.

Graphics can cover an endless variety of styles, but they always need to be high quality. They also need to have enough contrast with the text and background and should be relevant to the poster’s message.

How to Make a Classic-Looking Poster 2

Source: Normandie poster by Cassandre

Color is a defining character. However, it’s easy to lose focus and just pick the hues that tickle your fancy, especially in commercial posters that are often aimed at being extreme and blatant.

Choosing a palette can help you limit your color range and give the poster an ideal focal point. Classic posters are usually thrifty in the selection of colors.

A good comprehensive palette usually comprises of four to six colors. Variations of the same hue can be used to widen the selection.

How to Make a Classic-Looking Poster 3

Source: “Indiana Jones” poster by Richard Amsel

Blank space is an important factor in any layout and should be used collaboratively with text, graphics and color.

Balancing busy and empty areas of the poster is one of the hardest skills to master in graphic design, but being able to achieve this balance always gives the most impressive results.

How to Make a Classic-Looking Poster 4

Source: Intralink

Every single piece of the poster’s design is an essential feature, but what truly makes a difference is blending those features together in a consistent and harmonic manner.

Going overboard with flashy effects is detrimental to the poster’s final effect and to its longevity. When in doubt, it’s better to get rid of any superfluous element.

How to Make a Classic-Looking Poster 5

Source: “Vertigo” poster by Saul Bass

Looking at classic posters today or even in a few more years from now, it’s clear to see they can be as powerful as on the day they were printed.

About the Author
Kristi Maddox is a master of graphic design, on-site design and ordering, and is the go-to for template and design tool usage.
Kristi and the team order print jobs from every major printer to test quality, value, customer service, and more. See their reviews here:


  1. Wow, great insight. Also, great examples. Thanks!2