How To: Make a Classic “Wanted” Poster
Wanted: some old-fashioned, wild-west poster fun!

Design Master

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Who hasn’t seen the old-fashioned wanted posters they make at a fair or theme park? They are a fun and quirky way to memorialize your trip, and they make a great gag gift or scrap book addition. This tutorial will teach how to make your very own!


Choose your design software (I am using Adobe Photoshop CS5.) If you want to use Photoshop but need to brush up on the basics, check out this tutorial before getting started.

Set up your document. My poster will be the standard 8.5 inches by 11 inches, but you can use whatever dimensions you’d like for a more custom touch.

TIP: Whenever designing for print, if you have the option, select CMYK for the color mode.

How to Make Your Own Wanted Poster 1


Wanted posters were printed on old-fashioned paper, which looks aged and has been yellowed with time. Since we don’t have that kind of time, we need to find a vector image of old-fashioned paper to use as a background. I found this on freepik.com.

TIP: Vectors are preferred, but you can use photos as long as the image is high resolution and large enough.

How to Make Your Own Wanted Poster 2


Finding the right old-fashioned font is definitely important and will ultimately determine if your poster looks realistic or not. (Think about a wanted poster written in Times New Roman. Not the same effect, is it?)

Test out several on the page to see what works best, or you can try to find one on a website such as 1001freefonts.com or dafont.com. I used Mesquite Standard.

TIP: Play with the spacing and size of the fonts for a balanced look.

How To Make Your Own Wanted Poster3


Insert the picture of the “wanted” person or people. Click File and then Place, and select the image you want to insert. Make sure the image is high resolution, preferably 300 DPI for high-quality printing.

Creating a black and white photo: If you don’t already have a black and white photo, open up the image you want in your image editor and convert it to grayscale. If you’re using Photoshop, go to Image, Adjustments and then select Black & White. Feel free to check out these great photos to get your black and white creative juices flowing!

How To Make Your Own Wanted Poster - Black and White

Adding a border: If you want to make the image stand out, you can add a border. Double-click on the photo in the Layer Palette. (Click Window and Layers to bring up the Layer Palette.) This will bring up the Layer Style menu. Select the check box next to Stroke and you can choose the border color and size on the right side of the menu.

How To Make Your Own Wanted Poster Border 1

The result:

How To Make Your Own Wanted Poster Border 2


Enter the rest of your text. Common elements are “Dead or Alive,” the name and alias of the criminal and a massive reward amouont.

How To Make Your Own Wanted Poster 5


If you have a color printer at home, you can go ahead and print. I recommend a slightly thicker paper, especially if you want to frame it, but always print a test first on regular paper to make sure everything looks the way it should.

TIP: Be sure to change the paper type in your print options if you are using a premium paper.

How to Make Your Own Wanted Poster 6

If you made a poster that’s larger than what your home printer can handle, or you want a more professional finish, save the file as a PNG and send it either to a brick-and-mortar printer or to an online printer.


Now you have your own wanted poster! Play around with the design, add or change elements or use different fonts or backgrounds. Look around the Web to get inspiration and keep designing!

Featured image courtesy of circlekb.com.

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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:

5 Comments

  1. had one of these as akid from a carnival i went too. used this to make a new one for my mom because she always loved that picture. thanks!

  2. I’ve always wanted to know how to do this! Thankss!!!