Introduction: Design a Vintage Inspirational Poster

About: Motion designer. Musician. Video guy and church tech tinkerer. I like things with flashing lights and faders.

A desaturated image with some white text is a super trendy look right now. And with good reason. The design is simple and elegant. Throw in an inspirational phrase and you've got a great poster to add a little motivation or pick-me-up to your office.

Fortunately, Creative Market has a stack of amazing tools to help anyone release their inner creative. Let's grab a few resources from them and dig in!

Step 1: Gather Your Resources

Before we start, we'll need a few things.

If you're not familiar with installing fonts or Photoshop, I would highly recommend checking out these two tutorials from Creative Market.

See, they really do make this designing thing easy for everyone!

Step 2: Create a New Photoshop Document

Alrighty then. Let's bust open Photoshop and create a new document (File > New).

Since we're going to print this poster somewhere, we will start with a standard print size of 11" x 17". We'll use a color mode of RGB because that works best with the Filmtastic actions.

Once your settings match the image above, click OK.

Step 3: Place Your Photo

To add an image to the document, just go back up to the File menu and choose "Place Embedded..." from the list.

Find the photo you downloaded in the window that opens, and choose Place. Your image will now load in the center of your document and scaled to fit the width of the canvas. Let's fix that in the next step.

Step 4: Scale Your Photo

You should see a large X over your image and some small squares around the edges.

Click and drag on one of the corner squares. As you drag away from the center of the image, hold down the Alt and Shift keys (Option + Shift on a Mac) to enlarge your image from the center, and constrain the proportions of your image.

When your image fills the canvas (or you're happy with the size), release the mouse first, then let go of the Alt + Shift keys.

Step 5: SIDENOTE - Watch the Scale Percentage

As you scale your image, be sure to look up at the top of the Photoshop window. The W and H fields display the Width and Height percentage of your photo. As long as you are holding the Shift key, those numbers should match. This tells you that your image isn't stretching weird.

Also, make sure that your percentage doesn't go over 100%. If it does, your final poster will print a bit blurry (or pixelated). If you see that your photo is stretching over 100%, you should either try a new image, or change poster resolution by going to Image > Image Size and changing your resolution to around 200%, making sure that the "Resample Image" box is checked.

Step 6: Position Your Image

Now that your image is scaled, just click anywhere in the image area to move your photo into place. I wanted a lot of dark areas to put my white text over, so I moved my photo straight up to reveal more road and less of the bright sky.

Once your photo is in place, just hit the Enter key to accept your changes to the image size and placement.

Step 7: Make It Filmtastic

If you don't see it already, open the Actions panel by choosing "Actions" from the Window menu.

If you followed the instructions from How to Install & Use Photoshop Actions you should see the Filmtastic actions in the panel. Click on the arrow next to the Filmtastic folder to see the actions inside.

Just select one of the actions and click on the PLAY (arrow pointing left) button at the bottom of the panel.

Step 8: Try Another Filmtastic Setting

Boom! Your photo should be totally vintagized now. Yeah, that's a word now. I'm claiming it.

But if it's too vintagized for you, no worries. Check out your Layers panel. You should see a new folder called "Filmtastic Heavy" (or whatever setting you used). Select that folder then click on the Trash Can icon in the bottom right of the Layers panel. Now the Filmtastic effect is gone, and your original photo is back in all it's glory.

Go ahead, play around with some other Filmtastic settings and move on when you get something you like.

Step 9: Add Some Text

Almost there. It's time to add your phrase to your poster of awesomeness. Now, you can use any phrase you want and arrange it in any way you like, but I'm going to show you how I set up my poster.

Head back up to the Window menu and choose "Character" if it doesn't already have a checkmark next to it.

I set my font to NetWt and adjusted my size to something I knew I could see from across the room. Then positioned the text in the center of my screen, horizontally and just below the horizon line of my photo.

Be sure to set your text color to white so that it contrasts with your darker background. If you have a light background color, just use black text over the background.

Step 10: Add Contrast With Smaller Words

A great way to add some visual interest to your design is to use contrasting colors and sizes. Since we've got white text on a dark background, we've got some contrast going already, but let's make it more interesting with some smaller type for a few words.

In this case, I knew that I wanted to add some lines to my finished design later, so I made my second line of text significantly smaller than my first line. I left space on each side for the lines I would add later.

Adjust your type size with the top left option in the Character panel.

Step 11: Line Things Up

I wanted to create some strong visual lines with my text, so I made sure that my last two lines of text we not wider than my first word. In the end, this will give my messy text a clean boundary, giving it a very solid feel.

Contrast, and Alignment. Two core design principles. After you finish your poster, check out this awesome rundown about How CRAP Will Make You a Better Designer.

Step 12: Use Letters As Decorations

I knew I wanted some lines on the sides of my second line of text. But I don't want to just draw some lines in, I want them to match the feel of my font, NetWt. Sadly, this font doesn't have a dash built into it. But, never fear, we can create our own using something else from the font. A capital letter "i".

After typing the letter "i" in place, head up to the Edit menu and choose "Free Transform" from the list. Your letter I should now have a box around it similar to the box that was around your photo when you first placed it. Look back to the top of the Photoshop window to see the Transform properties.

  • Change the Rotation to "90" degrees.
  • Press Enter to rotate the text.
  • Press Enter again to accept the changes you made to your letter.
  • Now press the letter V to choose the "Move Tool" from the tool panel.
  • Move the, now sideways, I to the left side of the second line of text.

Step 13: Duplicate Your Decorations

We need another line on the other side of the text. No need to start over with another I, let's just duplicate the one we have.

  • Look at the Layers panel and make sure that the "I" layer is selected.
  • Right click on the layer and chose "Duplicate Layer" from the list. You should now see a layer called "I copy".
  • Click and drag on the sideways I in the image.
  • Hold Shift to keep the new I in line with the old one. Be sure to let go of the mouse before releasing the Shift key.

Step 14: Export for Printing

That's it! You're design is ready! Now, let's get it ready to go be printed.

  • Head up to the File menu and choose "Save As" from the list.
  • In the window that opens, change your format to JPEG*
  • In the settings window that opens, set your quality to 12.
  • Click OK and you're done!

*Okay, we're not going to send this to a professional print shop to have a hundred thousand copies run off. If we were, we'd change the document color mode to CMYK and then export a TIFF or Photoshop PDF or even a PSD. In this case, we're going to send our JPEG to a FedEx Office, Costco, Sam's Club or heck, even a Walgreens or WalMart and have them print our awesome poster.

So there you go! If you made your poster with items from Creative Market, be sure to show it off at

Graphic Design Contest

Runner Up in the
Graphic Design Contest