With more music events launching each year, the festival market is booming... and fiercely competitive. Thoughtfully designed posters and flyers will make a huge difference to ticket sales, and will help set the mood for the event.
So whether you’re planning to host your own festival event or looking for inspiration to help with a design project, these top design tips will help you create posters that are memorable and beautiful.
If time is of the essence, you can always adapt an existing poster template to create a unique design. On GraphicRiver and Envato Elements, you'll find plenty of festival templates to get you started.
Read on to get inspired and start creating something special...
1. Consider Prioritising Typography on Your Poster Layout
It can be difficult to know where to get started with creating a poster design. For festivals, it’s likely that the publicity would be displayed in places where people are quickly viewing them as they pass by, such as metro stations, at bus stops, or on street walls.
For this reason, it’s best to prioritise one main element on the layout. Whether that’s an image (see Tip 2, below) or text really depends on the type of festival being advertised and which design approach you’d like to take.
If your festival has an established history, it may be best to make typography the key focus of your design. Blow up the name of the festival to large scale, and choose a typeface to really make the type stand out. Look for display fonts or slab serifs (you can find a wide range of display fonts here), and set the type in uppercase letters and a contrasting font color.
If your festival is lucky enough to have bagged a few well-known artists, make the most of it. Set the names of the best-known bands towards the top of the design, creating a hierarchy that catches the attention of existing fans.
2. Illustration or Photo?
Festival posters tend to fall into three main camps of design—with a typographic (see above), illustrative, or photographic focus.
Certain music genres and styles of event tend to suit either an illustrated or photographic approach. While photos work best for pop or rock events, illustrations and abstract designs make a perfect match for jazz festivals, food festivals, or alternative music events.
If your festival falls into the more alternative side of the festival spectrum, an illustrated approach, like in these designs for the Jazz in June music festival by Brock Wynn, will inject a dose of creativity and uniqueness into your poster.
If you’re short on time, look out for vector elements you can adapt for your poster design, like these jazz-themed logo illustrations.
3. Use Color to Create Ambience and Mood
Although most designers begin conceptualising their poster designs in terms of typography or graphics, color is actually the single most transformative element you can apply to your layout.
More so than perhaps any other poster subject, a festival poster has to entice potential attendees by communicating a vivid sense of atmosphere. Festival-goers attend these events to share a particular vibe and experience an ambience which is unique to that festival. It’s your job as the poster designer to convey what it would feel like to attend the event as evocatively as possible.
Switching up your color palette is the quickest way to evoke a sense of time and place. Using a sunset-inspired palette of oranges and yellows would make a great fit for summertime, hot-weather events.
These neon illustrations, when placed against a dark background, evoke a sense of night-time glamor.
4. Create an Immersive Experience With 3D Layering
As well as using color, you can increase the immersive potential of your poster design by playing with layering, creating a 3D effect that helps the viewer to become completely absorbed in the design.
As well as building a flat, grid-based hierarchy on your layout, think about which elements will sit in the background and foreground of your design.
This flyer design is an example of how simple layering can create an absorbing design that helps you to feel you are actually at the event.
Placing the singer in the background of the image, and allowing the atmospheric smoke to mingle with the headline in the foreground, creates a sense of depth and makes the image feel as if it expands beyond the edges of the page.
5. Don’t Neglect Texture and Light
Graphics, type, and color might be the building blocks of your poster design, but it’s the extra details that will really make it look incredible.
Texture overlays are a quick and easy way of adding grungy, vintage-inspired textures to your designs. They have the ability to de-formalise any layout, which makes them perfect for rock or indie festivals. You can track down some grunge overlay textures here.
Adding light effects to your artwork also adds an extra dimension to the poster and fits beautifully with festival-themed designs. Try creating a lit-up effect for typography (look at how to add glow effects or screen filters in your design software), or frame a design with a border of flashbulbs to create a starry, stage-like effect.
6. Look to the Past for Authentic Inspiration
Everybody seems to have a relative who attended the very first Glastonbury festival, and yep, they all say how festivals now just aren’t the same.
You can channel the authentic, carefree vibes of the original music festivals in your own designs by looking to vintage styles for inspiration.
Choose retro-style typefaces and muted color palettes, and build papery textures into the background of your design. Look to retro styling ideas, like the exaggerated drop-shadow used in this flyer template, to make a stylish nod to the past.
Vintage-inspired festival posters will always look cool, and they suit indie, rock, and folk events particularly well.
7. Go Minimal for Electronica and Dance
If you’re designing a poster for an electronic music event or a dance festival, digital-inspired designs always look slick and ultra-contemporary.
These designs blend club-night style with pared-back layouts, creating designs which are really atmospheric.
Try using Photoshop to create abstract effects in neon shades, like in this flyer template. Set your designs against a dark background for a night-time effect.
Even the most minimal of designs can create a strong sense of atmosphere. This ultra-simple design by Luca Izzo contrasts a deep black circle with a clean, white background, creating an intriguing, abstract design.
8. Create a Series of Poster Designs
Once you’ve designed your poster, it might be tempting to sit back and relax. But take a tip from some of the most successful festivals, and expand your design into a series.
Why make the effort? A series of related designs transforms a single poster into an advertising campaign, allowing you to place different designs in different locations, making them more memorable and intriguing for passing viewers.
Try keeping some of the core elements of your design consistent across the posters, to build a brand look for your series. This music flyer template keeps all elements except color consistent across the series.
9. Develop a Brand for Your Posters
Beyond creating a series of related posters, you can take a leaf out of the book of established festivals and work on creating a complete brand identity for your festival posters. This will really impress clients who are looking for something special, and is really fun to do.
For the Helsinki-based Spotlight Festival, design agency Manitou developed a versatile logo design, which could be used across their posters. The logo and colors can be split and used in different ways, creating a complete brand look for the event using just a few simple design elements.
When some festivals become established, they often come back to a particular brand look for their posters each year, to help reinforce the event as a brand and attract previous attendees.
These poster designs for Printemps de Pérouges (« Spring of Pérouges »), a music festival in France, come back to the same formula year after year, as it works so well for the event. The consistent typography, punchy colors, and 3D-style graphics make the designs instantly recognisable.
10. Go a Step Further and Create a Complete Brand Identity for the Festival
Festivals are no longer the casual affairs they were in eras past. Now, festival organisers can reach huge audiences over social media and TV, and the financial potential of these events has skyrocketed.
As a result, many festivals are looking to go a step further with their branding, and are looking to develop complete brand identities which go beyond the posters.
Once you’ve created core elements for your posters, such as a logo-like headline, graphics, and a color palette, you can lift some of these and adapt them to use across other festival media, like merchandise, social media images and animations, tickets, signage, and stationery.
Music festivals are really fun events to design posters for. Most festival organisers will be looking for something exceptionally creative and unique, so dive in and start creating something fantastic!
If you're short on time, it can be easier and quicker to adapt an existing poster or flyer template, tweaking fonts and colors to create a unique design. You can find a huge range of easy-to-edit templates over on GraphicRiver and Envato Elements.