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  1. Design & Illustration
  2. Poster Design
Design

Create a French Movie Poster in Adobe InDesign

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Difficulty:BeginnerLength:ShortLanguages:
Final product image
What You'll Be Creating

Giving a nod to the golden era of French cinema, this New Wave-inspired poster picks up on the graphic elements and je-ne-sais-quoi charm of 1960s independent film. 

C’est magnifique, non? 

In this beginner’s tutorial we’ll be using Adobe InDesign to enhance a simple poster layout with vintage textures, playful graphics and cinematic fonts. 

Let’s get started!

1. Create a ‘One Sheet’ Layout

In this tutorial we’ll design the poster at a ‘One Sheet’ size. This is a standard poster size used across the film industry, and measures 27 by 40 inches.

Step 1

Open up InDesign and select File > New > Document

Keep the Intent set to Print and the Number of Pages to 1. Deselect Facing Pages.

From the Page Size drop-down menu select Custom... to open up the Custom Page Size window. 

new document window

Type ‘One Sheet’ into the Name text box, and set the Width to 27 in (658.8 mm) and the Height to 40 in (1016 mm). Click Add, and then hit OK to return to the New Document window.

custom page size

Step 2

We can structure the layout of the poster a little by giving the document some well-defined margins.

Set the Top, Left and Right Margins to 25 mm, and then break the link icon at the center to be able to give the Bottom Margin a different width of 100 mm.

Set the Bleed on all sides to 10 mm.

new document window

Click OK to create the document.

new document

2. Define a Series of Layers

Keeping the content of your poster organized into nicely defined layers can make the editing process run much more smoothly, and you can lock layers as you work to prevent anything from being moved around mistakenly.

Step 1

Open the Layers panel by expanding the docked panel from the right side of the workspace or by going to Window > Layers.

Double-click on the default Layer 1 name in the panel to open up the Layer Options window. Rename the layer as Background and click OK.

layer options

Step 2

Click on the Create New Layer icon at the bottom of the Layers panel or select New Layer from the panel’s drop-down menu.

new layer

Rename this new layer as Color and click OK.

Repeat the process to create a further two new layers, renaming them Border and Typography, until you have four layers in the order shown below.

unlocked layers

Step 3

Lock all the layers, except Background, by clicking in the blank square space to the left of each layer’s name in the Layers panel.

layers panel

3. Give Your Poster a Vintage Background

Step 1

We can give the poster an authentic vintage look by placing a paper texture in the background of the design. 

You can use any paper image of your choice, but just try to keep it reasonably plain, without any folds or visible lines. I’ve used this image from PhotoDune, with a simple grainy texture, which will give the poster some depth without distracting from the typography and graphics.

To give your paper texture an optional warmer look, open it up in Adobe Photoshop and create a New Adjustment Layer, upping the level of Yellow from the Color Balance function.

paper image

Step 2

Back in InDesign, and remaining on the Background layer, take the Rectangle Frame Tool (F) from the Tools panel and drag to create an image frame that extends across the whole page, right up to the edges of the bleed on all sides.

Go to File > Place and select the paper image; click Open. Arrange the image in the frame by clicking the Fill Frame Proportionally button in the Controls panel running along the top of the workspace.

paper background

Step 3

To make the paper paler, providing a better canvas for placing text and graphics, take the Rectangle Tool (M) and drag to create a rectangle the width of the page (including the bleed) and 963 mm in Height.

Position the rectangle against the top bleed, so that it covers almost all of the page, aside from a small section towards the bottom of the page.

Open the Swatches panel (Window > Color > Swatches) and select the New Swatch icon from the bottom of the panel.

Double-click the default new swatch that’s created to open the Swatch Options window. Keeping the Color Type as Process and the Color Mode as CMYK, set the level of Cyan to 2%, Magenta to 4%, Yellow to 5% and Black to 0%. Click OK to save the CMYK levels as a new swatch.

swatch options cream

Select the rectangle you’ve just created and, from the Controls panel at the top of the workspace, set the Fill to the new swatch, C=2 M=4 Y=5 K=0. 

cream background

Step 4

With the cream rectangle selected, go to Object > Effects > Transparency. Keep the Mode as Normal, and reduce the Opacity to 65%. Click OK.

effects window

This will bring out some of the paper image’s texture below.

Step 5

Return to the Layers panel and Lock the Background layer. 

Unlock the Border layer and click its name to activate it.

layers panel

Select the Rectangle Tool (M) and drag to create a long, narrower rectangle 73 mm in Height and the Width of the page (including the bleed on both sides). Position at the bottom of the page, resting the base against the edge of the bottom bleed.

Set the Fill Color of the shape to [Paper] from the Swatches panel.

white border

4. Add a Gallic Splash of Color!

You’ve put together the basic structure and background texture of your poster, so now you’re ready to populate the poster with graphics. Before we begin, let’s first create a suitably French color palette, ready to use on our design...

Step 1

Return to the Swatches panel (Window > Color > Swatches). From the panel’s drop-down menu select Select All Unused and then hit the trash icon at the bottom of the panel to remove the swatches. A tidy Swatches panel is a good place to start!

Click on the New Swatch icon at the bottom of the panel (or select New Color Swatch from the menu) and double-click the new swatch to edit it.

Uncheck the Name with Color Value box and rename the swatch Dark Blue. Set the sliders to the following values: C=100 M=88 Y=31 K=20.

swatch options dark blue

Step 2

Create a further three new swatches, using the same process as in the previous step, with the following names and CMYK values:

  • Pink: C=0 M=55 Y=34 K=0 
swatch options pink
  • Red: C=20 M=100 Y=100 K=15
swatch options red
  • Light Blue: C=75 M=19 Y=100 K=15 
swatch options light blue
swatches panel

5. Create Some ‘New Wave’ Graphics

New Wave cinema in France has been recognized for its youthful, playful subject matter, and its rejection of more formal, high-budget film-making. 

As a result, the New Wave artwork for French films of the 1950s and 1960s has a spirited, artistic look and feel. Bright colors executed in childlike shapes were inspired by the graphic design pioneers of the period, and bouncy, irregular grids give the posters a sense of movement.

Let's create our own New Wave graphics!

Step 1

You can create your own New Wave-inspired graphics really easily in InDesign by discovering the Drawing Tools in the Tools panel.

Firstly, return to the Layers panel and Lock the Border layer. Unlock the Color layer.

Zoom in to the top half of the page (Command-+ (Mac OS) or Control-+ (Windows)), and select the Pen Tool (P) from the Tools panel.

Click on the left side of the page to create your first anchor point, and then click three times to create a rough, tall rectangle shape. Click on the first anchor point to join the shape up. You want the shape to look a little imperfect, so don’t worry about getting any straight angles.

pen tool
pen tool joined up

Set the Fill Color of your new shape to the Red swatch, and the Stroke to [None].

first red shape

Step 2

You can either create more rectangle shapes using the Pen Tool (P), running them in a row of seven shapes along the width of the page, or Edit > Copy, Edit > Paste the first shape several times over.

If you choose the latter option, use the Direct Selection Tool (A) to edit the anchor points in isolation, to give each rectangle a slightly different shape.

Remember you don’t want them to look perfect—they should look jaunty and playful. Make the rectangles slightly wider towards the top of the shape; we’ll be placing large type over them later in the tutorial.

red shapes

Step 3

Create a row of a further five rectangle shapes, below the row of seven red shapes, as shown below. Set the Fill of these shapes to the Dark Blue swatch.

dark blue shapes

Position them towards the left side of the page, leaving a little bit of space to the right side. You’ll see why in the next step...

Step 4

Oh, amour! Without a doubt the central focus of many New Wave cinematic classics, young love will also be taking center-stage on our poster design.

Move over to the pasteboard (the white area around the page) to give yourself some room to draw.

Select the Pencil Tool (N) and, in a single sweeping motion, drag your mouse around to create a simple heart shape, like the one below. 

heart drawing

Don’t worry if it’s looking a bit messy—select the Smooth Tool from the Pencil Tool’s drop-down menu in the Tools panel and drag it over any edges that are looking a bit haphazard.

Select the heart shape and set the Fill Color to Light Blue and the Stroke to [None]. Position the heart in the bottom-right corner of the page, above the white border, as shown below.

heart on poster

Transform the heart into an exclamation mark by creating another rectangle shape using the Pen Tool (P), and setting the Fill of the shape to Light Blue to match.

light blue shape

6. Introduce Cinematic Typography

To pull the layout together we’re going to use two different typefaces—ITC Garamond Std, which you can normally find as part of your InDesign font menu (you can download from Adobe if not) and the free-to-download JeanLuc, which is a stylish tribute to the French film director Jean-Luc Godard.

Download the font(s), install and return to InDesign.

Step 1

In the Layers panel, Lock the Color layer and Unlock the top layer, Typography

layers panel

We want to adorn each colored rectangle (apart from the light blue exclamation mark) with a single character, making up the fictional movie’s title: ‘J’adore Paris!’

text in shapes

Beginning with the first red shape at the top left corner of the page, take the Type Tool (T) and drag to create a text frame about 50 mm in Width and 100 mm in Height.

Type ‘J’ and set the Font to JeanLuc Bold, Size 300 pt, and the Font Color to the same cream swatch as the background of the poster, C=2 M=4 Y=5 K=0.

Select the text frame with the Selection Tool (V, Escape) and rotate the text frame a little to match the angle of the shape you’ve created. To rotate, hover over the bottom right corner of the text frame until a small rotate icon appears, and then click and drag.

text frame with character

Step 2

Select the text frame and Edit > Copy, Edit > Paste, positioning the pasted frame at the top of the next red shape along the row, as shown below.

Edit the text to read just a single apostrophe. Rotate the frame to fit the shape better if needed.

Repeat the process, until you have filled the top of each red shape with a character, making up the word ‘J’ADORE’

You can also add a little text frame stating the age certificate of the film, at the bottom of the far-right red shape. Set the Font Size of this to a smaller 70 pt.

adore title

Now place text frames along the bottom of the dark blue shapes, setting the text to read ‘PARIS’, and rotating each frame a little to give the text a jaunty, playful look.

paris title

Step 3

It’s time to credit the film’s director and actors. Move to the bottom of the page, to the white border. Take the Type Tool (T) and create a new text frame.

Type ‘First Name / Last Name (of actor)’ and set the Font of the first name only to ITC Garamond Std Ultra Narrow, Size 50 pt, and the Color to Dark Blue. Pull out the last name only in JeanLuc Thin, Size 70 pt and the Color in Pink.

text frame with actor

Select the text frame and Copy and Paste twice, positioning two more frames along from the first, to fill the white border. Edit both the actors' names and the color of their last names, to Light Blue and Red.

names of actors

Navigate up to the top of the page. Take the Type Tool (T) again and create a new text frame, positioning it in the top left corner, resting against the margin.

Type ‘un film de / Director’s Name...’ and set the Font of ‘un film de’ to ITC Garamond Std Ultra Narrow and Size 50 pt

Set the Director’s Name in JeanLuc Thin, Size 70 pt. Set the Color of all the text to Dark Blue.

directors name

Step 4

Your film poster is going to need some reviews to draw audiences in! 

You can pair rotated text frames, running along either side of the page, with quotations set in ITC Garamond Std Ultra Narrow, Size 40 pt, and Dark Blue, and the titles of reviewers set in All Caps and a contrasting color.

To rotate text frames left or right, select the text frame and Control-Click (Mac OS) or Right-Click (Windows) > Transform > Rotate 90 Degrees CW or Rotate 90 Degrees CCW.

poster with reviews

You can also add stars to your reviews by seeking out a font with a star glyph and inserting the glyph into an empty text frame.

Here I’ve used the star glyph available in Nexa Rust Extras. I opened the Glyphs panel (Window > Type & Tables > Glyphs) and double-clicked the star glyph to insert it into a prepared text frame. 

glyphs panel

To create a solid star, I converted the text to a vector outline (Type > Create Outlines) and then pulled in the inside anchor points to the center of the star to create a solid shape.

star shape

Position groups of stars alongside the review quotes (if you want the film to look enticing, a minimum of four stars would be a sensible choice!), and set them in different colors: Dark Blue along the left-hand side, and Pink along the right-hand side of the page.

stars with review

Congratulations! Your French poster is finished, and it’s looking magnifique! All that’s left to do is export it, ready for print or for digital circulation.

completed artwork

7. Export Your Poster for Print or Online

Step 1

To export your poster for professional printing, go to File > Export and select Adobe PDF (Print) from the Format drop-down menu. 

Give the poster artwork a memorable name and hit Save.

In the Export Adobe PDF window that opens, select [Press Quality] from the Adobe PDF Preset menu at the top of the window.

press quality

Head down to Marks and Bleeds from the window’s left-hand menu and check the box that reads All Printers Marks. Also check Use Document Bleed Settings under the Bleed and Slug section.

marks and bleeds

Click the Export button to create your print-ready poster file!

poster for print

Step 2

If you want to export your poster for online circulation you can simply select Adobe PDF (Interactive) from the Format drop-down menu instead when you go to File > Export.

From here you can define the resolution settings, and InDesign will convert the colors used in the document to web-friendly RGB colors once you click OK.

interactive pdf

Conclusion

You’ve completed your fabulous Gallic-inspired poster, and are now ready to send it to print or circulate it online. Great work! 

final poster

In this tutorial we’ve covered a number of different InDesign techniques, as well as learning how to recreate the New Wave design style that dominated French poster design in the 1950s and 1960s. You should now feel more confident in:

  • Creating a simple poster layout in InDesign and working to an industry-friendly ‘One Sheet’ size
  • Setting up a sequence of layers to organize the content of your document
  • Building up texture, color and simple graphics to create a vintage-inspired design
  • Applying New Wave-inspired typography to give the poster a final authentic touch
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