The best-know movie adaptation of The Wizard of Oz is the beloved Judy Garland classic from 1939. In this tutorial we’ll be designing a tribute to the film and to the Golden Age of Hollywood with a movie poster that has a distinctively vintage vibe.
Using both Adobe InDesign and Adobe Illustrator, you’ll learn how to develop a vintage style in your poster designs, using graphics, textures, colors and typography. Suitable for beginner-to-intermediate users of the software, this is a great introduction to some of the key principles of poster design.
Let’s get going and ‘Follow the Yellow Brick Road’!
1. Prepare Your Poster Document
We’ll design the poster layout in Adobe InDesign, and use Illustrator to create graphics that can be used in the design. So, first up, get InDesign opened up.
Go to File > New > Document and, in the New Document window that opens, keep the Intent of the document set to Print.
Moving down the window, select A3 from the Page Size drop-down menu (297 mm by 420 mm) and keep the Landscape Orientation.
Keep the Margins set to their default 12.7 mm value on all sides except the Bottom Margin—increase this to 26 mm.
Set the Bleed on all sides to 3 mm and click OK to create your new poster page.
2. Build Up the Layers of Your Poster
Vintage posters look ‘vintage’ because they have a layered appearance, built up with textures, effects and colors. Anything too flat and one-dimensional will look too polished.
Let’s build up the layers of our poster design using InDesign’s Layers panel...
Expand the Layers panel, which will probably be docked at the right-side of the workspace. If you can’t spot it, head up to Window > Layers.
Double-click on the default Layer 1 name in the panel to open up the Layer Options window. Rename the layer Background and click OK.
From the Layers panel’s drop-down menu, select New Layer (or click the Create new layer button at the bottom-right of the panel).
Rename the new layer Border and click OK.
Create a further three layers in this order:
- Yellow Brick Road
- Ruby Slippers
Now you will have a sequence of five layers, with Typography at the top of the pile.
Lock all of the layers except Background and click on the layer to activate it.
3. Create a Vintage Color Palette
Before you start designing your poster, it’s a great idea to create a selection of swatches—a vintage color palette that you can apply to elements on your design.
Expand or open the Swatches panel (Window > Color > Swatches).
Click on [Black] to select the swatch, and then go to the Swatch panel’s drop-down menu and choose New Color Swatch. Keep the Color Type as Process and Mode as CMYK, and set the value to the following: C=2 M=8 Y=22 K (Black)=0.
Uncheck the box next to Name with Color Value and rename the Swatch as Cream.
Click Add, and then OK.
Using the same process as in the step above, create a further four new CMYK swatches (until you have five swatches in total), with the following values and names:
- Emerald: C=83 M=17 Y=68 K=2
- Vintage Yellow: C=7 M=22 Y=87 K=0
- Ruby: C=2 M=100 Y=85 K=6
- Vintage Black: C=62 M=59 Y=68 K=72
From the Tools panel, docked to the left of the workspace, select the Rectangle Tool (M) and drag across the whole page, up to the edges of the bleed on all sides.
Set the Stroke Color to [None] and Fill Color to Cream.
4. Create a Vintage-Style Border
You’ll notice that most vintage-style posters have imperfections, such as wobbly lines and patchy textures. It all adds up to that perfectly imperfect vintage look.
Return to the Layers panel and Lock the Background layer. Unlock the next layer up, Border.
Select the Pen Tool (P) from the Tools panel, and start to click around the margins of the page (indicated by a colored line running around inside the edges of the page) with a slightly imperfect aim.
Stick roughly to the margin, but allow your pen to drop anchor points either side, here and there, to create an imperfect rectangle shape.
Click on the first anchor point to join up the points into a solid shape.
Set the Fill Color of the shape to Emerald, and Stroke Color to [None].
With the emerald shape selected, head up to the main menu at the top of the workspace and select Object > Effects > Transparency.
Set the Mode to Multiply and reduce the Opacity to 90%.
From the Effects window’s left-hand menu, click on Gradient Feather to apply a default gradient and open up the options for adjusting the gradient.
Swing the Angle round to -60 Degrees, and pull the Gradient Stops reasonably close together, in the right-hand half of the scale.
Click OK to exit the Effects window. You now have a perfectly imperfect border on your poster layout, which is looking really great. Good work!
5. Follow the Yellow Brick Road...
The focal point of our poster is going to be an abstract graphic of the famous yellow brick road from the movie. To create this, we’ll need to head over to Adobe Illustrator.
First up, remain in InDesign and go to the Swatches panel. Click to select the Vintage Yellow swatch, and choose Save Swatches from the panel’s drop-down menu.
Name the Adobe Swatch Exchange (ASE) file as ‘Vintage Yellow’ and click Save.
Now you can open up Illustrator and go to File > New to create a New Document. Keep all the default options as they are and click OK.
Open up the Swatches panel (Window > Swatches) and open up the panel’s drop-down menu. Go to Open Swatch Library > Other Library.
Navigate to your ASE file on your computer and click Open. The Vintage Yellow swatch will load in its own window.
Now we’re going to create our yellow brick road! From the Tools panel, choose the Spiral Tool (find it under the pop-out menu for the Line Segment Tool).
Hold down Shift and drag onto the artboard to create a uniform spiral, as shown. Set the Stroke Color of the spiral to Vintage Yellow.
Open up the Brushes panel (Window > Brushes) and click on the Brush Libraries Menu button at the bottom-left corner of the panel. Choose Artistic > Artsitic_ChalkCharcoalPencil.
With the range of brushes loaded, select the brush called Chalk - Blunt and apply the brush to the spiral’s stroke. Increase the weight of the Stroke to 4 pt, from the options at the top of the workspace.
Take the Scissors Tool (C) from the Tools menu (under the Eraser Tool’s pop-out menu). To create the ‘bricks’ of the road, snip the spiral along its length at varying intervals. Create a larger section followed by a smaller section, and delete the smaller sections to create a sequence of large ‘bricks’.
Continue along the whole length of the spiral.
To create a paved road effect, drag your mouse across parts of the spiral and Edit > Copy, Edit > Paste. Reduce the pasted sections in size a little if you need to (holding Shift to maintain the proportions), and position inside the first spiral.
Repeat the process, copying and pasting sections of the spiral and positioning them outside the edge of the original spiral, along its base, until you have a spiralling road that gradually expands in size towards the outside of the spiral.
Drag your mouse over the whole graphic, so you have selected all the ‘bricks’, and then go to Edit > Copy.
Return to your InDesign poster layout, and Lock the Border layer. Unlock the next layer up, Yellow Brick Road. Go to Edit > Paste to drop the spiral graphic onto the page.
You can rotate the graphic a little—try to make it look a little imperfect and off-center—and position it up towards the top-right of the page, as shown.
Once you’re happy with the arrangement, return to the Layers panel and Lock the Yellow Brick Road layer. Unlock the Ruby Slippers layer above it.
6. Create Ruby Footprints
Dorothy wouldn’t be seen dead without her gorgeous ruby slippers, and we can insert a little reference to her choice of footwear on our poster design.
You can either draw your own simple footprint shapes (remember to include a heel and a pointed sole for heeled shoes) in Illustrator, or download this ready-made EPS file from GraphicRiver.
Open up the graphic in Illustrator, and isolate just the pair of heeled shoes to work with.
Apply a thin Charcoal Brush to the Stroke of the footprints to give them a slightly rougher edge. Then drag your mouse across one of the footprints, and Edit > Copy.
Return to InDesign, and Edit > Paste the footprint onto the Ruby Slippers layer. Adjust the Stroke and Fill Color of the graphic to Ruby.
Return to Illustrator and Edit > Copy the other footprint (this is done separately so you can edit them separately in InDesign), and Paste into InDesign. Set the Stroke and Fill of this to Ruby as well.
Now you can resize the footprints (while holding Shift) and adjust their angle and position. Place them somewhere on the yellow brick road, as demonstrated below.
As a final touch, drag your mouse across the page to select both footprints and go to Object > Effects > Transparency. Set the Mode to Multiply and click OK.
7. Finish Your Poster With Vintage Typography
There is a difference between authentic ‘vintage’ designs and designs that borrow from vintage styles. This poster falls into the latter group. We want to make the poster look like a contemporary tribute to vintage styles, and typography is a great way of introducing both modern and retro elements to a poster design.
The first thing to do is to select your typefaces. There is a huge range out there of fonts that claim to be ‘vintage’ in style, some look better than others, and it’s really up to you to choose a font that’s going to reflect the sort of period and feel you want for your poster design.
These are the fonts I’ve chosen to use on this poster design. But feel free to experiment with different options!
Minotaur is a strong slab font with a nod to 1930s type styles, and Fontleroy Brown is a more traditional, 1940s-style serif.
Download the fonts above (or choose your own), install and return to InDesign.
Back in the Layers panel, Lock the Ruby Slippers layer and Unlock your top layer, Typography.
From the ruler at the top of the screen (if you can’t see your rulers, go to View > Show Rulers) click and drag down a guide to Y Position 374 mm, towards the bottom of the page.
Take the Type Tool (T) and create a large, square text frame. Position in the lower right corner of the page. Type ‘Oz’ and set the Font to Minotaur, Size 260 pt. Adjust the Font Color to Ruby.
Adjust the position of the text frame so that the baseline of the text matches the 374 mm guide position.
Pull down a second guide onto the page, to 329 mm. Use the Type Tool (T) to create another text frame, this time a bit longer, and type ‘Wizard’ into it.
Set the Font to Fontleroy Brown, Size 241 pt, and set the Font Color to Cream.
Position the text frame to the left of the page, resting the text baseline on the 329 mm guide.
Create another, much smaller, text frame and position it above ‘Wizard’ to the left of the page. Type ‘the’ and set the Font to Minotaur, Size 70 pt, and Font Color to Cream.
Select the text frame and Copy and Paste, adjusting the text to read ‘of’ and increasing the Font Size to 100 pt. Position to the left of ‘Oz’.
Now you have your movie title put together, you can introduce other smaller sub‑headings, such as straplines, review quotes or the names of the cast.
Here, I’ve set ‘Judy Garland’ in Size 37 pt Minotaur, Font Color Vintage Black and chosen Align Right from the Character Formatting Controls panel at the top of the screen. I’ve positioned her name above ‘Oz’.
I’ve also added the names of other prominent cast members underneath ‘Wizard’, setting them in Minotaur, Size 23 pt, and Vintage Black. I’ve aligned them randomly to give the typography a more authentically vintage feel. I’ve also added connecting words like ‘starring’ in Fontleroy Brown, for a bit of contrast.
8. A Final Vintage Touch...
Your poster’s looking great, but we can give it an even more authentically vintage look by bringing in a bit of texture in the background of the layout.
Lock the Typography layer and Unlock the Border layer further down. With the layer activated, select the emerald shape, and go to Edit > Copy.
Without pasting your shape, let’s first edit the existing emerald shape we have here on the page.
Remove any effects applied to the shape by selecting it and going to Object > Effects. Deselect Gradient Feather from the Effects window’s left-hand menu, and reset the Transparency to Normal and Opacity to 100%. Click OK to exit the window.
Remove the emerald color fill by choosing [None] from the Swatches panel.
Now head up to File > Place. Choose a paper background image with a vintage feel. Try this paper texture from PhotoDune.
Select Open and resize the paper image so that it fills the shape (choose Fill Frame Proportionally from the options that appear at the top of the workspace).
Finally, go to Edit > Paste in Place to paste a copy of your original emerald shape over the top of the paper image. The paper texture will subtly peek through the emerald shape, and give the whole poster a much more authentic vintage look.
Great work! Your poster is finished, and it’s looking fantastic!
All you need to do now is export it (File > Export, choosing Adobe PDF (Print) or (Interactive) from the Format drop-down menu) and share it with friends and family.
In this tutorial you’ve picked up some really useful, transferrable skills for recreating vintage-style designs digitally. Now you can feel confident:
- Creating a vintage-style background and ‘perfectly imperfect’ border for your poster layouts
- Creating custom swatch color palettes in InDesign, and sharing them with Illustrator as ASE files
- Creating simple vector graphics in Illustrator, ready for pasting directly into your InDesign documents
- Choosing suitable typefaces and creating typography with a retro twist
- Integrating papery textures into your designs to recreate that authentic vintage look
Awesome work. Feel free to share your poster designs in the comments below!