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How to Create an Inspirational Poster Design

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This post is part of a series called Poster Design.
25 Inspirational Posters from 5 Outstanding Vector Artists
Community Project: Gig Poster Showdown!

Today we will create a poster in the style of PSA (Public Service Ad). These ads are intended to develop new social values. Philippe Patrick Starck, an iconic designer, said: "The designer can and should participate in the search for meaning, the construction of a civilized world." Well, let's participate.

Poster Design Fundamentals

The most important principle of poster design is the necessity for simple interpretation of the created image, otherwise it will be impossible to achieve an advertising effect. What is considered to be the advantages of a piece of art, the depth, multiple meanings of ideas and images, are unacceptable in a poster.

It is advisable to use brief, well and easy-to-read quick graphics. The pace of modern life requires clear and vivid images, concise and fun phrases that people can perceive literally on the fly, in the bustle of modern urban streets. Designers should not rely on the possibility of calm, slow contemplation of its product in poster design.

Now let's create a poster of our own, bearing in mind all of the above. The objective is to help people think about higher matters, to give hope, to inspire them within their daily bustle. The concept is "a light at the end of the tunnel."

Step 1

Let's create the step line. Take the Pen Tool (P) and draw a step, as shown in the figure below. To make horizontal and vertical lines, hold down the Shift key while creating. For convenience, set even values for the height and width of the created object.

Step 2

Select the step, and go to Effect > Distort & Transform > Transform ..., set the offset values equal to the height and width of the object and set the number of copies equal to the number of steps.

Keep the object selected, go to Object > Expand Appearance and ungroup all objects (Alt + Command + G).

Step 3

Connect the tangent points of the steps. Take the Lasso Tool (Q) and select the tangency spot and hit Command + J.

Connect all the tangent points in this way. You can also create stairs, using the Grid (View > Show Grid). I do not know how about you, but I do not like counting cells - my eyes get tired.

Step 4

Take the Perspective Grid Tool (Shift + P), and go to View > Perspective Grid > One Point Perspective > [1P - Normal View].

Learn how to operate the Perspective Grid here. Now take the Perspective Selection Tool (Shift + V) and drag the stairs on the Perspective Grid.

Step 5

Turn off the Perspective Grid (View > Perspective Grid > Hide Grid).

Select the step and go to Object > Transform > Reflect ..., choose the Vertical in the dialog box and click Copy.

Shift the copy horizontally to the right.

Step 6

Select both step shapes and go to View > Guides > Make Guides.

Lock the under layers with guidelines in the Layers palette. Take the Pen Tool (P) and create the front side of the bottom step.

Turn on Smart Guides Mode (Command + U), it will be way easier to work.

Step 7

In the same way create the upper side of the step. Use different fills for different elements of the ladder and lock all the under layers, which you are not working with at the moment. It will save you a lot of time and nerves.

The upper sides of the steps at the top of the stairs will not be visible, so they do not need to be created.

Step 8

Take the Rectangle Tool (M) and create rectangles in the shape of a doorway and background.

Fill the doorway with radial gradient that goes from white to blue.

Step 9

Now create the light on the walls. I suppose that there are vertical walls on the left and on the right of the stairs. You cannot use regular radial gradient in this case, because it won't give even distribution of light at the edges of the doorway. Create three shapes - a rectangle, slightly larger than the door and two ellipses. To fill these shapes, I am using the blue color that goes from light, almost white, to dark, almost black.

As you can see from the images, all shapes are located in the under layers below the stairs and the doorway. Select all three shapes, and go to Object > Blend > Make.

Step 10

Fill the rectangular background with the same color as the larger ellipse in the blend - dark blue.

Hide the artifact, which was created above the door, by applying a Clipping Mask. Select the rectangle with the background, copy it and paste it in front (Command + C, Command + F). Place the copy above all the under layers (Object > Arrange > Bring to Front). Select all the objects of the composition (Command + A), and go to Object > Clipping Mask > Make.

Step 11

Now proceed to the distribution of light on the stairs. Take the Rectangle Tool (M) and create a rectangle filled with a horizontal linear gradient that goes from light blue to dark blue. Use the same colors as in the blend. Divide the rectangle into 11 parts (according to the number of steps) using vertical guides.

Select the side of the bottom step, take the Eyedropper Tool (I) and holding down Shift to take the color from the extreme right side of the rectangle.

Keep the color palette Swatches by clicking on the New Color Group button in the palette. Thus, fill all the sides of the stairs, taking colors with the Eyedropper Tool (I) from the rectangle parts that match the numbers of the steps. Save the selected colors in the Swatches palette.

This method allows the flexibility to select the color shades in the selected range.

Step 12

Replace the fill of the sides of the five bottom steps with a radial gradient. Leave the central color of the gradient the same, and make the extreme color darker. To do this, move any slider in the Color palette to the right, while holding down Shift.

Step 13

Now fill the upper side of the bottom step with a linear gradient that goes from light blue to blue.

Fill the rest of the top sides of the steps with the same linear gradient. As you move from step to step, each time move the Gradient Slider to the right. Thus, we achieve the light distribution we're looking for.

Step 14

The text message in the poster has a very important role, with any possible variations in its relations with graphics - from zero to one hundred percent dominance in the absence of graphics. Pick an intermediate option, when the graphic image and piece of text will complement and reinforce each other.

After some hesitation I decided upon the message: "I believe ..." This is a neutral message, and the points at the end allow the viewer to think what he believes in. We have a very concise composition consisting of straight lines, so only an austere font can fit it. I chose the Britannic Bold font.

Step 15

In my opinion, the only place for the text is at the bottom step. Select the text, and go to Object > Expand.

The font design should correspond to the entire composition. The main criteria for a quality product is the designer's sense of moderation and adherence to the principles of conciseness, readability and compliance with the project objectives. I have two options.

I decided upon the second one, in which the letter "I" reproduces the main element of the composition. Change the fill of the letter "I" to a white color. Now take the Ellipse Tool (L) and create a circle filled with a radial gradient of a blue color, but with varying opacity.

Step 16

There are many different sizes for posters. The most popular sizes you can find here. I chose a medium (or "normal") poster size of 18 by 24 inches. You can adjust your composition to the desired size by changing the size of the entire composition and setting set sizes for the Clipping Mask.


In order to make your posters be inspirational and exciting for the public eye, they have to be created on the inner impulse, filled with the personal tones, sincere, and confessing... I believe in you.

Final Image

The final poster design is below.

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