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A Bit of Advice for Designing Your Film’s Poster

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When dreaming of independent film, filmmakers imagine their poster displayed giant on the side of a building in Times Square. That’s great, but you must also keep in mind all of the places your poster design will display. More often than not, this will be a thumbnail — on imdb, a Fandango listing, a festival program or a blurb online for a press release. Your image will most likely be displayed with other films’ posters and can easily get lost.

The following tips will help your poster design stand out from the crowd.

  • Try a google image search for movie posters – EVERYONE uses a black or grey-blue background! Unless you have a very graphic image, avoid this and go for clear or unusual colors like bright green or pink.
  • The title of your film should be in a large, clear font that still reads clearly when your poster is shrunk to thumbnail onscreen and 2″ high printed.
  • Keep your design high-contrast. Monochromatic shades can be lovely, but your poster will look like a blob when shrunk down.
  • Avoid using a white or very light background unless you have a dark border at the outside edge — these images get lost when printed on a white background in a festival program.
  • Dark borders set in from a white band will not look right when displayed on a white background with other posters – the white will blend into the background and your image will look smaller than the others
  • Ensure your design prints clearly in both B/W and color.
  • If you have an image behind your title text, check how it views when shrunk and how it prints to ensure it remains easily legible
  • Pick simpler, clearer images and stick to just one or two.
  • Pick a font and stick with it — use no more than two different fonts on your design
  • Your poster should be in portrait orientation. A film festival program will often size all of the poster images to the same width for consistency. If your poster is in landscape, you’ll wind up with a much smaller image than everyone else
  • Make sure you have a good selection of graphic files to send to a film festival — you want one that is a clear PNG for printing and that looks nice when printed at 24″x36″ and at 8 1/2″x11″. You also want a basic JPG that looks clear when shrunk to about 2″ x 1″
  • In the above selection of posters for current films, the best of the bunch is clearly The Heat — the red color stands out, the film title is obvious even at that size and the clean graphics look fine when shrunk down. The Way, Way Back is a lovely color, but the title is illegible unless blown up much larger.

Here are more examples of good poster designs that are guaranteed to stand out!
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About Winter Film Awards

Winter Film Awards (WFA) is a volunteer-run and operated celebration of the diversity of local and international film-making. Our Mission is to recognize excellence in cinema and to promote learning and artistic expression for people at all stages of their artistic careers with a focus on nurturing emerging filmmakers and helping them gain recognition and contacts to break into this difficult industry. We pride ourselves on our diverse collection of Festival selections, allowing our audience to enjoy films they normally wouldn’t think to seek out. WFA is a minority- and women-owned registered 501(c)3 non-profit organization.

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