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Members Area Tutorial: Create a Music Event Poster by Following a Professional’s Workflow

Members Area Tutorial: Create a Music Event Poster by Following a Professional’s Workflow

Hey design students!

Today’s design lesson is a great opportunity to follow along with the workflow of a respected design professional. Eric Vasquez is one of our most popular teachers, and has worked with some huge companies throughout his illustrious design career.

Over to Eric…

“In this tutorial I will be walking you through the steps to create your own print ready poster. In this particular case it will feature a singer but the same techniques and rules apply to just about any type of poster that you would like to create.

I will be explaining some print terminology as well as showing you how to get the most out of your photos even if they’re under exposed to start with. We’ll also use seemingly ordinary typefaces combined with some cool typography tips to create something unique and different. If you are all ready to get started then fire up Photoshop and let’s get down to business.”

- Eric Vasquez

Final Image

Let’s take a look at a preview of the image that we are going to be creating:

Step 1

The first thing we are going to do is open up the image of our singer from Dreamstime.

Press Command/Ctrl + Alt/Option + I on your keyboard to bring up the Image Size Dialog Box. Once the window appears, make sure that you Document Size is set to inches as shown here:

Change the width of your image to 11 inches and press OK.

Once your image is scaled up, select the ‘Background’ layer in your Layers Palette and press Command/Ctrl + J to duplicate the layer. After doing that you can turn the visibility of your original layer off.

Depending on the size and resolution of the original image that you decided to use, you may not want to scale it up too much, especially if it has a lot of detail in it. In this particular case it works out because the image is mostly a silhouette with a few areas of detail.

Step 2

The original color mode of this image is set to grayscale, so go to the Image Menu and choose Mode>RGB to change it. Normally if you were working on something for print you would generally want to use CMYK instead, but if you are going to be printing your file out at the end you can always flatten your image and convert it at the end. Just make sure not to save over your layered RGB file in case you need to go back and make any changes or tweaks.

You will then be prompted with a pop-up box asking if you would like to merge the document, we want to say ‘Don’t Merge’ for this part.

Step 3

From here, make sure that you have your newly duplicated layer selected in your Layers Palette and then go to the Image Menu once again. This time we are going to select an option called Calculations.

When the dialog box appears, go to the Channels option and choose the color has the most contrast – generally this will be the red channel. After that hit OK your press the Enter Key on your keyboard.

Next, go to the Channels Palette over where your layers are and you will notice a new Alpha 1 Channel has been created.

Step 4

Press the ‘O’ key on your keyboard, which is the shortcut for the Dodge and Burn Tools. Make sure that you have your Burn Tool selected and target the Midtones with an Exposure setting of around 50%.

Use the Burn Tool to fill in the singer so that you eventually have a solid black silhouette on a white background. You may have to make a couple of passes over the figure but keep at it until it’s completely black.

When you are happy with your silhouette, hold down the Command/Ctrl Key and click on the layer thumbnail icon indicated below by the red bounding box.
This will activate your selection and you should now see marching ants around your image.

Return to your Layers Palette while your selection is still active and press Command/Ctrl + Shift + I to invert your selection. Alternatively you could just go to the Image Menu and choose Adjustments>Invert.

Once you have done that, click on the Layer Mask Icon at the bottom of your Layers Palette to mask out the background.

This method of silhouetting an image works particularly well for hair, most often when you have an image with a good amount of contrast between the figure and the background. If you are lacking contrast however, you could apply a Levels Adjustment to your Alpha Channel in order to bump up the darks or lights.

Hold down the Control Key and click on your masked layer. When the dropdown menu appears choose ‘Convert to Smart Object’ as shown below:

There are many benefits of using Smart Objects as opposed to normal Raster Layers and one of those benefits is that when you resize an image a couple of times with Raster Layers it will result in a noticeable loss in quality. If you use a Smart Object instead, it will retain the quality of the image so you can scale it up or down as many times as needed.

Step 5

Next we are going to create a New Document. Make your file 18.5” x 24.5” and set the Resolution to 300dpi. This is going to serve as our main poster file.

Create another New Document and make this one 18” x 24” with the same Resolution Setting.

Fill your 18” x 24” document with solid black using your Paint Bucket Tool (G). From here, hold down the Shift and Command/Ctrl Keys simultaneously and drag the layer over to your main poster file.

By holding down these keys while dragging your layer over, it should drop it right in the middle of your poster file. Just in case it lands off to one side or the other, select the black fill layer and your background at the same time and then use the Align Tools at the top of the screen to ensure that everything is centered nicely.

Press Command/Ctrl + R to show your Rulers in case they aren’t yet visible. Drag a couple of guides around the edges of the black box. This will let us know where our bleed area is. Once your guides are in place you can turn off or throw away the black layer all together.

For those who are not familiar with the term ‘Bleed’ this is something you generally do in print to leave a bit of extra room for whoever is trimming your pages so you don’t end up with a white border around your poster. Some files will also require that you stay within a certain area, which would be commonly referred to as Safety or Live Area. This is only usually if you have important logos or copy that you want to make sure you don’t lose when your file is trimmed.

Now that we have set up our main poster file with guides to indicate our Bleed Area, we can bring over our silhouetted singer Smart Object that we created earlier on. If you need to, scale him up a bit further using a Free Transform (Command/Ctrl + T) and dragging any of the four corners outwards while holding down the Shift Key. Use the image below as a rough guide for sizing and placement.

Step 6

Create a new layer below your Smart Object and use your Paint Bucket Tool (G) to fill the layer with #EA00FF.

Your layers should look like this:

Hold down your Command/Ctrl Key and click on the layer thumbnail icon indicated below by the black bounding box around the small picture.

Once you have an active selection around the guy, switch to your Brush Tool (B) and use a soft round brush at about 20% opacity.

Create a new layer just above the layer with the singer and using a dark color that was sampled from the darker parts of the image, paint over the area shown here:

This will darken the back of the head so we have better separation from the background color.

Step 7

Select your Singer Layer and press Command/Ctrl + J to make a copy of it on the layer above. After you have done that, go to the Image Menu and choose Adjustments>Shadows/Highlights as shown here:

Use the following settings when prompted with the dialog box.

That’s the end of the preview!

About the Author:

Eric is a Graphic Designer, specializing in Print and Web Design. He's a graduate of the New England Institute of Art in Boston and has over 4 years of professional and freelance work experience. He lives in Brooklyn, New York working as a Graphic Designer and he has been featured in Advanced Photoshop Magazine, The Art of Fashion Art Exhibit and Artists In The Station Art Exhibit. Visit Eric's portfolio at

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