So You Want To / Design a Film Poster
So, you want to make a poster that gets tons of people excited about your movie? What better way than to follow the beaten path and use the following Template Poster Styles!
- Star Prominence - The size and position of each character in an ensemble poster shall be determined by the size of his or her paycheck.
- Head To Head - As a corollary to the above, when two stars share equal billing, both must have the same size in the poster. Furthermore, if they're antagonists just divide the poster between both actors' faces glaring at each other.
- Unless, of course, it's a film dominated by male characters and there is an attractive female supporting character. Then she'll be on the poster regardless of her actual prominence in the film. For example, the poster◊ for Star Trek: The Motion Picture featured Kirk, Spock and Lt. Ilia.
- Cranial Collage - A big cast of top-billed actors requires finesse... so just cut 'n paste all their heads onto the poster, preferably orbiting either the true star(s) or a Cool Car / Cool Ship.
- Naming - Actor names are often laid out horizontally at the top.
- MacGuffin movie - If the movie is named after the central MacGuffin, it will be shown prominently unless the viewers aren't supposed to know how it looks.
- The Love Interest or Ms. Fanservice: She is often present in some sexy outfit.
- White Backgrounds - Best used in comedies, some action movies, suspense or mysteries, but never speculative fiction or fantasy. For some reason, the simplicity clashes with an elf's eyeliner and doesn't quite convey "outer space", what with it being white and all.
- Red Text, White Background: Reserved for "surefire" comedies that the studio executives are convinced will be smash hits, but which an educated audience will note as being otherwise.
- Black Backgrounds - Horror posters are almost exclusively over black backgrounds, though scifi and drama take up close positions behind it.
- Red Backgrounds - Good for horror, action, and (of course) Loooooove!
- Yellow Backgrounds - Much less common, usually tinted with orange to convey memory, sadness, and autumn. Not tied exclusively to genre so much as mood.
- Blue Backgrounds - All-blue posters are rare, but blue is far more common as a secondary color. That said, because of its association with sadness, blue posters are common for drama, tragedy, mystery and nature.
We won't list them all here, but a few that stand out as very common:
- Angels Pose: Having one, two or three of the actors pose iconically. James Bond with his arms crossed and gun in hand, for example.
- Ass Kicking Pose: For action movies, Exactly What It Says on the Tin.
- Pistol Pose: The main character holding a gun.
- Team Shot: Useful for big casts, especially school-themed films.
- Back to back: common in buddy cop and romance◊.
- Facing each other: common in action and comedy (two antagonists) or romance (two lovers, usually close together).
- Side by side: Power Walk would be a subtrope here
- Heads only: layered horizontally or diagonally
- Comedy - Comedy posters have white backgrounds, usually with two or three leads doing something funny or at least fun looking. The exception is parody movies that can either have all the characters, including Special Guest Star Pamela Anderson side by side while something falls on them, or have the characters sitting in the theater, including Special Guest Star Pamela Anderson.
- Romance - Most traditionally, both stars exuding enough UST to power Channel for a decade. Poses include snuggles; defiant indifference (usually the girl) and persistent persistence (the guy); the guy having something painful happen to him (Romantic Comedy); walking off into the distance while holding hands (Romantic Drama of the saddest kind, expect someone to die), and one cool love interest (usually the girl) bemusedly regarding a stylish-but-clueless love interest (usually the guy).
- Space Opera and Adventure - These will have the main character wielding his weapon on the lower right corner, the villain's big head on the upper right corner, his quirky friends on the lower left, with the MacGuffin/Special Weapon in the middle and a memorable scene in the upper left, that might involve mooks. Basically, a "Star Wars".
- Action - Expect lots of explosions, racing cars et al in the background, with the lead character(s) prominently posing or driving their Cool Car. Shooting at offscreen enemies is also a plus.
- Mystery - The more "mysterious" a movie is supposed to be, the less will be shown on the poster. Bonus points for mist/fog, odd angles, or shadows obscuring most of the picture.
- Trajan this typeface is called the Movie Font for a reason.
- Extra bold sans-serif typefaces in red, however, are obligatory for comedies. These fonts include Antique Olive Nord, Futura Extra Bold, Gill Kayo and Meloriac.
- Gill Sans Ultra bold: The Truman Show, Groundhog Day, Bruce Almighty, When in Rome, Shallow Hal, There's Something About Mary, Alvin and the Chipmunks, Monk, Norbit, Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa
- Futura Extra Bold: The Nutty Professor, Scary Movie, Monsters, Inc., Dr. Dolittle, The Hot Chick, Mr. Bean's Holiday, Coming to America
- Neuland, Lithos and similar typefaces are used whenever the film is set in Africa or some land forgotten by time.
- Wes Anderson uses Futura nearly exclusively.
- Eurostile Bold Extended or Bank Gothic are a sure-fire way to indicate that your movie is Typeset in the Future.
- The '70s had superstar-loaded "box" movie posters with little avatars of the actors in a row at either the top or the bottom of the poster.