Behind the scenes of designing a Gig Poster
Over the course of the last years I had the opportunity to illustrate and design a few posters for music events run by a local record store. I love making posters, I mean, what’s more fun than printing huge ass posters right?! On a more personal level, I love working on projects that relate to music, so I’ve always enjoyed making gig posters for these kinds of events. Below are two examples of posters I got to work on over the course of the last 2 years:
I thought it would be interesting to show a little bit of the work process behind the design of my recent gig poster, that was designed last October. I think it’s a good follow up post to my previous post: How I Use Photoshop to Create Illustrations — this time I’ll share my process in a more practical way I guess.
Unlike a lot of my client work, I usually draw whatever I feel like when working on these gig posters. Really just kind of go with the flow and draw whatever ideas I have at the moment.
However, for this specific poster I wanted it to represent the unique environment of the events that it was advertising. These are local events, they have a very warm social vibe and I kind of wanted to capture that. All kinds of people come to these events, young people, families with kids, hippie dudes, and even some people from the older generations. It’s like a family gathering but fun ;)
So I started messing around in my sketchbook while keeping in mind the above. This is what I came up with eventually:
I know this sketch looks like shit :) but with a bit of effort you might be able to identify it as a guy sitting on a log strumming his guitar. This really shows why I feel it’s so important to start your work in a sketchbook, to feel completely free to fuck around, to really be able to pull the ideas out of my head quickly.
Although it’s a total mess, I already felt like I had a good composition going on, and I knew where the title & bands names will be placed so I went on to the next step.
Moving to Photoshop
So this is the exact point at which I switched over to working on the computer to produce a clearer sketch and below is what I got:
At this point I started playing around with the illustration & design. I tested different positions for the text in the title and date, I moved the dog from side to side, until I found something that I liked. Once you’re past that initial stage, I think it’s right to move on to the computer where you can check 10 different fonts or text compositions in just a few minutes without having to re-create the original sketch over and over again.
As you can see, the sketch is trying to capture that simple “country-side” living vibe. This dude is barefoot and his clothes are a little bit worn. I also thought it would be funny to add that little thing in the side where it looks like they’re carving the records out of the wooden log with the axe — this idea connects the poster to the record store and to the fact it’s in the country side so I liked it a lot. It also felt right to add the dog howling along to the tunes of the guitar- both funny and true as you’ll see below, dogs are very welcome in these events.
Finding the right references
As you can see, I was inspired by elements that I had seen with my own eyes at previous events. I even found some photos as evidence. I think that makes this poster a bit more special & personal in a way. I find it very powerful to use my own references if possible. Using local elements that other illustrators or designers don’t have simply because they live in a different place, will make your designs more unique and memorable.
So when the sketch is finally finished I can start painting. I usually like to use somewhere between 3–5 colors in my illustrations. In this poster, I specifically wanted no more than 3 colors. I always start by painting the big shapes first. Here I started with the wooden log, the hands, and the guitar. Some of you may have also noticed that I changed the dude’s face at this stage. I actually tried 3–4 different face variations before I finally settled on one I liked.
In the initial stages of painting the large shapes, I feel like the most important thing is to reach a good balance between all the colors, the black and the whites, and to try to avoid having too much color and not enough black, but that’s just my way of working.
I also like to take this stage to try a few different color palette combinations, it’s a really important part of the work process. In at least half of the illustrations that I do, I have no fucking clue what the final color palette is going to look like. Many times, while I am testing out different color palettes I end up finding a completely different color combination than what I had originally envisioned, and honestly that’s kind of part of the fun!
After I finish with all of the larger shapes I start digging in to the finer details of the illustration. I start playing around more liberally with the different brushes to get finer shading effects or add a few lines here and there. Small hair lines for the beard and hair, soft shadows on the legs & arms etc… And that’s pretty much it, here’s the final piece:
In the end I went with two different color variations. So here’s the second poster, I added some yellow, just to see what it’d be like.
That’s pretty much it! Hope it was helpful.
Please feel free to Email me to firstname.lastname@example.org with questions and ideas for what I should write about next.