Design insights & tutorials.

Iconic Poster Design Tutorial (with video)

Turquoise Flag-Tip

Hey I’m Jeff Finley and I’m going to show you how to make an iconic poster using the new Vector Set 18 from Go Media’s Arsenal. I sent out an email to all our Arsenal customers and the two things they wanted most were more tutorials and to show real-world usage of our products. What you are about to read and watch is exactly that!

Note: If you want to follow along with this tutorial, you will need to purchase the new set. However, if you don’t, you can still get something out of watching me work in Illustrator and Photoshop as the concepts I show you are broad and you can still learn from them.

Icon Poster design tutorial final result

What you will learn:
Below is the 30 minute video tutorial of the creation of this poster. I walk you through everything from setting up your Illustrator document, creating pattern swatches from our Propaganda Patterns pack, using vectors as background elements, choosing an iconic centerpiece, simple and classy typography, and retro/vintage effects. This tutorial is for beginners and experts alike.

Video Tutorial: Create an iconic poster in less than 30 minutes

Written Tutorial

For those of you that prefer to take your time and go step by step, I have created a simple 10 step tutorial for you. Let’s get started.

Step 1: Set up your Illustrator document

Open Adobe Illustrator (I’m using version CS5, but pretty much any version of CS or greater will suffice. Go to File>New and setup you new document. For this tutorial I created a standard 11×17 poster size. You can use CMYK or RGB color mode, it doesn’t really matter. If you’re printing it at Kinkos, use CMYK. If you want to get it screen printed, you probably want to use unique pantone colors.

create a new document

Step 2: Purchase and Download Vector Set 18

If you haven’t already, take a minute and purchase and download Vector Set 18 from Go Media’s Arsenal. You can skip this step if you already have some vector images you want to use or will create your own from scratch. Remember, this tutorial is meant to show how the Arsenal vectors can be used in a professional poster design and get results rather quickly.

The benefit of using our premade vector elements from the Arsenal is that it saves you time and can help you achieve pro results. You can create an entire design with them or use them as accents or embellishments to your own design. For me, as someone who takes pride in creating my own illustrations, I use Arsenal stuff if it helps me get my point across or solves a design problem.

grab vector set 18

Step 3: Create the Background Pattern

Open up the Propaganda Patterns vector pack that you downloaded from Set 18. After you’re done oohing and ahhing at the really cool patterns, choose the one in the upper left hand corner and press Ctrl+C to copy it to your clipboard.

use the propaganda patterns

Next go back to your original poster document and press Ctrl+V to paste it. You might have to enlarge it just a tad. Next, drag the pattern into your swatch panel to create a new pattern fill.

pattern fill

Create a new box that’s exactly the same size as your artboard. Should be 11×17. Give it a cream color like #EFEACE. Then copy and paste in front (Ctrl+F). Now with that still selected, click on your new pattern fill swatch. This will apply the repeating pattern to your entire shape! If for some reason it doesn’t work, you might have applied it to the stroke instead of the fill color.

fill your bg

Step 4: Find an Iconic Centerpiece

Open up the Mythology Vector Pack from Set 18 and choose one that you think looks like an iconic centerpiece. I chose the seahorse because I think it’s got a moody look that’s perfect for a vintage poster design. Pick one, then copy and paste it into your poster document.

mythology pack

Place the seahorse (or whatever image you chose) into the upper part of the poster and resize it to fit. With the object still selected, use your align toolbar to center it horizontally (make sure align to artboard is checked). Give it a nice dark brown color like #2B1F10. I wouldn’t suggest using 100% black here because the idea is to keep the colors in good harmony with each other and the dark brown adds a little richness and cohesiveness with the background.

align to artboard

iconic centerpiece

Step 5: Create the Type Lockup

This part can best be described by using some typographic principles that I’ve learned over the years. First of all, choose a typeface for your headline. In this tutorial I chose Knockout FullFlyweight by HF&J. I could have chose ANY typeface, but I was going for iconic, clean, simple, minimalist, bold, and classy. Give all your text the same brown color as your iconic centerpiece.

One cool trick to make your headline standout (and help with creating type lockups) is to “bar off” your type. This simply means adding horizontal bars on the top and bottom of your type. The thickness should be somewhat similar to the thickness of your type.

type lockup

Next, choose an accent font. For this tutorial I chose Mercury Small Caps. I used this for my “Go Media’s Arsenal” text. Another good one could have Hellenic Wide.

And lastly, choose a third typeface – one that’s a good contrast from your headline. If your headline is thin, try going for a normal or extended typeface. Gotham Bold is always a safe choice.

If you’d like, here are some helpful links on pairing typefaces.

Step 6: Accent your Centerpiece

The poster is looking good already. Good typography goes a long way. You don’t always have to add more to make it look cool, remember that. However, I want to make the poster a little more visually interesting as well as get an additional color in there. Remember the message and meaning of your design before you go adding in vector elements willy nilly. If you don’t have a good reason for adding it, you probably shouldn’t. Less is usually better. However, in this poster, it’s job is to show off some of the versatility of the new Vector Set and it wouldn’t be doing its job by only showing off two of the seven packs.

So my challenge is to feature more of our packs in this poster without cluttering things up. For this purpose I went to the trusty “Infographix” vector pack. The charts, bars, graphs, lines and circles are GREAT for abstract backgrounds or accent pieces. Open it up and choose one that you feel fits best. In my case, I chose the one on the lower left. It would look fantastic behind my seahorse.

open up the infographix vector pack

After you choose, center it in your poster right behind the seahorse. Give it a dark orange color like #876527. Looking good.

add an accent

Step 7: Add a Pop of Color

I want to add a “pop” of color to complete my visual centerpiece. In this case I wanted to create some very simple wings behind the seahorse. I colored them a muted pink that I would tell a screen printer to print with a metallic ink. Or it would be cool to get a deep impression from a letterpress on that infographic element in the background. But that’s a different discussion.

I used the pen tool to create my own custom wings. These are easy to create, so if you’re a beginner it might be fun to try your hand at this. Watch the video above to see how I did it.

add a pop of color

Step 8: Create a unique edge and a border

To make this poster more unique, I created a unique edge at the bottom. Honestly I can’t think of a reason why I did this other than it just makes the poster a little different. Using the pen tool, create an organic and smooth shape and color it white.

unique edge

And finally, let’s add a border to the poster to complete the look. Just create a box exactly the same size as your background (11×17). Give it a 20pt stroke aligned to the inside and NO fill.

give it a border

Once you’ve done that, save out your image! File>Export – export as a JPG at 300 DPI. RGB color is fine for this. You can call yourself done at this point, but I want to show you a few more tricks.

finished vector poster

Step 9: Add vintage/retro effects in Photoshop

Open up your newly saved image in Photoshop. First we’re going to add an overall grain to the image using some photographic textures. I’m using a scan of an old magazine ad, but there are plenty of good ones online.

Put this on top of your image and set the blending mode to “screen” so you make the dark parts transparent. See my video tutorial at the top of this post to see this effect in more detail.

And finally, add some dust and dirt. You can set the blending modes of these to “multiply” to make the light parts transparent.

Here’s your final image!

Icon Poster design tutorial final result

Step 10: Mock it Up!

To help really put this poster into context, why not mock it up like a real poster? We sell some really cool Poster Mockup Templates made for showing a “real-world” context of your images. Of course, nothing beats an actual photograph of your printed design, but this is the next best thing!

Poster Mockup templates

Go ahead and copy and paste your image into the “your art” layer of this template and the white color layer is the only color visible. And since the poster has a white border, you might want to unlock the background group and fill the background layer with a grey color.

mockup layers

You’ll have to scale, distort, and possibly warp your image using the Free Transform controls (Ctrl+T) to help position your poster correctly for best results. The end result here is that it looks as realistic as possible. Is this a photograph of the printed poster? Who knows!?

Final Mockup

You’re Done!

You now should have a firm grasp on how to create a professional and iconic poster design using mostly elements from Vector Set 18. And hopefully you were inspired to create your own posters using other vectors or your own original illustrations. In fact, I’d love to see them!

In case you missed it, or want to review, consider watching the video:

Show off your results

We recently launched the Arsenal Facebook Page where we want you to post your images you’ve created using Arsenal vectors, textures, fonts, etc. I want to see how YOU’VE used our products in the real world. It’s not often I see the work our customers create, so take this as a call to action to share it with us on our Facebook page.

For more exposure, you can post your image in the User Showcase and comment on this tutorial below and link us to it!

About the Author, Jeff Finley

I'm a partner at Go Media, a Cleveland web design and development firm. We also specialize in print design and branding. I started Weapons of Mass Creation Fest and wrote the book Thread's Not Dead, teaching artists and designers how to start a clothing company. In my spare time, I write songs and play drums in Campfire Conspiracy. I'm a happy husband and an aspiring b-boy and lucid dreamer.
Discover More by Jeff Finley


We want to hear what you have to say. Do you agree? Do you have a better way to approach the topic? Let the community know by joining the discussion.

  • Simon H.

    Awesome ;-) Is there an option to make the video downloadable from Vimeo?

  • Pablo Lara H

    Woaw. Great!

  • Jeff Finley

    Yes, on the vimeo page on the right side, there is a link to download the video.

  • Andy @Bounce House

    Thank,for the video and tuto.

  • Clipping Path Service

    excellent work! thanks a lot for sharing..

  • harly00

    awesome post.i really want to download the video.Thanks for share it with us.

  • Simon A. Burley

    Yet another fantastic tutorial. Thank you very much.

  • Download60s

    Photoshop tutorial, from beginner to advanced. Including Photoshop text effect tutorials, photo manipulation tutorials, give you joomla templates,joomla extensions,wordPress theme,web templates,
    if you think i make a spam please remove this comment.
    thanks.. find more best tutorials here

  • Clippingimages

    Appreciable one..thanks for sharing ..

  • Graficontrol

    thanks your a gentleman
    I will continue shopping at your place that the way I can give you the motivation to doing more tutorials? ;-)
    thanks again

  • George Garrastegui

    Oh, How i LOVE Champion Gothic!

  • Reechard

    I'd just suggest for the wings to do one, save it as a symbol and then mirror it to the other side… That way you can edit one and have the changes occur immediately, other than that, nice work! :D

    • Jeff Finley

      Oh that’s a nice tip!

  • ordogz

    Wow… great tutorial. I like the idea… :)

  • Marie O'Neil

    Great vid! Thanks for sharing your knowledge :-)

  • del core

    Good Way Promotion ! i like the tutor too.

  • OverIthisWire

    Came out sweet!

  • Romeady

    Nice poster. Love it.

  • Hudson

    Good for you. You can create a poster from vector graphics.

  • Jen K (AliceGraphix)

    Thanks for another great tutorial Jeff. This was a good way to promote the new vector pack.

  • Dae

    great tut Jeff – thanks for taking everyone's suggestion :)
    ~ Dae

  • Sean

    Cool.. like it… thanks for sharing

  • Simon H.

    Well for people that want inspiration, or basic tips on how to use vectors in photoshop or beginners that have no clue at all about what to do with photoshop, that's a decent starting point. I think.

  • Yourmother

    It’s not a tutorial, it’s just a commertial
    “buy our vector pack, copy, paste, change colours, write a text on it – wow you are a graphic designer”

  • Go Media

    It is certainly a tutorial, and buying the vectors is not a requirement of following along. (this is stated right in the beginning of this post.) You can watch the tutorial and still learn how to quickly create a poster.

  • Simon H.

    I’d add that there a bunch of little tips here and there (about texturing for instance) that you could adapt to your project and throw in if you want.

  • Oka_apple

    Thanks Jeff. it is every helpful.

  • Jeff Finley

    This was a tutorial in response to people asking how to use our vector packs in a cool way. Just helping out our customers/users.

  • Corporate logo Design

    Thanks a lots for also share its making tricks that how its made.
    nice blog I love this learning blog.
    Thanks again.

  • Quakerninja

    I don’t know if this was mentioned before but I got the • symbol by just hitting alt and the number 8.

  • Basakbutun142

    thanks :)

  • Eric

    Very Nice!

    All those actions you have in illustrator… can we see some of those?

  • Ulises Bolivar

    gracias por el aporte

  • Ulises Bolivar


  • Ulises Bolivar


  • Ulises Bolivar


  • Ulises Bolivar


  • Ulises Bolivar


  • Ulises Bolivar


  • Ulises Bolivar


  • Amanda Smit

    Excellent video! Appreciate you sharing your tips during the design tutorial. Thank you!

  • Tim

    Excellent poster tutorial! Great video as well!

  • Tim

    I did the Alt and number 8 trick too!

  • Tim

    Really Great!

  • Cheryl

    Appreciated this a lot, amazing, thanks for sharing the poster design tutorial!

  • Cheryl

    Appreciate you sharing your tips during the design tutorial. Thank you!

  • Cheryl

    Thanks for the poster video and tutorial

  • Cheryl

    Good Way for Promotion ! I enjoyed the tutorial as well

  • Cheryl

    Excellent poster tutorial! Great video as well!

  • Sergio

    Excellent poster tutorial! Great video as well!

  • Tony

    Yet another fantastic tutorial. Thank you very much, iconic poster tut!

  • Sergio

    Excellent poster tutorial! Great video as well!

  • Tony

    Appreciate you sharing your tips during the design tutorial. Thank you!

  • Sergio

    Really Great! Wow what a poster tutorial!

  • Tony

    Appreciated this one..thanks for sharing the poster design tutorial!

  • Sergio

    Thanks for the poster video and tutorial

  • Tony

    Excellent poster video and tutorial

  • Yvonne

    Excellent poster tutorial! Great video as well!

  • Yvonne

    Yet another fantastic tutorial. Thank you very much, iconic poster tut!

  • Yvonne

    I did the Alt and number 8 trick too!

  • Yvonne

    Thanks a lot for also sharing the techniques in how its made.
    I love to learning new techniques!

  • Yvonne

    Yet another fantastic tutorial. Thank you very much, iconic poster tut!

  • Yvonne

    Yet another fantastic tutorial. Thank you very much, iconic poster tut!

  • Tony

    Appreciated this one..thanks for sharing the poster design tutorial!

  • Yvonne

    I enjoyed the video and tutorial equally

  • Rent A Car

    Excellent poster tutorial!!
    Thanks for sharing..!!

  • Corporate Logo Design

    Nice effect i like it i will do this effect on mother poster.
    Thanks for share its tutorial.
    i love this great learning blog.

  • Digitürk

    Really great..

  • clippingdesign

    Very much creative Iconic Poster Design Tutorial. Thanks for sharing…:)

  • Anonymous

     I don’t get it, or maybe I’m not listening closely enough – what is being said to get the “•” ? Why isn’t he just using ALT+8? Thanks~

  • Anonymous

    I missed this tut. Was going back through and found it. I like it a lot.

  • aqua


  • FaxianHu

    Excellent tutorial,I love this!

  • Domain Registration

    Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.

  • Domain Registration

    These information helps me consider some useful things, keep up the good work.

  • free reverse phone lookup

     If this video could somehow be downloaded via the Vimeo website things would be perfect!

  • ecommerce development

    This is awesome tutoril video.Helped me a lot.I am not a professional  photograph designer but this article helped me to become one.This was truely epic one.thanks for sharing this post