What Is a Movie Poster?

In terms of the annual sale of tickets, Statista reveals that the United States ranks third as the largest film market in the world next to China and India. The data also projected that in 2019, the United States would generate about 35.3 billion US dollars. To survive in such a highly competitive industry, many filmmakers come up with various marketing strategies that help them in building an audience for their films. Other than movie teasers and trailers, movie posters are also widely used as one of many filmmakers’ marketing efforts.

Movie posters are one of the longstanding conventional film marketing techniques used to promote films and present them to target audiences. Since these are promotional items, many movie posters have a design that looks interesting, peculiar, and worthy enough of anybody’s time. A movie poster should also be eye-catching and captivating to appeal to a larger audience. Other than being promotional material, there is also a high demand for original movie posters, especially the old ones, as they are considered collectible by many collectors.

Elements of a Movie Poster

Designing a movie poster is not a random mishmash of texts and images. Designing a movie poster requires a designer to know the important elements that make up one to create a poster that successfully conveys a film’s theme or story and direct the target audience toward its main message. These elements should be present at all times and should to ensure that the movie you promote makes the most out of the exposure it gets from a poster.

Title: What would a movie poster be without the title of the movie? Unless your film is one of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, then your movie poster must indicate the title of the film. No matter how good your design concept is, a movie poster without the title of the film will find it difficult to sell the film it tries to promote.Dominant Image: To choose the key image for your movie poster design, follow the four-step AIDA formula, which stands for attention, interest, desire, and action. The dominant image should be attention-grabbing enough to generate interest in the movie. Once you successfully grab the attention and piqued the interest of your target audience, evoke their desire enough to encourage them to watch the movie once it comes out. Billing Block: Also known as poster credits, the billing block an element of a movie poster that gives credit to where credit is due. With that, a movie poster should be able to indicate the names of the top-billed actors or the principal cast, production crew, producers, distributors, and financiers. Its presence, size, and order in the movie poster is based on the collective agreements or contracts made and signed prior. This element is usually presented in fonts that are tall and compressed.Release Date: There are movie posters that make the common mistake of including the words “Coming Soon” in the movie poster without including the specific date of its release. How can the public know how long it takes for its release? How should the interested public determine when they can pre-purchase tickets to see the film?Tagline: To be more enticing in the eyes of your target audience, having an intriguing tagline can do the trick. Taglines have to memorable enough to draw people into watching the movie. Memorable taglines include “In space, no one can hear you scream,” from the 1979 movie Alien and “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away… ” from the 1977 Star Wars film.Reviews: Although optional, adding reviews from movie critics and even celebrities who watched the movie’s advanced screening is one way of increasing the hype and anticipation of the film. It is up to the designer and the movie producer whether or not to include this in the movie poster design. The data gathered by Statista in their April 2019 survey generated about 39 percent of the 2,201 respondents who said that positive reviews from critics on a movie poster plays an important role in their decision-making as to whether or not they watch the movie. However, the same survey also mentioned that only 58 percent of the same number of respondents said that positive reviews from celebrities do not make any difference in their interest in watching the film.

Types of Movie Posters

There are films that use a single type of movie poster right from its promotion period until the film is released on DVD or Blu-ray. But for movie producers who have bigger budgets allocated for the promotional items of the film, there are other types of movie posters they can use. Learn more about these types below.

Main Poster: This type of movie poster is the most common one. The main movie poster is used as the main promotional item during the promotion period of the film. It contains a dominant image that tells the target audience of its plot and theme. It contains the names of the cast, the production team, and the movie distributors.Teaser Poster: Also called an advance poster, this type of poster solely contains basic information that is only meant to intrigue and pique the interest of the target audience. It contains a dominant image that does not reveal too much about the movie plot. This image should be able to successfully create a hype about the film without having to contain any more information. Character Poster: For movies that feature an ensemble cast, having this type of poster is ideal as it can further generate interest from the larger audience. Movies with an ensemble cast include Justice League, The Lord of the Rings, and Ocean’s Eleven where each principal movie character is given an equal amount of screen time. With the character as its dominant image, this type of poster should also contain the name of the actor playing the character as well as the name of the character itself. If the character has a distinct quality that you want to highlight, you may also indicate this in the character poster.Video or DVD Release Poster: This type of poster is only made if the film gets released on DVD or Blu-ray. Most of the time, this type of poster contains most elements found in the main poster. The only main difference is that this type of poster indicates short reviews from famous movie critics and relevant media publications.

50+ Movie Poster Examples, Templates, Format in Word, PDF

How to Design a Movie Poster

Like any other marketing collateral, a movie poster is only considered successful if the collective effort of its elements has the ability to convey the intended message to its target audience. But knowing the elements of a movie poster is not enough―you also need to know the proper procedure on how to weave these elements into a single, big picture.

Step 1: Download a Template

If you have limited time and budget for a movie poster, consider downloading and customizing a movie poster template. With the use of a ready-made poster template, you do not only save time and money but you also get access to a file that contains ready-made content that conforms to movie poster design standards.

Step 2: Know the Movie Theme

The theme of the movie is the idea, premise, and purpose of a film that answers the reason why the movie exists. If you want to achieve the best approach in designing a poster for a movie, you have to know its theme before anything else. By capturing the movie theme, it will then be easier for you to determine the message that you want to deliver in the movie poster. The theme serves as an anchor that links the connectivity of every element you incorporate in the movie poster.

Step 3: Secure and Incorporate Required Elements

Bring the movie poster to life by securing its required elements which include the dominant image, billing block details, release date, tagline, and movie reviews from critics. When deciding for the dominant image, be sure to incorporate a high-quality photo by a professional photographer. See to it that the details of the billing block details are formatted and ordered accordingly. It is ideal to have a catchy movie tagline to entice the audience further. In adding the movie’s release date, it is crucial to ensure its accuracy.

Step 4: Review

It is crucial to review the final draft before it gets printed to see to it that the poster is of high quality. Check and edit the spelling of every single word and name you indicate and the grammar of the tagline. See to it that the list of names and positions are complete, matching, and accurate. Check the placement of every single element and make sure that these are placed correctly in the movie poster.

The Dos and Don’t of a Movie Poster

To be further guided during your poster design process, take some notes from the following dos and donts below.


1. Do make it easy to read from a distance.

An excellent movie poster should be able to give exposure to a film effectively. One effortless way to do that is to make sure that its vital information should be easy to view even from a far distance. If you put up posters in crowded areas, passersby might entirely overlook your poster. But if you use the right font size for the text in your poster along with an excellent choice of text hierarchy, rest assured that you can draw and hold the attention of your target audience.

2. Do go bold.

Having an easy-to-read poster is not enough―you have to go bold to make the most out of that one glance that passersby can spare. Planning on a monotone color palette or single-color gradient with a boring typeface? Forget about it and step things up by trying out other color combinations and unique fonts. Thinking of sticking to a white canvas? Scratch that idea and try something another color. By going bold, you allow yourself to experiment with things and discover new possibilities. Who knows? You might be able to create the most iconic movie poster design, yet.

3. Do consider the time and location.

Even the most well-planned poster can go unnoticed if it is placed at the wrong time and the worst place possible. The time and location are factors that could affect the impact of your movie poster to your audience. Put it up too late or too early and you’ll either lose or miss making an impact. Put it up at the worst places where people can hardly see, such as a wall already filled with other advertising materials and you’ll miss the opportunity of conveying your message.

4. Do have one dominant image.

If you find it difficult to start designing, it is best if you try to revolve your design around a dominant image. Creating any print material with its dominant image already identified makes the design process more manageable. To know whether you have chosen the right dominant image, use this as the starting point of the story that you are trying to portray in the movie poster. Other than that, see to it that the image your choice is what the rest of the contents of the poster is pointing. Your dominant image must entice the eyes of your target audience and navigate it toward the rest of the parts of the poster.

5. Do utilize white spaces.

White spaces don’t exist just because the designer hasn’t thought of anything to put in it. In fact, white space is an integral part of any visual design as it increases its impact and comprehensibility. White space or negative space can work wonders in most printed materials and that includes movie posters. The ideal areas where you should ensure to incorporate white spaces are between individual letters, between text lines, around the interior margins, between the different types of elements, and around the key contents of the poster.

6. Do include a call to action.

Without a prominent call to action in your poster’s design, you won’t be able to identify what happens next after you have successfully grabbed the attention of your target audience toward your movie poster. With a compelling call to action incorporated in your movie poster design, you make your audience do what you want them to do. The call to action usually is the contact point in every poster design. Since what you are making is a movie poster design, you can include elements such as a QR code that people can scan to read more information about the film or to direct them to view your movie trailers.

7. Do create focus using typography.

If you are a seasoned graphic designer who experienced designing other types of posters before, you might already know that poster design is one of the best avenues where your choice of typography and its combination can go boundless. However, since you will be creating a movie poster, there are some things that you need to consider and that is to create focus with your choice of typography. Some movie posters are only made up of text and colors and are void of images and illustrations. If your current project is one of this, then this is not the time to be hesitant when it comes to experimenting with bigger and bolder typefaces that usually make you feel uneasy. But this is also not the time to use more than ten font styles either.


1. Don’t get too creative.

It is good to be creative if you are designing a movie poster that is meant for a film’s promotion. However, be careful about getting things too creative for its own good that the final output of your poster loses the main focus or theme of your film. Keep in mind that when it comes to visual design, less will always be more. Sure, you can experiment with various design approaches but know what looks good on the final output and know what is not.

2. Don’t reveal too much.

Avoid designing your poster in a way that you are already spoiling the audience as to what happens in the film. A movie poster should only be able to present the gist of the story and not the entirety of the story. By revealing too much information about your film, you are no longer enticing your target audience. On the contrary, you are making them feel like there is no need to see the film anymore since you disclosed much of the film through the movie poster alone. Since it’s a movie poster, it is essential to ensure that there is an element of mystery to pique the interest of your target moviegoers.

3. Don’t use too many colors.

The best movie posters out there can grab the attention of its target audience even with the use of limited colors. While it is encouraged to go beyond a monotone color palette or single-color gradient, it is best to limit your color choices to achieve a bold and eye-catching visual. Using too many colors in your movie poster design can get too distracting. It might be able to catch the attention of many people but you might not get an excellent first impression out from them.

If you are an all-around filmmaker or a graphic designer assigned to create a movie poster for someone else, the concept, ideas, and guidelines we have here guarantee you a smooth-flowing poster design process. Also, be sure to download any of the movie poster templates and examples we have uploaded here for you to download and customize conveniently.