Poster Design Guide: How to Make an Eye-Catching Poster in 2020

By Sara McGuire, Dec 04, 2019

poster design

Posters are one of the oldest, most tried and true types of marketing collateral. Posters are an effective way to draw attention to your sales, events, fundraisers and more.

While there is no one right way to make a poster, there are still poster design best practices that you should follow.

So we decided to take it upon ourselves to write the ultimate, most in-depth poster design guide out there. If you want to learn how to design a poster from scratch, you’re in the right place.

These poster design tips can be applied to virtually any poster you design. So let’s get into it!

How To Design a Poster From Scratch

  1. Identify the goal of your poster
  2. Consider your target audience
  3. Decide where you want to share your poster
  4. Select a pre-made poster template
  5. Pick a relevant or branded color scheme 
  6. Include a clear call to action
  7. Use varied fonts to create visual hierarchy 
  8. Use icons to improve your poster design
  9. Always use high-quality images & stock photos
  10. Download & export in the right format
  11. How to make an event poster
  12. How to make a sales poster
  13. How to make a conference poster 
  14. How to make a real estate poster

 

1. Identify the goal of your poster

Do you want to inform someone about a new product? Tell them about a concert in their area? Or just let them know that there’s a sale coming up? All of these are goals that a poster can help you achieve. 

If you think about your main goals from the beginning, you can use that goal to guide your design choices.

For example, if the goal of your poster is to get people to attend a conference, then your poster should be designed strategically to help you achieve this goal. A common rule for written communication is that simplicity wins.

Take a look at this conference poster:

Modern Business Conference Event Poster Design Template

 

The poster design emphasizes the key information attendees will need to know, with a sleek, professional finish:

  • The yellow contrasts with the blue, putting emphasis on the time and place of the even and the featured speakers (information that is likely to pique the interest of attendees).
  • The name of the conference is also written in the biggest text.
  • The title is followed by a brief description of what the conference is about.
  • The background image reflects the theme of a team working together to achieve a vision.

Now take a look at this recruiting poster:

Now Hiring Poster Design Template

The goal of this poster is to inform qualified candidates about the open position. And hopefully, get them to call that number to apply to the company: 

  • The “We’re Hiring” title of this poster is larger than any other text, as well as flanked by an eye-catching icon.  
  • The open positions are listed next so readers can quickly see if the poster applies to them. 
  • The call to action, which in this case is to call that number, is highlighted in a unique color.
  • The next section answers a lot of the main questions job seekers will have, without making them read a lot of text. 

Start with a goal and plan your poster design around it. 

 

2. Consider your target audience 

Next, you should consider who you are trying to reach with your poster. Answering this question will probably inform a lot of your design choices.

For example, say you’re advertising a fundraising event for the arts, like below:

Modern Fundraiser Poster Design Template

The layout, colors, and design seem very professional. It would be a pretty good guess that they are trying to attract an older, professional audience. One that has some money to not only blow on a charity dinner but also donate to their cause. 

Now compare it to this poster for a Color Run fundraiser:

Color Run Charity Event Poster Design Template

This poster looks like it’s going to appeal to a much younger group of people with the use of vivid colors and bold fonts (which happen to be one of this year’s biggest graphic design trends). It also looks like more of a party than a fundraiser! 

Now they both are fundraising event posters, but the audience each poster is trying to reach is different. 

So make sure you have decided exactly who you want to appeal to, before jumping into the poster design process. 

Also, remember that you can make multiple posters that cater to different customer personas. You don’t have to use one for every type of customer! 

 

3. Decide where you want to share your poster

The final thing you should do before designing your poster is to think about where it will be shared. 

Are you going to print it out and hang it up on a wall? Or just share it with your followers on social media? 

It’s important to decide where you want your poster to be seen before you start the design process. This is because, as you will see below, optimizing a poster properly for print is a bit different than for Twitter or Facebook. 

Optimize your poster for print 

You probably have an idea of where you’re going to share your poster. Where you decide to pin it up can help you make a few design decisions. 

If you’re planning on printing out your poster, there are some basic guidelines you should keep in mind.

Visualize where you will pin up your poster

If it’s going on a wall with a bunch of other posters, print your poster in a larger size so it will stand out:

Minimalist Modern Business Poster Design Template

But if it’s going on a relatively bare wall, print it in a smaller size and pin up a bunch of them to create a larger footprint.

Job Fair Recruitment Event Poster Design Template

 

Select a standard paper size

Unless you want to create a big poster, you probably don’t want to spend the money on getting it printed. You can print it yourself by simply designing your poster to fit the standard ISO A1-A5 printer paper.

How To Design Poster Example 7

With Venngage you can magically resize any of our poster templates into Letter, A3, A4, and A5 sizes with a few clicks. First, click on the Settings tab and then select what size you would like: 

How To Design Poster Example 3

The magic resize will also reformat your poster content to fit the new size, if you want it to. This simple feature will save you a TON of time in the long run, so be sure to try it out. 

You’re more than welcome to manually resize your poster the old fashioned way, by updating the page size: 

How To Design Poster Example 1

You can also set the size of your poster in Pixels, Inches, or Centimeters as well. 

That said, for most of the posters that you’re going to print out, it’s best to use the preset sizes. This will ensure that your printer can actually print out a beautiful poster. 

 

Set bleed marks for printing

In printing, “bleed” is when you have an image or object touching the edge of the page. When you design a poster with an image that is flush with the edges of the poster, your printer will automatically leave a thin white line around the edge of the paper.

How To Design Poster Example 14

When your document has bleed, it needs to be printed on a larger sheet of paper than the design, and then trimmed down to your intended dimensions.

Like with resizing in the previous section, you can automatically add bleed marks to your poster with a single click. Just click this checkbox in the Settings tab and the bleed marks are automatically added:

How To Design Poster Example 13

As you can see in the event poster example above, there’s now a white border added to your design. This is, you guessed it, the bleed marks! 

As you can see in the event poster example above, there’s now a white border added to your design. This is, you guessed it, the bleed marks! 

Optimize your poster for social media

There are fewer restraints when designing a poster for web than for print. This is a great opportunity to do something really fun with your design. Still, there are some guidelines you should follow.  

If you want your poster to look really good on social media, size it for the specific platform you’re promoting it on. You may want to make a couple of different versions of your poster for different platforms.

Remember, a square or portrait orientation looks best for mobile viewing. People are used to scrolling up and down on mobile, rather than side to side.

These are the ideal dimensions for each of the big social media platforms:

  • Facebook: 1200 x 628, or 1200 x 1200 for square
  • Twitter: 1024 x 512
  • Instagram: 1080 x 1080, or 1080 x 1350 for portrait 
  • Pinterest: You have more wiggle room here for length, but try to use a ratio of 2:3 to 1:3.5. 

If you’re promoting your event on Twitter or Facebook, banners generally fit better on their newsfeeds. In that case, landscape orientation is fine.

Earth Day Poster Design Template

Or take this Black Friday sale poster is perfect for appearing in an Instagram feed:

Simple Sale Event Poster Design Template

 

It’s particularly important to keep text concise when making social media posters as well. Because people are probably going to be looking at them on their phones, the images are going to be small.

 

4. Start with a pre-made poster template 

If you don’t have a ton of design experience (or any, for that matter), designing your own poster might be intimidating. A poster template will give you a foundation to create your own design.

Start by picking a template that will help communicate the goal of your poster. Look for a poster template that reflects the theme of your poster or that has the right layout you’re looking for. 

Here are some things to keep in mind when picking a poster template:

  • Look for a poster template with a layout that fits your vision and goals (ex. header placement, image placeholders, icons and more).
  • Pick a poster template with the right dimensions for where you will be sharing your poster. (ex. on a wall, on Facebook, in an email marketing campaign, etc.)
  • Remember that you can always customize your templates if there are aspects of the design that you don’t like.

For example, if you want to create an event poster for your job fair, you would want to focus on the location, date, and jobs available:

Job Fair Event Poster Design Template

That’s why in this poster template those pieces of information are displayed so prominently. 

However, if you’re creating a business poster, your motto, products and expertise might be the focal points: 

Sectional Business Marketing Poster Design Template

If you’re advertising a sale, the discount and date are probably should be the most eye-catching parts of your poster:

Modern Sale Poster Design Template

As you can see, these are all great poster templates, but each example is designed to help you achieve a unique goal. So just make sure you are picking a template that fits your goal and you will save a ton of time. 

Now if you want to learn how to create an event poster, business poster, sales poster and more, jump to the last section. There you will find a more in-depth guide on creating a killer poster. 

 

5. Pick a relevant or branded color scheme 

One of the first things that someone is probably going to notice about your poster is the color scheme.

In most cases, the appropriate color scheme will be obvious. So try not to overthink it! 

For example, if you’re creating a poster for a winter event, then a color scheme of warm green, red, and white will evoke the feeling of the holidays.

Christmas Party Poster Design Template

If your company has strict brand guidelines you need to follow, then you can incorporate your brand colors into your poster design.

Simple Blue Marketing Poster Design Template

Now if you want to use your brand colors on any of our poster templates, just click the My Brand Kit tab on the left side of the screen: 

How To Design Poster Example 5

Then click one of your branded color palettes to add them to any poster template:

How To Design Poster Example 4

Click the palette again to change where the branded colors are used:

How To Design Poster Example 18

With a few clicks you can create a ton of variations of your poster, like so: 

How To Design Poster Example 22

However, if you’re still struggling to come up with a relevant color scheme, take a look at the meanings and emotions of each color. 

The color blue is usually associated with wisdom, trust, and loyalty. Use this color palette on a business, event, or marketing poster to make it feel very professional: 

Digital Marketing Meet Up Event Poster DesignTemplate

Green is associated with energy, the environment, and tranquility. It would make sense to use a green color palette on a nonprofit or fundraising poster, like below:

Green Eco Friendly Poster Design Template

Red is associated with strength, courage, and joy. It also is super eye-catching, which you can see in the example below:

Red Bold Sale Poster Design Template

As you can see, color theory should help you pick the right color palette in no time. Now if you’re not sure where to start when it comes to pairing colors, a color scheme generating tool like Coolors can be helpful.

 

6. Include a clear call-to-action

Once you have someone’s attention, you need to make it very clear what their next steps are to help. This is commonly known as a Call-To-Action (CTA). 

Every poster, no matter the topic or type, should have a CTA. Otherwise, what is the point of creating a poster in the first place?

In this marketing poster template, the CTA is the “Register Online” at the bottom:

Digital Marketing Conference Event Poster Design Template

The designer made sure this CTA would stand out from the rest of the poster by highlighting it in blue and using a unique font.

Additionally, they made the CTA very simple to follow. You don’t want to make your CTA a chore, especially if your poster wants them to visit a website.

The same can be said about this fitness poster template:

Pink Yoga Class Poster Design Template

But in this example, the creator of this poster made the CTA stand out even more!

As you can see these CTAs are both near the bottom of the poster. This is on purpose and allows the reader to get more information before taking action:

Dark Fundraising Poster Design Template

Can you imagine if the first thing you read on a poster was CTA? It would be very confusing and probably make you ignore the rest of the poster.

Not all CTAs require the reader to visit a website, call a business or make a purchase immediately.

That action may be as simple as telling their friends about what they learned on the poster. Or about when a garage sale happens to be: 

Simple Garage Sale Event Poster Design Template

The call to action on this poster is actually the entire black section of the poster. The top section informs the reader and the bottom helps them take an action. 

In this case, the action is visiting the garage sale, but it still is a CTA. Without it, no one would know what this poster was trying to get them to do. 

 

7. Use fonts to create a hierarchy of information

What information you choose to include on your poster will depend on the goal of your poster. 

But if you’re creating a fairly standard poster, it’s best practice to follow a hierarchy of information.

For example, if you are creating an event poster the information on your poster should be read in this order:

  1. The name of your event.
  2. The date and time of your event.
  3. A short description of the event or a catchy tagline.
  4. The location of your event (if you choose to include it).
  5. A simple call-to-action like a website, social media page or contact number 
  6. The name of your company, department, organization, etc.

As you can see in this event poster template, the designer used a handful of different fonts to organize the information: 

Business Entrepreneur Workshop Event Poster Design Template

The title of the event obviously uses the largest font, because it will hopefully catch someone’s attention. It also will give the reader context for the other information on the poster. 

Business Entrepreneur Workshop Event Poster Design Template3

But if they aren’t interested in learning more, they can quickly move on with their day after reading the title. 

If they are interested in the event, they can move on to the next piece of information, the date.

The designer used a bright yellow to catch your eye directly after reading the title of the event. If they would have used a simple white, the information would have been easily overlooked. 

The tagline of the event is italicized below the title, giving the reader a little more context about the event. Again, if this sounds interesting to the reader, they can move onto the next piece of information, and so on.  

This process will help eliminate people who don’t really need to see the CTA at the end of your poster. 

And finally, after moving through all the information, the CTA at the bottom uses another bold font and color so that people will not miss it. 

Business Entrepreneur Workshop Event Poster Design Template2

Can you imagine how hard it would be to navigate this poster if they would have used the same font throughout? It would look like a term paper, which no one really wants to read.

Now if you’re struggling to decide what the hierarchy of your poster should look like, think about the most important info you want the reader to walk away with.

In this example, the title of the event, the location and the CTA seems to be the most important.

Additionally, the font color used in this poster contrast exceptionally well with the background color. If you choose a font that doesn’t contrast, it will be very difficult to read your poster. 

Business Entrepreneur Workshop Event Poster Design Template1

As you can see below, a good rule of thumb is to use a light font color on a dark background:

Black Friday Event Poster Design Template

Or a dark font on a light background:  

Simple Colorful Info Poster Design Template

Even if you use a single font on your poster, you can quickly create a hierarchy of information just by changing the color, size or weight of the font. So again, don’t overthink it!

 

8. Use icons to visualize concepts in your poster design

Icons are symbols used in design to represent concepts. Icons are the perfect way to enhance your poster design. You can use icons to embellish points and, in certain cases, replace text. 

They’re also great for illustrating ideas quickly. Or you could make icons the main focal point of your design, like the template below:

Blue Conservation Poster Design Template

Keep these best practices in mind when using icons in your poster design:

  • Pick icons with a consistent style (line thickness, flat or illustrated, line art or filled).
  • Use icons sparingly and allow for plenty of whitespace to let your design breathe.
  • Add a simple border or background shape to your icons.
  • If you do replace the text with icons, make sure that the meaning is very obvious.

Let’s take a look at some of those best practices in action, starting with keeping your icons consistent.

As you probably know, there are a few different kinds of icons that you can use. Some are flat, and can be changed to match the color of your poster very easily: 

Company Job Hiring Poster Design Template


While others are illustrated, and the colors can’t be changed:

Medical Informational Poster Design Template

Whatever icons you choose to use while designing a poster, just make sure the styles are consistent, like in the examples above. 

So if you use a flat icon in one section, use flat icons throughout your poster and vice versa.

Next, let’s talk about using whitespace correctly when it comes to icons. If you’re not aware, whitespace is the open space around a design element like a block of text, a title or an icon:

Simple Fitness Poster Design Template

Without it, your poster design will feel exactly cramped and unprofessional. It will also make your poster very hard to read or navigate. Check out how odd the poster below looks without adequate whitespace:

How To Design Poster Example 16

It looks like a mess, so be sure to take the time to use whitespace throughout your poster! 

One very easy way that you can create this whitespace around your icons is by using a background or border shape. Each icon in the poster template below uses a background shape:

Dark Consulting Business Flyer Poster Design Template

Using background shapes in this way will not only give your icons some room to breathe, but it will also make them a lot more eye-catching. Without the border shapes in the example above, the icons would have just faded into the background. 

Plus, if you’re using illustrated icons it will make the design feel much more consistent across the poster:

Real Estate Marketing Poster Design Template

And the finally best practice, be sure that if you replace text with an icon, the reader will actually understand it. The poster example below illustrates this tactic well in the contact section:

Modern Fundraiser Poster Design Template

Readers are going to be able to decipher those icons because they are used a lot in the real world already. Others might not be so easy to understand, so you might have to add a label or title to them. Like below:

Yoga Fitness Class Event Poster Design Template

With Venngage, you can quickly swap any icon on your poster or one of our templates, with just a few clicks as well. First, select on any icon on your poster and then click the Replace button:

How To Design Poster Example 11

Then just search for the icon that you want, and click on it to replace: 

How To Design Poster Example 19

It’s really that simple and can help you turn a poster template into your own unique graphic in no time. 

 

9. Use high-quality images & stock photos

If you have been paying attention to the templates and examples in this article you may have noticed that they use a lot of photos. 

Some use a stock photo in the background: 

Simple Business Marketing Poster Design Template

While others make it one of the main focal points of the poster:

Red Rock Music Concert Poster Design Template

But all of them use very high-quality images, no matter the type of poster.

If you plan to print out the poster or enlarge it, using high-quality photos this is important. The slight blurriness or pixelation will quickly become a nightmare. 

It doesn’t matter if you are using a stock photo or one that you took, all of them should be very crisp and clear. Sometimes it’s better to use a professional stock photo in place of a blurry personal photo as well.

Plus with so many stock photo options out there it’s almost reckless not to use high-quality photos on your poster. 

Unsplash and Pexels are both great sites for finding beautiful, high-quality stock photos for your poster. 

How To Design Poster Example 21

Thankfully, you can easily add any Unsplash photo to your poster template directly from Venngage.  

Just head over to the left sidebar and click thePhotos tab to bring up the search bar: 

How To Design Poster Example 151 copy

Once you find the perfect stock photo just click the photo to add it to your poster.

Additionally, like with icons, you can swap any photo on your poster using the Replace button:

How To Design Poster Example 12

After you select Replace, you can search for any stock photo in our library and insert it into the poster with one click:

How To Design Poster Example 10

Now if you don’t want to use any of our stock photos, you can upload any image by dragging it on screen or by selecting Image Upload in the left sidebar:

How To Design Poster Example 15

As you can see, adding images to your poster is very easy, just make sure they are the right ones. 

10. Download & export your poster in the optimal format

After you have finished your poster, it’s time to share it with the world. On Venngage you can quickly download your poster by clicking the Download button on the right side of your screen:

How To Design Poster Example 17

Then select what type of file you would like your poster downloaded as:

How To Design Poster Example 8

Downloading your poster as a PNG should be fine for emails or social media. 

But if you want to print out your poster, download it as a PNG HD. This will make sure your poster is crisp and perfect once it gets back from the printer! 

 

How To Design Posters For Different Occasions

All of the advice we outlined above can be used on almost any poster. But in this final section, we are going to get a little more specific.

Below are some of the most popular types of posters that you can create. 

But instead of waxing poetically on each type of poster, we are going to outline a simple checklist for each type of poster! 

So let’s get into it! 

 

How to make an event poster

  1. Start with an interesting background image or color.
  2. Use a large and bold font for your event title.  
  3. Add some embellishments to the title to make it pop.
  4. Add the date, location and time of the event. 
  5. Include a simple call to action.
  6. Describe your event or why people should attend.
  7. Make sure you add your logo and brand colors.

Grand Opening Event Poster Design Template1

 

How to make a sales poster

  1. Start with a simple background color or texture.
  2. Make the savings or discount the main focal point. 
  3. Show where or what store the sale is taking place.
  4. List exactly what products are on sale or discounted. 
  5. Add the start and end date or time of the sale. 
  6. Add some contact information or a website 
  7. Include your branding or logo. 

Spring Sale Poster Design Template

 

How to make a conference poster

  1. Start with an interesting background texture or color.
  2. Use a large, eye-catching font for the conference title. 
  3. Outline the speakers, events, or special guests.
  4. Add the time and date of the conference.
  5. Add the location(s) of the conference. 
  6. Include a CTA for tickets or to sign up.
  7. Describe why people should attend this conference.
  8. Add the logo or branding of the conference organizer.  

Bold Growth MarketingConference Event Poster Template

 

How to make a real-estate poster

  1. Include a few high-quality pictures of the house or listing. 
  2. Add an eye-catching “For Sale” or “For Rent” header.
  3. List the purchase price or estimated rent.
  4. Add the address of the house or listing. 
  5. List a few of the most interesting features of the house or listing.   
  6. Elaborate on the listing, location, or real estate agency.  
  7. Add a simple call to action.
  8. Include the contact information for the real estate agent.
  9. Add the logo or branding of the real estate company.

Condo Real Estate Sale Flyer Template

Hopefully, these simple checklists will help you start creating a unique poster in no time! 

Now if you want to learn more about designing these types of posters, start with these articles:

20+ Attention-Grabbing Event Poster Templates

20+ Attention-Grabbing Event Poster Templates
55+ Creative Poster Ideas, Templates & Design Tips

55+ Creative Poster Ideas, Templates & Design Tips
17 Essential Human Resources Poster Templates

17 Essential Human Resources Poster Templates

About Sara McGuire

Sara McGuire is a Content Editor at Venngage. When she isn't writing research-driven content, she enjoys reviewing music and hitting up the latest culinary hot spot in her home city of Toronto. Follow her on Twitter @sara_mcguire