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How to create retro B-movie poster art

Preparing for printing

the thing step 3

I draw extra stuff on the character that won't be visible on the poster itself, just in case I end up wanting to move him up or down on the poster. I usually draw in a somewhat blocky style to make sure I have lots of different areas I can fill with ink when it’s screen printed, giving the face a shaded effect while at the same time not using 20 different ink colours for continuous tone.

Using real-life reference for imaginary beasts

the thing

For reference in creating the alien creature, I researched whale skeletons and vertebrae, as well as snarling dogs showing their teeth. The key when drawing from different sources is thinking about it as all one piece: not as a dog's head on a whale’s skeleton, but as one big cohesive object whose parts have these unique characteristics.

Adjust your figure's gaze to lead your viewer's eye

the thing gaze

the thing gaze 2

Often when you have people's heads on a poster, the viewer's eye will follow the character's gaze. So I tend to have people looking inward onto the poster. That way you're not leading the viewer's eye off the page. Here, the secondary figures are all looking towards the central two figures.

The image is only a small part of the poster

the thing poster image

It's important for me to leave space for the title block and the info at the bottom. You don't want to use up all the space with a cool drawing, only to realise you have to cut off the bottom third by dropping type over it. So before I do anything, I divide up the space I have to work in into bottom credits, title block, and artwork space.

Words: Tyler Stout

Tyler Stout is a freelance illustrator whose main focus is screen printed movie and music concert posters. His clients include Burton snowboards, Flight of the Conchords, and the Weinstein Company. This article originally appeared in ImagineFX issue 49.

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