I was commissioned to design a poster for a gig which I am going to be performing at (I play guitar). The specification was for a ’90s theme and to get it done asap! I started the project by researching ’90s gig posters. I used Google images and Pinterest and asked my parents what they remembered from that time.
I noticed that the posters were usually on brightly coloured paper or had bright designs, often with simple lettering and striking single images in clashing colours. I found a few posters with a similar yellow-orange-red colour scheme which I liked and decided to try using something like that myself.
I started to sketch some design ideas to use as the central image on the poster. I tried sketching band instruments, rock hand gestures, and a “back in time” clock doodle (my sketchbook page is on the right below). As I played with my sketches I decided I liked the hands rising from the ground and I thought of them as zombie hands (bottom right) in front of a big bass drum moon. I decided to also draw this sketch in white ink on black paper to see if it looked more interesting that way (on the left below in my black paper sketchbook).
I then drew out my design images bigger on white paper for scanning (first in pencil, then in pen using my lightbox) as I had decided to use Photoshop to put together the full poster design. I did the hands and the drums separately so I could layer them and move them around as individual elements.
I also started playing with lettering. The bands were asked to come up with a name for the show and one of my friends suggested Bratpop, as a play on the ’90s Britpop movement. This was chosen as the gig title, and I was given the rest of the text to be included on the poster.
I hadn’t designed a gig poster before so I had to find information about scaling and file size. Erin (the woman who commissioned the poster) asked that it be printable at A4 and A3 so I consulted the poster artwork spec sheet here and set up a new file on Photoshop. I edited my uploaded images that I wanted to use and put them into separate layers, and I dragged them into different arrangements so I could see how they looked.
After choosing where I wanted the illustrations I chose what colours to use. I chose a yellow background, which I would add an orangey-red pattern to later and added a black border. Then I chose a blue shade for the hands thinking of my zombie idea and so that it would clash with the background shade. The hands were in three layers – light blue main, darker blue shadow, and black outline – and I chose to keep the drums as an outline only so that the hands would stand out.
I noticed that the text used in a lot of ’90s gig posters had the title in large letters along the top, and the rest of the information was squashed up at the bottom. Often the text was in two colours only and swapped their colours in alternating lines (so light against dark, then dark against light).
I added the information text to the poster using this style, and also added the logo for the venue. I wanted to hand draw the gig title but didn’t have enough time (I was only given a short time to make the poster).
I researched grungy styles in text and textures, and found that a lot of the text was messy, blobby or cracked. I decided to add a crackly texture to the show title, and I used a youtube tutorial on distressed text to figure out how to do it myself. I used all lower case characters because popular Britpop bands like Blur, Oasis, Pulp, Suede, and Elastica all used lower case in their band logos.
Finally, I needed to create the background pattern. I found out using another youtube tutorial how to make a halftone colour effect in Photoshop to make the background seem more interesting and have a grungy pattern. I created a new layer and applied the effect from the left and right edges using an orangey shade to transparent, which was layered on top of the yellow background. Finally I brought all the elements together and saved my poster as cmyk files for printing and rgb files for sharing online.
I think this project went really well even though I only had a week or so to get it done. I think the style looks close to other ’90s gig posters and I learned quite a lot from the project, including how to make halftone effects (which I think I’ll find useful for zinemaking) and how to do a distressed text effect.
If you are in or near Plymouth please come along to the gig and share the info with your friends!