Many printing techniques are used to produce posters. While most posters are mass-produced, posters may also be printed by hand or in limited editions. Most posters are printed on one side and left blank on the back, the better for affixing to a wall or other surface. Pin-up sized posters are usually printed on A3 Standard Silk paper in full colour. Upon purchase, most commercially available posters are often rolled up into a cylindrical tube to allow for damage-free transportation. Rolled-up posters can then be flattened under pressure for several hours to regain their original form.
It is possible to use poster creation software to print large posters on standard home or office printers.
Types of poster designs
Many posters, particularly early posters, were used for advertising products. Posters continue to be used for this purpose, with posters advertising films, music (both concerts and recorded albums), comic books, and travel destinations being particularly notable examples.
Propaganda and political posters
German propaganda poster, 1921
During the First and Second World Wars, recruiting posters became extremely common, and many of them have persisted in the national consciousness, such as the “Lord Kitchener Wants You” posters from the United Kingdom, the “Uncle Sam wants you” posters from the United States, or the “Loose Lips Sink Ships” posters that warned of foreign spies. Also in Canada, they were widespread.
Creating your poster
Plan on paper first. Let the technology serve the message, not dictate it.
Once you’ve planned it, you can use Microsoft PowerPoint or Word to create your poster. These are not graphical layout applications, but they are adequate in most cases. Some tips to get you started are given below, but you might also consider attending the Word 2010: Creating Illustrated Posters course run by IT Training.
In PowerPoint, create your poster as a single slide. You can set the page size when you start using Design > Page Setup, so if you want an A1 poster (594mm × 841mm), you can specify this before you start (there isn’t an A1 option, but you can enter the dimensions manually).
PowerPoint also allows you to add guidelines to help you line up the poster elements. Click View, then tick Gridlines.
In Word, create your poster as a single side of A4. You can always scale it up when you come to print it.
Add a grid by clicking View and ticking Gridlines.
In both applications, you can add text boxes to the page using Insert > Shapes. This approach allows you to control exactly how text is positioned on the page.
When the poster is designed, you should convert it to PDF for printing, using PDF Creator or Adobe Acrobat. The conversion process can be problematic: edges of words and images may be cut off near to the margins, images may appear degraded or misshapen, poster elements may have shifted and become overlapping. However, by ironing out these problems at the conversion stage, you avoid nasty surprises later when you come to print it out. When the PDF looks good, you can be pretty confident that the printed version will also be OK.
Test your poster early, and regularly, by converting to PDF and printing to A4, to make sure you’re not storing up layout problems that will be difficult to correct later on.