Poster Machine

A lot goes into creating a good poster! Take a journey through design history and learn how words and images come together to make your very own poster.

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Poster Theme

Posters promote ideas, events, and products to the public. Choose a theme to start designing yours now!

Propaganda

Propaganda is designed to influence viewers and promote the political agenda of a government or activist group. It often uses biased language and charged imagery to solicit an emotional response, rather than a rational one.

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Glenn Grohe. He’s Watching You. 1942. USA

Abram Games. Grow Your Own Food. 1942. England.

Felix Beltrán. Free Angela Davis. c.1977. Cuba.

Film

Posters have been used to advertise films since the very first public screenings took place. Today’s designers rely on a well-developed visual language of design techniques and tropes to communicate the mood and genre of a film.

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Tomi Ungerer. Dr. Strangelove. 1964. USA.

Waldemar Świerzy. Sunset Boulevard. 1957. Poland.

Indika Entertainment Advertising. Pulp Fiction. 1994. USA.

Advertising

Posters have always been used to market products and services. While modern advertisers adapted ideas from psychology to persuade and manipulate customers, designers found advertising posters to be a fertile ground for graphic experimentation.

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Adolfo Hohenstein. Phoenix Beer. 1899. Italy.

Lucian Bernhard. Priester Matches. 1905. Germany.

Paula Scher. Swatch. 1984. USA.

Symbols

Designers rely on visual symbols to communicate ideas to a broad audience.

Peace

Peace

Doves were first associated with peace by the early Christians, and are used in propaganda posters to oppose war and violence.

Ben Shahn. McCarthy Peace. 1968. USA.

Armando Milani. Translating War into Peace. 2003. Italy.

John Heartfield. Never Again! 1932. Germany.

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Reactionary Power

Reactionary Power

First used by labor unions, a raised fist can symbolize solidarity or resistance.

Shepard Fairey. We the Future / Power to the Polls. 2018. USA.

Designer Unknown. Every Act of Solidarity Helps Win! c.1977. Germany.

Strike Poster Workshop. Strike for the Eight Demands. 1969. USA.

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Patriotism

Patriotism

Many countries use characters to personify their national identity and inspire patriotism: Marianne in France, Britannia in England, Columbia in the United States.

James Montgomery Flagg. Wake Up, America! Civilization Calls Every Man Woman and Child! 1917. USA.

Georges Scott. For the Flag! For Victory! 1917. France.

Carton Moore-Park. Britain’s Day. 1918. USA.

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Call To Arms

Call To Arms

A person pointing directly at the viewer has been an effective call to arms since WWI, spurring entire generations into action.

James Montgomery Flagg. I Want You for U.S. Army. 1917. USA.

Alfred Leete. Britons (Lord Kitchener) Wants You. 1914. UK.

Achille Mauzan. Subscribe! Credito Italiano. c.1918. Italy.

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Charismatic Leader

Charismatic Leader

Charismatic leaders foster cults of personality to gain control, their image becoming symbolic of their movement. They are often known for a defining feature: a beret, a style of suit, an iconic helmet.

Elena Serrano. Day of the Heroic Guerrilla. 1968. Cuba.

Designer Unknown. Mao Is the Red Sun in Our Hearts. c.1960. China.

Xanti Schawinsky. 1934-XII Si. 1934. Italy.

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Bright Future

Bright Future

A shining sun symbolizes the promise for a bright future and the hope of a new day.

Designer Unknown. To-day Buy That Liberty Bond. c.1917. USA.

Nikolai Nikolaevich Kupreyanov. What the October Revolution Gave to the Working Women and Peasants. 1920. Russia.

Valentin Zietara. Freedom, Peace, Work / Elect the German People’s Party in Bavaria. 1919. Germany.

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Danger

Danger

Skulls are potent reminders of human mortality and often appear in workplace and safety propaganda posters to signal imminent danger.

Wiktor Górka. Seal It! c.1950. Poland.

Hans Erni. Save Our Water. 1967. Switzerland.

Sascha Maurer. Carelessness Means Death. 1943. USA.

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Western

Western

Westerns are characterized by outlaw gunfights, trusty steeds, and of course the rugged lawman—perfectly exemplified by John Wayne in True Grit.

Designer Unknown. The Searchers. 1956. Japan.

David Blossom. A Fistful of Dollars. 1964. USA.

BLT Communications. True Grit. 2010. USA.

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Horror

Horror

Horror films bring to life our deepest fears, just as Dr. Frankenstein gave life to his famous monster, iconically portrayed by Boris Karloff.

Designer Unknown. The Bride of Frankenstein. 1935. USA.

Roger Kastel. Jaws. 1978. Japan.

LA Associates. Get Out. 2017. USA.

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Romance

Romance

“Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine.” The destiny of lovers is the focus of Romance films, passionately portrayed by Bogart and Bergman in Casablanca.

Luigi Martinati. Casablanca. 1946. Italy.

Designer Unknown. Dirty Dancing. 1987. USA.

BLT Communications. Brokeback Mountain. 2005. USA.

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Musical

Musical

Often exuberant and theatrical, Musicals tell a story through song and dance. In the words of Fred Astaire, “Do it big, do it right, and do it with style.”

Designer Unknown. Follow the Fleet. 1936. USA.

Richard Amsel. Hello Dolly. 1969. USA.

LA Associates. La La Land. 2016. USA.

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Action

Action

Action film heroes face incredible challenges, never better exemplified than by Steve McQueen’s famous motorcycle getaway in The Great Escape.

Frank McCarthy. The Great Escape. 1963. USA.

Richard Amsel. Raiders of the Lost Ark. 1982. USA.

Art Machine. Black Panther. 2018. USA.

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Suspense

Suspense

Suspense movies use tension to keep the audience on edge as they await the inevitable, ominous conclusion, just like Joan Crawford does in the classic noir film Sudden Fear.

Designer Unknown. The Lady from Shanghai. 1977. Japan.

Saul Bass. Vertigo. 1958. USA.

Dawn Baillie. Silence of the Lambs. 1991. USA.

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Comedy

Comedy

Comedies can be dark, dry, cerebral, or slapstick, but they are always out to make audiences laugh. And what’s funnier than Groucho Marx’s prop cigar?

Bernard Lancy. Bringing Up Baby. 1938. France.

Robert Grossman. Airplane! 1980. USA.

John Alvin. Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls. 1995. USA.

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Humor

Humor

Humor generates captivating campaigns and feel-good associations for products but can backfire if customers get offended or distracted by the joke.

Designer Unknown. Philips. 1956. France.

Designer Unknown. Consul. c.1905. Germany.

Hervé Morvan. Brandt. c.1960. France.

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Sex

Sex

“Sex sells” is a cardinal rule of advertising. The Sex strategy often presents a heterosexual male fantasy that is laughably unrelated to the thing being sold.

Gino Boccasile. Olio Radino. 1950. Italy.

Designer Unknown. Jamaica. 1972. Jamaica.

Designer Unknown. Budweiser. c.1980. USA.

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Shock

Shock

Shock is used sparingly by advertisers. Designed to startle or offend, the ethics and effectiveness of this as a marketing strategy is up for debate.

Designer Unknown. Elimin. c.1900. Germany.

Stefan Sagmeister. AIGA Detroit. 1999. USA.

Toscani, Oliviero. United Colors of Benetton / Newborn Baby. 1991. Italy.

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Indulgence

Indulgence

Indulgence advertising invites customers to give in to their cravings and sometimes portrays yielding to temptation as a well-earned extravagance.

Raymond Savignac. Vérigoud. 1955. France.

Herbert Leupin. Bell. 1939. Switzerland.

Francisco Tamagno. La Framboisette. c.1900. France.

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Novelty

Novelty

Novelty advertising exploits a desire for the next big thing, which pays off in a culture where customers crave self-improvement and cutting-edge technologies.

Designer Unknown. Philips. 1954. Italy.

Edward McKnight Kauffer. Use the Telephone. 1934. UK.

TBWA\Chiat\Day. Yum. 1999. USA.

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Luxury

Luxury

Luxury advertising markets expensive products as status symbols that will make others envy the customer’s means and good taste.

Roger Broders. Vichy - Comité Des Fêtes. c.1928. France.

Designer Unknown. Rolex. 1950. Switzerland.

Photo: Richard Avedon. Blackglama. 1968. USA.

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Exoticism

Exoticism

Exoticism tempts customers with colonialist fantasies of faraway places by using romanticized or racist stereotypes.

Charles Loupot. Philippossian & Co. 1920. France.

Ludwig Hohlwein. Marco Polo Tee. c.1925. Germany.

Kenneth & William Willmarth. New Mexico and Arizona Rockies. c.1925. USA.

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Color

Designers rely on visual symbols to communicate ideas to a broad audience.

Safety Yellow

Safety Yellow

The most visible color to the human eye from a distance, yellow is often used to communicate urgency. It is the color of taxis and roadwork equipment and is an effective hue for safety posters.

Laura Berkowitz Gilbert & Sandra Hepp. Choking Victim. 1996. USA.

Metropolitan Transportation Authority. If You See Something, Say Something. 2003. USA.

Designer Unknown. Transport For London. c.2010. UK.

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Electric Blue

Electric Blue

Electricity has been observed in nature as a light, bright blue, and this shade is used in posters to suggest the power of modern technology.

Orsi. Flourescent Lamp / Philips. c.1940. France.

Bill Hoffman. Age of Space / U.S. Airforce. c.1961. USA. 

TBWA\Chiat\Day. iPod. 2003. USA.

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Mauve

Mauve

While trying to produce quinine, chemist William Perkin accidentally created the first synthetic dye, the color of which became so fashionable that the 1890s have been called the Mauve Decade.

Alphonse Mucha. Job. 1896. France.

Pal. Folies-Bergère / Loïe Fuller. 1897. France.

M. Ponaf. Rubinat. 1902. France.

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Millenial Pink

Millenial Pink

Can a single color define a generation? Some see the cultural phenomenon of Millenial Pink as a 21st-century embrace of changing gender norms, others as a savvy marketing ploy.

BLT Communications. The Grand Budapest Hotel. 2014. USA.

Thinx In-House Creative Team. Thinx. 2016. USA.

Photo: Viviane Sassen. Acne Studios. 2015. Sweden.

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Communist Red

Communist Red

Red has long symbolized left-wing political rebellion and the spilled blood of the proletariat in Communist propaganda posters worldwide.

Irakly Toidze. In the Name of Peace. 1959. Russia.

Propaganda Poster Group Shanghai. Criticize the Old World and Build a New World with Mao Zedong Thought as a Weapon. 1966. China.

Paul Davis. The Spirit of Che Lives in the New Evergreen! 1968. USA.

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Olive Drab

Olive Drab

Olive Drab was the color of US military uniforms from WWII through Vietnam, despite being an ineffective camouflage. In American propaganda posters of that time, there was no more patriotic shade.

John Vickery. His Life Is in Your Hands. 1942. USA.

U.S. Adjutant General’s Office. Who Wants to Know? Silence Means Security. 1943. USA.

Herbert Morton Stoops. Careless Talk...Got There First. 1944. USA.

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Absinthe Green

Absinthe Green

Absinthe was all the rage in 19th-century Europe. Highly alcoholic, the “green fairy” caused a public health crisis and was widely banned, but not before its jade hue inspired artists of the day.

Privat Livemont. Absinthe Robette. 1898. France.

Leonetto Cappiello. Maurin Quina. 1906. France.

Nover. Absinthe Blanqui. c.1895. France.

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Rich Black

Rich Black

Rich Black is achieved in the CMYK printing process by combining all four inks: cyan, yellow, magenta, and black. The resulting color is “blacker than black”—a shade that is richer and deeper than black ink alone can produce.

Tomoko Miho. Broadway. 1968. USA.

Manfred Bingler. Swissair. 1961. Switzerland.

Paul Rand. Eye Bee M (IBM). 1981. USA.

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Modernist White

Modernist White

Rejecting realism, modernist designers embraced the graphic power of white space. Modernist White may seem empty, but its minimalism is utterly intentional.

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. Jane Avril. 1899. France.

Ludwig Hohlwein. Kaffee Hag. 1913. Germany.

Joseph Müller-Brockmann. Musica Viva. 1959. Switzerland.

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Phrases

Choose a phrase for your propaganda poster to get your message across.

Choose a title for the film your poster will promote.

Choose a slogan to sell your product.

Give Peace A Chance

Give Peace A Chance

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Freedom!

Freedom!

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Join the Fight

Join the Fight

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Lend Your Support

Lend Your Support

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All Hail! Thank You, Great One

All Hail! Thank You, Great One

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Toward A Better Tomorrow

Toward A Better Tomorrow

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Beware!

Beware!

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Leather

Leather

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It Came From Beyond

It Came From Beyond

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Cry A Billion Tears

Cry A Billion Tears

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Never Let Go

Never Let Go

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Shaken, Not Stirred

Shaken, Not Stirred

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The Ultimatum

The Ultimatum

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Rough & Tumble

Rough & Tumble

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Aren't You Glad I Didn't Say "Banana"?

Aren't You Glad I Didn't Say "Banana"?

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Maximum Attraction

Maximum Attraction

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What the #@$?

What the #@$?

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Treat Yourself

Treat Yourself

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Now With More Nuts!

Now With More Nuts!

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Only The Best Will Do

Only The Best Will Do

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Adventure Awaits

Adventure Awaits

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Typefaces

Though often unnoticed, typography has remarkable power over how we absorb information. Moveable type design dates back to the invention of the printing press in 1439, but most text found in posters was hand-lettered into the 1960s. Typeface design became more mainstream as desktop publishing took hold, and now design professionals and amateurs alike have thousands of digital fonts at their fingertips.

Johann Bauer, Germany, 1835

Fette Fraktur embodies “Germanness.” Though long avoided after being adopted by the Nazis, this “blackletter” typeface has recently re-emerged in heavy metal and hip-hop graphics.

Julius Gipkens. Exhibition of Captured Aircraft. 1917. Germany.

Designer Unknown. Alka-Seltzer Germany. 1968. USA.

Kii Arens. Motorhead. 2014. USA.

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Robert Besley, UK, 1845

Clarendon is a slab serif typeface—where the finishing strokes are flat and blocky. Early versions were widely used in 19th-century “Wanted” signs and other broadsides that pre-date posters.

Designer Unknown. John Wilkes Booth Wanted Broadside. 1865. USA.

Hatch Show Print. R.E.M. 1995. USA.

BLT Communications. To Kill a Mockingbird. 2018. USA.

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Hermann Hoffman, Germany, 1908

Berthold Block was inspired by the hand lettering of Plakatstil poster designer Lucian Bernhard. Distressed edges soften its burly forms, giving it an organic feel.

Lucian Bernhard. Bosch Oil. c.1914. Germany.

Hans Rudi Erdt. The U-Boats Are Out! 1917. Germany.

Seymour Chwast. Seymour Chwast Retrospective. 1986. USA.

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Oz Cooper, USA, 1922

Bold and cheerful, Cooper Black has been a widely popular “fat face” since its 1922 design by Oz Cooper, who quipped that it was “for far-sighted printers with near-sighted customers.”

Doyle Dane Bernbach. You Don't Have to Be Jewish to Love Levy’s. 1964. USA.

Steven Frykholm. Herman Miller Summer Picnic. 1985. USA.

Globe Poster Printing Corp. Frank Zappa. 1995. USA.

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Paul Renner, Germany, 1927

Futura is the definitive geometric sans-serif typeface. A modern icon with mass appeal, Futura’s measured lines have taken over the world and beyond—including the plaque left on the Moon by Apollo 11.

Designer Unknown. Nixon Re-Election Poster. 1972. USA.

Bob McCall. 2001: A Space Odyssey. 1980 re-release poster. USA.

Neil Kellerhouse. The Social Network. 2010. USA.

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Morris Fuller Benton, USA, 1928

Designed at the height of the Roaring Twenties, Broadway is the most enduring and essential Art Deco typeface, and its dramatic geometry still conjures Jazz Age glamour.

Jean-Raoul Naurac. Londres-Vichy-Pullman. 1927. France.

Razzia. Deauville. 1982. France.

Karel Vaca. Dusts in Dust. 1982. Czechoslovakia.

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A.M. Cassandre, France, 1937

Art Deco legend A.M. Cassandre believed Peignot’s stripped-down forms and mixed-case letters would revolutionize the printed word. Peignot did not increase literacy as he hoped, but its quirky grace is still admired.

Lucien Boucher. Air France / Great Britain. 1951. France.

Robert McGinnis. Barbarella. 1968. USA.

Designer Unknown. The Whirling Dervishes of Turkey. c.1970. USA.

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Gerry Powell, USA, 1937

The shipping industry used stencils to create lettering on cargo for hundreds of years before this typeface was designed in 1937, and Stencil often suggests a utilitarian, military, or DIY association.

McClelland Barclay. Arise Americans. 1941. USA.

Jakub Erol. Like Wounded Birds. 1976. Poland.

See Red Women’s Workshop. Organise Against the National Front. c.1978. UK.

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Roger Excoffon, France, 1953

Mistral brilliantly solved the long-standing problem of how to make a typeface with connected cursive script. Modeled on its designer’s own handwriting, Mistral has a lively, casual feel.

Jean Colin. Air France / Caravelle. 1959. France.

Designer Unknown. The Kids Are Alright. 1979. USA.

The Refinery. Drive. 2011. USA.

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Max Meidinger, Switzerland, 1957

The most popular typeface on earth, Helvetica has become a household name. Efficient, assured, and highly legible, Helvetica was eagerly adopted by modernist designers who prized its clean simplicity.

Massimo Vignelli. Pirelli Tires. 1963. Italy.

Chermayeff & Geismar. Pan Am / USA. 1971. USA.

Former Partner. American Apparel. c.2000. USA.

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Milton Glaser, USA, 1968

Inspired by a hand-painted sign for a Mexican tailor shop, Baby Teeth is a cornerstone of “I (Heart) NY” designer Milton Glaser’s oeuvre. Baby Teeth is itself hand-lettered, but versions like Bebit make it available for digital use.

Milton Glaser. Dylan. 1966. USA.

Karel Vaca. The Great Movie Robbery. 1988. Czechoslovakia.

Chermayeff & Geismar. Big Apple Circus. c.1990. USA.

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Carol Twombly, USA, 1989

Carol Twombly adopted the classical letterforms of ancient Roman inscriptions when she designed Trajan in 1989. One of the first digital typefaces, Trajan is pervasive in film posters, and a genre-defying Hollywood standby.

BLT Communications. Titanic. 1997. USA.

BLT Communications. The Mummy Returns. 2001. USA.

The Cimarron Group. Gladiator. 2000. USA.

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Styles

Style is the way visual elements come together to create a “look,” but Style can also represent the mood of a time and place—and a rejection of what came before.

Belle Époque

Belle Époque

1871–1914

The first posters were made during the Belle Époque, and their innovative, jubilant style reflected the prosperity and optimism of the era.

Jules Chéret. Folies Bergère: Lotus Flower. 1893. France.

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. Moulin Rouge: The Glutton. 1891. France.

Théophile-Alexandre Steinlen. The Black Cat Tour. 1896. France.

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Art Nouveau

Art Nouveau

1890–1910

Defined by languid curves and organic forms, the “floriated madness” of Art Nouveau was an international design revolution.

Alphonse Mucha. F. Champenois / Rêverie. 1897. France.

William Bradley. The Chap Book. 1895. USA.

Eugène Grasset. L. Marquet Ink. 1892. France.

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Art Deco

Art Deco

1925–1939

Elegant lines and geometric shapes define the Art Deco style, which celebrated glamourous consumerism and the efficiencies of modern life.

Joseph Binder. New York World's Fair. 1939. USA.

A.M. Cassandre. Nord Express. 1927. France.

Paul Colin. André Renaud. 1929. France.

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Constructivism

Constructivism

1917–1930

Photomontage, bold colors, and dynamic compositions define Constructivism, a design movement that reflected the ideals of Communism in the wake of the Russian Revolution.

Alexander Rodchenko. There Are No Better Pacifiers. 1923. Russia.

Vladimir and Georgii Stenberg. The Adventures of an Abandoned Child. 1926. Russia.

Gustav Klutsis. Workers, Everyone Must Vote in the Election of Soviets! 1930. Russia.

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American Illustration

American Illustration

1895–1960

An insightful realism defined the American Illustration style. The best-known illustrators were highly skilled draftsmen and trusted household names, their work gracing countless posters and magazine covers.

Howard Chandler Christy. Gee!! I Wish I Were a Man. 1917. USA.

J.C. Leyendecker. Arrow Dress Collars & Shirts. 1922. USA.

Norman Rockwell. Freedom from Want. 1943. USA.

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Late Modernism

Late Modernism

1930–1960

Spanning several eras, Modernism reflected the long transition into the machine age. Late Modernism in the 1930s and 1940s responded to monumental advances in technology and favored a streamlined, graphic style.

Herbert Matter. Pontresina. 1935. Switzerland.

Man Ray. London Transport - Keeps London Going. 1938. UK.

Lester Beall. A Better Home / Rural Electrification Administration. 1941. USA.

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International Typographic Style

International Typographic Style

1950–1970

Developed in post-war Switzerland, the International Typographic Style took an objective approach to design, identifiable by its strict use of sans-serif typography, simple imagery, and grid system compositions.

Armin Hofmann. Giselle. 1959. Switzerland.

Joseph Müller-Brockmann. Beethoven. 1955. Switzerland.

Jacqueline Casey. The Moon Show. 1969. USA.

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Psychedelic

Psychedelic

1966–1972

The Psychedelic style reflected the drug and youth culture of 1960s San Fransisco, taking elements from Surrealism, Art Nouveau, and Op-Art to create a pulsating visual language.

Victor Moscoso. The Miller Blues Band. 1967. USA.

David Byrd. Jimi Hendrix Experience. 1968. USA.

Bonnie MacLean. The Yardbirds / The Doors. 1967. USA.

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Here’s Your Poster!

Theme Propaganda
Symbol Reactionary Power
Color Millenial Pink
Phrase Freedom!
Typeface Clarendon
Style Belle Époque
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