Get ready to rock – James Davies shows you how to give your posters a rough-and-ready DIY feel.

The rise of truly independent record labels and a DIY music scene has provided a great number of emerging creatives to flex their artistic muscles.

The aesthetic that best captures the movement seems to draw from several influences – punk, doodles and eclectica are the most obvious. Here, we’ll concentrate on distilling this aesthetic into a gig poster.

Poster design has special challenges: it should work both as a piece of art, and as a powerful attractant drawing people to the event. As well as picking up some tips for making your poster striking, you’ll also learn techniques for recreating a hand screen-printed poster look in Photoshop.

Learn to employ a mish-mash of photography, drawings and text to create a rich, textured functional piece of art. The techniques on offer here also translate well into creating flyers, zines, editorial art, CD covers and T-shirts. The card texture for the tutorial is on the cover CD; the other images required can be downloaded for free from stock.xchng.

01. Set up an A4 canvas at 300dpi in RGB, then download and open the image from Press Cmd/Ctrl + Shift + U to desaturate the image. Finally go to Image > Image Size and change the resolution (ensuring all boxes at the bottom left of the window are ticked) to 300dpi, also change the pixel width to 1,600.

02. Go to Filter > Sharpen > Smart Sharpen and run it at 500% with a 6.2 pixel radius. Next go to Image > Mode > Grayscale, then Image > Mode > Bitmap. The input and output resolution should match at 300dpi with method set to Halftone. OK this and set the Frequency at 80dpi, the angle at 25º and the shape set to Round.

03. Copy and paste the bitmap into your working document and press Cmd/Ctrl + T. Resize up to 294%. Select the Polygonal Lasso tool (L) and crudely cut around the figure separating it from the background, cutting out the neck as well.

04. Download the image from and open it. Go to Image > Mode > Grayscale. Next, go to Filter > Artistic > Poster Edges and set the Edge Thickness to 10, the Edge Intensity to 10, and the Posterization to 0. Cut and copy the head into the working document.

05. Move the head layer below the body layer on the Layers palette and resize it to 251%. Rotate the head -4.1º, then select the Rectangular Marquee tool and select the small area of the neck that has the scale fin. Copy and paste it onto a new layer and rotate -19.5º to fit.

06. Use the Eraser with a hard edge to trim off any excess from the neck, and then merge it with the head layer. Turn the body layer’s visibility off (click the eye icon next to layer thumbnail) then go to Select > Color Range and set the Fuzziness to 100%. Click on a black area of the head and OK it.

07. With the selection loaded go to Select > Modify > Expand and expand by one pixel. Create a new layer and fill it with black. Turn the layer visibility of the black layer off and repeat the process for the grey part of the head. Delete the original head layer leaving the black and grey head layers.

08. Then apply a two-pixel radius Gaussian blur (Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur) to each of the head layers followed by a 64-pixel Smart Sharpen (Filter > Sharpen > Smart Sharpen) at 200%. Make some final adjustments to fit it to the body and draw a crude-looking eye onto its own layer using the paintbrush.

09. Open card.tif from the cover CD and go to Image > Mode > Grayscale. Next, go to Image > Adjustments > Levels and enter the following input levels: 24; 1.00; and 138. Select the Dodge tool and set it to highlights with a 25% exposure. Grab a 1,000-pixel soft edge paintbrush and dodge up where the head would rest if you overlaid the image onto your working document.

10. Apply a two-pixel Gaussian Blur and then go to Image > Mode > Bitmap. It should be 300dpi set to Halftone. The Halftone screen settings should be 20dpi; 25º angle; and Round in shape. Copy and paste this into your working document at the bottom of the layer hierarchy.

11. Now to draw some flames. Select the Pen tool and set it to Shape Layers, as opposed to Paths. Draw in the inner and outer flames on their own layers. Select both the finished Flame layers and go to Layer > Rasterize > Layers. Apply a six-pixel Gaussian Blur to each of the Flame layers and then, in turn, go to Layer > Layer Style > Color Overlay and apply an orange and a red.

12. Apply a 64-pixel radius Smart Sharpen at 500%. Don’t worry about what this does to the colours at this stage. Then apply a grunge brush to erase parts of the Flame layers: it’s best to use a big brush and stamp it down once. Apply a 3-pixel radius Gaussian blur followed by a 64-pixel Smart Sharpen at 500%. Then re-apply the Sharpen.

13. Now for text. Select Avant Garde for the block capital text, setting the tracking to 100, and Bello for the curly text, setting the tracking to 0. At this stage make it all bigger than you need, then select all the text layers and go to Layer > Rasterize > Layers. Use the same technique as you did to degrade the flames to degrade the text layers, using a 7.5-pixel Smart Sharpen.

14. Before tweaking the text we need to tidy it up: first, resize everything to fix the composition. Add a colour overlay to the Grey Head layer. Cmd/Ctrl + click the Body layer’s thumbnail to make a selection, and delete the selection from the two head layers and the Halftone background layer. Apply a light colour to the actual Background layer and set the Body and the Halftone background layer blending modes to Multiply.

15. Arrange and re-size the text in a cohesive manner so that the important information is dominant. To further degrade the text, select the Rectangular Marquee tool and select a single letter (making sure you’re working on the right layer). Press Cmd/Ctrl + T and nudge and rotate until happy. Do this to a few letters in each word to give an uneven style.

16. Using the techniques you’ve learned so far, create a plaque for the text to sit on and some extra flames in the back, as shown here. Finally select the uppermost layer and go to Layer > New adjustment layer > Hue/Saturation, and move the Saturation slider to -20. Then add a Selective Color adjustment layer and adjust the blacks with the values +15% yellow, -15% black.


If you intend to get your work actually screen-printed then a few things are worth considering. Colours: The more colours you have the more screens you’ll need, which adds to the cost. Halftone: To achieve a greyscale or fullcolour effect, the printers use the halftone method, which prints lots of different-sized one-colour dots at different angles. Artwork: Screenprinters prefer to receive a greyscale image rather than you attempting to halftone (as in this tutorial) yourself. They will create the halftone from the grey channel.

Who: After working as an art director on magazines, Davies is now a freelance graphic artist and designer. With a portfolio boasting work for Games magazine, renegade T-shirt label Dirty Velvet, and portraits for HD, there’s little time left over for sitting on the beach in his native Bournemouth.
Software: Adobe Photoshop
Time to complete: 2 hours