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Design a Movie Poster with Vector Shape Layers in Photoshop

In this tutorial we are going to learn how to achieve a cool movie poster design using mainly Vector Shape and Adjustment Layers. The design is based on the film, Frankie & Alice’s poster, but the technique works with almost any kind of image. I used one of my photographs. The techniques in this tutorial are quite simple, but we will only use non-destructive editing, which will allow us to make changes to any parts of our design later on easily. Non-destructive editing may be a bit complicated for those who never heard about it, but it can definitely save a lot of time in any kind of Photoshop workflow. Enough said, let’s get down to business! :)


Step 1 - Create a New Document

Press Command-N or choose File > New and create a new document using 1245x1898 pixels and the default settings visible in the image below.

New file settings


Step 2 - Create the first Vector shape layer

This feature might be a bit different in each version of Photoshop, but it doesn’t effect the technique at all. I’m using Photoshop CS6 Extended, which has some improvements with vector layers, but I won’t need them right now. To create a Vector Shape layer you will need to select the Rectangle tool from the toolbar on the left.

Rectangle tool


Once you have the tool selected, you can create the first shape in two different ways. Either click on your document area and then type in the size of the shape (308x308 pixels) or click and drag while holding down Shift to maintain a square format. Either way, you should have a Vector Shape layer with a square shape in it. The color doesn’t matter, it can be anything as it won’t be visible at the end.

308 x 308 square


Step 3 - Positioning of the Vector shape

Now that we have the shape, we will need to move it in place. Select the Move tool and drag the square to the top left corner of the canvas. Thanks to the Snap feature it will automatically snap to the borders of the document.

Moving the square with the Move tool


Step 4 - Creating the first row of squares

Now that we have our first square in place, we will have to duplicate it three times to get four squares in the first row. Instead of using the Move tool for this, we will need to select the Path Selection tool (Black arrow).

Path Selection tool


With this tool selected, click on your first square. You should see the corner points highlighted. Hold down the Option-Shift keys and drag the duplicate of the first shape to the right until it leaves only a little gap between the two shapes. If you want you can also use the arrow keys to nudge the selected shape by 1 pixel at a time in any direction (holding down Shift can nudge by 10 pixels). Now you should have 2 squares next to each other.

2 squares next to each other


You will need to repeat this last step to create two more squares and fill up the first row.

More squares


Step 5 - Distributing the first row of squares

Now you might have the same problem as I do, that the squares are not evenly distributed on the canvas. To sort this out we will need to select them all with the Path Selection tool and then choose Distribute Widths from the drop down menu visible in the image below.

Distribute Widths


Step 6 - Creating the grid

Now that we have the first row, we will just need to duplicate all four squares together four times to create four new rows. Use the same technique that we used before (select with Path Selection tool and drag while holding down Option-Shift).

Even more squares


Step 7 - Distributing the square horizontally

Unfortunately we will have the same problem as before that the rows won’t be even. In this case select the first column (not row in this case) and choose from the drop-down menu the Distribute Heights feature.

Distribute Heights

Repeat the same for all 4 columns and you will end up with a perfectly aligned 4x5 square grid.

Perfectly aligned 4x5 square grid


Step 8 - Placing in the photo

Now that we have our grid ready it's time to create the basic composition using a photo. I will use a photo of my lovely wife, but you can use any kind of images you like. To insert the image into your Photoshop document you should go to File > Place and locate the image file you want to use.

File > Place


Photoshop will place the selected image in as a Smart object, which means you won’t loose quality by changing the size of the photo. To be able to continue working you will have to press Return.

Smart Object


Step 9 - Clipping mask

Now that we have the vector shape ready and the photo in place, we just need to connect them to each other. All you need to do is to Option click between the two layers in the Layers panel. This is called a Clipping Mask, where the layer at the bottom is the frame or window to the photo on the top.

Layer mask


Step 10 - Turning off the strokes (CS6 specific step)

You will only have to do this if you have Photoshop CS6. To turn off the black strokes around the squares you will need to select the vector layer and select the Path Selection tool. Once the Fill and Stroke options will appear on the top left you can click on Stroke and choose no Stroke color, which is the first icon with the red line over it.

No stroke


Step 11 - Duplicating the layers

Now you will need to duplicate both of your layers. Select them in the Layers panel and drag them up while holding down Option.

Duplicate both layers


Step 12 - Black & White Adjustment Layer

You will need to add a Black & White Adjustment Layer now, which you can find in the Adjustments panel. Once you created this new layer, Option click below it in the Layers panel to clip it onto the copy of the vector shape layer. Check the Layers panel on the image below to make sure you have done this step right.

Black and white adjustment layer


Step 13 - Deleting squares

After this you will only need to select with Path Selection tool squares from both vector shape layers and delete them (by pressing Backspace) until you get the same result as on the image below. Of course you can be creative from this point on because the technique will work with any grid variations. The only thing you need to be aware of is that you should have some difference between the vector shape layers to be able to see the Black & White effect and the color image divided in the blocks at the same time.

Deleting squares


Step 14 - Finalizing composition and adding text

Now that you have the structure of the effect ready you can easily move and resize the photo while still keeping the same effect active. All you need to do is to select both versions of the photo from the Layers panel and use the Move tool or the Free Transform tool. Once you are happy with your composition you can start adding text. Below you can see my version inspired by the original poster.

Final composition


Al I did after this is I turned down the Opacity of the Black & White Adjustment layer to 50% to have a more subtle effect.

Poster


I hope you enjoyed this tutorial and well done for your hard work! :)


Martin Perhiniak

Martin Perhiniak | Articles by this author

Martin Perhiniak is a Certified Adobe Design Master and Instructor. Martin has worked as a designer with companies like Disney, Warner Brothers, Cartoon Network, Sony Pictures, Mattel, and DC Comics. He is running a series of Workshops in London as well as providing a range of services from Live Online Training to Consultancy work to individuals worldwide. Martin’s Motto “Do not compare yourself to your role models. Work hard and wait for the moment when others will compare them to you”

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