Film Poster Research

We have been seen a project to design a movie poster for an art house film. We havn’t been given a brief yet, so I will put that on here when we have one. To start the project, I began researching the common themes in the design of posters for big, blockbuster films. Because of the speed at which new films are produced and released nowadays, the number of movie posters available is huge. I wanted to find some sort of starting point for researching the common design techniques so I decided to find similarities within the different genres.


There a number of clichés seen in the design of movie posters time and time again. In designs made for posters advertising romantic comedies, the most recognisable trend is probably the use font. In this way, they are quite similar to adult comedies aimed at both sexes, but the typeface is usually slimmer, making for a more feminine or elegant look. Red, pink, white or black are the most common used for these fonts. Like pretty much all mainstream film posters nowadays, they almost always feature photographs or film stills of the main characters. This is used as a way of attracting a larger audience because if a successful or popular actor is featured in the film fans will automatically be interested – if someone is a fan of a particular actor, it is likely they will want to see the film just to see them in it, rather than because they are interested by the actual story. Like in the poster for Love Actually above, if a film features a large number of well known actors, they will be presented in some sort of collage. This can also be seen in films such as He’s Just Not That in to You and Valentines Day. The colour scheme for these posters is typically quite soft, and much like the films they’re as a rule easy to look at, there’s nothing challenging or upsetting about them – these films are meant to make the audience feel good and this starts with the happiness conveyed in the poster designs.


In almost all posters advertising animated childrens films the space mainly compromises of an image of the main characters (most protagonists and antagonists – a distinction between the two is frequently made) placed in the films setting. Bold fonts are often used and are usually made for the specific film, or series of films. The colours are always bright and fun and the images need to be child friendly, so obviously anything considered upsetting is avoided.


It is common for film posters in the action/thriller category to include the setting, usually because they play a big part in these films. The overall look is usually quite masculine; colour schemes usually feature shades of blue, red or brown. In the images above, you can see that all three posters include the main characters and are usually photographed holding a weapon. The images are typically photographs or stills that aren’t included in the film and see the actors in the midst of action, or waiting for something unknown to the audience to happen. This technique builds excitement and tension in the audience, enticing them in to seeing the film. In all three posters above, the main or most well known character is featured above the title.


Visible in the posters above, Trajan is the font commonly chosen for use in poster for horror films. The colours usually used are quite bleak and often dark, establishing the setting and feeling of the film right from the start. An image of an actor is usually featured on the poster in the form of a still from the film or a digitally manipulated image so that they appear to be in the midst of some sort of suspended danger, making the audience feel uneasy even before watching.


A recurring theme in the design of posters for adult comedies is the inclusion of a photographic image of the main actors, often featured in an awkward or humorous pose, with at least one of them staring straight into the camera. The photo has usually been taken away from the film and stills are seldom featured. Bold font is almost always used in these posters and the colours used are bright and cheerful.

Films based on Comic Books

The colours used for the posters are usually quite bright and saturated and are also more masculine. Often, the font or symbol associated with the comic book is used for the title. A recurring trend seems to be a photograph of the superhero or main characters, in their alter egos suit, in the middle of some form of destruction.

As well as the clichés that can be recognised in a certain genre, there are also recurring trends across all genres and featured more often in the design of film posters than one may think. French blogger Christophe Curtois ( has made a collection of fourteen different trends seen in the layout of hundreds of posters including; actors stood back to back, actors in bed, an image seen through the legs of a woman, an image of a characters eye, type layered over a photo of a characters face, a woman in a red dress, the colours black and orange (or blue and orange) floating heads above an image of a beach and a face formed from a digitally manipulated image. He has also pointed out that many lesser known films have a yellow background, documentaries or films about animals are often dominated by the colour blue and thrillers that include actors running from something feature muted blue and grey colours.

The reason these trends and techniques are used time and time again is most likely due to a mixture of; the film makers know these types of images sell and therefore don’t want to attempt to try something new or more ‘out there’ in case it fails, and because the audience sees these images, recognises them as something familiar and more than likely want to see them based entirely on the actors shown and though they may not realise it, the similarities the designs share with the posters for films they have already seen and enjoyed.


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