- Lesson details
In this unique course, Mark Westermoe, the creator of feature film posters for blockbusters like Braveheart, Total Recall, and Home Alone, teaches you how to design a movie poster. This course will teach you how to go from developing ideas for your poster with thumbnail sketches, through preliminary drawings, all the way through to a finished poster. Mark will cover the business side of designing movie posters, including how to get into this rewarding field of work. You will also learn the history of advertising illustration, and learn many insider tricks and finishing techniques.
In this lesson, Mark shows one of the methods for bringing a movie poster composition to a photographic level. He prints out one of the comps on grey pastel paper and renders it, using color pencils.
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to use a different surface. This is
one of several different approaches that we use
when we get closer to the finished drawing or rather
the finished poster. So as the process
starts, in the early weeks of it,
we're quicker and a little broader in what we draw.
But as it moves on toward the release
date, they wanna see something.
They've narrowed it down now to a number of comps, maybe
five, six, maybe only two, and at that point they'll
hire you to do drawings that are very tight,
almost photographic. So one of the
ways we do that, because we want to do it quickly too,
is by using a gray paper.
They used to make something called TV gray but
they no longer do. I'm using something that's
more similar to a pastel pencil, pastel paper rather,
like a Canson. There are other brands too.
It has a tooth, a little more than I would prefer
but if you put padding behind it
like about 20-25 maybe sheets of
newsprint, then you can minimize that kinda
graininess. And also the way you hold the pencil
and how much pressure you put on it is important too.
I always try to make these drawings look a little bit
spontaneous, like they just happened, that they're not
overworked. It makes a big difference.
I'll be using black Prismacolor pencil
wax, and verithin black pencil,
another wax, and I'll be using white
Prismacolor pencil, and I'll be using verithin white
pencil too. The verithins are really, really subtle
and so they can create edges and so on that we really want.
to make a photocopy
here of your
drawing, which was, if you recall, drawn on
tracing paper. Here, if you use a bypass
on a photocopier that's good
and set it to a photo setting, usually best, then you
can just have your drawing right here
on the gray paper surface. This is kind of a middle gray
maybe leading toward light. We could have used it for a
dark gray for this concept because it's gonna have a lot of dark to it.
But in any case, we can easily go up in value
with white or down in value with the
black. I've set aside
here the photographs from which this head were designed.
If I'm gonna be drawing Robert here
I really want to see what he looks like photographically. This
is a cinematic medium and
so photography is what they prefer
in marketing it. So they're gonna as you to
do work that looks somewhat photographic, if not
outright photographic. Okay.
This can also be done using colored pencil.
I'll show you a couple examples later in the evening.
In this case, the idea was inspired by
the famous movie poster by David Grove.
Oh by the way here are a couple
examples of the gray paper that are done on
gray but using colored pencils and a little bit of acrylic paint.
And these are done for Drew Struzan.
And then the finished poster is here. But I actually like these
color comps as much or more so.
Let's go back now to David's illustration
for The Outsiders. And so
this is kind of the idea that I had in mind. But we're arranging things
differently. Here, the central character
has got the highest contrast and the others have less contrast
surrounding him. But it's an interesting montage and that's
what it is. It has a strip here, looks
like a rural kind of a setting on a highway and then
it's got a glow from the sun. So those are some of the components. In our
case I've shifted it a little bit. Because this is merely an inspiration.
We're gonna have Emily
is our main character and the story
is built around her. But instead of using her as our highest
contrast, I'm gonna keep her lower contrast as though these
two individuals are central to her life.
In fact this one controls her
or in her imagination at least, he does. And then
here, Robert Downey is the therapist,
and then she is always on the verge of
anguish because she can't get rid of this
image that she has conjured up of
the bad character who has just channeled himself
as a clown. There may be stories in the script that I've
kind of loosely put together.
Why that is the case but suffice to say that is
the case here in our story. So now I'm gonna go back in.
This is toner, off the photocopier, you see
if you were to do this on a wax pencil, you couldn't draw
white on top of it, it would resist. But here you can actually
do so, plus it will not smear or move around.
So let's get started here.
Here we are. Let's just
start penciling in our lights a little bit.
John Malkovich is gonna be full contrast, let's put in
the lightest light first
and work from there.
I'll go a little slower than I normally would because I wanna, you know,
keep explaining as we go.
Pencils have to be sharp.
Let's take this eye for instance,
let's make the white of the eye really white
and let's assume that the
makeup has obviously been applied
and so this area of the clown's head
is gonna be in a higher value key than most
of the rest. So it'll look like this.
the white of the eye is not white at all.
Half tones, shadows, etc, but
here the white of the eye
actually is quite stark white and that helps
us actually in the case of our story.
Good. Let's do the same thing
here with the - he's got
makeup all along the tooth cylinder.
and onto the face.
for starters, here we have this. We also
can put in the strong
highlight or crestlight here where the front plane
of his cranium turns to the top plane.
Not gonna get too subtle with this
when I want to I can just switch over to the verithin
white pencil and that'll work for me.
I've also brought
some black and titanium
white or permanent white gouache.
So that if I wanna really go white I can
punch it using that.
And I can increase the
the black, the black paint.
now I'm gonna grab a
white - I'm sorry, black Prismacolor
pencil. Notice how sharp I keep it. I mentioned about the
eye, let's see what we can do. Notice we can
really punch that value down further.
This is a
deep eye socket and it does go quite dark.
Here and here
we can really push down
nice and dark. While we're at it
where else can we do that? Well, here
it's quite dark. And
the whole cast shadow from the nose
and including the wing.
That goes quite dark too.
of the upper lid naturally can go quite dark and
it has a thickness to it.
And I'm not going all the way to black here
but I'm going quite dark.
I'm really gonna concentrate on the edges
too. As much as anything, this
stage in the presentation gives us
a chance because of its nuances
and finished quality to go in and
work your edges nicely.
You don't have to match the photograph
precisely, nobody's gonna be looking at that.
It's the quality of the entire product that matters.
you probably won't have an issue with that anyway since you've taken the trouble,
if you recall earlier on to
design all of that. Now he's gonna have hair coming off
the forehead and in the form of almost
almost a Bozo the clown type hairstyle.
So don't draw completely what you designed
since there's only part of what you're gonna be doing. Here
is a black verithin pencil.
And we can really get some nuance.
Notice how subtle that is if you - I suppose
we're zoomed in just about as far as we want to but
you can see also it tends to defeat
the graininess of the paper.
There's not much
content to this concept, it's just
one of the ideas that they always want to test out
and that is a simple montage, but it has a certain
interest to it and we hope a little bit
of mystery. So that's mostly what we're looking for.
Here this half tone
can be quite, quite subtle.
This outline of the makeup might be a
little too heavy and thick if I didn't use the verithin
but instead used the Prisma.
Now, we have the white verithin pencil too.
Let's see how we can use that.
We started off with a rather rough
But watch what we can do here as we feather out.
away from that crest light.
I'm not putting much pressure on the pencil.
It's really god to keep the pencil
even use it over the toner
to lighten areas that I drew a little bit darker
than I would prefer.
Notice again how it tends
to defeat the graininess
which could be undesirable.
So I use this pencil to help with that.
Now if we're gonna
add some kind of hair
let's get with it now.
Well one thing
is for sure, you might be paid well to do this but
you do have to spend money on supplies.
I'm really motoring through these pencils like a
beaver or something, a woodchuck.
don't let that get in your way, thinking
you'll make it up on the money end
I'm choosing to use a verithin to fill in the body of the shadow.
it's a little bit lighter and
I can use it for a shadow that has some reflected
Here I go a little darker with my shadow so I'll just
switch over to a Prisma.
I'd like you to do, for your samples
series, at least one
that are of this stage and
this degree of finish because I want you
to learn how to do this
more complete head
when you're called upon to do it it should be
quick to do it.
So remember the clothing is there to frame or support
the head in a case like this, nothing more.
So I'm gonna leave him
at this level
because I've got two other heads to do. And before
I put my final level of contrast into
one of them, I'd certainly like to see how I'm gonna handle the
But I will do one more thing
and that is to tweak the edges
and the body of the shadow
on the right side of his head.
Here's a strange thing but it almost
always is true. If one head looks
pretty strong, or realistic, wait until you do the others.
it will look more so.
in the same level of contrast and
picture plane, although printed smaller on the montage,
than John Malkovich. Starters
let's go ahead and sharpen up the Prisma
pencil. And my reference is right
here, let me pull it off.
I'll just place it right above the head I'm gonna draw.
license to simplify the hair if we want
but we wanna do give it some
form and texture in this case as well.
Keep this edge hard and the
silhouette of his hair soft. Hard edges advance,
soft edges recede. And that's just what we want here.
Let's put in some of our darkest darks early on.
Those serve as a gage
for all values between black and white.
keep the underplane of his nose very simple,
no need to get in there and draw the nostril within the underplane.
giving his head a little more
pop than the photo shows.
We are not gonna have to draw heads this tight
unless we actually do the finished poster
or the color comp.
Color comp is same degree of finish as this but
it usually involves paint.
I use acrylic for that.
Not too long ago people tended to use
can still be used of course.
Using our white
I'm gonna come in with the hottest spot on the head which is at this point on the cranium
and up near the scalp.
Here and this head
has a rim light.
Which is a second source of
light, usually coming from behind or
at the side, and it helps us
describe form, not just in the one direction of the form light,
but from a second direction.
So we get a really good sense of strong form.
Depending on your deadline
you can speed up this process,
maybe you get a little less level of finish but
if they want it at a certain time then they want it at a certain time.
Here, as I mentioned before, I'm gonna
take it slow enough that I can show you
all the nuances of designing a head and
taking to completion.
I'm laying the groundwork here for our next
step, which is going to be applying
the verithin pencil.
A little harsh, a little grainy.
But if you know what you're doing
just setting it up for the next application of
This rim light might be a good candidate for
using the opaque white gouache.
It'll be lighter than anything we can create with
Okay. Very fine, sharp
verithin black pencil
should do for the
form shadow on this
side of the head.
I'm just working the edges a
little bit here on the eyebrow.
So I just have my little
arsenal. I have my white Prisma,
my white verithin, my black Prisma, and my black
Okay now I'm coming back with some white verithin.
I'm gonna get rid of this graininess that the
combination of the paper and the
and the white Prismacolor have created
and try to get rid
of most of that tooth and
application of the pigment.
actually when you put the white wax
pencil on top of
the dark wax pencil,
not the toner but on the top of wax pencil beneath
it, you're gonna wind up with something
that looks a little bit of a different hue.
And it will be in fact it will look a little bit blue
compared to this.
In general you don't want that to happen but if
it does, it's really no problem
when you consider that they never
present, your design studio, will never present
originals. They will always
monochrome. And so what will happen is
any areas that look to be slightly different
hue, such as the one I just mentioned,
that won't matter.
Because it will
all, when it's set to be a monochrome print
it will all be based on just black and white and gray.
So that won't cause
any problem whatsoever.
This is all very white,
particularly surrounded by darks. So I'm gonna use
the black verithin to go over it lightly
and knock it back down into it's proper value range.
Do not use
Prismacolor, it's too coarse
relative, verithin, works just right.
It's important to develop this skill
because if you're gonna do even the finished
what's gonna happen is you
I'll describe the actual
techniques of several of the best movie poster
illustrators but most of those
techniques in some stage or another involve using colored
And if you don't have
in using them, it will be difficult to pull it off.
I'll demonstrate that.
I think if I used verithin for his
hair, it'll give me the approximate correct value.
His hair could go black in some settings.
Here, depending on the light, and the
intrinsic color of his hair,
it doesn't really go black in very many places.
So therefore I will use the verithin
to plane it out.
I kinda turn the scalp
into the hair, nicely like that.
We're gonna make his face
a half tone.
Here's the underplane
of his beard.
The hottest spot on the head is the forehead.
So I'm gonna knock down the value here
of this side of his face.
I'm carefully squinting at the head,
see if my value relationships are working.
leave him now for the moment
go back to design
So if you wanna just let's take a 5 minute break now.
I kinda left the hair a little bit shapeless.
I wanna move on to her because that's gonna give me
my entire picture. And then as time
permits I'll go back and give more form.
to Robert's head.
Here I'm gonna first put down my
darkest darks and some of my lightest lights. And for that I'm gonna
use gouache. So
I have a black and a white
tube of gouache. I'm not gonna mix
any gray, I'm just gonna use this for my extreme
light and my extreme dark.
So here I have titanium white or permanent white.
This is by
M. Graham and Company. They're very good.
WIndsor Newton's good. There are others also. Those are
the ones I'd mostly use personally. So
we're gonna put this up
here. I'll put it up
at the top of the plate so you can see it.
It's pretty sticky stuff so
don't worry about it running too much. It will have a little
liquid to it but not much.
So that's the white.
There's another kind which is zinc white.
It's not really for this, it's more
for mixing color. Here we just wanna use this for a very
opaque white. Now I've got a tube -
smaller tube - this is by Grumbacher, and it's
ivory black. It doesn't much matter what black you use
just use only one throughout the painting.
So this'll be for the darkest accents.
Then you wanna have
what they call round brushes that come to a point.
Now I've got some that come to a better point even than this but for the project, this one will
will do pretty well.
I have a second one,
it's a little bit ragged but I can use it to cover broader
areas. Remember we're not really applying this
the way gouache can operate as watercolor,
we're using it opaquely.
So let me put my drawing back in place.
And we'll start to put that in
where it applies. So first let's put Robert back,
have a look.
You just need a
cup of water to go with this. Gouache, like watercolor,
is water soluble. And so
might wanna wet your brush a little bit just to make the paint move
better so you can see
that. Where with Robert should be put in
Maybe right here.
So he starts to pop forward a little bit more.
Because the paper
has such a tooth, the paint
actually absorbs into it quite well, quite readily.
And for our purposes, that's a good thing.
Okay I'm gonna wet the brush now again slightly.
Is there a paper towel?
For this it's very
good to have on hand a paper towel,
several of them, or t-shirt rags too,
which are very absorbent.
This is a nice paper towel, it's a pretty
absorbent one and we can use it to
help us get just the right consistency of paint that we're looking for.
And that brings us now to
Let's place him in our line of sight.
And let's go for our darkest darks.
And you can see it
really helps it pop forward.
And it's not much effort either.
It's not even really a
painting, although it's done in a sort of painterly manner.
drawing with a few accents.
You want the paint to be just the right
consistency. It shouldn't be too thick, that's for sure.
It can sometimes be too thin if that's
the case, you can go back and
reinforce it. But if it's too thick
you got a little more of a problem
on your hands.
Good. That's just about all we need. Now we're gonna
put in our lightest lights. You can use
the same brush but you have to really clean it. That's where the paper
towel comes in.
So we put permanent or
our dish. Now we wanna look for the places
where we might need it. Make sure
you don't get too much on it. Let's see - well let's go
back to Robert for a moment since
he does have a rim light.
I think you all see
how this head, with a rim light,
is now even more
graphic and clear about its form.
It certainly does pop out now much better.
Let's just make this collar
on John very
And let's look at his head. See if there are any
areas that would benefit from
using pure white. To be careful
don't wanna overdo this.
Careful. If you're working at night you don't wanna be too
jittery so don't drink all that
coffee necessarily because some of these little
planes really require a short hand.
And you don't wanna
lose the shape that you've designed.
That's all we need for now with the paint.
Now we're gonna go ahead and finish off
Emily's head. As I said earlier, I'm not -
I'm not going to draw her
to the same degree of contrast as
we've done with Robert and John.
I may even start off
and I will - with a black verithin. That
means my value range is gonna be a little bit
tighter. Won't go as dark
or as light.
What are we gonna do here, let's see. Start to work
the edges on the eyebrow.
That's not so sketchy.
You're gonna see here how
the nuances of edges
can pretty much carry the day
without a whole lot else.
I will probably
the skin in the light
as is. The gray paper.
to create nice shapes.
Socket is turned away from the
light source so I put a half tone over it.
Try to keep her state of mind
in your state of mind when trying to draw
It won't just be mechanical in a series of planes and shapes.
It will actually have emotion and
You can use something
here, this is called a slip sheet. You take
a sheet of clean paper, put it over the object
in the foreground and then you don't have to worry about your hand smearing it.
each of these half tone planes you have to remember has a harder edge
and a softer edge. If they had the same edge
on each side they don't look like a plane, they look like a
If they have a hard edge on each side then
they're not gonna look like a bruise, they're gonna look like a cut.
So figure out which side
is the hard edge and that is typically the overlapping
edge. So when a form
overlaps another, characterize it with a hard edge.
At the point of overlap.
Almost just the weight of the pencil here.
Not much more.
I'm looking at my photo copy
for nuances of half tone.
Now except for this head, we're gonna be reusing
Robert and John elsewhere in our comp.
the work - the time that we spent designing those heads
was not nearly for this one comp
but it was also for
others to come.
In her case,
it's a one off. We're probably not gonna use that head except to
for this particular comp. It's alright,
it's still time well spent because you'll get a nice drawing.
You have to try to take pride in your product
and so to me
as long as I meet my deadline, if I use up some
surplus time and get a really good drawing out of it,
I'm happy with that.
Besides it'll just enhance your reputation.
You'll be more in demand by different art directors
and nothing but good will come of it.
So don't skimp, you know, it's not
what you're in this to do.
Now and then
a project will demand so many shortcuts
that, you know, even with all that in mind
you still really can't make a great
work of art out of it. That's understood. Nothing you can do
about those kinds of situations. But
once you learn your craft, when you get this process
down you're able to do it
you know under time
then you can start really producing some nice things.
See how I can kinda tweak the
eyelashes here. There wasn't any real reason to do it
nicely in the head design itself,
which we showed earlier in this course.
But even there we did
some nice stuff like that. Here you can carry it further.
little too dark.
So simple remedy
get out your white verithin, go over the
printed toner like this, nothing else, and there
you have it. I will hit
one or two soft highlights
Alright to the lips.
Keep the upper lip nice and dark.
If you wanna show the teeth very slightly that's fine
but at the very least the upper lip
is in shadow
and is dark.
The lower lip
is of course darker than her skin's
complexion but I wanna
show a couple things. The top plane of the lower lip here
and then the front plane here.
Now this looks silly, the
teeth look like they're jumping out
as though she had buck teeth. Obviously
we're gonna address that and fix that but until we do
that's how they look.
What I'll do is take my verithin
and put the teeth into half tone.
Not even half tone, shadow.
I will saturate some of those dark areas a little bit more
using a regular Prismacolor wax pencil.
I think her hair is very important.
It gives shape and
form and compositionally
it's really nice, it gives
us also some of our darkest darks.
Here we go.
Remember I said this was roughly inspired by
David Grove's movie poster for The Outsiders
and he had a sunset.
Put that in.
And a little bit more
modeling on her head.
I still have not designed
the strip landscape beneath the figures, but once
I do that'll be easy to place.
So maybe you can see
that the composition is
ultimately important and we have a situation
we have three heads to orchestrate
in concert with each other.
Imagine just doing one head
nicely. But here
this is one of the tricky things about a montage, you have to
you have to get all three.
They have to work together, they're a unit, they're not three separate
See I can see now that his jacket
needs to be a little darker so it comes in front of her head.
It's not part of her head, it jumps
in front of her head.
Let's just burnish that sun
or maybe it's a moon, I don't know. We
haven't used color. I supposed instead of warm colors
we used bluish kind of colors then it could be
Maybe for this
kind of concept, this film,
this plot, maybe that works better.
But that's to be worked out when we do the color comp.
And that resolves the color -
the colors that are gonna be used
in the finished
poster. Even if the finished poster
is not illustrated, always more likely it'll be a photography.
Doesn't matter, you still have to know what color key
you're gonna have when the finisher does his or her
work and takes your
which has now been used as the basic for the composition of the
photoshoot and then goes ahead and prepares it
we still have the white gouache so
maybe we'll go ahead and start putting in a little bit
more of that.
Let's let that dry for a moment.
Remember, I'm only having you do one or
two of your ideas taken to this
level. Were I to bring in
a little bit of air brush or
what have you, then I could actually use this
as a color comp. It would be almost tight enough -
I mean I'm sorry, not a color comp but a black and white comp,
preliminary to a color comp.
Remember there are atmospherics
in this illustration. And it really
is nothing sort of an illustration. And we
we wanna establish those too.
I'll just put this in, I can count on this being at least dark
in the foreground.
Maybe here we'll have some kind of a vertical
structure just to break up the simplicity of that
You notice I'm not really trying to blend out my
darks or make them static,
always have some movement to the brush work.
Brush work is my
expression for the application
either of pencil like this
or of brush.
there's some movement
to what you do. I'm just bleeding
the edge over like this, you know,
my format might be here but
I can bleed it out
and over. And that works really well
because sometimes the art director decides they want to
extend the borders. Well here
Next time we'll start to put together
some of the comps that involved body doubles and the
heads of our main actors
and I'll show you another technique to
carry something to a very high degree of finish.
Even more photographic than this.
This has photographic elements but
other places it's clearly a drawing and
that's a winner, that's a good combination.
Okay. Now take my
feather out some of the edges.
If you put the white gouache down too thick
then anywhere I overlap it, pushing hard with
a Prismacolor pencil or a verithin,
it risks cracking
and then you have to go back and retrace your steps and then it's just a waste of
we left her pretty simple
but she still has, I would say,
the dominant role. It's a little tricky in that
regard because often we're trying to look for
a focal point or a first read
and this one
except for the centering of her
it doesn't really give a first read to her.
Now we can go darker along here at the silhouette
of the landscape
so it'll look more like this.
Sometimes I turn
the page as I draw. I'm not gonna -
I'm gonna try to avoid that so it's more easy for you guys to read what I'm doing.
When I do it it's just because I'm actually
once more trying to give direction to my strokes.
And airbrush is the faster way
of putting down a nice, flat, simple tone.
It won't have the directions to the strokes that I've been
There are other aspects that
might cause it to be different and you probably have to work it into some others
areas, otherwise it might look foreign
to the actual finished drawing. But
it can be a faster way to go
planning to demonstrate how to use it.
If you don't already have one, it's
probably in part due to the fact that fewer and fewer people use them
because of programs like photoshop
however, there really is nothing like
the drawn image.
And it's still very much
in demand. A lot of clients,
movie production companies prefer
it. Not necessarily throughout
the design process but
at many, many points, if not most.
You can also get some things done faster
drawing and with a little more interesting
stuff than we can
when we try to use photoshop.
What they would probably do
if this were to be presented
is they would put down a title treatment in this area.
Just put one
stroke after the - overlapping the other and you'll find it's
not difficult to put down a nice, even tone.
What you are finding on this toothy paper
is some coarseness,
graininess to what you're doing. It'll be nice and even
and it's have direction, but it'll tend to be grainy.
That's where you can take an airbrush and overblow it
with some gray - which is to say
thinned black paint. That will even it out.
You can also use the verithin pencil
and that too will get rid of a lot of the
graininess. But right
now I just wanted to put down a flat field of
value to get a sense of where we're going with the whole thing.
I probably need to extend it here,
see if you line it up with John's hair.
Maybe a little more here. That's doable too.
let's see. Maybe a little bit of verithin here.
This will be a lighter field.
when I photocopied this I made the silly mistake
of not erasing the number of the file
but that's doable too
So for tonight
that should be strong enough
information for you guys to try and experiment with this.
And so I hope everyone's trying to stick
with it. It's still a valuable lesson even if you don't
finish eight or ten or twelve ideas.
Even if you just do some then
you've got the course and you can understand the process.
I will complete for you a couple more of the drawings where we
did photo shots with body doubles.
And I'll also show you another technique and this one
is gonna involve vellum
a little bit of turpenoid, which is odorless turpentine,
and erasers and the same pencils
we've been using. And that will give you a very photographic look.
Okay, so thanks for your attention tonight
I hope you learned a bit and that's our
lesson coming up.
the gray paper, and then go from there. Try to do something like this.
Again, this one's not finished, it needs other elements, it needs some
structures here that are descriptive,
and maybe a little detail, some perspective in the foreground like this
but other than that
it's really close to something that you could hand in.
Free to try
1. Taking a Composition to a Photographic Level: Method 12m 24sNow playing...
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2. Finishing on Grey Paper Workflow (John Malkovich’s Head)28m 34s
3. Finishing on Grey Paper Workflow (Robert Downey Jr’s Head)33m 22s
4. Finishing on Grey Paper Workflow (Emily Blunt’s Head)34m 41s
5. Finishing on Grey Paper Workflow (Sunset)25m 31s
6. Finished Drawing on Grey Paper Assignment Instructions58s