- 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 another method for bringing a movie poster composition to a photographic level. He prints out one of the comps on vellum paper and renders it using odorless turpenoid, cotton swabs, a black pencil, and an eraser. He also shows you examples of using this technique.
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another process where
we've done our drawing and
we then photocopy it or print it out -
so if you scan it and print it that's fine - onto
vellum. And the vellum I prefer and I've used
is ClearPrint HP1000. And this
is gonna give us a really nice, very painterly kind of a look.
It can also yield an incredibly photographic look.
So we may have worked on concepts for a motion picture
for a year, two years, even more, but
as we near the point where they've actually got
to choose and then hire the photographer
and do the finished poster, they
want to see several of these ideas really rendered
up to the nines.
Practically photographic in some cases. So we
photocopy our drawing, that drawing can be done on anything.
It can be done on tracing paper, it can be done on
bond paper, and it can be
drawn with any good tonal medium. Charcoal,
Prismacolor, which is what I've used, Conté,
pastel pencil, and so on.
Then it's printed out on ClearPrint 1000 HP
and from there we do our finished drawing on top of
the print out. The toner from the
photocopier, or the ink from the computer
printer will be fixed. So we don't have to worry about
smearing away our original drawing. And that's
why we do the photocopy in fact. So
then we use Q-tips, cotton swabs
and Kleenex, not paper towels,
and then a little bit of odorless turpenoid.
Turpenoid is basically odorless
paint thinner. Just a tiny bit will be used with a
Q-tip on top of
wax pencil that's saturated. And so I'll demonstrated
this process. You're gonna need sharp pencils, as I'm sure
you expect by now, and let me start
by showing you the drawing and the elements that
I used to create the drawing.
we see here, this is the surface I'm gonna
draw on top of. This is just toner from the copier.
This was the concept that
inspired this comprehensive sketch.
This is the drawing I did of Emily,
which I scaled down
just a little bit
and attached to the body. This is actually the drawing itself
but you notice I blocked it.
And that's one of the nice things about doing these drawings
head designs on tracing paper, you can angle them
either way. There's a drawing I did of
Robert Downey Jr. in here. Let me see if I can find that.
And I have a file of finished head drawings, I've shown it to you
before and from it I photocopied
Robert but in any case
he's included in the drawing and we'll find him right
there. Push it up for you to see it.
Alright so what I do is I
at my side I'm gonna keep
the original designs that I drew.
I'm gonna take the Prismacolor pencil and just scrub it
On a piece of paper
or even better on piece of velum, let's try that.
The whole point about the velum
is like tracing paper
it's nonabsorbent, so you can easily make
changes and you can apply a medium
like turpenoid to it. Which otherwise would merely be
absorbed and never able to be erased or adjusted
onto - it would be absorbed anything like bond
paper or bristol plate
or any of the common papers that you might find
in use. Okay so
that's really my palette, that's my pigment. Now
I'll take the Q-tip here
and I'll just put a little
of turpenoid on it.
Notice how it saturates.
like that. Since I already
have toner on this drawing, let's see what
happens when I start to apply it.
there's a little bit less on it now because
I've applied most of the pigment
so let's smear it across his head like this
in the light
using a kneaded eraser
as soon as that evaporates a little bit I can pull out the lights.
Let's do the same to his hand.
And even a little bit here to his tie
and his collar.
One other thing you can do
you can put down some of the prisma,
not very strong but just some - see I'm not pushing hard
so that we have some of that pigment - wax based
pigment on the actual photocopy.
Beneath is is the
toner from the photo copier and
that's gonna stay fixed.
I can actually put this on on any kind of a scribble
form that I want because it's
gonna go black.
Let's separate her head from the shadowing on her hair.
I'm gonna soften the edge here too. A lot of
this is not done with the Q tip and the
turpenoid because obviously you're gonna use the pencils as well.
stage that I started off
with, this, would be
perfectly acceptable as a completed, ready
to hand in movie poster comp.
You'd probably have to put in some stronger darks than a
few places but basically done. So the reason
I do this again is to take it to an almost
photographic level as though it were being done
as a final test.
Later this lesson
I plan to take the varied
elements that involved in another concept
and assemble them doing by
drawing with the
heads and the figures that have already been sized
for my comp.
I put some padding under here,
probably 15 or more sheets of printer paper.
It allows me to be a little more nuanced
and not so hard edged.
procedure works very, very well for explosions
and fires and film noir. This is actually a kind of
a soft moment, it's none of the above but it
works really well too because we're using the black
to unify the two figures as though they were really
We have these nice negative shapes between the two hands and the fingers.
We have a
kneaded eraser somewhere, there it is, okay.
In a few minutes I'll be using that as part of the process too.
You'll need a white plastic eraser like this
and then a kneaded eraser.
This one's seen better days but
you can use a fresher one than that.
Have we got one that's a little fresher
This approach can be
quite fast if you want it just to get the effect.
Or you can carry it all the way
to a photo finish.
Well here we've already established the likeness
and we're not gonna lose it because we've got it printed with
So that issue becomes moot.
define everything with a perfectly clear, clean cut
line or hard edge. No one's
gonna believe that. These drawings
have to be a little more sophisticated I would say
So you'll notice here up against the forearm,
I definitely maintained the shape but
I loosen up a little bit on the edge.
That has a more naturalistic and atmospheric
Okay. Next step, we're gonna go back and apply
some more black using the Q tip.
Let's load up on that
right here again.
By the way look how grainy it is when I work right on top
of the table with no padding.
I don't know if that was an
issue in your work but if it is
just remember, put 20 sheets of padding underneath.
It could be 20 sheets of smooth newsprint, it could be
20 sheets of tracing paper, it could be 20 sheets of
photocopy bond, it doesn't matter. Just give yourself something
so you've got a cushion.
Okay. Tiny little
bit of turpenoid. By the way
this is the little container I'm using, it's basically
the size of a shot glass. I'm
probably gonna use one thousandth of the turpenoid that's inside
there. It looks dark but that's only because the glass is dark red.
And then here's the Q tip and I just took less than a
Okay watch. We're picking up some pigment here.
Think of this as your pallet if you're a painter.
And now we're gonna go back in,
let's darker up Robert's hair
a little bit.
Now that we've put a little of the prisma on top of the toner
you can see how rich and dark we're able to go.
It's like a very controlled
The can go out
outside the silhouette a little bit, give it some more atmosphere.
I first used this on
Kenneth Branagh's Frankenstein with
Robert De Niro. And
of course that's a very dark, low key movie, and so
the concepts were similarly dark
and I think I was pretty much
the first person to do this. All I did was I did my
nine drawings, took them to
a level that I showed you when I photocopied them
and then each one in turn
I did this process.
And I was able to do nine in a single dark
and they all look really quite strong and photographic.
There's almost no
turpenoid on this Q tip but I think
it's time now to load up with a little bit more.
If you get a little too much turpenoid
which is very easy to do, just touch it
into a kleenex like that.
Like this. And that will pick up the
Now you also
always retain the original drawing
so that if you need to go back to square A, which I've never had
to but you may, you've got that - you can
do so. Let's pick up more
pigment like this.
Okay. I'm just gonna move this higher so I can reach it
Don't go all the way to the edge.
because you wanna be able to manipulate that edge
more finely with your pencils.
And, you know, the -
I should say the
Q tip is kind of a blunt tool, it's not like a
very fine paintbrush for instance,
though I suppose you could use that in places.
Notice we're starting
to get that look that
inspired us in the first place.
Pick up a little more pigment.
Next time we're going to do our first
color comp. Color comps are done
again toward the end of the process
when we approach the time or a selection must
be made and then a photoshoot will follow.
then a finisher will complete it and we'll have
the finished one sheet or a movie poster.
They not only want to see
how these things are gonna look when they're very tight, almost
photographic, since 95% of the A
motion pictures use photography, not illustration, for the finish
they want the illustrations to look how
they might if the poster were finished
but they also need to see
what's gonna happen with color. It's a big
deal. A lot can be manipulated in the finished
poster with photoshop, but also
the photoshoot itself has to have the appropriate
lighting and any other,
in most cases they've already by then figured out what the clothing is gonna be
and the coloration but they still need to see how
that works in the poster itself. And for that
I'm going to photocopy a drawing
onto gray paper
but at that point
instead of drawing with a white and black Prismacolor,
I'll airbrush ambient
color tones and work back into them with
colored pencil, wax pencil,
and acrylic brushes.
have a pretty fast rendition
of what the color poster might look like. And so
typically do a number of those
before anything else follows.
In the tenth lesson I'm gonna go over with you how to
I guess take a section of one of
these and show you what it will look like as a
finish. Some of you don't have
airbrushes, I realize that.
But there are some stages in a
process - almost always
you'll find a film that comes your way that requires an
airbrush. I hope you have it because then you can
practice at home.
If you don't and you get into doing some
of this work, you'll certainly have enough money to go out
and buy one. The one I'll be using is about
$165. It's made by IWATA,
it's called an Eclipse.
You can use a compressed
air tank and that's
but every time it runs out of air you'd have to take it back to
the air supply store and get a fresh one for free.
Well not for free, for $25 or so. Or you can use
a compressor. They have a few now
that are very quiet.
You can have it right next to your head and be
talking on the telephone. It used to be
the compressors would load up from a tank,
and then they would have to
well they were so loud it was like a
banging in your studio, in your house.
Depending on your living arrangements you would probably get neighbors
complaining, it's so loud. Especially at night.
These days they have others, they are
a little expensive. They range from about $300 to $500.
So those are some of your choices or you can get
a less expensive compressor if you can tolerate that noise.
You'll need to get liquid
paint for airbrushes.
The brand I'm gonna use is called Golden.
And when you apply the paint, you just fill the
the cup on the airbrush with clean water and into
that you put a few drops of the
paint. If you try mixing up
acrylic paint from a tube,
well it can work but it's probably gonna clog the airbrush
at some point. In many cases you're gonna clog the
airbrush anyway so
I'll show you how you can clean that,
try to give you some pointers on how to use it.
But it's really only for
later stages, not for
this stage is approaching it but not quite.
I just went over it with a
verithin kinda to even out that black tone so it didn't look so
splotchy. Okay let's have a look here.
That's where our inspiration started.
Notice the half tone over the model's head.
That's what we're gonna do here too. So let's grab the
Q tip that we've been using. You'll notice, see, it's got
some pigment on it but it's evaporated largely.
So let's see what happens with that. Well it's still quite dark so let
me take the kleenex and absorb some of that. And
we'll try again. That's
a little dark. Notice one side of it had the pigment on it and the other side
did not. But look at this, it doesn't really matter.
In our inspiration she's got a pair of gloves. In this
case she's just got a hand expression so don't
worry about that. And
because her hand is a far different complexion and
value from her clothing, then the shadow on the hand
is gonna be lighter too.
Let's see what Robert
needs. A little more complexion on his hand for that matter.
And let's try this arm. If we wanna get a little more pigment
just grab some from her clothing
Let's have a look at our design of her head.
There we are.
What I'm gonna do now
before I get further into it is just take a Kleenex
and rub it against the background a little bit. Give it some
atmosphere, let i kinda breath a little bit. If I wanna really
go dark, nice and even, I can take my prisma like this
and do so.
Leave the edge a little sketchy.
Don't kill it by going too
linear or going too hard edges.
Yeah before I get into modeling the
heads in detail, it's always good to get this finished
up, because this is a frame for the whole subject.
their likenesses, the modeling on the head,
the transitions, the edges,
So let's really get this nailed down first.
And we're gonna pick up a nice, smooth
into her arm.
Must keep it
very sharp and overlap your strokes.
head. One thing we changed
about the head was we had her gaze
which used to be here, directed at us
and we've pushed it so it's turned over the shoulder.
Notice the angularity
at the base of the nose. It is not
a ball at all. It has some nice, clear
Let's give her nice, strong darks around the eyes.
And we'll do the same thing with Robert in the
Here we are, in his case he's so small
let's try to use a verithin pencil
which will hold its shape and create
the small shapes we're looking for without losing
Okay. Now we're gonna start modeling with the eraser.
In Emily's case, we're gonna make the lightest area
the forehead and the orbit
that is to say the area above and surrounding
her eye socket.
I'm working very
lightly, not too much pressure.
Okay now using a verithin pencil
we're gonna work the edges.
Just be careful to,
you know, give some shape and direction to the hair.
Pick up the palm of the hand and soften the edge a little
And there's the medial phalanx of her
Notice I didn't go all the way up to the edge of the form
I leave that so that I can manipulate
the edges with the pencils.
Here's the shadow at the back of her hand.
Let's soften that
edge a little.
A lot of this for now on is
It's actually a very minimal illustration.
But that's what attracted
me to it was its simplicity.
How dark or how light
do I wanna make the hand? Well, that's really
entirely up to how much of a focal point do I wanna make
it. And the answer is that I don't want to make it
the first read.
So I'm knocking it back. It's already gonna come forward because it's surrounded by
pencil, this is the verithin I'm using.
Really a lot of painting going on in this.
plastic eraser will pull out the lights
better than the kneaded eraser
but don't overdo it.
Let's pull out that white
shirt and collar next to his tie
I'm gonna keep a nice, sharp edge on that
plastic eraser. Otherwise it's just too
blunt of an instrument.
Those of you
who have done some painting should take pretty well to this
very well to this technique.
Now if this
the prismacolor with the turpenoid, will apply to
an absorbent surface we could not do
this. So that's why we use -
we use the vellum.
Let's make these shapes a little softer, a little less
Now, if you look at the very minimalist
illustration that inspired this, you'll see
that her head falls into
a half tone. And I'm gonna try doing that here.
It lends a nice atmosphere I think
let's see what we can do.
Now you've got to develop the skill
to put down a nice, flat
tone where it's needed. This is an area
where you can absolutely ruin the drawing.
Unless you can do that.
Alright then so
we're just gonna go ahead and
finish up the
delicate treatment here of the darks.
Let's blend this out, this form is a little abrupt on Robert.
It's probably a little bit better now.
Okay back to Emily.
You have to have a hyper sharp pencil.
The modeling on a young woman's face like this
does not require a lot
in fact, almost flat, and just work
the edges on the silhouette and the facial features.
That will be
So not too worried about that but I do want this therefore to be
to be a nice, even tone. It can be
a gradient, it can go from somewhat darker to somewhat lighter
even that isn't called for here.
verithin pencils. Not dull.
Yeah so we've cast her into a half tone. I'm gonna take
it just a little bit darker.
So it's definitely
a mood piece.
Very subtle, the overall picture.
Don't get too concerned about one head,
both hands, or the background character,
any of that. The main thing is to
get the effect. It's a very minimalist concept to begin with.
that's all we wanna get. Good. So
let's put this on hold for a moment. I'm gonna
show you by cutting around it what this
would look like as a one sheet design.
So let's pause for a moment.
I'm gonna cut off her head.
so we've gone ahead,
we've created our poster,
I think I'll lighten up just a little bit
this part of the forehead because it has something of a
gradient to it.
Good. Alright so this is one
concept complete and finished.
Very simple concept and that's that.
the use of Prismacolor and
turpenoid. The photograph is here, my
and then the finished -
here's the finished rendering
on top of a photocopy of this drawing.
So it's the same technique but a
different subject. And you can see it's versatile, it can be used
for very detailed, craggy heads, or very simple kinds of
images. A little bit of atmospherics like the one we just
completed. Okay. In the time that remains tonight, let me
set up another one of these comps and I'll just do
that. Set it up. So for this I'll use the light
table and let me get that set up and we'll get going. It's a very
basic concept. It's dubious because
it only really highlights John Malkovich and he's probably
number three on the list of stars. But the concept is
she's holding a deck of
cards or a hand of cards that she's been dealt and
one of them, this one, is actually gonna
show the kind of hearts
as Mr. Malkovich. So let me just show you how I approach
this subject matter.
Sometimes you have to turn the page to get a good angle.
You would need to be able to draw
a straight line.
Simple as that sounds,
some people need to practice more
in order to do so.
I find it
useful to turn the page from time
to time in order to get that straight line working for me.
And I don't want to separate
each card exactly the same way
so sometimes we'll be better off with
the thin line.
Here you can see it curves and
causes a shadow.
It's actually good to practice
drawing man made objects.
We find simple S curves, straights,
and C curves
in those drawings.
For some of the thinnest lines you can switch over
to a verithin pencil
as I'm doing here.
But just don't have one
uniform line weight.
Even a simple drawing
like this can be made to look
fresh and have a lot of pop to it
or it can be
overdrawn or it can be sloppy.
Now you're better off using a verithin
pencil for something of this scale.
Don't go too
heavy on these interior decorative lines.
You can on with this, I'll stop now.
Very important to study
hand drawing. It's not
hard to find reference material here again to do so.
the hands must be convincing. Now
was somewhat older than
a 20 something Emily Blunt. So
that's all right. She has really good structure, we can clearly see
the knuckles and the phalanges in
And like anything else
simplify, simplify, simplify.
And we can make
hands of any age, with the possible exception of
So the nail bed is the same, I'm merely extending
the nail itself.
And here's the middle finger
and then the thumb casts a
shadow over both that and the
interosseous muscle between the thumb
and the index finger.
And that's about it. That's really
all we can see of the hand because the other
fingers are tucked behind the playing cards.
Like so. This is a good example
of the kinds of changes that you can make
because you're not especially in the time frame
that we're talking about for our subject
movie poster, we don't have time
to just put out a call for models.
So your friends, your family members, your fellow students, your
fellow artists, they're gonna be it. So
you have to adapt.
I'll go back and I'll draw the diamonds and the spaces and
the parts but let me just place John Malkovich as our
King of Hearts. Okay. That's about as sharp as I can get this
pencil but we're gonna need a very sharp pencil. You can
see the scale of the drawing, it's not much bigger than my thumbnail.
In fact it's small as my thumbnail.
Now he's gonna have a clown hairdo so here we go.
Sometimes this is a
funny thing but it happens a lot.
The design studio
will have a couple preferences out of
the multiple concepts that you
will be drawing. And they may even say look
this is one that we hope the production company chooses,
so give it everything you've got. Just make it
really, really luscious and good.
And then there are others that they put in that they kinda know they're not
gonna get selected. Maybe something like this could be
perfectly honest. So
that doesn't mean you don't always give it everything you have.
But I'm just saying not all ideas
are created equal.
Let's give him
some kind of a rough
in lieu of a normal collar. And
then later on we'll take it off and we can put clown makeup on him.
But now, as we remove
the reference and turn off
the light, we've got the whole concept
sketched out. And finishing this concept
is a piece of cake. So sometimes out of the
sum total of all the concepts you're asked to do,
there will be some that are the easy ones.
I like to knock off the easy ones first.
And then I know I've got the maximum amount of time left
to handle the rest.
good well, this one
if I were to finish it up, I would just treat it as a standard tonal drawing.
So this lesson we learned a new approach and it can be used for various
detailed type subjects or simple, minimalist
type subjects like tonight. I also showed you how
to quickly lay in the contours of one
of the concepts and within the format
of six by nine. So that's what
we would do if we were to finish all of our concepts. Each one would be taken
to the level that I just showed and then, depending on how far you wanted to
carry the finish, that would dictate what kind of an approach you use.
Most often I'm just gonna use the Prismacolor
and the verithin pencil and that will do the
job. Next time I'll do some work in color.
I'll be using a Canson slight tooth gray
paper. On it I've photocopied a drawing I did
an individual with very, very craggy, detailed features. We'll be using
air brush, acrylic paint, both in a jar and in a tube
and we'll be using soft, synthetic brushes
and Prismacolor wax pencil. We'll put something together which
is basically at the level of what you would do late
in the stage of a movie poster campaign. It can involve
more than just one head but I'm just gonna demonstrate on one head
so you get the procedure down and begin to understand how to
apply the technique and learn the process
from the very earliest thumbnails, all the way to nearly
tonight. Try the technique I demonstrated.