This summer… one designer… will make an unforgettable movie poster… without… needing… Photoshop! That’s right, in this tutorial, I’m going to show you how to make an awesome movie poster using the free graphic design/photo editing/drawing program GIMP, using the latest version 2.9.8 – also called the Development Version.
1. Create a New Image
Start by creating a new image with whatever size you want your poster to be. There are a few standard sizes for posters, but I used 24 inches x 36 inches for this composition. I set the resolution of the image to 72 ppi under the advanced options to ensure my file size wasn’t too huge for this tutorial – but it is typically recommended that, for best print quality, you keep your resolution set to 300 ppi. This may cause a warning to appear in GIMP saying that this will create a huge file size – but if you think your computer can handle it, just click OK to create your image.
OPTIONAL: You can also change the “Precision option” to “32-bit floating point” and the “Gamma” option to “Linear Light” if you want to take full advantage of GIMP’s abilities – but this is only recommended for those of you with high-performance computers with lots of RAM to handle the job.
2. Import your photo
Once you have your blank canvas, open your image into GIMP by going to File>Open and locating the file on your computer. You can also simply click and drag the file from its file location onto the GIMP canvas, and it will be placed on its own layer, having the image file name as the layer name.
Or, if you opened the image using the first method, you’ll have to go to Edit>Copy on your imported image.
Then select the tab in GIMP (if you are using single window mode) that contains your blank canvas and go to Edit>paste. This will create a floating selection layer.
Click on the floating selection layer and click the “create new layer” icon in your layers panel. This will add the image to its own layer.
Double click on the layer name in the Layers panel and change the name to “Galaxy.”
3. Rotate and Scale Your Image with Transform Tools
Next, with the Galaxy layer selected, click on the Rotate tool (denoted by the green arrow in the image above) and click on the Galaxy photo. This will bring up a “Rotate” dialogue box. In my case, I want to rotate the image 90 degrees, so I’ll type “90” for the angle (red arrow). I’ll then click the “Rotate” button. Depending on how large the photo is that you are using (the photo I am using is quite large), it may take a few seconds or so for the effect to apply.
You’ll notice that the photo is much larger than the canvas, so I’ll grab the Scale tool (denoted by the green arrow in the image above) and will click on the photo to bring up the Scale dialogue box. I’ll make sure the unit is set to inches and will decrease the size of the image so that it is slightly larger than the canvas (remember, our canvas was created at 24×36 inches – right now this image is around 47×84 inches). To do this, make sure the chain link icon (red arrow) is locked (so that your width and height will scale proportionately) and set the width to 25 inches. Your height should adjust automatically. You can then click the four boxes in the middle of your image (blue arrow) to realign it so that it is centered on your canvas (it will move off center when it shrinks down). Click the “Scale” button to apply the effect.
Once the image has scaled down, you can use the alignment tool (green arrow in the image above) to more accurately center your image on the canvas. Grab the alignment tool from the toolbox, click on your image, change “Align Relative to:” to “Image,” under the Tool Options, then click “align center or target” and “align middle of target” (red arrows).
4. Create Black Hole
Duplicate your main galaxy layer by clicking on that layer and hitting the “Duplicate” icon in your layers panel.
Click on the Galaxy copy layer and go to Filters>Blur>Circular Motion Blur. Adjust the settings in the Circular Motion Blur dialogue box until you get the look you want (I recommend copying my settings above), then click OK to apply the blur.
Duplicate your main galaxy layer again (NOT the layer you just applied the blur effect to – the original image) and apply the Circular Motion Blur filter once more to this new layer (it will likely be name Galaxy copy #1). However, this time, decrease the angle of the blur to 1 so that the blur isn’t as intense. Click OK.
You should now have 2 layers with Circular motion blurs, with one of the layers having a more intense blur than the other (the layer with a more intense blur should be at the top of your layers panel).
Create a new layer and name it “Black Hole.” Make sure the option “Fill with” (located at the bottom of the New Layer dialogue box) is set to “Transparency.” Click OK.
Click on the rulers on the left side of your canvas and drag so that a guide appears (the guides are the lines shown in the image above, the horizontal guide denoted by the red arrow). Drag the guide, using the units that display in the bottom left of your canvas, and place it in the middle of your composition (drag until the left unit says “12.00” as this represents 12 inches or the middle of the image for your vertical guide).
If you prefer, you can also click on the guide with the alignment tool and can click “align to center of target.”
Repeat this step for the horizontal guide, but drag the guide from the top and drag down until the right number displayed at the bottom left of your canvas (denoted by the green arrow in the image above) says “18.” This should give you 2 guides that intersect in the middle of your composition.
Now, grab the ellipse select tool (denoted by the green arrow above) from the Toolbox (or hit E on your keyboard), and check “feather edges” in the ellipse tool options. Set the feathered edges to a radius of 50 (red arrow). Click and drag your mouse at the center where the guides intersect, then hold ctrl and shift to ensure your ellipse is drawn in a perfect circle and expands from the center outward.
I drew my ellipse so that it was about 750×750 pixels in size, which is displayed in the Tool Options (blue arrow).
Then, grab your bucket fill tool from the Toolbox (or hit shift+b on your keyboard – denoted by the green arrow above) and fill the ellipse in with black (the foreground color can be selected where the red arrow is pointing above). You should now have a black circle with fuzzy edges.
With the selection area still active, go to Select>Grow and change the unit to pixels (px). I’ll make the selection area grow by 100 pixels.
I’ll then click on my “Galaxy copy” layer, right click on it, and go to “Add layer mask.”
Under “Initialize Layer Mask to:” I’ll choose “Selection.” This will create a layer mask from the ellipse selection area we just drew. The layer below should now be revealed, apart from the area within the ellipse selection area.
Next, click on the “Galaxy copy #1” layer. Go to Select>Grow and make the selection area grow by 200 pixels. Click OK.
Right click on the Galaxy copy #1 layer and go to Add Layer Mask. Under “Initialize Layer Mast to:” choose “Selection” again.
This should reveal the original Galaxy photo everywhere except for inside the 2 masks we just created. You should also have 2 rings around the black hole, one that is blurrier and smaller than the other. If not, make sure your layer stacking order match mine above (you can click and drag layers in the layers panel to move them up or down in the stacking order).
Go to Select>None to deselect the ellipse selection area.
5. Create the Event Horizon
Now that we have our black hole, we’ll create our event horizon, which is the point at which light no longer escapes a black hole, as made famous by Dr. Stephen Hawking (R.I.P.). To do this, right click on the “Black Hole” layer and go to “Add Alpha to Selection.” This will create a selection area around the circle we filled in.
Then, go to Select>Grow and grow the area by 50 pixels.
Create a new layer and name it “Event Horizon.” Drag this new layer underneath the “Black Hole” layer.
Grab the bucket fill tool and change your foreground color to white. Fill in the selection area with white. Go to Select>None to deselect the selection area.
Grab your paint brush tool (red arrow or “p” key on your keyboard) and select the brush with Hardness 025 (green arrow). Adjust the size of the brush using the brackets on your keyboard (“[“ or “]”), or by using the Size slider in the tool options (blue arrow), and paint random strokes coming out of the white circle.
Next, go to Filters>Blur>Gaussian Blur. Crank the blur up to somewhere around 50 for the x and y values. Click OK to apply the blur.
Decrease the opacity of the Event Horizon layer to around 50%.
You can hide your guides to see how your composition is starting to shape up by going to View>Show Guides (if it is checked it will hide the guides).
6. Add Your Main Text
Grab the Text tool from your Toolbox (red arrow). Under the Tool Options, change the font (green arrow) to whatever font you would like to use (I used the free font Exodus). Choose the size of your font (I went with 150 – denoted by the blue arrow). I also increased the kerning to 35 (pink/purple arrow), which adds spacing between each letter. Click anywhere on your canvas and type the name of your movie. I named my fictitious movie “Spacetime.”
You can grab your move tool to position your text, and then grab the alignment tool, click on the text, and click on “align center of target” to center your text on the page.
I want to add something to help my main text stand out, so I’ll create a black polygon behind this main text. To do this, grab the free select tool from your Toolbox (red arrow). Make sure your guides are showing again by going to View>Show Guides (you’ll see a checkmark by this option if it is enabled, denoted by the blue arrow).
Create a new layer and name it “Spacetime Black Area.” Make sure the layer is set to transparency and click OK. Move this new layer below the Spacetime text layer.
Now, with your Lasso tool, click to create points (known as nodes) around your text until you have a diamond shape (the first node I created was where the blue arrow is pointing, and the second node is where the red arrow is pointing). Make sure to connect the final points by click from your third node back to the first so that the diamond shape is closed (also denoted by the blue arrow). Notice how I created nodes on the center grid line at the top of the text and the bottom of the text, and my outer nodes are just beyond the width of my text.
Grab your bucket fill tool (which will turn the diamond shape into a selection area) and fill this selection area in with black. Go to Select>None to deselect this area.
Now, with the “Spacetime black area” layer selected, go to Filters>Blur>Gaussian blur. I turned the sizes for X and Y up to a little above 26. Click OK to apply the blur.
7. Add Your Subtitle Text
Grab the text tool again and change the text (red arrow) to Exodus Demo (this is a free version of a premium font, so normal characters work whereas special characters don’t). Change the size of your font to 41 px (blue arrow). Also, change your kerning, or text spacing, back to 0 (pink arrow). Type your subtitle text, which in this case is “The Brevity of Life Meets the Infinite Universe.” (I kept my subtitle in all caps, like my main title.)
You can use the alignment tool once more to center align your subtitle text to the page.
8. Add an Astronaut
Open the image you downloaded of the astronaut into GIMP by going to File>Open and selecting the photo of the astronaut.
You’ll want to erase the background of the photo so that only the astronaut is brought into our Poster composition. To do this, grab the foreground select tool (denoted by the red arrow). Your mouse pointer will look like the Lasso tool at first. Make sure you have “Feather edges” checked in the toolbox (green arrow). Start by clicking to create nodes around the foreground object you are trying to isolate (you can also just click and drag around the foreground object if you prefer – denoted by the blue arrow). Leave some space between the foreground and the background when drawing this line (i.e. don’t draw right up against the foreground object). Hit enter when you’ve connected your last point to your first point – which will turn your image blue (this is a preview of the background area).
Now, your mouse pointer will look like a paint brush. Select a foreground color other than what your image background color currently is (in this case I just used white) and randomly draw a line through your foreground object. The clear line is where I lifted my mouse before drawing again. This does not have to be precise as GIMP uses an algorithm to determine what’s the foreground and what’s the background. When you paint and then release your mouse, the blue areas will turn transparent wherever you used your brush (as shown above). Press enter when finished – which will then cause the background to close in on your foreground object more precisely (because the algorithm can now more accurately distinguish you background from your foreground).
If there are excess parts of the background selected as the foreground, under your Tool Options you can change the drawing mode to “Draw Background” (denoted by the red arrow above) and draw a line through the parts that should be distinguished from the foreground. You can also set the drawing mode to “Draw Foreground” (green arrow) for any parts of the foreground that were accidentally selected as the background (these parts will be highlighted in blue). You can see what it looks like when I paint in “Draw Foreground” mode in the image above.
Hit enter on your keyboard to apply the tool, thus creating a selection area around your object (your astronaut should look similar to mine in the photo above).
You should now see a rough selection area around your foreground object. Copy this by going to Edit>Copy or hitting ctrl+c on your keyboard.
Come over to your poster composition and hit ctrl+v on your keyboard to paste it. This will paste the astronaut with no background as a Floating selection layer (denoted by the green arrow). Click the create a new layer icon (red arrow) to add this onto its own layer.
You can double click on the name of this layer and change it to “Astronaut.” Then, click and drag the layer until it is above all the other layers in the composition. You should now see the astronaut on your canvas.
Grab the scale tool (green arrow) and click on the astronaut. Drag your scale tool so that the astronaut image decreases in size. Click scale when you have the desired size.
Next, grab the move tool from the toolbox or hit “m” on your keyboard and adjust the astronaut so that he is in the middle of the composition.
You’ll now want to change the color temperature of the astronaut as, by default, he is looking a bit too cool – or a bit too blue. Go to Colors>Color Temperature (if you are using GIMP version 2.9 and above).
Set the original temperature to 4100K, and set the intended color temperature to 5500K. This will give our astronaut warmer colors, and help him blend in better with the photo.
9. Add the Release Date
Grab your text tool again, choose a font (I went with Nexa Bold), font size (75px), and, if desired, apply any kerning you want (I added 10 px). Then, click near the bottom of your canvas. Type the release date of your film (I put “Summer 2018” in all caps).
Next, grab the alignment tool and click on your text. Click “align center of target” to center the text on the page
10. Add a Zoom Motion Blur
Next, I want to make it look like my astronaut is moving towards the black hole – perhaps getting sucked into it! To do this, I will start by duplicating my Astronaut layer. Then, I’ll increase the boundary of this layer by going to Layer>Layer to Image Size.
With the Astronaut copy layer still selected, go to Filters>Blur>Zoom Motion Blur.
Adjust the settings of the Zoom Motion Blur to match mine in the photo above (or until you get the look you want). The goal is to make it appear that the astronaut is moving toward the black hole. Right now the blur covers the entire astronaut, but I only want it covering the lower half to help with the appearance of moving backward.
Right click on the Astronaut copy layer and go to “Add Layer Mask.” Under Initialize Layer Mask to, choose “White (full opacity).
Now, grab your gradient tool (red arrow), change the gradient to “FG to Transparent” (blue arrow), and change the “Shape” to “Linear” (green arrow). Click somewhere near the astronaut’s head to start the gradient, then drag to near the astronaut’s knees to end the gradient. If you are using GIMP 2.9.8 or above, you will be able to live edit the gradient so that you can move around the start and end points, and can also adjust the fade of the gradient (pink arrow) so that you can determine where the Zoom Motion Blur starts to fade out. Remember that because you are on a white layer mask, when you paint black on the mask (as we are doing with the gradient), it will hide objects on that layer wherever the black is. This is why the Zoom Motion Blur fades out when we apply a gradient that goes from black to transparency.
When you adjust the gradient to how you want it, click enter to apply the gradient. You should now only have the lower portion of the astronaut blurred with the Zoom Motion Blur.
11. Add a Vignette
Create a new layer and name it “Vignette.” Make sure this layer is at the top of the Layers panel.
With that layer selected, go to Filters>Light and Shadow>Vignette (if you are using GIMP 2.9.8) – or, if you are using GIMP 2.8, go to Tools>GEGL Operation and choose Vignette from the dropdown list.
Adjust the settings of your vignette until it looks the way you want. You can copy my settings above. If you want the vignette to be a bit off center, you can’t increase the value of the “Rotation” slider slightly. Click OK to apply the vignette.
12. Add Your Cast
You can add the names of your cast members at the top of the canvas. To do this, click on the text tool, make sure your font is still set to Exodus, set the font size to 40, set the text color to white, and click near the top of the composition to create a new text layer (make sure the text layer is above the vignette). Type the name of your first cast member. Click somewhere else on the composition near the top to type the name of your second cast member. Repeat for the third cast member.
You can align the cast member names by clicking and dragging a guide from the top, and lining it up with the bottom of one of the cast member names (whichever name you want to use as a reference to align the other names). Then, grab the move tool (hit “m” on your keyboard or grab it from the toolbox) and move the other two names until the bottom of the text matches with the guide. Make sure you click on the text layer of the text you are trying to move before clicking on the text with the move tool – you also need to click directly on the text, otherwise you will move whatever layer you are clicking on. You may need to grab the zoom tool from your toolbox (or by hitting z on your keyboard) to click and zoom in a little bit on the names before using the move tool to move them. You can also use the arrows on your keyboard to further adjust the position of your text after you have clicked on it with the move tool.
That’s it! You should now have a finished poster design.
If you enjoyed this tutorial, check out more GIMP video and text tutorials on our Tutorials page, or visit our GIMP YouTube channel for more GIMP video tutorials.