Imagine seeing the official Poster of a blockbusting movie and thinking to yourself, “I could have done better than that and made it even better.” Well, that’s exactly how fan art comes into being.

When a production house or movie studio releases the official movie poster, otherwise known as “key art” for an upcoming movie, their motive is to entice the audience and sell tickets.

Whereas, Fan Art is best described as a temptation of an artist to improve upon those designs without the constraints and obligations to a movie studio.

To fully understand the difference between a ‘Commercial Movie Poster’ and ‘Fan Art,’ it is important first to identify the primary motives and the underlying design process.

Generally speaking, ‘Commercial Movie Posters’ aren’t firstly meant to be pretty or beautiful – they are above all meant to sell tickets. They are designed under constraints of the budget, target audience, and even legal requirements.

On the other hand, fan art creators or Alternative Movie Posters are liberated from all such limitations. Their objective is purely artistic expression and simply reminding us why they loved the movie so much.

Still a little confused? Well, don’t worry.

In this article, we will explain to you the difference between Official Commercial Movie posters and Fan Art ones. So, without further ado, let’s begin!

Poster Wall

Commercial Movie Posters

When you design a poster, you need to think like a ‘designer’ rather than an ‘artist.’ The main difference between the two is that a ‘designer’ is a problem-solver, while an ‘artist’ is an expressionist.

To learn more, you can check out our detailed article titled: Graphic Designer Vs Graphic Artist: What Is The Difference?

To give you a better understanding, think of Commercial Movie Poster as a marketing tool, rather than a piece of art.

Its main purpose is not to adorn your drawing room walls, rather attract an audience, give them an insight into the movie, and leave them wanting more.

It doesn’t mean the Poster shouldn’t be artistic, beautiful, or aesthetically pleasing – it just means it’s not all a movie poster is about.

You might not believe this, but the design of Commercial Movie Posters is driven somewhat by empirical data and research, rather than the designer’s mere artistic intuition.

For instance, certain colors, fonts, and proportions simply appeal to the audience better. And this research was concluded through thorough testing of variant designs and responses of the audience.

Side note: big-budget blockbusters are more into the data and sticking to more marketing basics, whereas Independent films can generally be more artistic and expressive.

Apart from this, a commercial movie poster’s main objective is to communicate with the audience through visual content. The idea is when the Poster leaves the production house to be hung in a cinema or alley wall, it should be able to communicate what the movie is about in less than two seconds.

This is because a passerby is ONLY going to stop if he/she finds something interesting in that two-second window, and as you know, attention spans are diminishing.

So, you see, the designer for a Commercial Movie poster has to deal with many restrictions, which obviously impact the overall design of the Poster.

The final decision-makers on which poster designs to go with are usually the movie studio marketing executives. Marketing executives are not always the most artistically or good design inclined.

Typically, the general audience tends to judge posters based on what’s more pleasing to look at and what’s not. While aesthetics are important in any visual design, it’s not the primary function in a Commercial Poster design.

Professionally speaking, you can’t just take something that “looks pretty” and paste it on your wall, calling it the Official Poster for your next Movie. If it doesn’t communicate effectively, entice the audience, or sell tickets, it’s simply not going to work – even if it has great aesthetics.

If you are interested in what makes a movie poster effective then check out these articles:

Fan Art Living Room
Godzilla Poster by Phantom City Creative

Fan Art & Alternative Movie Posters

Before we move towards the concept of alternative movie posters, first, it’s important to understand the ethnographical phenomenon of “fandom.”

According to human psychology, there is a wanting of every individual to become a disciple of something.

Speaking of modern times, this urge is manifested in the form of adoration – i.e., fanaticism – for entertainment media products. For example, musical personalities, sports teams, or even a particular movie.

Creating Fan Art – or, in this case, Alternative Movie posters – is an expression of this adoration. Originally, this was started on a tiny scale but eventually evolved into a separate art movement with a major fan base.

Now, there are a host of dedicated websites that allow artists worldwide to share and sell their artwork online and in-person conventions like Comic-Con.

Today, these posters are not only more treasured but also more expensive than the official one-sheets. Collectors and fans love to purchase fan art posters to add to their collections.

In fact, as soon as Mondo, the Austin, Texas, company credited with the explosion of alternative movie posters, launches a print or alternative movie poster on sale, it can sell out in seconds. 

Alternative movie posters are not technically mass-produced. They are usually screen printed within a limited series and signed by the artist, making it extra special. So, you can understand how getting your hands on one of these limited edition posters is a major thrill for the art collector or fan.

Here is an example of alternative movie poster collecting. In 2010, Mondo released a series of three Star Wars posters designed by an illustrator, Olly Moss, with a price tag of $150.

However, if you try to buy these posters now, you’ll be paying a lot more. eBay auctions regularly top out at more than $5000 for the set, and this price is bound to go higher as time goes on.

Author and Film Producer, Matthew Chojnacki, said, “Imagine someone doing a knockoff of Keith Haring which ends up becoming more popular than the original. Alternative movie poster design is literally the only art movement where the unofficial stuff is celebrated more than the original one.”

Fan Art is not made to attract an audience or give any sort of message; it’s simply a form of expression or adoration towards a media product.

Therefore, it doesn’t need to follow the rules or restrictions (you could even create posters on your smartphone) in a commercial movie poster.

Also, Fan Art or Alternative Movie Posters are targeted towards an audience who has already watched the movie. So, their main goal is not to bring an audience, rather keep an existing one entertained.

If you are ready to become the next fan art and alternative movie poster designer, you may want to check out these articles:

Check out artist and movie poster designer Dan Ryder’s website. He is a perfect example of a commercial movie poster art director and an alternative poster artist.

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Where to get the skills to design movie posters?

Whether you’re aiming to be a Commercial Poster Designer or an Alternative Movie Poster Artist, you’ll need the necessary skills to design a successful poster.

This includes technical skills, design skills, typology, illustrations, graphic design, and whatnot. To be fair, no one said the field of Movie Poster Design is an easy one. In fact, think of this career path as the Survival of the Fittest.

So, do you have what it takes to survive?

Luckily for our readers, we are launching an amazing course that will teach you all the necessary skills that you need to become a Movie Poster Designer within the field of entertainment, aka the TV and Filming Industry.

It will teach you how to develop all of the skills mentioned above in order to become a successful Poster Designer.

In our course, we’ll be walking you through the step-by-step process of creating awesome and compelling movie posters.

Let us assure you; our classes are taught by professional designers, illustrators, creative directors, and art directors working in the industry.

We completely condemn art school professors that have never stepped foot in the design agency to actually teach design. In short, we’ll only be teaching you the field necessities and leaving all the BS out.

At the moment, our course is in the development phase. Sign Up for our Newsletter, and we’ll send you a personalized notification when it launches!

If you’re looking for inspiration and a creativity boost, feel free to view our “Poster Gallery” to check out some beautiful designs and artwork.