Want to work in the TV and movie business and become a movie poster artist? It’s a great career, and if you want to express your creativity and get paid, then this could be where you want to end up.
My name is Andy Storey, and I’m an art director in the movie poster-making industry, otherwise known as Entertainment Marketing. I’ve worked on small Independent films, TV series, and Blockbuster hits like Avengers.
In fact, Media and Studio conglomerates like Warner Brothers, Netflix, Sony, and Amazon, to name a few, have used my ideas and artwork.
Today I want to share with you how to become a movie and TV poster designer. At least my opinion on how best to go about this career. Of course, there are many paths that others have taken to get here, but I’m hoping my suggestions save you time and money.
Feel free to scroll to the bottom of the page as I have created a YouTube video outlining my suggestions as well!
Sorry to break it to you, but just because you went to an expensive school and got a degree doesn’t mean you will get a job in this industry. In fact, I’m pretty sure agency owners, creative directors, and human resources are less concerned about the expensive piece of paper known as a degree as they are with your portfolio.
Naturally, a good portfolio trumps the college or university you went to. I’ve known other designers, art directors, and creative directors that have gone to small in-expensive community schools, taken online classes, and just created amazing portfolios with impressive artwork.
I’m not saying don’t go to college, but I will say it’s not completely necessary. If you can draw, illustrate, and work Photoshop like a pro, you should be able to get your foot in the door.
What about me? Did I go to college?
Yep, I went to Pratt Institute, an expensive art school, but I did get a half scholarship, so I wasn’t up to my ears in debt when I graduated. The caveat to this situation is that I actually really enjoyed the experience of going to school, especially in NYC. Still, if you were to ask if I could have gotten into this business without college, then I would say, probably.
Where to go to college?
I’d check out your local community colleges or other schools that don’t have a hefty tuition cost. In my opinion, if you learn the basics of design like color theory, composition, some photography, typography, and most of all, the software programs used in this industry, then you should be good to go.
Also, some basic illustration and drawing classes would help because if you have an edge of knowing this skill set and stack it with a good Photoshop skillset, you should be able to get a job.
Just a heads up most creative directors love raw, edgy, and cool designers that can illustrate.
Online classes are great! In fact, a good portion of my Photoshop skills we learned from online classes and searching for technique videos on YouTube. We have a great library of tutorials on our Poster Grind channel.
One other cool thing is that I am now creating an online class that is specific to poster design and entertainment marketing. This will be my suggestion as soon as it becomes available. If you are interested in this, sign up for our newsletter, and you will be notified as soon as it is available.
The idea is to get you to learn the essentials of poster design, use Photoshop, and teach the business’s ins and outs in general.
I believe this will save you a tremendous amount of time and money. I’ll only include classes specific to this industry so you are not wasting time on things you would never use.
The things you will need right off the bat are subscriptions to Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator. These are the most used design programs in the movie poster field. At the time of writing this article, a yearly subscription to Photoshop is around $9.99 and Illustrator is around $20.99.
If you are deciding on which to get first, go with Photoshop…it’s used 90% of the time. If you want to hear me talk about software more in-depth then check out this article:
The Computer Situation
I’m going to heavily recommend an iMac! Yes, some people are PC people but this industry pretty much only uses iMac or Apple-based setups. In fact every agency I have worked at uses iMacs for Poster Design.
What about laptops? I love Macbooks but the screens are too small to really get into a movie poster design. That’s why I recommend just getting an iMac. The 27 inch iMac is the heavy hitter.
If you can afford it try to get at least 32 gigs of RAM. My home freelance comp is a late 2015 with 32 gigs of RAM but I will be updating soon to a newer model.
Once again I am going to be recommending the industry standard, Wacom. The Wacom pen tablet is a necessity and you won’t get by without it. If you are new to these I highly recommend you get one today and start practicing. Over time they become easier to use.
I use the Wacom Intuous 5 Touch in the Small size. Sometimes agencies use the Medium size.
Like I was saying above, your portfolio is going to open doors for you. It would help if you had a stellar portfolio that stands out. Agencies get hit up all the time with horrible portfolios. I’ve seen some terrible ones too.
You really need to understand what makes a good poster and have a great grasp on typography. If I were you, I would look at IMP Awards, an online directory of movie and TV posters, every day so you get accustomed to the degree you need your skills.
Some portfolio suggestions
Your portfolio should be versatile. Include some fan art, some illustrations, some typography, or anything that shows you have a creative mind. Sometimes the best posters in a portfolio are the ones that are just a smart idea. When a creative director sees a brilliant design idea, it shows them you can think intelligently, outside of the box, and set yourself at a different level.
Make an online portfolio
This one is a no-brainer. You have to have an online portfolio as you will be sending it to agencies looking to hire interns, designers, and art directors. Plus, if you are lucky enough to get an interview, you will most likely end up going to the agency, and they will put your portfolio up on a screen so you can go over it with them.
I’ve made portfolios for myself using Squarespace, Wix, and WordPress with the Divi Theme. If you are just starting out and don’t understand the basics of WordPress, then go ahead and use Squarespace or Wix. They are simple and intuitive. The only bad thing is that it costs around $12 per month if you do an annual plan.
That’s $144 per year, so after 10 years, you have already spent $1,440, and trust me, you will most likely have a portfolio for your whole life.
If you understand WordPress, use a Divi theme as it will be a lot cheaper over time. I paid $249 for an all-time license that gets tech updates. Here is an example of a portfolio website I made: KAMP Collective. You can do the same thing for your portfolio.
If you are going to a college or university, I highly suggest you reach out to design agencies and try to become an intern. This is one of the best ways to learn about the industry.
You will be immediately given tasks that help out the design team. Don’t get it twisted, though; you will be doing the less exciting work, sometimes tedious and things that most people probably don’t want to do forever.
The cool thing is you get to really see how a design agency works. Plus, if you kick butt, you may get hired as a Junior Designer. It’s really a win-win for both you and the agency.
Do you have to be in college to become an intern?
Nope, you can become an intern without having to be enrolled in college. I have seen interns that had already graduated and been out of school for a few years. I’ve also seen older adults in their 30s intern. It’s just a great way to get much-needed experience.
Make Fan Art and Alternative Style Posters
One other thing I would like to mention is that it’s a great idea to start creating fan art-style movie posters. It is a great practice and you will begin to learn how to use typography combined with artistic style. Definitely add your best pieces to your portfolio.
If you need more info on Alternative Movie Posters then check out these articles:
Where to begin?
I’d say learn the basics of design, become proficient in Photoshop and Illustrator, and come back to this website regularly to continue learning. Also, sign up for our Newsletter to be notified when our Online Poster Classes become available.
You can also take private lessons with me online via Zoom.