Design a Vintage Poster, Part II

Welcome to part two of designing a vintage poster. If you missed part one, be sure to catch up! Last week’s tutorial covered most of the heavy lifting: concept, color, and composition all took place in Illustrator using elements from Vector Set 16.

Today we’re going to take our design into Photoshop for some tender love & care. We’ll learn about adding tactile character using Photoshop’s Bitmap filter, applying Spray Paint Textures for a handmade urban vibe, polishing with motion blur, and finally adding selective contrast with the dodge and burn tools.

Phase Four

Giving your design a face lift in Photoshop

Now before we get started in Photoshop lets open a new file and set size to 15×20 300 dpi.
Next place the jpeg of the poster into this new file.

Step One

Duplicate the layer three times, simply hold down alt and drag layer up.
Label and set first layers opacity to 70% simply hold down alt and drag layer up.

Author’s Note: It is important to properly name your layers so you don’t get confused.

Step two

Next create a bitmap, select bitmap layer and click image mode gray scale. You will get three pop up notices just click first button for all three, and let’s move on.

Step three

You will see one single layer. Click on image, mode and select (bitmap).

Step four

Set to 300dpi, halftone screen hit OK.

Step five

Set frequency to 35 or 45, set shape to round for best results.

Author’s Note: Feel free to try other things change up the shape and experiment with different settings.

Step six

Now convert bitmap back to gray scale. Click to Image>Mode>Grayscale

Step seven

Now convert grayscale back to RGB. Double click on layer and name it bitmap. Now select everything using ctrl + A. Copy the bitmap layer using ctrl + C.

Step eight

Now that we’ve got our bitmap image we need to apply it to our original design. Go to the history pallet and revert back to before you created the grayscale image. This will bring back all your original layers. You will want to replace the old bitmap layer with the new one. Just delete the original and ctrl + V to past in new layer. Change the fill to 59%.

Phase five

Adding spray paint texture

Lets add some spray paint from Spray Paint Textures, Volume 1 to spice it up a bit. I enjoy using these to give the design some character.

Step one

Place the spray paint above the compass rose size to your liking.
Author’s Note: You can play around with different colors and transparency effects.

Step two

Set to darker color and opacity to 75% make sure its above the opacity layer.

Step three

Duplicate the layer move into place as show above.
Author’s Note: Use the erase tool with a soft bursh and opacity set to 35 and erase around square till lines are gone.

Phase six

Adding light and aged effects

Step one

You will need to download the aged action to continue the tutorial.


Step two

First create a new layer and name it “Light Grunge”. This is the layer that we’ll be using to add the aged effect.

Step three

Create a new layer fill it with black

Step four

Filter, render, lens flare

Step five

105mm prime, move to into position as show above set brightness to 118%

Step six

Step seven

Alright, now it’s time to use that aged texture action. Load it up and play it. See that? We took a standard lens flare and made it a little messy. Now, let’s do it again by hitting play a second time.

Step eight

Set the light grunge layer blending mode to Screen. Now change opacity to 75%. See how adds realistic aging effects?

Phase seven

Adding light and aged effects

Step one

Select the motion blur layer we created earlier. Open the motion blur dialog by clicking Filter>Blur>Motion Blur. Set angle to 48% and distance to 999 pixels.

Step two

Set our motion blur layer blending mode to Screen. Lower opacity to 61%. We’re almost there!

Phase eight

Adding dark contrast

Step two

Select the burn tool. Use it like a brush on some dark areas that you’d like to make even darker. Keep experimenting until you’ve achieved contrast that looks good to you.

That’s it! We’re done! I hope you had a good time taking our Illustrator design to the next level with Photoshop. The final results may very, I took it a bit further using the same techniques. Have fun Designing your own madness.

Design a Vintage Poster with Vector Pack 16


When you think about the design process, what comes to mind?
I believe it is the combination of thoughts, mixed with emotions and pure forms that capture a person’s attention. We are all part of this thing called “madness. ”

The definition of Madness:

  1. 1. The state of being mad; insanity.
  2. 2. Senseless folly: It is sheer madness to speak as you do.
  3. 3. Frenzy; rage.
  4. 4. Intense excitement or enthusiasm.

In this tutorial, we’ll be modifying vector elements from Vector Set 16 to create a retro-vintage poster. Along the way we’ll uncover tips in Illustrator and Photoshop that can lend your designs a little extra TLC. I tend to work in both Illustrator and Photoshop. Both programs have their strengths and weaknesses, but together they’re unstoppable.

Phase one

Collection of assets and file setup in Illustrator

Before we start we need to gather our assets. We will be using a few pieces from the fresh release of Vector Set 16.

I’ve looked through the Set and selected the images that I think are best suited to create a vintage, retro looking poster. The use of vintage pieces mixed in with some color radials will really bring the madness together!

I choose these vectors to show how flexible they can be. Please, go ahead & have fun! Experiment, tear them apart, change their color and size to make them yours.

Picking the right background for your vintage poster is vital. Paper, cardboard, and grunge textures can really bring your poster to life. This is a good time to look for some inspiration, so take a look at a few Bauhaus poster designs.

Author’s Note: Experiment with different paper textures. Here are some free options.
Zen textures
Lost and taken

If you’d rather just use the background that I did, you can download it and get started.


Step one

In Illustrator create a new document. Set the color mode to RGB and set the size to 15×20 inches. Next, import the background texture file.

Author’s Note: If you use another background image make sure to re-size it to 15×20.

Step two

Copy the retro loop image from Vintage Elements and paste it into your document. You will notice these are very flexible, you can change colors and re-size different individual sections of the shape.

Using the Direct Selection Tool (white arrow), select the top end of the four lines and drag upwards to lengthen the loop. Repeat this on the left side.

If you’re having trouble editing this shape, take a look at this video overview.

Step three

The color palette plays an important role in setting the mood for a retro poster. If you’d like to use the same colors that I’m using, download these color swatches for free.


Now lets change the color of the segments in the loop image. With the Direct Select Tool, select a line that you’d like to change.

Hold down SHIFT and select all the segments of the line. Now select a color swatch to change the color of the line segments.

These are the ones used above: Blue-green #66A9A6 Tan #D9D5A9 Red B93826 Black 000000

Author’s Note: Experiment with colors, you’ll surprise yourself sometimes. For added inspiration in the color selection process, visit – a great community site with all sorts of color schemes and patterns.

Step four

Let’s add a drop shadow, this will help create some separation from the background.

Step five

Now it is time to bring in other vector elements to round out the poster. I added one mean-looking Ape from Primates and the state of Alaska from Maps of the USA to the eye of the loop.

Make sure these new shapes are arranged underneath the loop that we just altered in steps 1-4.

Author’s Note: I added some quick homemade ink drops for fun right under the chin.

Step six

Lets use this color wheel from Color Radials to give the background some color. Set the blending mode to overlay and opacity to 22%. Now select and drag from the corner to make it larger.

Step seven

Oooo, that looks good. In fact, lets add another Color Radial and place it just above the primate below the vintage element as shown above. Make sure the blending mode is set to multiply and opacity is 49%.

Author’s Note: Use your best judgment for size and placement of vectors.

Step Eight

Now select ctrl+c and ctrl+f to place in front, select and expand it till the center is filled with the smaller circle. Make sure the transparency is set to multiply and opacity is 49.

Step nine

We’re using the same color radial so re-size and place below the chin of the ape.

Step Ten

Add a compass rose from the Maps Vector Pack, and lets set the transparency to multiply and place it over the color radial as pictured above. Now we’re done with adding the vectors and creating the poster’s composition.

Phase Two

Adding Text

Used the font Blockhead and played with the color and transparency to give it a washed out feel. Simple but effective.

  1. 1. Font size 120 set the AV to 50
  2. 2. Change color to 66A9A6
  3. 3. Now go to effect and choose style inner glow. Set mode to screen, opacity to 84 with a blur of 15.2
  4. 4. Go to filter, click on style and add a drop shadow. Set mode to multiply, opacity to 75
  5. 5. Make sure the font transparency is set to multiply.

Phase Three

Creating a vintage pattern background
Alright. We’ve finished the foreground elements, but I think the poster is still missing something. Let’s add in a retro background pattern and see where that takes us. To make the background, we’ll grab a simple shape from the Vintage Elements Vector Pack.

Select the shape and change it’s color to FCBA63. Next, change it’s blending mode to Multiply, and lower opacity to 38%. Now we’re ready to stretch Adobe Illustrator’s legs a bit. Drag the shape to the right, holding Shift (constrain movement) and Alt (drag duplicate). Now, without clicking anything else in between, hit Ctrl+D to duplicate this move eight times. Ta-da! A row of eight vintage shapes.

Watch the video below to get caught up and see Ctrl+D used to finish out the background.

The end of Part I

Congrats! You’re done with your layout and work in Adobe Illustrator. From this point on we’ll be working in Photoshop to add fairy dust & final touches. Get a load of the image below for a sneak peek at the final piece. We’ll be covering these techniques this Friday, so stay tuned for part II.

Share your thoughts, questions, and comments with us below. If you take the challenge to follow this tutorial yourself, post the results in our User Showcase and link to it in the comments.