Explore your creative side and build your skills along the way by making it a personal challenge to design a poster every day. Learn how to use Adobe Photoshop to create fun and unique composites using Adobe Stock imagery, organic shapes, gradients, and custom brushes.
Before you start.
I’ve provided a Creative Cloud Library of Adobe Stock images, textures, organic shapes, and brush strokes to help you get started on this project. You can use these assets too.
Step 1: Find some inspiration.
It’s best to start with a variety of images you can use throughout your series. For my design, I searched Adobe Stock for bright, bold images of people that convey a sense of movement. I also collected colorful, iridescent textures and then organized them into CC Libraries.
When you search Adobe Stock, use phrases that contain multiple keywords and look for images with clean, uncluttered backgrounds. When you find an image you like, click Save to Library. To change the default library or create a new one, click Manage in the pop-up notification. Keep adding to your libraries as inspiration strikes.
Step 2: Go to the library.
Open a new document in Photoshop. I created a document sized at 2300x3400 pixels but choose whichever dimensions work for you. Open the Libraries panel (Window > Libraries) and choose the library containing your Adobe Stock image from the drop-down menu. Drag the thumbnail onto your canvas, use the handles to scale or rotate the image, and click Enter or Return to place it.
If you want to license an image, click its shopping cart icon in the Libraries panel. After following the instructions, you’ll see that the image is updated automatically in your document, removing the watermark.
Step 3: Swap out the background.
To design your own background, start by hiding the original one. Choose Select > Subject and click the Layer Mask icon in the Layers panel. The background is still there in case you need it; it’s just hidden by the mask.
In case you ever need to refine the original selection, choose Select > Select and Mask. Using the Quick Selection tool, set it to Add To Selection or Subtract From Selection and then brush along the areas you either want to include or exclude from the selection. How to create a profile picture in Photoshop gives you more information about the Select and Mask workspace.
Step 4: Change the color.
Try a new background color. Add a Solid Color adjustment layer, choose a color, click OK, and then drag the new layer below the photo layer. Double-click the color swatch in the Color Fill layer to try out different colors.
Step 5: Shape your design.
Add organic shapes to create a mixed-media composition. Right-click the Pen tool, choose the Curvature Pen tool, and make sure it’s set to Shape (not Path) in the options bar. Click to add points, forming the outline of your shape, and then click the original point to close it. Your shape will be filled with your currently selected Foreground Color. We’ll change this in the next step.
Drag the new layer below the photo layer so the shape appears behind it.
Step 6: Accent with a gradient.
Give your new shape some dimension by adding a colorful gradient. Double-click the Shape layer to open the Layer Style dialog box and then select Gradient Overlay at the left. Click the Gradient swatch and try out different presets in the Gradient Editor to see which one you like. Finally, choose Normal from the Blend Mode drop-down. You can also experiment by changing Opacity, Style, and Angle. Click OK when you’re done.
Step 7: Give it some texture.
Add variety to your composition by using some of the textures available on Adobe Stock. Draw another shape using the Curvature Pen tool and then drag a texture from your library onto the canvas. You can use the free iridescent texture I provided with this tutorial (Window > Libraries). Make sure the new layer is directly above the Shape layer. Right-click the texture’s layer (not the thumbnail) and choose Create Clipping Mask. To reposition the texture, press Control+T (Windows) or Command+T (macOS) and then drag the image or use the handles to resize or rotate it.
Step 8: Brush in some depth.
Simple brush strokes give a final touch. Add a new layer in the Layers panel and drag it below the photo layer. Select the Brush tool and change the foreground color using the swatches at the bottom of the Tools panel. Use the free textured brush I provided with this tutorial (Window > Libraries). You can also choose one from the Dry Media Brushes group—just click the drop-down next to the Brush tool at the top of the screen. I used Chunky Charcoal. Adjust the size as you wish and start painting.
Repeat this to your liking. I painted on two layers—one above the portrait and one below it—to create some depth.
Showcase your collection.
Take some time to admire your work. Then save your image and upload it to Behance—or keep working and build out a series. Try using similar colors, shapes, or images to create a cohesive theme. Or use a variety of images and colors to create a collection of unique, experimental posters. Once you have a few designs that you’re ready to share, add them to a Behance project. Create and publish a project on Behance shows you how.
Note: Project files included with this tutorial are for practice purposes only.