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How to create a Thriller/Horror Film Poster in Photoshop


In this tutorial I’ll show you how to create a thriller film poster in Photoshop using an array of good techniques. Learn adjustment layers, channel  selections and text effects to create a cool poster, free psd included. Lets get started!

Preview final image above .

Program: Photoshop

Difficulty: Intermediate

Time to complete: 2 hrs

Images used: Castle ,Clouds ,Face,Skull,Starring Man, Decrepit Font,

Thankyou to the artists who provided these ,please remember to follow these artists rules and credit them where appropriate.

Introduction: Horror /Thriller Movie Poster Art

Being a film buff and a designer means a lot of my designs are influenced by films. A film poster is great way to combine text effects, image manipulations and Photoshop techniques meaningfully. We can create a fantasy photo manipulation with an outline of a story and message. The poster design we’ll do today is a thriller / horror using stylized images and text to give a similar movie poster style that you see on billboards and video covers.


Step 01 – Prepare the Document.

In Photoshop open a new document at 1000 x 1300 with resolution set to 300 dpi and using RGB color.

Place the image of the castle from here into the document and resize it. Place the image with the castle prominently in the centre and toward the bottom of the document like this:


Step 02 – Cut Out the Sky

With the castle layer selected go to channels and find the channel with the most contrast which is the blue channel here. Duplicate this channel by dragging it to the new channel button just like you would a layer.


Open levels (image adjustment levels) and bring the right slider along to 188 and the left slider to 240.This brings out the contrast of the castle against the sky so we can cut it out.


Grab a hard black brush and cover over the castle trees and moat with black. Then do the same with a white brush on the sky. If you need to make a selection around any left out bits do so and fill with the correct color.


Next Ctrl click the blue copy channel to make a selection go back to you layers  palette and hit Ctl + shift + I to inverse then ctrl + J to bring the castle and trees into a new layer .

Save your document and rename the new layer castle.

Step 03 – Adding Some Interest

Grab this image of clouds from here and place it in the image and resize it . Put this layer under the castle layer.


Step 04 Balancing the Poster

Add a color balance adjustment layer and set the midtones to + 65 giving the image a red tint.


Add a levels adjustment layer and change the midtone input to 0.86 .


Add a hue saturation adjustment layer and reduce the saturation to – 21 then clip it to the cut out castle layer.Then put the castle and clouds in a group and label it castle.


Step 05 The Eyes

Finding good stock photos that give the image a message and make it more than just a manipulation is key in designing a film poster. Go here and download the face image place it in the document and cut the eyes out using the marquee tool. Select just the area around the eyes including the eyebrows and bridge of the nose but exclude the ears. Then hit ctrl shift and I to inverse the selection and delete.


Step 06 Making the Eyes Dramatic

We’ll now work on the eyes and make them more dramatic and other worldly so they fit in with the theme of the film. Hit ctrl + T to free transform and enlarge the image of the eyes so you can work on the pupil’s and eyeballs.

We’ll start by reducing the color, go to image adjustments hue saturation and reduce the saturation to around -38.


Step 07 Eyes

Zoom in if you need to and grab the dodge tool set to mid tones and exposure set to 67 %  then brighten around the pupil and the white of the eye. Bring out the color of the eyes and keep going until the eyes look more dramatic.


Step 07 Adding Colour to the Eyes

Then add a new layer fill with a red color da2917 and set to color burn with the eraser tool on soft round brush erase away the red on the castle and sky leaving the color only on the eyes like so .Next grab the burn tool set to midtones with a 10 – 15 % exposure and darken a little around the eyes.


Step 08 Reducing Shine

Use the burn tool set to midtones and 70 – 80 % exposure to reduce the glare on the castle walls and spires. Cover all the areas where the sun is hitting the castle. Do the same for any shiny areas on trees and on the water.



Step 09 The Skull

Get the image of the skull from here and resize it so it covers the bush this takes away a random looking element and adds drama.Set this layers blend mode to hard light and the layer’s opacity to 45 %. Label the layer skull.


Step 10 The Starring Man

Get this image of a starring man from here place it in the document now resize to the same size as the castle and place it on the left. Change the blend mode to hard light and add a layer mask .Then with the gradient tool set to foreground to transparent make a black gradient on the layer mask from right to left. You should cover over the right hand side of the face .Do the same for the bottom and top and take away any extra lines with a black brush. Now drop the opacity down to 63 % and you should have this.


Step 11 The Title Text

Choose the type tool and the font Decrepit (BRK) at size 20 type ‘NOTHING TO LOSE’. If you don’t have this font already download it from here. Place the text over the line where the eyes layer meets the cloud layer. Then to give the text some depth  copy the  text layer (ctrl + J ) and  rasterise it reduce the opacity to 36 % and nudge it down and to the right 1 pixel .Place the copied layer below the original.


Step 14 The Credits Text

Create a box with the marquee tool around the width of the poster and 220 for the height fill this with a dark red I used 660000.Put this layers blend mode on darken.


Add lettering with the type tool to make the image seem more like a film poster. Type the names in a larger font and the titles such as director in a smaller font. Then compress the whole group of text by highlighting it and reducing the horizontal scale in the character palette to around 42. I also added a small symbol in white. This all gives the text a movie poster feel.


You should end up with something similar to this:


Step 15 Adding More Text

Before this step tidy up your layers put the skull, starring man and film credits in a group and label all the layers if you haven’t done so already. Add ‘MASTERPIECE’ in Trajan pro with double quotation marks. Then use the shape tool to create 5 small 5 sided stars in dark red with the name of a magazine you like. Then add academy award winner 2009 and place in the lower right hand side.


Step 15 Fill with Light

To lighten up the image add a layer at the top and fill it with white, change the layer’s blend mode to overlay. Then add a layer mask and make black your foreground color. Then go to the gradient tool, make sure it set to foreground to transparent. Holding down shift click and drag a gradient form the bottom to above the skull. This will brighten the eyes and castle and leave the bottom as it is.


Step 16 Adding Some Red

Then add a gradient adjustment layer with the colors stops set from a0050a to f50f0f, linear and 90 degrees.


Clicking on the layer mask do the same as with the previous step, select a black gradient and holding down shift click form the bottom to a quarter way up the image .This will help the castle blend in more.


Step 17 Make the Text White again

Now select the title text and extra text by ctrl clicking it go back to the mask of the red gradient and fill with black to make the letters white again. Do this for all the other text as well.



Were all done now I hope you learned something new and had fun – take a break.

Free PSD

The PSD file is available for download free from here.

Rapidshare Download (21.2mb Zip File)

Mediafire Download (21.2mb Zip File)

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9 thoughts on “How to create a Thriller/Horror Film Poster in Photoshop”

    paul says:

    hi,thats an awesme designe spent some time over the weekend designing it thanks im going to use this in a college film project

    paul says:

    hi,thats an awesme designe spent some time over the weekend designing it thanks im going to use this in a college film project

  3. Pingback: Photoshop tutorials – most shocking ever |
  4. Trackback: Photoshop tutorials – most shocking ever |
    Justin says:

    The final result is just lame.

    Digital Art Empire says:

    I checked it out ,its good I like it – scarier than mine :)

    Chloe says:

    amazing – very good in fact

    round brush says:

    I’m so love this blog, already bookmarked it! Thanks.

      Digital Art Empire says:

      great – thanks for teh book mark


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