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Adobe Photoshop and Movie Posters

The best thing and the worst thing to happen to movie poster design (and probably commercial art in general) is Adobe Photoshop. Then again, whenever a creative enterprise is changed by technology, you’ll have an equal number of people singing the virtues of new “tools” versus those crying about the death of “art”.

Today, all movie posters are designed and finished using Adobe Photoshop software — especially in the area of retouching and photo illustration. As recent as the 1990s, this wasn’t always the case. Before the advent of cheap color printers, affordable high-end scanners, and a Apple Macintosh on every desk (even for the receptionist) at an ad agency, high end photo illustration and retouching was an expensive enterprise. For film ad agencies working on movie poster one-sheets, this meant employing outside finishing houses (media agencies that specialized in digital retouching and output) to handle the large image files and finishing work involved in creating print ready artwork. Photo illustration meant expensive service bureau Giclée prints that you weren’t allowed to touch (for fear of smudging), high end $500,000 Quantel Paintbox workstations created expressly to push around large graphics, and professional retouchers costing $500 a hour to use.

But those days are coming to an end. With the growing use of Photoshop, many design agencies have taken retouching/finishing in-house, rather than employing an outside finisher. Some retouchers work on their own, much like a freelance designer, rather then being part of a larger company. Adobe Photoshop has made the retouching process easier and less expensive — just about anyone can do it. Unfortunately with this availability, comes the temptation for misuse and overuse.

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  1. moe hongApril 20, 2005 at 11:08 AMReply

    This is just not true. The vast majority of movie posters are designed/typeset in Indesign, Quark or Illustrator, not Photoshop. Photoshop is not a layout package, but a photo editing package. I will give you that the images in the vast majority of movie posters were editing/finished/composited in Photoshop, but to say that the posters themselves are designed in this package is misleading and false.

  2. adminApril 20, 2005 at 11:47 AMReply

    I apologize if you feel it is misleading. However, one-sheet artwork is designed and executed in Photoshop. (Especially since the focus of this post is retouching and the actual artwork itself, not final mechanicals.) They are not “designed” in InDesign or QuarkXpress — those are (as you point out) layout programs, and come into play later in the process — especially the production side, when dealing with typesetting billings and other parts of mechanicals, etc.

    There are a many programs involved in the process I haven’t mentioned. (For example, more than a few poster logotypes originate in Adobe Illustrator, etc.)

    But to say “the vast majority of movie posters are designed” in InDesign and Quark is not accurate.

  3. Other Kinds of (Better) Photoshoppery « JasonPatz.comJune 7, 2010 at 9:08 AMReply

    […] Somewhere along this path there is an explosion of digital fakery for serious and silly purposes.  This article on Posterwire provides a nice collection of example […]

  4. photo retouching fanJune 18, 2010 at 12:47 AMReply

    Thanks for sharing the useful information related to the photoshop as i am a great fan of retouching photos and this will helps me to get the things that i want to do.

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