Photoshop This

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.