In this tutorial, you’ll learn how to create a poster design inspired by an art movement called Russian Constructivism. We will cut up some images and paste them together to create a stylized revolutionary design. We’ll then tie it all together by overlaying some texture to give it a vintage feel.
First we research, gather resources, and sketch a plan. I took visual direction from this poster. I also looked at a lot of Russian Constructivist poster art on the Net to get into the groove of the style. I created a draft in Photoshop with quickly cut photographs as I gathered images for the design. The rough draft below is similar to doing a detailed sketch, only it is done in Photoshop instead of on paper.
We need to gather the assets for this tutorial. We’ll need a Constructivist typeface. Fortunately, there is one available for free: Kremlin. Make sure you install this as we’ll need it later on in this tute. Here are links to the graphics for this tutorial: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4. After selecting the graphics, we need to download and then prep them, change the colors to grayscale, and cut the backgrounds out (use whatever method you prefer to get rid of the background). There is one more image for this tutorial. Its some grunge paper from Bittbox. It’s available in a free download pack at this link: Free High Res Grungy Paper Textures.
Now open up Photoshop and create a new document. Set the size to 500px wide by 748px height. I’m working in RGB color mode. Make your background orange: #dbae37. After downloading the texture pack from Bittbox, unzip it and open up the file called paper_2.jpg. Then rescale it to 500px wide by 748px height. Copy and paste it into your document. Place it above the orange background and set it to the Hard Light blending mode.
Place our cut out hands first. This is the central image and where the design starts from. Notice how I’ve got the rough draft open and I’m using it to get the positioning and scale set up similar to the original. At this point, we are constructing the final image. I tend to stick to the draft unless I come up with some new ideas or refinements that work better along the way.
We are going to construct our banners next. There is one large banner at the top and then two crisscrossing banners below the hands. When I was constructing the draft, I was working carelessly and letting the rectangles get pixelated. I started to the like the look of the banner that way after a little clean up. It added some texture to the edges of the banner. I’ll review how to recreate this happy accident.
Create a new document 600px wide by 300px high. This document is just for prepping our banners. Draw a red square the size shown below.
Use the Free Transform Tool to rotate and resize the square as shown below. You can see we are starting to get some pixelated edges on our box.
Next we will Free Transform again until we get a large angled rectangle with jagged, pixelated edges to use for our top banner.
Now we are going to clean up the pixelation by running an Unsharp Mask Filter over the box. View the setting in the image below.
You can now copy the top banner over to our final design. Its all set. Then in our banner prep document, take a copy of top banner and Free Transform it to match the shape below. Then you can also place this shape in our final document.
Repeat these steps to create our last banner that faces the other direction.
After placing and rotating our text over our bottom banners, we need to erase the arms that are sticking out underneath. Make a selection and delete them.
You can see above how the placed text looks on the bottom banners. You also need to do this for the top banner. Make sure your text is placed according to the image below and use the Kremlin font to fit the style. After placing, rotate the text with the Free Transform Tool.
Now we’ll place our cut-out crowd image and the picture of our young designer, whom I’ve named Rocky. First, we’ll place our crowd and then we’ll place Rocky on top of the crowd, but under the banners.
Next we make a copy of Rocky and place him on top of the banners. Then we erase Rocky’s head from this copy. That way the hand is on top of the banner.
Next we erase some of the crowd on the right and apply the eraser to any part of the images that look like they need it.
Our poster is getting there. The bomber is the last image to bring in. Cut it out and copy it into our document. We want there to be three copies. So just duplicate them and then use the Free Transform Tool to match the image below.
Next, we will insert our black Rs with the Type Tool. The Rs function as a strong typographic symbol in this piece. Revolution begins with an R. Also Constructivist style often used big bold letters. See the image below for the placement of the Rs. If you look carefully, you’ll also notice that I made some slight adjustments to some of the other elements. I’ll likely keep doing that along the way.
Our last major compositional pieces are the red circles. The bottom circles were made with the Elliptical Marquee Tool. Once I made a selection, I then drew an angled gradient that went from maroon to red and then back to maroon.
I finished the circles by creating two more at the bottom in the same way. I then went on to make the dots. They add some texture and focus to the wrenches. I used brushes at three different sizes for this. Each one was set to a Hardness of 100 percent. I just clicked once to get the circle with the Brush Tool. I then set the layer style to Soft Light. I resized the Brush Tool and did it again until I had three dots.
We have all our compositional elements in place. Now it’s time to add some texture to get this design to fuse together. First, draw an angular gradient like the one in the image below.
With this gradient selected go to Filter > Texture > Texturizer. The settings used are in the image below.
Now set the texture to Overlay and make sure it’s at the top of our layers palette. Now let’s also make sure that our paper texture falls just below that. We already placed this into our document earlier. Move the paper texture up top into place. Make sure it’s set to Hard Light and give it an Opacity of 80%.
You can see in the image above that our poster is a little flat and washed out. Let’s add some layer styles to give a bit more depth. We’ll start with the banners. Select the Top Banner and apply the Gradient Overlay layer style in the image below. Also apply a 20% Drop Shadow with the rest of the settings at default. Repeat this with the same settings for the other two banners. The only difference is that I reversed the gradient for the REVOLUTION banner.
Hang in there. We’re almost there. We’re going to apply some layer styles to the text next. We’ll keep it simple and apply the same layer styles to all the banner text. So after applying the settings below, you can copy the layer styles and paste them onto the remaining banner’s text until all three have the same styles.
We’re going to adjust the contrast on the black-and-white images. If we make it just a little stronger, they will stand out more. Go to Image > Adjust > Brightness/Contrast and punch up the contrast until it looks right.
This is our last step. We’re going to add a gradient overlay to the background. Create a new layer and draw an angled gradient that goes from yellow to orange like the image below.
Last, we move the gradient layer so that it rests just above our background layer, which is our bottom-most layer. Then we set its layer to Overlay and its fill to 30%. The final image is below.
I hope you enjoyed this tutorial and that it inspires you to learn about design history. There are a lot of interesting artists and art movements. The past is a rich design resource that can have a positive influence on your designs.