Graphic Design: Create Vintage Poster

Intermediate level Adobe Illustrator Adobe Illustrator

Create a new document

Create a fresh new document and use 600 pixels as a width value and 850 pixels as a height value. This portrait oriented artboard is perfect for creating poster artwork.


Create a sketch

Before we make the sketch, let’s take a moment to remind ourselves of the mid-century style of illustration. Most of the objects were created using simple, geometric shapes. The characters were simplified – their heads were made out of geometric shapes (usually circles or rounded rectangles) and the facial parts made of lines and dots. The colors were pastel and the palettes were usually made of complementary colors. The type was cartoonish and cheerful.

Knowing all of this, we can start creating a sketch. We’ll draw a happy girl on the left, a soda drink on the right side and a title with a catchphrase on the top. If you are using a pen tablet, try using a light grey color.


Create your color palette

Having in mind the pastel colors from the midcentury era, create a simple color palette.

I chose 2 shades of turquoise color for the background, 3 warm colors for the girl (beige and 2 orange shades) and 2 yellow ones and 1 blue for the drink.


Trace the sketch

You might get bit anxious while looking at the sketch. But once you divide it in parts, it all gets easier. I divided it in 4 parts the girl, the drink, the title and the details. We’ll be working on one group at a time.

We'll be using mostly the Pen Tool (P) and the Ellipse Tool (L). Don't forget to delete the sketch once you are done tracing. Let’s start!


Part 1 – the Girl

Step 1

We’ll start with the head. Use the Ellipse Tool (L) to draw the base (1). Then resume using it to draw the eyes and the cheeks (2). Use the Pen Tool (P) to draw the mouth and nose. Create the shapes with a few anchor points – that way they will appear smoother and more geometric. After you are done with the facial features, draw a shape which will cover the upper part of the head and will be the girl’s hair. Copy (Control + C) and Paste in front (Control + F) the head’s circle. Select the hair shape and the head’s circle and use the Intersect command from the Pathfinder’s Panel (3). This way you will get a nice and perfectly aligned hair shape.


Step 2

Resume drawing the hair –use the Pen Tool (P) to draw the curly parts (1). Once you are done, you can start applying the color. Use beige (#FFEDC7) for the face and dark orange (#F26735) for the hair (2). Use a dark grey for the eyes, and darker shades of the beige for the nose, mouth and cheeks (3). Finish by coloring the curly part in the darker orange with a turquoise outline (#00B39D). Give the outline weight of 5 pt.


Step 3

The head part is done –we can start drawing the body. The body is quite simple, made out of a triangular shape and two hands. Use the Pen Tool (P) and first start with the bigger parts (dress and neck) (1), and then add the hands (2).


Step 4

Color the dress in light orange (#F9AF58) and the hands and neck in beige (#FFEDC7). Then duplicate the dress and add a geometric pattern on the copy on top. Go to Swatches Panel and open the drop down menu. From there go to Open Swatch Library > Patterns > Basic Graphics > Basic Graphics_Dots. From the Basic Graphics_Dots panel, choose the one labeled as 6 dpi 30% (1). This will add many tiny spots on the dress and it will give us a bigger retro feel. Then open the Transparency Panel (Shift + Control + F10). Select the patterned object and from the menu select the Color Dodge option. This will change the dark spots into lighter ones (2).


Step 5

When you finish illustrating the head and the body, just merge them together. Add a darker beige shape under the head which will separate the head from the neck. We’re done with possibly the hardest part of the illustration and we can move on to the more simple ones.


Part 2 – the Drink

Step 1

The drink is made out of a glass and a straw. Let’s draw the glass first. Using the Pen Tool (P), just follow the simple shapes of the sketch. Start by tracing the bigger parts, like the body of the glass (2), and then the smaller parts (3). The drink should resemble lemonade so color the body in yellow (#FFE339) and the smaller parts in ocher (#FFBF22).


Step 2

The straw is quite simple to trace (1). What might see more difficult are the stripes but this is too a simple task. Just create approximately 10 parallel rectangles and color them in blue (#0071BC). Then group them (Control + G) and rotate them diagonally. Position them over the straw. Copy (Control + C) and paste the straw in front of the stripes (Control + F). Select both the pasted straw and the blue stripes and right-click on them. From the menu, choose Make Clipping Mask (2). The stripes will get masked in the shape of the straw and it will look flawless (3).


Step 3

Now place the stripe over the glass, as if it’s floating in the drink (1). Copy (Control + C) and paste in front (Control + F) the body of the glass and color it white. Drop the opacity to 25% (2). Now the straw looks as if it’s inside the glass (3). It’s safe to say that we are done with this part too.


Part 3 – the Headline

Step 1

Tracing letters is not always a fun thing to do. Luckily, our letters are groovy and fun and we have only 7 of them. We’ll start with the first word “SODA”. Use the Pen Tool (P) and start tracing letter by letter. Just follow the sketch and don’t be afraid of mistakes. This style tolerates both straight and curvy lines so the chances something to go wrong are minimal. First Trace the base of the letters and then their inside parts.


Step 2

Once you are done, we need to make sure that the letters with inner areas are transparent. Simply select both letter shapes and make sure that the smaller one is in front of the bigger one. Then open the Pathfinder Panel (Shift + Control + F9) and use the Minus Front command. Do this for the letters with a hole in them (such as O, D and P). If there is a letter that’s repeating (such as the P and the O) feel free to use the same one, just slightly tilted so it won’t look like an exact copy.


Step 3

Resume tracing the second word, “POP”. Just like the previous word, trace the bigger parts and then the smaller ones. Use the Pathfinder Panel for the letters with a hole inside.


Part 4 – the Background

Step 1

Draw a rectangle over the artboard and color it in the lighter turquoise shade (#29C4AD). Then, use the Ellipse Tool (L) and create a circle with no fill and outline colored in the darker turquoise shade (#00B39D). Use 20 pt as a stroke weight value.


Step 2

Create another circle with the same attributes as the previous one, only bigger. Make sure they are centrally aligned. Repeat this until you fill the whole artboard with these concentric circles. Try to keep the same distance between them.


Step 3

Once you are done, the background should look like this. Copy the rectangle and paste it over the circles. Select everything and do a right-click. From the menu, choose Make Clipping Mask. This way the artboard will look cleaner.


Arrange the objects over the artboard

Step 1

Now that we have all the drawings, we can assemble the poster together. Just like in the sketch, position the girl on left side and the drink in front of her, on the right side of the artboard.


Step 2

Position the title in the upper part of the artboard. Color it in a light shade of grey color.


Step 3

Open the Transparency Panel (Shift + Control + F10) and choose the Multiply blending mode. The title will become see-through. Duplicate it and make the copy solid white, without using any of the blending modes. Move it slightly to the left, so the transparent title becomes a shadow to the white one.


Well done! The poster should look like this by now. But the space around the objects still looks empty. Let’s add some details around them.


Step 3

Using the Line Segment Tool (\), create a simple star. Start by making a plus sign and then another one, only smaller and rotated by 45°. Multiply it few times in different sizes. Also, use the Ellipse Tool (L) to create few circles in different sizes. Color them with white fill.


Step 4

Color the details in white color and position them around the artboard, over the free space. Select all the white circles and drop the opacity to 50%.


Step 5

A good poster always has a good catchphrase. We’ll add it above the title. Create an ocher (#FFBF22) horizontal rectangle and over it type: “NOTHING SAYS SUMMER LIKE”. You can use any simple, sans serif font you own. Adjust the spacing so it fits the square well.


Step 6

We’re almost done. As a final touch, we’ll need to add a vector texture over the poster. This way we’ll enhance the vintage atmosphere in it. Click here, download and open this amazing free vector texture done by the Freepik staff.


Step 7

Once you open the texture, position it over the poster. Color it in a very light shade of grey (#E6E6E6). Open the Transparency Panel (Shift + Control + F10) and choose the Multiply blending mode. You can also mask the texture, if you prefer to have a clean working area.


Congrats! You are done!

Well done! You just created your first vintage styled poster. You can use this technique to make many other vintage styled graphics. They best work for Christmas themed designs and for summer vacation posters.


What do you think of this tutorial?


Minimalism always worked well in design and illustration. As one famous architect once said “Less is more”, today we are witnessing this statement in the graphic design and illustration trends. One of them is the new retro, or the comeback of the mid-century aesthetics. With this tutorial we’ll learn how to create a poster in the style of the 50’s and the 60’s from the 20th century.

Tut Details

Intermediate level 1h 20m 7,121 views