Photoshop for Graphic Design: Design your own punk-style poster – Part 2

Do you like the punk-era aesthetics? Have you often wondered how to achieve the torn, tattered, cut-out, photocopy look of punk era posters? This 2-part tutorial has shown you how to do your research on the visual style in the first part. This is the second part, where I will show you all the techniques and tricks you need to use in Photoshop to obtain that same look. There are freebies you can download!

This is the second of a 2-part tutorial on how to use Photoshop for graphic design: Design your own punk-style poster. In the first part of the tutorial we researched punk graphic design and identified its main elements. In this second part, we are going to design the poster using Photoshop for graphic design and some free resources, with Photoshop love from Piccia Neri to you. This post covers part of the course on Photoshop for Graphic Design that I teach at the great Photography Course London school – check it out.This is a step-by-step tutorial so you should be able to follow it even if you don’t know Photoshop that well. If you get frustrated for any reason, please leave a comment below or contact me and I will do my best to help you.

Let’s get designing our own punk-style concert poster.

This is a step-by-step tutorial so you should be able to follow it even if you don’t know Photoshop that well. If you get frustrated for any reason, please leave a comment below and I will do my best to help you.

This will be our final result:

The final poster we are going to design with Photoshop for Graphic design.The final poster we are going to design with Photoshop for Graphic design.

These are the steps we’re going to follow:

  1. Create a new file
  2. Place the main image
  3. Select the background
  4. Cut out the background
  5. Convert to black and white
  6. New background
  7. Clipping
  8. Photocopy effect.
  9. Ripped paper.
  10. The band’s name
  11. Collage
  12. Adding grunge
  13. Time and place panels
  14. Layer styles
  15. Final touch


1. Create new file.

Create a new A4 size document in Photoshop (2480×3508 pixels) from File> New.

The Create a new file window in Photoshop
Create a new file in Photoshop

I have chosen this size for 2 reasons:

a. it’s small enough to keep our file size manageable, as we will be working with many layers;

b. our band the Ripped Party is new and unknown and only needs small posters that they can print out on a desktop printer or at a copy shop. If you are working with an older or slower computer, you can also use A5 as your size (1748x2480px). Please make sure to keep the background as transparent.

2. Place the main image.

Download the main image that we are going to use in our poster here. You can also download the paper texture from the same place. The images live in the free resources library: don’t forget to pay a visit to get free goodies when you’ve finished here. Right-click on it to save the images on your hard drive in a folder dedicated to this project.

Then back in Photoshop, go to File> Place embedded. Navigate to your folder, find the file ‘Badass kid’ and click on ‘Place’. Then tick the little tick icon on the top PS bar to place the image.

The main image for the poster, inserted into our file via File>Place embedded. You can substitute it with you own image if you want.
TIP: When we import an image via File> Place embedded, Photoshop automatically converts the image to a Smart Object. This means that we will be able to perform fully editable, non-destructive changes to its layer. I always recommend converting layers to smart object (you can do it via the fly-down menu on the top right of the Layers panel) as I am a big fan of non-destructive editing.
The image we are going to use as the main subject of the poster. We need to get it from crisp and clean to grungy and punk. Photo © Piccia Neri.

3. Selecting the background

The image has a white background, which we don’t want – we want to cut the boy out so that we can have any background we want behind him.

Let’s go grab our magic wand tool (shortcut: W on your keyboard). Make sure you select the magic wand and not the quick selection tool. This image sits against a perfectly white background so we are sure that the magic wand will do an excellent job of removing the background.

The image with the background selected via the Magic Wand tool (W) with the 'marching ants' selection.
The image with the background selected via the Magic Wand tool (W) with the ‘marching ants’ selection.

4. Cutting out the background: Using a mask

Now you have all your marching ants running around our badass guy.

However, the automatic conversion of the image layer to a smart object also means that you cannot edit it directly: you can only edit via a smart filter, an adjustment layer or a mask.

So, in order to get rid of the background, you need to click on the mask icon, the third one from the left at the bottom of the layers panel, that looks like a Japanese flag.

Clicking on the mask icon will automatically create a cut-out mask of the image. You will see the mask to the right of the image thumbnail in the Layers panel.

Normally I would recommend to feather the selection a bit, to soften the edges – but this is a punk poster, we don’t do any soft edges.

If the mask is reversed, i.e. all you are left with is a white background with the outline of the boy punched out, fear not: just head to the Layer panel and make sure you select the mask icon. Then hit cmd (Mac) or control (PC) + i, and the mask will be inverted. You now have a cut-out of our guitarist against a transparent background.


5. Converting to black and white

Now I want to convert to black and white. We can do this via an adjustment layer – another non-destructive method, like the mask or smart filters, that we can edit whenever we want.

Go to the bottom of the layers panel and click on the adjustment layer icon, the fourth from the left, next to the mask icon. Choose Black and White. This will apply the default settings and turn the image to black and white.

But you can fine-tune the settings on this layer if you want: you can obtain a much different type of image if you do so, and I encourage you to experiment. You can always go back to the default settings if you want, or edit again – the beauty of non-destructive editing! The way to get back in to the adjustment layer settings is by double-clicking on the layer thumbnail in the layers panel (NOT the mask!).


6. A new background

I am now going to give the image a background. As a tribute to the Pistols and Jamie Reid, I am going to use fluorescent yellow.

Head back to the bottom of the layers panel, click on the adjustment layers icon and pick Solid Color from the drop-down menu. This brings up the Color Picker. I’m going to go for #fff200, e.g pure yellow.

If your whole image is now covered up by the new layer, it’s because your new solid color layer is at the top of the layer stack: click on it and drag it down to the bottom, in the layers panel.


7. It’s all gone grey. Let’s Clip it

Oopses! what’s happened? the yellow is now grey.

That’s because we have a Black and White adjustment layer at the top which is affecting every other layer beneath it in the stack.

We need to clip that layer to the dot pattern image, because that is the only part of the image that we want to be affected by the filter.

Head off to the layers panel again and click on the Black & White adjustment layer.

Then place your cursor on the line dividing this layer thumbnail from the one below, and click on alt. This will make the cursor (previously a hand) become a little square with an arrow. Click now. Great! the background is yellow again. Now the adjustment layer is ‘clipped’ to the layer below it.

By the way, you can clip any layer to the layer below and this is a great technique with selections, for instance – but more of that another time.

8. The photocopy effect.

The next thing to do is transform this crisp, clean, sharp image into something that looks like it was photocopied 40 years ago (and later trampled on by a herd of pogo-ing people at a gig.)

First of all, duplicate the image: make sure the image icon is selected in the layers panel and click on command (Mac) or control (PC) + J to duplicate the layer.

I am a big fan of duplicating layers – you never know when you might need an unaltered version of the image.
Turn its visibility off by clicking on the eye icon in the layers panel.

To get the half-dot pattern/photocopy effect we could use the colour halftone filter (Filters> Pixelate> Color halftone), but that would end up giving us a result that’s not quite what we want, it looks odd and artificial – just not 70s enough.


The best way to deal with this is to use an existing halftone pattern, and apply it to the image. And we can do so thanks to the the wonderful Spoongraphics blog: head over there to download the halftone patterns. With much gratitude to Chris for his generosity from us all.

Download the package, put it in the same folder where you have the other files for this project. Unzip the package. Then go to File>Place embedded, and pick one of the halftone patterns. I have chosen Dark-Halftone-Screen-Medium but you can experiment with them.

Then place the halftone pattern layer right on top of the badass kid image. It can also be on top of the BW adjustment layer.

Then make sure that you clip it so that it only applies to the boy’s image and nothing else on the poster, like we did for the BW adjustment layer (see point 7 if you can’t remember how to do this).

Change the blending mode from the drop-down menu on the top of the layers panel to ‘Overlay’. Again, you can play around with this – I like overlay here.

TIP: Some good housekeeping. As we have quite a few layers for the singer’s image now, I would like to create a group for it in order to avoid confusion.
Select the 3 layers pertaining to the singer’s image (BW adjustment layer, halftone pattern and image itself), then from the fly-down menu on the right of the layers panel choose ‘New group from layers’. Give it a name that makes sense (like ‘singer’s image’, or whatever you want).
When you use Photoshop for graphic design and you accumulate a high number of layers, you must make sure that you name and group them in a sensible way: anybody should be able to open your .psd file and understand very quickly how things work from how the groups and layers are organised.
Oh, and don’t forget to save occasionally.

9. Ripped paper for Ripped Party.

Let’s go to File> Place embedded and then navigate to the downloads folder where you have the Paper Sheet.jpg file. For your convenience, here is the link again in case you need to re-download it. Click on place. I am going to pace it at the top, at an angle, to counterbalance the diagonal of the lead singer and his guitar.

To make the torn paper look more believable, I have turned the layer blending mode (the drop-down menu at the top of the layers panel, next to Opacity) to Multiply, and the opacity to 35%. There is no right or wrong way of doing this: you might want to experiment with other settings (and as ever, I encourage you to do so).

Let’s continue with our good housekeeping: go to the layers panel and select the little down arrow on the top right. Select ‘New Group’ and call it Ripped Party. Then, with the Ripped Party group selected, click on the Type tool on the tools panel (or hit T on your keyboard). This will create a type layer inside the group.

10. Putting the band’s name on the bill.

Head off to the tools panel and select the Type tool (or hit T on your keyboard).

We are going to want to use at least two different typefaces for this, and we will want the letters to be wonky, separately: so it’s highly likely that we will end up with a lot of type layers, as that’s the only way we can act on each letter individually.

Remember that we are supposed to be cutting out letters from newspaper headlines (from the late 70s!): so keep the typeface simple and fat. This is probably the only time you are going to hear me say that Times New Roman would be fine – it usually isn’t. Have a play around and see what you like.

You can edit the edit layer from the tool options on the top Photoshop bar, with the tool and layer selected. You can also go to the main menu and select Window> Character to bring out the Character panel.


I have chosen Helvetica Bold, 103 pt, all caps, for RIPPED and I have split the word in two – which seems semantically appropriate. So I have the the word ‘ripped’ on two separate layers.

To modify the layer, change the angle, size and so on: select the type layer that you want to modify in the Layers panel. Click on command/ control T. This will bring out the Free Transform option. You can now resize, change angle etc.

Remember that to resize proportionally you need to hold down the shift key while dragging a corner of the box. If you want to rotate, place the cursor over one the angles and you will it transformed into a curved arrow. If you hold shift while you do this, it will rotate the box in regular increments (depending on your preferences, mine are set at 15%).

The poster is now taking shape. You could definitely spend MUCH longer on the lettering to make it look like a ransom letter, but I am going for the simpler ‘Never Mind the Bollocks’ type style.

11. More Collage elements.

We could leave the type as is, but we could also experiment with putting colourful shapes behind it, as if you had glued the letters onto coloured paper.

So let’s go and grab our Pen tool (or just hit ‘P’ on your keyboard).
Let’s also make sure that we are inside the Ripped Party folder. Then in the top bar on the left, make sure that you have ‘Shape‘ selected (not Path). Clicking on ‘Fill’ will bring up the swatches. I’m going to click on the icon on the right which brings up the colour picker. We can always change the colour later, anyway (Shape layers are fully editable as they are vector-based).

I think I’m going to go for a magenta, #ed0677. If you start drawing with the pen set to Shape, this will immediately create a Shape layer. If this new shape layer is on top of the words in the layer stack in the layer panel, move it down to the bottom of the group

The band's name with two shapes underneath it.

Once you are happy with the shape you have created for each bit of text, it’s a good idea to link the two elements, shape and text, so that you can keep them together.

To do that, go to the layers panel, click on the text layer, then hold down shift (or command/control if they are not adjacent) and click on the link button at the bottom of the panel, the first from the left. Now your shape is linked to the bit of text. I have changed the colour of the shape behind ‘RIPPED’ to white. You can do this by double-clicking on the Shape layer, which brings up the Colour picker.

ripped-party-500px[x_blockquote cite=”Photoshop tip” type=”center” class=”man” style=”color: #fff;background-color: #505050;”]Tip: with such a clearly defined layout, it’s a good idea to tick ‘Auto-select: Layer’ on the top bar, because it will make it really easy to target layers that you want to modify.[/x_blockquote]

12. Adding grunge

This definitely looks still too crisp and clean. We need to add some texture and grit. Let’s go. Download the Paper Texture file from the free resources library. Save it on your hard drive in the folder dedicated to this project. Then go to File>Place embedded, and drop in the Paper Texture file, making sure it’s on top of the stack of layers.

Resize so that it covers the image (don’t worry about resolution, it will be fine). Now the texture covers everything. Go to the blending mode drop down menu and select ‘Multiply‘. The effect is likely to be a bit too strong so play with the opacity: mine is now down to 50% and it looks fine to me. I am much happier now.

The text looks too crisp, it needs dragging through the mud a bit. I would like it to look as if it had been stamped on with badly inked stamps, worn and weathered, or letter-pressed.

There are many ways of achieving this effect, I am going to use the simplest. Let’s download a free grunge texture. Drop it into the poster (by now you know how). Place the layer on top of the Ripped Party text group. Change the blending mode to Screen. Clip it to the Ripped Party group (see point 7 above if you don’t remember how to do this). This should give you a good enough effect.

13. Time and place panels.

Now it’s time to tell the people where and when the gig is going to happen. Head off to your Pen tool (or hit P on your keyboard), again making sure that the ‘Shape’ mode is selected.

Pick a colour of your choice – I’m going for magenta again. Draw a shape at the bottom of the poster and write over it. I have used a mixture of typefaces again.

Please keep up with the good housekeeping and create a group called ‘date & time’ for this new set of layers.

Then I have grungified this layer by doing exactly the same thing we did with the band’s name: drop the grunge texture into the file, place it on top, change the layer blending mode to Screen, and clip it to the date & time group.

I also want this date and place panel to look like it’s faded transparent tape, so I turn the blending mode of the pink panel to overlay. This is too transparent: so I duplicate the layer again, change the blending mode to normal, and take the opacity down to 60%. This is what my layers panel looks like now:



14. A tiny bit of depth via Layer styles.

It’s all looking ok, but the collage text looks a bit too flat. We can use Layer styles to improve on this. Double-click on the shape layer linked to ‘Rip’ to start with, making sure the cursor is not on the thumbnail, rather to the right of it. This will bring up the Layer styles panel. Tick the Drop Shadow option on the panel on the left and make sure that you select it too, to bring up its settings panel.

Applying the drop shadow layer style.
Applying the drop shadow layer style.

To apply the same style to the other elements of the title group, you can click on ‘New Style’ in the layer styles panel and save this style. Otherwise, you can select the ‘Rip Shape’ layer thumbnail and right-click. This will bring up a new menu that we hadn’t used yet. Choose the Copy Layer Style option. Then select the layer of another shape beneath the text, ‘Par’ for instance, right-click and select ‘Paste layer style


This could be done in a more realistic way, but it’s ok for our purposes.

15. Final touch.

Final touch: with your Pen tool selected and set to Shape, draw a yellow shape around the singer’s mouth, making sure you are inside the singer’s image group BUT above the BW adjustment layer.

Then turn the shape layer’s blending to overlay. I have also duplicated the halftone pattern layer, to exaggerate the photocopy effect a bit more. Then I have added one final texture layer: find it in the folder, it’s called spray2. The procedure is the usual: File>Place, embedded, navigate to your freebies holder, and place the file. Make sure that it’s on top of everything. Change the blending mode to overlay and tone down the opacity to 50%.

Now make sure you apply the same layer style that we used for the title to the shapes underneath the text, so they have a bit more depth – see point 12. above. You should still have it in the memory, so simply select the shape layer, right-click and select ‘Paste Layer‘.

And I think that’s it for me. The poster is DONE.

The final poster we are going to design with Photoshop for Graphic design.The final poster we are going to design with Photoshop for Graphic design.

Of course I could have made a 1000 different decisions along the way: different colours, different typefaces, more ransom-style cut-out letters, different colours, and so on.

Please make your own decisions and changes as you follow along. It would be great to see what you came up with – it’s always super-interesting to see what different people’s take is, and the best part of teaching and working with other designers. So please post your results in the comments!

Please note that the three downloads I have made available for you, the main image, the paper texture and the torn paper sheet, are my photos that I am happy to share with you and the world for this project. By all means re-use them for yourself, but if you want someone else to use them, too, please don’t re-distribute: share the link to this post. And of course do not re-sell – goes without saying, you would never do that.

With many thanks to my nephew Rocco for lending his face.

Find out more – do more!

If you want to read more on punk and punk graphic design, here are a few articles I found very interesting while getting this tutorial ready:

The art of Punk and the Punk Aesthetic

All Ripped Up: Punk Influences in Graphic Design

Punk Poster Design

Punk Uncovered

Post-Punk Graphics



But above all – get off the computer. Get some scissors, yellow board from an art shop, old newspapers, old magazines. Find a photo. Cut it out.Photocopy it. Paste it on. Paint on it. Go crazy. Go wild. Do It Yourself – and without a computer. Try it – it’s FUN. And very good for you.

To end with a punk classic – Syd doing it his way from The Great Rock’n’Roll Swindle.

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