From design to prepress

Follow this tutorial and learn new things. Learn how to design a poster, differences between RGB and CMYK, how to find the middle of an image and the most rewarding how to prepare an image for printing. Outcome: Girl in this poster is Kate Upton. Resources: If you wish to follow this tutorial completely you […]

Follow this tutorial and learn new things. Learn how to design a poster, differences between RGB and CMYK, how to find the middle of an image and the most rewarding how to prepare an image for printing.


Girl poster outcome

Girl in this poster is Kate Upton.


If you wish to follow this tutorial completely you will need the following pictures and brushes. If you are an experienced users, then you can use different resources.

free-hi-res-watercolor-photoshop-brushes from
free-hi-res-watercolor-photoshop-brushes-set-ii from

Difference between RGB and CMYK

RGB and CMYK are both color models. RGB is an additive color model. No intensity means black while full addition means white. The channels are red, green and blue. RGB color model is old, it seems that that’s the way the human eye percieves colors. CMYK is a subtractive color model, it subtracts colors from white. No intensity means white and full intensity means black. CMYK has four channels, cyan, magenta, yellow and key. RGB is used on computers, for photographs and CMYK is used in color printing. That’s why we’ll choose CMYK as our color mode, because it will go to print.

Poster design and prepress differences

Designing the poster

  1. Open “Girl” image resource.
  2. tutorial12_1

  3. We are going to cut out the girl from the image using Pen Tool (P). With Pen Tool you’re going to get quality results when it comes to cut outs. Feel free to use whatever fits you right but I’d suggest you to use Pen Tool. It’s pretty easy once you get familiar with it, you click and add points witch make a path. If you want to curve your line in between two points you need to click and hold when adding a next point.

  4. Here the finished result.
  5. Go to “Paths” window (Window > Paths) and CTRL+CLICK on the icon next to the path name.
  6. Using Lasso Tool (L) remove some parts from the selection that are not necessary. You can do that by holding ALT key. Notice how your cursor changed to the same one, but with a minus sign. That means Subtract from selection. Use it on the same way you use the normal tool. If you wish to add to your selection, instead of ALT hold the SHIFT key. This means Add to selection.

  7. If you are satisfied with the selection RIGHT CLICK on it and select “Refine Edge“. Here are the advised options. If your Photoshop version does not have “Refine Edge” you can just delete the background.

  8. Zoom in on the head and select this part. Select Eraser tool, set opacity to 50% and delete it. This part will be semi-visible on custom backgrounds.

  9. Place “Texture” resource picture to the document by dragging it into or by placing it.
  10. Add a new color balance adjustment layer. Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Color Balance. These are the advised options but you can use whatever suits you best.

  11. Add a new levels adjustment layer. Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Levels Changed the position of level black from 0 to 43.
  12. Add a new gradient map adjustment layer. Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Gradient Map. Ordinary black to white gradient map. After adding click CTRL+G hotkey. It makes a clipping mask on to the “Girl” layer. Put my blending mode to Darken and to 60% opacity.
  13. Added a new layer named “Brushes“.
  14. Paint something once using brushes that you can downloaded.
    Brushes are big (2500 px), so use half of their size (1250 px).
  15. Selected this part. Click “Add Layer Mask” button. Organized layers better. Add a layer folder.

  16. Duplicated this layer by using CTRL+J hotkey. Transform it a bit. You can paint white and black on layer mask so parts become visible or invisible. Play with it a bit. Here is how I did it. Sometimes I used my past layer, sometimes I re-did 13th step. Use your imagination on this step.

  17. Add a new gradient map adjustment layer. Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Gradient Map. Put it to Hard Light blending mode.
  18. Create a new layer group called “elements“. Use Rectangular Marquee tool (M) and Paint Bucket (G) and created this. Colors are taken from the image, as shown.
  19. Add a layer mask and use brushes to get the following result:
  20. Open “car” resource image. Delete background parts. Add a new gradient map adjustment layer. Image > Adjustments > Gradient Map. Use purple to yellow gradient map. Transform it as shown. Selected this part and delete it using feather selection. RIGHT CLICK on selection > Feather(15px) > Delete.

  21. Open “woman” resource image. Delete unnecessary parts. Transform it. Using brushes delete a bit. Image > Adjustments > Gradient Map.

  22. These few steps are pretty much the same. Open image, delete unnecessary parts, blend if needed (layer mask or delete using brushes) and apply a gradient map with the color as same as on your picture.

  23. Same process with “radio” resource image.

  24. Make a new layer below “girl” layer. CTRL+CLICK on the icon of “girl” layer’s mask.
  25. Fill it with pink color.
  26. Gaussian Blur it. Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur (14 px).
  27. Put it to Overlay blending mode.
  28. Blend “radio” and “bag” layers by erasing parts using brushes.
  29. Create new layer group called “Final Edits“. New layer. Image > Apply Image
  30. Layer>New Adjustment Layer>Gradient map. You can use two colors I used, or use some by your own preference.
  31. Put it to Overlay to 50% opacity.
  32. Layer>New Adjustment Layer>Photo Filter>Magenta. Put it to 85% opacity.
  33. New Layer. Image>Apply Image.
  34. Filter >Sharpen>Sharpen. Edit > Fade Sharpen (75%).
  35. Make a new layer again, fill it with whatever color you want. Filter > Noise > Add noise (Full amount, Uniform).
  36. Put it to 2% opacity.

Congratulations! You have designed the poster. Now let’s make it suitable for printing.

Few words about printing

We have designed the poster, now it’s time to make it suitable for press and people working in final processing. The basic formula is to know the designated paper dimension, add crop marks to the poster and position it properly on the designated paper. There we have a file that is really considerate towards graphics designers and people in final processing.

  1. Notice the following picture. Notice the background and the graphics. Notice the green area and red area. The green area indicates the place where the graphics don’t collide with the edge while the red area indicates the place where the graphics collide with the edge.
  2. Poster design and prepress crop area 1

  3. Now notice this image. The cyan lines resembles imaginary crop marks. People in final processing will cut the printed poster by using these (guid)lines. Graphics inside these lines will stay and become our printed poster while graphics outside the (guid)lines will become redundant, will go to trash.
  4. Poster design and prepress crop area 2

  5. This is very important because a part of our graphic will be cut off, the pink hair part, as show in the first picture. That’s the red area where we stated that it is a place where the graphics collide with the edge of our image. Now we will take time to fix this part so that we don’t have any graphics colliding with the edge so it looks nice in the print. Notice the following two pictures, the left one is the original poster, and the right one is the fixed poster. The right one is how it should be, so that any part of the graphics doesn’t get cut off in the process.
  6. Poster design and prepress crop area 3

How to find middle

  1. Make a new layer and use Rectangular Marquee and select the width of the poster. Width has to be full and height has to be minimal.
  2. Poster design and prepress find middle 1

  3. Fill it. Deselect it with CTRL+D.
  4. Poster design and prepress find middle 2

  5. Press CTRL+T so you enter Transform mode.
  6. Poster design and prepress find middle 3

  7. If Rulers are not shown then show them by clicking on View > Show Rulers or by using shortcut CTRL+R. Click on the left ruler and hold your left mouse button and drag the vertical guide to the middle, to the crosshair on the transform guidelines.
  8. Poster design and prepress find middle 4

  9. Now delete the newly created layer and hide the Rulers so you are only left with the horizontal guide line that shows you the middle.
  10. Poster design and prepress find middle 5

Fixing the poster

    Notice: If you’re using newer version of Photoshop you can skip this part because you can simply open the .psd, move the graphic layers to the right and resize if necessary. This part has been created because I’m using an older Photoshop version and I can not simply edit the .psd. So, I have to fix the poster using outcome image, instead using layered Photoshop document.

  1. Open the outcome image, and find the middle.
  2. Now that you have a guideline indicating the middle of the poster, select this part of the image and move accordingly. Hold CTRL and click drag:
  3. Poster design and prepress select area
    Poster design and prepress move accordingly

  4. You can remove the guidline that indicates middle. Now select these parts of the image by using Rectangular Marquee. Select the first rectangle selection. To select multiple parts of image, in this case two rectangle selections, hold SHIFT while operating with mouse. Hold SHIFT, click, hold and drag and release. Afterwards repeat the same operation to select another part of the image. Also, your cursor will change it’s state, a little plus meaning Add to current selection.
  5. Poster design and prepress make selection

  6. Now copy and paste the selection by going Edit > Copy and then Edit > Paste. Or you can use shortcuts CTRL+C and CTRL+V. After copying and pasting there should be a new layer. Move that new layer to the left edge of the poster and merge it with the background. To merge layers go to Layers > Merge Down or use shortcut CTRL+E.
  7. Poster design and prepress make selection
    Poster design and prepress copy paste merge

  8. Now select the white area and select Rubber Stamp Tool, shortcut (S). In some versions it may be called Clone Paste Tool. Hold ALT and the cursor will change, that new cursor means Select source Area. What this tool does it copies parts of image from the source area to destined area. If you are new to Photoshop and this tool, I’d suggest that you take at least 5 minutes to play around with this tool, using different brush settings. Now just use this tool and fill the selected area. When you deselect it, use this tool a bit more so it doesn’t have a “Photoshopped” feel.
  9. Poster design and prepress clone paste finished

Making the poster ready for printing

    Advice: When it comes to prepress it’s better to use a vector program than a raster one. Since we did everything in Photoshop which is a raster program, we’ll do this too.

  1. Open poster image. We need to expand the canvas area. We will do this by going Image > Canvas size. Select the anchor to be in the middle, and add some “meat” to your poster. Here I use centimeters and milimeters. My poster was 6,67×10 centimeters.
    By using Canvas size I have expanded it by 1 centimeter to 7,67×11 centimeters. Now we have 0,5 centimeter on each side. We can call these added white parts margins.
  2. Poster design and prepress canvas size

  3. We need to add little lines on each corner of our graphics. Those little lines are called crop marks, and people in finishing process will cut the poster by these lines, as we said before.
  4. Create a new layer. Select Rectangular Marquee tool. Hold SHIFT, click and drag so the selection equals to the margin size, in my case 0,5 centimeters. You can click on the upper left corner of the image and drag till the start of the graphic as shown in the following picture:
  5. Poster design and prepress selection margin size

  6. Now we’ll add a border to our selection. Edit > Stroke (2 pixels, inside). Deselect it by clicking on the image or by using shortcut CTRL+D.
  7. Poster design and prepress make border

  8. Move layer to beginning of the graphics by using transform shortcut CTRL+T, using the crosshair, as seen before.
  9. Poster design and prepress position crop mark

  10. Delete unnecessary parts. You have sucessfully created the upper left crop mark (crop line).
  11. Poster design and prepress position delete unnecessary parts

  12. Create crop marks on other three parts of the graphics. You can use the same principle as this one or you can copy paste and transform from the first one. You can see all four crop marks on the following picture, but they are not yet finished.
  13. Poster design and prepress position four crop marks

  14. Delete the parts where the crop marks go in the graphics, leaving only parts that are out, as shown in the following picture:
  15. Poster design and prepress position crop marks finished

  16. Merge the crop marks with the background. Now we have an image that has crop marks. Save the picture as .pdf.
  17. Now we need to decide on what dimension our poster will print. Since this poster is in a small dimension, we’ll use A5 as the designated paper dimension. A5 is one times smaller than A4. A4 dimensions are 29,7×21,0 centimeters, if we need A5 then we’ll divide the longer page size by two. So that means that A5 dimension is 29,7/2×21,0 centimeters, which is 14,85×21,0 centimeters. If the paper is landscape, we can fit two of our posters.
  18. Create a new document with the A5 dimension (14,85 x 21,0 cm), and make sure it’s landscape oriented.
  19. Poster design and prepress a5 landscape

  20. Place the .pdf document by using Place. Go To File > Place.
  21. Poster design and prepress place first image

  22. Now for a moment hide the background layer. You can do this by clicking on the eye icon inside the Layers window. Show the rulers by shortcut CTRL+R and make a new vertical guide that will indicate the right edge of newly placed image.
  23. Poster design and prepress hide background create guide

  24. Now we will place the same document again, and position it so the left edge of the second placed image is placed to the right of the first placed image, as shown on the following picture. You can hold SHIFT while moving the image so the image moves only horizontal, or only vertical.
  25. Poster design and prepress place second image

  26. Now you can unhide the background by clicking on the eye icon again and you can remove the guildline by CTRL click and drag it to the originating ruler. Merge down the layers and position them to middle, as shown below:
  27. Poster design and prepress position to middle

  28. Save the document as .pdf. Use file names that indicate the content of the file, I used “Girl_Poster_A5.pdf” for the file name.

There. Now you have learned how to design an poster, fix the errors and prepare it for printing. You have learned other things but the most important one is the crop marks and fitting the images on the designated dimensions. You created the final .pdf document and now you simply put A5 paper in printer tray and print it and cut it by the indicating crop marks. Or just send the file to the local graphic designer, I’m sure he’ll be relieved when he sees that it’s already prepared for printing. And if not that, you can send him the first .pdf and from there he’ll can prepare it for printing with ease. You just made it easier for someone by learning new things. People use Illustrator or Corel (vector programs) for preparing graphics for printing. We used Photoshop (raster program). Two posters fit on A5 format. We could have used A4 or A3 paper dimension, so that the redundancy is lowered and more posters fit on designated paper. If you wish to create this poster for other paper dimensions then simply use the first document that has crop marks and use the same principle when fitting it to the desired paper dimension. Hope you enjoyed the tutorial. If you have something to say, add or correct me please leave a comment or contact us.

Download .psd (Poster)

Download first .pdf (Poster with crop marks)

Download second .pdf (Girl_Poster_A5)

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