Have you ever seen an image from a restaurant that looks good enough to eat? Or a photograph of a holiday destination that looked as if you could just step into that world? If you’ve ever responded to the turquoise blue waves that looked as if they could lap out of the picture and around your feet – then you have witnessed the power of texture and depth in design.

In a film poster, great imagery uses these elements to draw the eye, trigger our emotions and create a clear identity for the movie. Additionally, they can convey subtextual elements of the narrative and subtly (or not) suggest plot points.

The visual language of film

So how do we use texture and depth to create powerful film posters? Well, firstly we need to understand the existing visual language of film art.

As film posters have evolved, so too has our subconscious understanding of them, creating visual cues for what we can expect when we sit down to watch the film itself.

Below, I examine just a few of these cues and how they suggest narrative, genre and tone.

Flat colour

This creates a clean and simple image that doesn’t suggest a lot of complexity. A film poster using very little texture hints at an ‘easy watch’ that won’t be too much of a headscratcher. A flat background is usually paired with clear images of the lead actors – focusing our attention on them and their relationships.

The Gentlemen, Kill Bill & Bridget Jone's Baby poster examples

Epic landscape

The world-building starts here with a poster that shows a huge scale and dramatic features. These posters usually hint at a larger struggle at play in the narrative and also positions the landscape as a ‘character’ in the story.

For instance, the poster for ‘Gravity’ creates an incredible atmosphere as well as making powerful use of negative space to show that the story world extends far beyond our imagining.

Gravity, Rogue One & Inception poster examples

Down and dirty 

Posters heavily textured with a gritty, messy feel are often used to reflect a harsh story world. This can vary from the textures of smoke, fire and soil for war films to flesh, blood, hair and gore for horror films. It’s worth noting that although a war film may feature a lot of blood and guts, it rarely makes an appearance on the poster – probably to avoid evoking the mood of a horror film.

Sinister, Fury & The Road poster examples

Textured faces

A drama may want to focus on the main character/s whilst suggesting more emotional depth. Ways to convey this include giving their face an element of heavier texture than would appear in, for instance, a comedy.

Black Swan, Joker & Lord of War poster examples


Recent years have seen the resurgence of the traditional illustrated style poster. The unique texture of this hand-painted look elicits feelings of nostalgia and warmth and makes these films stand out from the pack, not least because it is one of the more expensive styles to pull off.

Baby Driver, Glass & Mother! poster examples

It’s all in your head

Psychological dramas are one of the most difficult genres to communicate through a film poster. Use of double exposure inside a silhouetted character is one effective way to communicate a world inside someone’s head. Another great way is through the depth available in a reflection – as seen in the upcoming Amy Adam’s flick ‘The Woman in the Window’.

Rememory, The Woman in the Window & The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo poster examples

More than meets the eye

Awareness of texture and depth will add richness and nuance to film posters, and will help you to communicate more than people realise. Without even knowing it, they will be drawn into the story world, the character’s dilemmas and will need to know what happens in the end.

For graphic design services for your indie film, drop me a line at adam@strelka.co.uk.