It's a Wonderful Life poster

If you live in Cardiff and you’re a Chapter regular you may well have seen this poster gracing their walls. Darkened Rooms presents classic films in unusual locations and, this Christmas, they’re showing Frank Capra’s classic at the Angel Hotel in the city centre.

Claire Vaughan at Chapter asked me to design the poster and I wondered at the best way to do it. I was very busy at the time, so I wasn’t able to create an illustration by hand. I’d have to start with a photo from the movie itself. I asked Claire if there were any legal restrictions on using a movie image in this way, and after she replied in the negative, I google image searched for the most iconic images from the film. There were two directions in which I could have taken it – the happy family ending, or the suicidal Jimmy Stewart about to throw himself off the bridge in the snow. Claire had emphasised that they were going for a family audience, so I thought maybe the whole drenched-having-topped-himself-by-drowning-in-a-river Stewart might not send quite the right message. So the happily-ever-after image it was.

I sketched out some rough layouts while on the Megabus back from London. I couldn’t spend too long on them because sketching on the bus makes me travel sick. Which is nice. I wanted to get in the bells, the angel, the family image and some lovely retro type. Here are my scribblings:

There’s a limit to the size of the images you can find of It’s a Wonderful Life on Google. And movie posters are pretty big. If I wanted said happy-family image to be prominent on the poster without being all blurry and horrible I’d have to crank up Photoshop filters and effects. I enlarged the original black and white image to the size I wanted it for the poster, turned it into monochrome halftone pattern (hence all the dots, see?) and then chose an unusual pallet using the wonderful colorschemedesigner.com. 

In Illustrator I created the Angel shape, and then made the snowflake pattern in the background from lots of little angels. I drew the bells and imported Jimmy Stewart, Donna Reed and co as the halftone pattern I’d created in Photoshop. In a layer under them I added stylised colour to show their clothes, hair, skin etc.

I downloaded free retro typefaces World’s Finest and Ballpark Weiner and used them to add all of the text. Done!

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