Create a poster in the style of Peter Max

The colorful works of Peter Max from the cosmic pop art of the 60s to the neo-expressionism of our days are an important part of American pop culture. This lesson was created under the impression of his works of the late 60s in the space style – the style that brought Peter Max world fame.

This is a fairly long lesson, and for simplicity I will not explain how to use the tools and menu commands: it is assumed that you already have a basic level of knowledge of Photoshop.

Download the archive with materials for the lesson

Step 1

Create a new document 800 x 600 pixels. Mark the center of the document using the horizontal and vertical guides and draw a radial gradient from the color #FF00FF to color #FAFD00.

Select the bottom of the image tool Rectangle selection (Rectangular Marquee) and fill it with another radial gradient of color # 00108A to color # 0C02Fd.

Step 2

Create a new layer, name it. The rays and set the foreground color to black. Activate the tool Arbitrary shape (Custom Shape), set the mode Pixel fill (Pixel mode) and select a shape with rays from the list.

If you do not see such a figure, you will have to load it. Click on the little arrow in the upper right and select from the dropdown menu Characters (Symbols). Click in the dialog box that appears. To add (Append), and this set of shapes will be added to the end of the list:

Now draw the rays in the center of the canvas. We do not want these rays to break off, so the size of the shape must be larger than the size of our document.

First, left-click in the center of the document and only later press the key combination Alt(Option) + Shift. This key combination will allow you to draw a shape from the center (the key Alt(Option)) and keep its proportions (key Shift). Then move the cursor to the edge of the document until the edges of the shape disappear outside.

If you press Alt(Option) before clicking the mouse, the cursor will turn into a pipette, and it will not work for you – that is why it is so important to start drawing the shape first and then press the key combination Alt(Option) + Shift. See what you should get:

Step 3

Now black rays are drawn in the center of our image. It’s time to draw the rays of the sun and the moon. Activate the layer The rays and click on the icon save transparent pixels (Lock transparent pixels).

Using tool Rectangle selection (Rectangular Marquee) select the top half of the canvas.

Set foreground color #FAFD00 and fill the layer with this color by clicking Alt(Option) + Delete. Or you can not change the foreground color, but use the menu command Editing – Run Fill (Edit – Fill).

Now select the bottom half of the image.

And fill it with color # 0C02Fd.

Step 4

Draw the sun and the moon. Set foreground color #FF7E00 and select tool Ellipse (Ellipse).

Let’s draw a circle, but not in the very center, but slightly lift it vertically. Create a new layer, name it. Sun moon and draw a circle in the same way as the rays: click the mouse in the future center of the circle, hold down the keys Alt(Option) + Shift and draw a circle about 300 pixels in size.

I moved the circle up, because the sun will be partially blocked by clouds. However, since this circle is drawn on a separate layer, you can move it.

Now paint the bottom of the circle, that is, the moon. Click on the icon save transparent pixels (Lock transparent pixels) for a layer Sun moon.

Tool Rectangle selection (Rectangular Marquee) select the bottom half of the circle.

And fill it with color #FFFB97.

Select the contour of the circle, for this we apply the following layer style:
Stroke (Stroke)

  • The size (Size): 3 pixels.
  • Position (Position): Outside (Outside)
  • Colour (Color): Black

Step 5

Create a new layer and name it. Cloud. Set foreground color # 09ABFF, and the background color is white. Take the tool Brush (Brush) and select a round hard brush about 70 pixels in size.

Start drawing the top of the cloud as shown below. To make the cloud fluffy, increase and decrease the brush with the help of hot keys [ and ].

After drawing a fluffy top, just paint over the middle of the cloud.

Tool Rectangle selection (Rectangular Marquee) select the night part of the cloud and erase it by pressing the key Delete.

Set layer styles Cloud:
Stroke (Stroke)

  • The size (Size): 2 pixels.
  • Position (Position): Inside (Inside)
  • Colour (Color): Black

Gradient overlay (Gradient Overlay)

  • Gradient (Gradient): from primary color to background color.

The gradient from the main color to the background one is the very first in the list of gradients; it will color the cloud in white-blue.

Your poster should look like this:

Twice we copy and move the cloud to the left. To do this, select the tool Move (Move), hold the key Alt(Option) and move the cloud like in the image below:

As a result, you get two new layers with a copy of the cloud. Name these layers Cloud 2 and Cloud 3. This is not necessary, but it is better to keep your belongings in order.

Our poster now looks like this:

Step 6

Add text in retro style. Install Font Lot.

Choose a tool Text (Text) and type the word HARMONY. Set the font size to 120 points and the spacing between letters is 100 points (you can change these parameters if you see fit). The text color can be any, we will change it anyway.

Set foreground color # 3ED131, and the background color # 2D31DD. Set the following layer styles for text:
Stroke (Stroke)

  • The size (Size): 3 pixels.
  • Position (Position): Inside (Inside)
  • Colour (Color): black.

Gradient overlay (Gradient Overlay)

  • Gradient (Gradient): from primary color to background color.

Step 7

Now we need to duplicate the text layer. To do this, drag this layer in the layers palette to the icon Create New Layer (New Layer) at the bottom of the palette or use the menu command Layers – Create a duplicate layer (Layers – Duplicate) and click OK, without changing anything in the dialog box.

Name this layer HARMONY 2. Choose a tool Move (Move) and move this layer 15 pixels to the right and 15 pixels up using the arrows on the keyboard.

Open layer styles and uncheck style Gradient overlay (Gradient Overlay). Now choose style Color overlay (Color Overlay) and set the color #FE2098. Click OK to close the dialog box.

Step 8

Remember how we drew a shape with rays? Now we repeat the same thing, but for another shape. To first change the foreground color to black, then activate the tool Arbitrary shape (Custom Shape) and select the shape with the leaflet, it is in the group Ornaments (Ornaments):

Use this shape to decorate the letters (you can choose another shape). Create a new layer and name it. Sheet. Draw the first piece of paper as in the image below.

Step 9

In the next step, we will copy the sheet to other letters. To do this, select the tool Move (Move), hold the key Alt(Option) and drag the piece to the next letter, then to the next, and so on. Every time you move the layer while holding the key Alt(Option) a new copy of the layer is created.

Let’s rotate the leaves on the letters M and N. With the active tool Move (Move) click on the leaf on the letter M, then execute the menu command Editing – Transform – Rotate 180 ° (Edit – Transform – Rotate 180 °). Do the same for the figure on the letter N.

Step 10

After working with the leaves, the layers palette was overflowed with new layers. Let’s combine them into one layer, the so-called smart object (Smart Object). To do this, select all layers with leaflets and execute the menu command Layers – Smart Object – Convert to Smart Object (Layers – Smart Objects – Convert To Smart Objects). After that, all the layers will turn into one, you can apply layer styles to it or transform it, but you cannot draw on it. To change the content of a smart object, double-click on its icon in the layers palette, then a new document will open with all the layers inside. After editing this document, close it, saving changes, and all these changes will appear in the main document. To learn more about smart objects, see this video.

Step 11

Our lesson dragged on. Are you still here? Let’s give the poster a space look. Create a new layer and name it. Stars. Set the foreground color to white, select the tool Polygon (Polygon) and configure it as in the image below:

Start drawing stars in the lower left quarter of the canvas, without going beyond its borders. Place them randomly, but wisely, draw smaller stars near the moon and more from the edge to create the illusion of perspective and depth.

Set the layer style Stars:
Stroke (Stroke)

  • The size (Size): 2 pixels.
  • Position (Position): Inside (Inside)
  • Colour (Color): Black

Step 12

Create a new layer and name it. Planets. Set foreground color #CC00FF and draw between the stars of the planet using the tool Ellipse (Ellipse). To draw circles, not ellipses, hold down the key Shift.

After that, add to the planets the same black stroke as the stars.

Step 13

Now let’s reflect the stars and planets on the right half of the canvas. Select layers Stars and Planets, take the tool Move (Move), hold the key Alt(Option), Click on a star or planet and drag it to the right. So we make copies of both layers.

Now in the layers palette two new layers are highlighted. Run the menu command Editing – Transform – Flip Horizontally (Edit – Transform – Flip Horizontal). Using tool Move (Move) move the stars with the planets so that the picture looks symmetrical, use the arrow keys on the keyboard for the exact location.

After the reflection of the stars and planets, the poster should look like this:

Do the same with the planets on the top half of the canvas.

Final result:

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