Create Classic Horror Movie Poster – Laura’s Counterplay

Open the file in your Adobe Photoshop. This file was too dark, so we needed to correct shadows, otherwise in our final (dark)  result we won’t be able to see her face.

Go to Image >>   Adjustments >> Shadow / Highlight. Apply the following (automatic) settings…


Press OK.

Now, go to Image >> Adjustments >> Gradient Map. Chose gradient between white and black, this should be default. If you are getting a “negative” image (with revered colors), just click the “reverse” box. You will get a classic black and white photo with good contrast, thanks to the Shadow/highlight correction we did in the previous step.


We want it all to blend in nicely, so we place the girl’s photo over all the layer we have so far and set the blending option to “Overlay“.

Don’t worry if you get a messy mix of images because we will fix that too later. Most important is that main character image (woman, in our case) would be visible and not too dark.

To avoid the previous layer with fingerprints obscuring our character, use Eraser tool with soft brush to remove any finger prints from her face and body.


We want to still add more to our poster design, because it’s a movie poster, it has to have a CONCEPT. And, it has to reflect and represent that spooky and mysterious concept. So I looked up a nice and heavy photo of a road, taken by Romanian photographer Pniti Marta, and decided to blend to fold it into our composition.

Take the road’s picture, and place it over grungy canvas, yet below the woman’s face and fingerprints layers. Set the blending options to “Luminosity” just like you see on the picture below..

mountain road

So far, this should be your result. Bear in mind that if you are working with different images and not the ones we used for this Photoshop tutorial,  your result may be different, darker or lighter, with better or worst contrast. Try to keep following the tutorial and see if it gets better when we will be adding more layers.

temporarily result

Next, we need a dramatic, classic horror element and I couldn’t think of a better stock photo to use than Silhouette by Cathy Kaplan. I took her image and since once again I didn’t want to wait for the big image to download, I used the small one and stretched it to match the size of the canvas, which also gave me slightly pixelated blurred effect I wanted to achieve.

Paste the small image (or large) on top of your digital canvas, press Ctrl + T, and while holding the SHIFT key pressed, to avoid losing proportion.

hand shadow

Set Silhouette’s opacity to 80%.

Drag the silhouette layer under the girl and finger prints layer, yet keep it above the road photo layer. The picture below should reflect your result so far. If you lost track with layer sequences and as a result your poster is turning out to be rather different, here is our layers order so far, from bottom to top:

Pages: 1 2 3 4

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  • Reply Vim March 19, 2009 at 10:20 am

    Great tutorial, Looks very nice, the part of the picture with the woman’s hand in the air, reminds me of the car scene from titanic!! is that where the image was taken from

  • Reply chris March 19, 2009 at 12:28 pm

    You can still see the cow in the backround lol

  • Reply Lorelei March 19, 2009 at 3:12 pm

    @ chris, you cracked me from laughter with this comment!

  • Reply discovernow March 31, 2009 at 11:10 pm

    Awesome!!! Thank you so much for sharing this! I just followed the tutorial and got something close to it.

  • Reply Brochures April 1, 2009 at 5:29 am

    Nice tutorial! Definitely something to try out, good thing you provided the links to the stock photos. Thanks for sharing this tutorial. Keep up the good work!

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    Great work thanks

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  • Reply Lorelei May 6, 2009 at 5:33 pm

    Thank you for your comments guys!

  • Reply photo retouching May 7, 2009 at 6:55 am

    What a truly great and meticulous bit of photo retouching . I love the attention to detail. Thanks for sharing!

  • Reply jacobtitan3 May 21, 2009 at 12:26 pm

    great job i used this for one of my projects in a computer art class! but i did notice something, on the left eye of the girl there is 2 eyes idk if u might have used the clone stamp tool in there but i just noticed that.

  • Reply huwaw69 May 21, 2009 at 1:58 pm

    i know that finger print hahaha thanks for sharing this great tutorial man! i really liked it!

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  • Reply Menekali January 29, 2010 at 3:19 am

    What about this is ‘classic horror’? Looks amateurish at best and, you’d honestly charge someone .99 for this PSD? Are you serious?

  • Reply Charlie Street February 7, 2010 at 4:08 pm

    Nice blog post. Interesting way to go about creating the effect.

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  • Reply I don't get it February 11, 2015 at 7:21 pm

    It looks like a good tutoria but assues way to much. Most beginners who want to learn by doing just do not know how to achieve the majority of tasks on here. Other tutorials show step-by-step pictures or explain how to find options as well as what press, but this one seem to go from A to G in the same “step”.

    Maybe once I know more this will come in handy, but for now, it’s too frustrating having to refer to other sites to find out how to perform each so-called “step” (more like a long jump!).

    If you’re a n00b, stay away from this one.

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