Love in the Crossfire as Cultures Collide: Creating the West Side Story Poster

This spring the LSHS Thespian Society will be presenting West Side Story. Such an awesome show needs an equally awesome poster. A simple poster with the show’s logo copied / pasted from in the internet wasn’t going to cut it.

I started my research by turning to the web for inspiration by looking at various productions’ posters.

poster ideas.jpg

I liked the idea of incorporating some version of the show’s traditional logo. I also wanted a background that wasn’t just a solid color. A fire escape is synonymous with the show so I wanted to work that in some how…perhaps in the background.

I quick image search on Google for New York City fire escapes yielded this photograph. Better yet it was marked free for personal and commercial use as long as I provided attribution. So hereit is.


With a background image selected, I adjusted the size to fit our 11″ x 17″ poster. Next, I applied a paint brush filter to the photo, which I then overlaid with a 27 percent transparent red rectangle.

You can see the editing progression below.


With the background finalized it was time to generate the copy. I experimented with different text variations for the top portion of the poster ranging. We eventually came to a consensus settling on the copy below.


As with previous posters I thought it would be cool to give the image a movie poster vibe by adding the names of those instrumental to the production. credits1

With the background and copy completed, it was time to schedule a photo shoot. background2We ended up rescheduling the photo shoot three times due to uncooperative weather with unexpected early dismissals and snow days. Finally the weather gods smiled on us and I was able to photograph both the Jets and Sharks in their respective groups in different poses and expressions. beforeafter1The next step is the most tedious—removing the background from the images. This step is infinity easier if you take the picture in front of a neutral uniform background. That, of course, is easier said than done. But I do the best I can.  beforeafter2With the Jets and Shark images edited, I was able to insert them into the poster.Slide7.PNGNow I turned my attention to editing the star-crossed lovers and marquee characters Maria (Jessica Heisey) and Tony (Brendan Massar) for the poster. This was quicker as I was able to photograph them in front of a uniform background.


For the final step, I inserted their image into the poster front and center but behind the quarreling gangs. I’m sure there will be a few minor edits and tweaks before the file heads to the printer but this should be pretty close to the finished product.

WSS Poster web copy


I’m embarrassed to admit that the entire project took me 15 hours to complete. I need to start working smarter or faster or both.


The LSHS Thespian Society presents West Side Story on March 8-10 at 7 pm with a matinee on Saturday, March 10 at 2 pm.

Click the links to see the posters I made for previous shows including High School Musical and The Somewhat True Tale of Robin Hood

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