How to Create a Printable Poster in Affinity Designer

How to Create a Printable Poster in Affinity Designer main article image
Posted on March 6, 2021 by Helen Montgomery
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This article is a learn-by-doing tutorial on how to create the printable poster located in the image above in Affinity Designer.

You’ll practice a simple workflow, and you’ll learn about some of Affinity Designer’s most important features and effects. 

Step 1: Collect your design assets

Printables for children’s rooms are very popular, especially wall art for young girls. So let’s create a cute inspirational poster, with a colorful celestial theme and a unicorn, using assets downloaded from Creative Fabrica. 

We’re going to use four different design packages for this project:

Pastel Nebula Seamless Digital Paper

 

Reach for the Stars, Inspirational Quote

 

Watercolor Unicorns Clipart

Dreamy Splashes

Printable Design Tip: Look for graphics that can be scaled up to larger sizes. The best ones are SVGs and PNGs that are at least 5” x 5” at 300 DPI. These types of graphics allow you to design large posters while maintaining high print resolution, giving your customers the option to get a nice big commercial print on poster paper or canvas. 

Bonus Design Tip: When choosing backgrounds, always look for “seamless,” as we have done here. They are easier to work with in large formats. 

Step 2: Set up your artboards

When you open Affinity Designer, you’ll see a blank workspace. So you need to set up a blank canvas — which is called an “artboard” — for each size of printable poster you’d like to create. For this tutorial, we’ll set up artboards for two of the most common poster sizes: 20” x 30” and 16” x 20”. 

First, go to File > New to create a brand new document.

A window will open that shows you “Presets.” These are Affinity Designer’s built-in setups for common types of print documents. In the pane on the right, we’re going to select the 20 x 30 print layout at 300 DPI. (If for some reason this particular preset doesn’t show up automatically, you can simply enter 20 inches by 30 inches and 300 DPI in the boxes, and Affinity will do the rest.)

Printable Design Tip: When creating printable art to sell in your Etsy or Shopify store, save time and effort by making the same design in several aspect ratios, in large formats, at 300 dpi resolution. You don’t have to worry about performance issues when working with large sizes, since Affinity Designer can easily handle multiple large artboards in the same document. 

Workflow Tip: Design within standard sizes that fit in off-the-shelf frames. And work with just one artboard for each aspect ratio in the largest size. When you’re done, bundle them all into the same printable package.

When you do this, your customers can still print in small format on a home printer by selecting their printer’s “fit to page” option, and they won’t need to do excessive resizing or trimming. And if they want to order a large format canvas or poster from a printer, you’ve given them the best quality files.

Design for these four aspect ratios, and you’ll have most standard USA frame sizes covered. If your audience is mostly based in the EU or Asia, check out this handy guide.

Here is a quick rundown of the aspect ratios and dimensions for the most common off-the-shelf USA frames:

2:3 Ratio
Create design in 20” x 30” or 24” x 36” at 300 DPI  
Proportioned for frames: 4×6 ~ 6×9 ~ 8×12 ~ 10×15 ~ 12×18 ~ 16×24 ~ 20×30 ~ 24×36

3:4 Ratio
Create design in 18” x 24” or 21” x 28” at 300 DPI
Proportioned for frames: 6×8 ~ 9×12 ~12×16 ~ 15×20 ~ 18×24 ~ 21×28

4:5 Ratio
Create design in 16” x 20” or 20” x 25” at 300 DPI
Proportioned for frames: 4×5 ~ 8×10 ~ 12×15 ~ 16×20 ~ 20×25 inches

1:1 Ratio (Square)
Create design in 20” x 20” or 24” x 24” at 300 DPI
Proportioned for any off-the-shelf square frame.

After you choose the 20 x 30 Preset, click the “Create” button. A new blank canvas will open, like this:

Step 3: Create an additional 16 x 20 artboard and save your document

It’s much more efficient to design all the sizes/aspect ratios you’ll offer inside one document. For the purposes of this tutorial, we won’t set up all four aspect ratios. But let’s create at least one more, a 16 inch by 20 inch, so you can practice working with two artboards at once. 300 DPI is already set up for the entire document, so all you need to do is make an additional artboard. Here’s how:

Look for the Artboard icon in the toolbar on the left. It should be the first one, right at the top (it will say “Artboard Tool” when you hover your mouse over it).

 When you click the tool, you’ll see an “Insert Artboard” button at the top. Click it, and Affinity Designer will create a new artboard. It will be a duplicate of the one you’ve already created, like this:


Click the “Move” tool so you can select your new artboard.

To change the dimensions, look for the panel at the bottom right that says “Transform.”  That’s where you can change the dimensions to 16 x 20 inches. 


Now you have a 16 x 20 artboard right next to your 20 x 30 artboard.

Workflow Tip: You can rename these artboards to whatever you wish. A simple method is to label them with their aspect ratios. Look for the tiny artboard name as shown below. Click on it, and you’ll see it highlighted in the Layers panel on the right. 

Here’s a closeup of the name in the Layers panel. 

Click on it and type to rename it. 

And there it is.

Do the same for the 16 x 20 artboard. 

Finally, let’s make sure we save this entire document. 

Give it a logical name that will help you identify it later. Here we’ve created a project folder with the name of the project. This is where we’ll store the Affinity Designer file, as well as our Creative Fabrica graphics.

 Step 4: Place your first object to create a beautiful background

Now you can start designing. The first step is to create a background for our poster. We’re going to use one of the pastel nebula seamless patterns. The best way to quickly add objects in Affinity Designer is to use the “Place” function. 

Go to File > Place.  

Now navigate to the background pattern you want to use and open it.

Now you will need to click on the approximate “place” you want to object to appear. When we click in the 20 x 30 artboard, here’s what happens:

Let’s move this pretty pattern to the upper left corner. See how it appears in the Layers panel on the right?

Perhaps this pattern is a little too dark to work as a background. So let’s change the opacity.  

Click on the pattern, then go the Layers panel on the right and click on “Opacity.” You can use the slider to adjust, or just type in a value.

 Since we’re going to put several objects on top of this pattern, we’ll set it to 40%.

That looks good! Now we want to fill the rest of the canvas with this background. 

Instead of resizing it, which would distort the image and cause pixelation, we’re going to take advantage of the seamless quality of this pattern. We’ll simply copy, paste, and align to make a complete background. Because the pattern is seamless, the edges will blend together nicely.

Common keyboard shortcuts and right-clicks work in Affinity Designer. So just click on the pattern, hit Control+S or Command+S, and paste.   

You can now align the new square to the right or bottom edge of the original square, and repeat until you fill the canvas. 

Workflow Tip: Save time and effort with Affinity Designer’s “Snap.”  There’s no need to waste time squinting at the screen, trying to get the edges to align perfectly, when you can use the “snap” function in Designer. Look for the little red icon that looks like a magnet at the top of the screen. When you turn this on, the edges of objects will “snap together” automatically. We won’t go into all the details of how to use snap here, but you can watch this short Affinity Designer video tutorial to learn the basics.

To get this particular pattern to snap together neatly, you’ll need to make a few changes to Affinity Designer’s snap default settings. Feel free to just copy these:

Now you can group both squares. Hold down the Shift key while you click each one, then right click and select “Group.”

Now right click on the group, copy and paste. Then use snap to align, like this:  

Repeat to create a beautiful, dreamy background.

Do the same process for the 4:5 artboard. You’ll only need to use the seamless pattern four times, as shown. Note how each instance of the pattern shows up in the Layers panel on the right.

Workflow Tip: It’s a good idea to group all the background elements on each artboard now. That way you won’t accidentally select and move one of the squares while you’re adding and moving objects. You can always ungroup them later if you need to.

So let’s do that now. Start with the 2:3 artboard, and hold down the shift key as you select each square. Then right-click and select “Group. Repeat for the 4:5 artboard.

Now that you’ve got the perfect background, let’s add some more elements.

Step 5: Add an inspirational saying

We’re now going to add some words to this poster, something to inspire a young girl to follow her dreams. We’ll use the “Reach for the Stars” image we found on Creative Fabrica. Use File > Place as you did earlier. Navigate to the file. We’re going to select the SVG file, because an SVG can be enlarged to any size without losing quality.

When you click in the canvas, the image will look super-small. 

But don’t worry, you can just grab one of the corners and resize it. Like this:

Repeat for the 4:5 artboard. (See how quick and easy it is to create in multiple artboards?)

While this looks fine, perhaps we can give the text a little more color and spark. It’s easy and fun to modify an object like this right inside of Affinity Designer.  

Select the object and double-click on it. Now the object will open in its own new tab called “Embedded” at the top of the workspace. That tab isolates the object so you can modify it in all kinds of ways, without worrying about the other objects on the canvas. Here’s how that new embedded workspace looks:

Let’s see if we can add some glow effects to the image, to make it stand out from the background. In the right panel, look for the “Effects” tab and click on it. Then look for the “Outer Glow” feature.

We’ll create a colored glow effect around the image elements. Click the color box, and select “Swatches.”

Let’s try the magenta color. Click on it. See how the color box populates the new color?

Now we need to tell Affinity Designer how big to make the outer glow. Since we want the words to really stand out, we’ll leave the Opacity at 100%, and set the pixel size to 3. As you change the settings, the image will change automatically. Like this:

How will it look against our pretty background? Just click the tab for your poster at the top to toggle back to your artboards:

Now you can see exactly what it will look like. Repeat the process for your other artboard.

Now let’s add a cute unicorn to our poster

Step 6: Add an illustration.

Once again, you’ll use File > Place to add an illustration to this poster. We’re going to navigate to a dancing unicorn from the Creative Fabrica files we downloaded. Since there is no SVG in this package, to get the best image quality we’ll select the PSD. Even though this is technically an Adobe Photoshop file, Affinity Designer can handle it. 

And now click on the artboard to place the unicorn.

There she is! Very cute. But it feels like the design would work better if she were facing right instead of left. Let’s do what we did with the words. 

Double click on the unicorn to open a new “Embedded” tab. Now you can right-click on her, select “Transform,” and choose” Flip Horizontal.” 

This turns her to the right.

Now go back to the poster workspace tab, and you can see how our unicorn ballerina looks. This works nicely.

It feels like we should make her stand out from the background just a bit more, don’t you think? Let’s go back to the “Embedded” tab and try some of the same effects we used on the words. Once again, look for the “Effects” tab on the right. This time we’ll choose an Outer Shadow. Click on that option…

Then select the color wheel. Here’s a closeup:

We’ll choose a nice purple for the shadow by clicking on the wheel. A preview appears as you move the sliders to adjust the intensity. In this case, the image is very large so we will choose a high Radius and Offset size. To give it more of a dreamy glow, we’ll adjust the Opacity to 50%. Here are the settings:

To give our dancing unicorn even more definition, let’s choose the Outer Glow option in the panel. Since the words on the poster are black, we’ll use black to create a soft outline effect, with 80% Opacity and a high Radius and Offset. Here are the settings: 

That seems about right, but let’s look at it on our canvas. Just switch to that tab:

That works! Repeat for the second artboard. 

Now for some finishing touches. We’ll add some sparkly clouds to our cute poster and make some final adjustments.

Step 7: Add additional graphics.

Our unicorn wants to dance on some clouds! Let’s add some from the dreamy splashes graphics package. As before, use File > Place to choose an image and click on the canvas. 

When you place it on the canvas, it will sit on top of the unicorn. If you’d like to change that, so the unicorn overlaps the cloud, you can. One way is to use the Layers panel. But it’s quicker to just right-click on the object, and choose Arrange > Move Back One. Like this:

We’ll add another cloud now, to balance the design. Repeat File > Place.

And click on the canvas to the left of our unicorn. Hmm, that cloud is a little dark. At this point you know how to change the opacity in the right panel, so go ahead and change it to 80%.

And repeat for the second artboard.

Workflow Tip: Give your eyes a break before you finalize your design. While developing your design skills and learning to use effects in Affinity Designer, you might not realize how long you’ve been staring at your computer screen. So when you reach the last stage of your creation, it helps to step away for a while to give your eyes a break. When you come back, you’ll be better able to decide whether your design needs some final tweaks.

Have you taken a break? Looking at the poster with fresh eyes, the text seems a little too intense. There’s an easy fix for that. Let’s change the opacity of that object in the right panel. Reducing it to 75% makes it “pop” at just the right intensity.

Now it’s time to export our posters as printable files. 

Step 8: Export to PDF.

Affinity Designer gives you a quick way to export print resolution PDFs. You can export all the artboards into one PDF. But if you’re going to sell your printables, it’s best to export each artboard separately. To do that, click on the 2:3 artboard name, and then go to File > Export.

A window opens in which you can select from many different file types. Click on the PDF icon, and you’ll see that Affinity Designer automatically selects “PDF for print” with a 300 DPI preset. All you need to do is click Export to save it as a PDF. You can do the same to export as a PNG. 

Congratulations on creating such a pretty poster! Here’s what it looks like when it’s framed.


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