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How to Make a Flier for Your Show with No Talent

Computer screen opened to a design style guide

Whether it's online or print, show flyers remain the most reliable way of informing fans about your upcoming shows. Having an eye catching flier that gets the details across with a quick scan is in the science of composition rather than the talent of an artist.

With a few basic principles, any person can make a compelling flier. These are a few tips on how to make sure your next flier will get read.

Think About Flow

People who read left to right naturally scan a page from left to right and from top to bottom. This means that your first impression will be along the top of your page, and the bottom right corner will get the most attention.

I like to break my fliers into three sections: the banner across the top, the nut in the bottom right corner, and the zone of mystery in the bottom left.

Each of these areas serves a different purpose based on the likelihood that someone will look at it.

The Banner

The banner is the area across the top and will be the first place someone looks when they see a flier posted somewhere. The text you put here should serve to capture your audience's attention to make them want to keep reading.

Now what you may have heard is "this is where I should be the most creative." No. Get the idea that you are being creative out of your head. You are being productive.

Productive flier making means knowing your audience and the things–real things, not artistic styles–that appeal to them. You should build a profile of your typical audience member listing their likely identity characteristics and the things that would make them interested in your music.

Typically, if you have a headliner with enough name recognition, I would put their name in the banner. Otherwise, give your event a title with something widely recognizable about your performance whether it's the genre, the intended audience (queer is a big hit), a cause or organization if it's a benefit show, or even the day of the week and time (especially if it's an early or late show).

The banner should answer the most basic question of your flier: Why should I pay attention to this? If you aren't able to tell what kind of performance the flier is advertising from the banner alone, it probably isn't a good banner.

The Nut

As the left-to-right language reader's eye finishes looking at the banner, their gaze will come down to what I call the nut–the area to the right side of the flier below the banner.

I call this area the nut, because like the nut paragraph in a news article, this is where you want to put all the vital information about your show like:

  • Who's performing

  • The date and time

  • The venue and address

  • The ticket price and link and/or QR code

  • Contact information

  • Accessibility information (I think this is vital, anyway)

While you can use a creative font for the banner, it's essential that the information in the nut is eminently readable. A boring legible font here is better than a difficult to read font that matches your theme.

Further, if your background is a busy pattern or an image, consider putting a text box with a solid background behind your text.

The Zone of Mystery

The zone of mystery is the area below your banner on the left side of your page. This area will be the last part of your flier a left-to-right language reader will notice if they look at it at all.

I usually use this space for a themed image, but there are other uses for this area. This is a good place for any information that you would rather people not dwell too much on: drink minimums, disclaimers, the time before which you get free entry, etc.

Information Over Aesthetic

The most important thing to remember when making a flier is that you are creating a piece of information NOT a work of art. A judicious use of space is far more important than the wildest graphic you could come up with.

Don't Clutter

The first principle of your design should be to keep the information on your flier easy to find. To that end, your flier should have ample blank space to make the areas of the flier feel distinct. Dividing up your flier into clear sections will help give it a clear sense of flow.

If you clutter your flier with text that's too large or lots of images, it will be hard for people to find what it is you want them to be looking at with a quick glance.

Keep Images to a Minimum

Again, you are making a piece of information, not a work of art. While a simple themed image can help draw a reader's attention, too many images will hide the information you are trying to communicate.

You don't need to generate your own image either. There are many free image repositories you can use including Unsplash, FreePix, and Pexels to find a license free image that fits your theme. Be sure to pay attention to the licenses on the images to ensure they're clear for commercial use without attribution (unless you're okay putting an image credit on your flier).

Include All Information

The worst thing about making a flier is having to start it over, or worse take it down, to add information you forgot on the first draft. To avoid this, use the list above to list out all the information you want to include on the flier before you make it.

While no one will probably judge you for having to put out multiple flier drafts, editing a flier to add more information is usually more of a layout headache than getting all the information in the first time. It is much easier to arrange elements on a page than it is to have to rearrange them to make more things fit.

Use Contrasting Colors

Look I know it is really tempting to use red on black, but those colors just aren't high contrast enough to be easily read at a distance, especially when reading it on a poster in the evening.

Choose backgrounds that contrast well with your font color. This means you should use a light background with a dark font color or vice versa. If you choose a dark background, use a font face that is perhaps bolder than you think you want it to be so it can be read in the dark.

Examples and Critiques of Fliers I've Made

To hammer these points home, I'm going to go through some of the fliers I've made for past shows, and talk about what I think I did well and what I would change if I were to redesign the flier.

Flier 1 - Poor Composition

A colorshifted purple raccoon overlooks a blue dumpster in front of red foliage banner text reads "The Wild Goose Presents" inside the dumpster it lists The Looms, Terra Tigerman, Queer Ren Faire Dance Party, Jester of No Court, Kal Teaux, a QR Code is on the bottom left corner, in the bottom left corner on a chartreuse rectangle it reads "5420 Roosevelt Afe. Woodside, Queems, Friday June 23 @ 8pm $10 adv $12 doors NOTAFLOF

Sometimes you fall in love with an image, and it sets your flier up for failure. That's definitely what happened here with this image of a raccoon overlooking a dumpster that I used for this flier.

Look, this picture is amazing, and the way I color shifted it is even cooler. But the fact is that the image doesn't have much blank space for information. As a result the composition on this flier is not good.

The banner area has the name of the venue which is not well known enough to draw anyone in. (If your venue is the thing that draws people in, your event probably has other problems.) There wasn't a whole lot of room in the nut, forcing me to put the names of the acts where no one would see them low in the center of the page.

If I were to do this one over, I would simply start from scratch. This is a cool looking piece of art, but it's really inefficient at communicating the information I wanted to get across.

Flier 2 - Crowded Banner

Banner text: Jester of No Court Presents Silly Ridiculous A  Vaudeville Revue Starring O'Fucchs Bottom Zone of Mystery Text: Featuring Feather, Marie Drageleine, Elsa Eli Waithe, Geoff with a G, Nut text in two text boxes: July 26 @ 8pm Only At The Wild Goose 5420 Roosevelt Ave. Woodside Queens

Your flier doesn't always need an image. Sometimes, like with this one, simple design elements can be interesting enough to draw the reader's attention.

Unfortunately, I don't think this flier would long hold a reader's attention. The banner I chose was the name of the show: Silly Ridiculous. If I had made this event into a series like I had intended and it became popular, the title of the event may have been sufficient.

However, this was the first of these events I was running, so the draw here should have probably focused on the vaudeville messaging. Similarly, I probably shouldn't have hidden the performers' names in the zone of mystery.

Flier 3 - Difficult to Read Fonts

Banner Text: Stop Cop City in NJ A Folk Punk Benefit for Montclair Beyond Policing Starring The Looms Zone of Mystery Text: Featuring Early Riser Jeannie Skelly Jester of No Court NJ Governor Phil Murphy has set aside $120 million for a new training facility for the state police to replace the one in Sea Girt. Montclair Beyond Policing is organizing the fight to put that money into non-carceral programs and services that keep communities safe. Nut text: Brightside Tavern 141 Bright Street Jersey City August 20 @ 7:30pm $15 Sliding Scale NOTAFLOF 2 Drink Minimum For any accommodation requests contact

Sometimes the perfect image inspires a theme that doesn't lend itself to communicating information, and that's what happened here with the riot punk aesthetic I chose for this flier.

Now make no mistake, this is a great background image that lends itself to good information flow across it. However, leaning too much into the street punk aesthetic ended up rendering this flier difficult to read. (I actually received complaints.)

Exceedingly legible graffiti fonts make for good banners, but not so much for the information in the nut. Obviously that's not what happened here. I used a fairly difficult to read graffiti font for the banner and a graffiti font for the nut that was only more legible than the banner by contrast.

Flier 4 - Typeface Too Delicate

The Wild Goose Presents Folk Punk Halloween Featuring Performances By Spud Bugs Chloe Defector Jester of No Court Catch Me If You Can October 22 @ 8pm 54-20 Roosevelt Ave. Woodside, Queens $15 NOTAFLOF Get Your Tickets QR Code

Of the fliers I've made so far, I think this one has the best composition. The banner clearly communicates the type of performance and all the vital information is in the nut.

But I think I got too carried away with the Tim Burton Halloween theme. As a result, I chose a very delicate font which wouldn't have been so bad if I hadn't chosen to use font outlines only.

This flier looks really cool, and does a good job communicating information on a screen. However, when you print it out where colors are generally darker, the font becomes very difficult to read, particularly in the dark of the concert I was handing 4ups at. I think if I had used solid fonts instead of outlines, it would have drastically improved the print fliers, and I wouldn't have changed anything else.

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There's a lot that goes into getting your music heard, and creating appealing fliers is one major element of that. If you're looking to figure out how to broaden your audience both online and at your shows, sign up for my email list below to get updates about new blog posts, radical news, and calls to action.


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