Reservoir Dogs Poster Illustration
Illustrated components in Procreate, Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator. Assembly in Adobe Photoshop.
Created as part of Gallery 1988's exhibition “Crazy4Cult 2021” – featuring artwork inspired by cult cinema.
Quentin Tarantino is one of my all time favourite directors, so I enjoyed the challenge of creating work to represent such a seminal piece of filmmaking. Reservoir Dogs is one of my favourite movies and I wanted to try and distill it down to one singular image as best as I could. With the majority of the movie taking place within the warehouse, similar to a stage play, I knew this would be my central location. I wanted to create a vertical slice of some of the major beats and story moments all in one scene - with the standoff between Mr. White and Mr. Pink representing the tension surrounding who is the rat. Mr. Orange bleeding out on the ramp as he is for a lot of the movie. Finally the tortured police officer strapped to a chair after being attacked by Mr. Blonde in the iconic scene. On the floor around him you will find references to this scene in the form of the police officers ear, Mr. Blonde's straight razor and his soda cup.
For this composition I used a horizontal division of thirds, with the title block occupying the bottom third. For the whole poster I wanted something fairly classic and retro, evoking movie posters of the era of which the film was released.
Early on I knew I would not be doing a collage style poster or something that included the majority of the characters in one scene. That said, the small cast of characters are the foundation that the film is based on, so I knew they would have to be represented in some way. With that in mind I decided to go with this series of smaller character portraits, representing each character with their signifying colour and tying them in with the billing block.
The title treatment is meant to evoke the image of dried blood, as is seen on several of the characters - particularly Mr. White - throughout the movie.
The credits were made in Adobe Illustrator and artworked into the poster on Photoshop, where I also added studio logos as well as my own.
Here is my initial thumbnail sketch for the poster. Outlining the direction I would look to take the piece. Composition changed somewhat since this stage but the core intent is visible.
After working out my thumbnail sketch and getting an idea of composition, I gathered reference and created a digital mock-up with photo elements.
The warehouse interior is never shown in full view from this angle at any point in the film, so I used screencaps of several shots throughout the movie and stitched them together - editing and warping where necessary - to create a full backdrop on which to build the poster.
The stand off between Mr. White and Mr. Pink is pulled from another scene, as is the tortured police officer.
From here, I worked the photo mock-up into my initial thumbnail sketch and explored composition further, tightening it up along the way and figuring out how things would sit.
One of the challenges I faced with this piece was the quality of available reference. I found it quite difficult to find clear reference online and as such had to rely on a large amount of improvisation. Above here you can see the reference for Mr. White in this scene is blurry and lacks detail. The suit is almost completely silhouetted and his face is distorted making it impossible to pick out certain features.
The poster was painted in 3 primary sections; the standoff, the background and the character portraits.
This is partly as a workaround for the canvas size limit in Procreate, my preferred painting program.
Once all of these pieces were complete, I assembled them in Adobe Photoshop for artworking and finalising.
As previously mentioned, the warehouse interior is never shown from this angle, so it was a challenge to gather reference and interpret what the whole scene would look like. I was painstaking in maintaining accuracy to the film. I painted slightly more than was needed to allow myself room of movement should I need it. Although technically there actually should be some other props along the back wall, I did not draw them in as I knew the standoff would cover them entirely.
The main character portraits that were featured along the middle of the title block were all painted on one canvas and then tidied up with frames added in Photoshop. The characters who are assigned colours in the film are represented by that colour behind them. For Nice Guy Eddie and Joe Cabot, who do not have colour codenames, I opted for purple for Eddie as inspired by his tracksuit that he wears in the film and red for Joe as it was a colour not yet represented that I felt would tie the palette together.
Detail shot - Mr. White
Detail shot - The unfortunate cop, tortured by Mr. Blonde. Around him you can see Mr. Blonde's drink and straight razor, and the officer's newly detached ear.
Detail shot - Mr. Pink
Detail shot - Background scenery
Reservoir Dogs Poster Illustration
Exhibition piece - Gallery1988 show 'Crazy 4 Cult'