Mark Runge
Upper Division Art Teacher

Propaganda Poster

Project Published 7/17/13 Last updated on 2/29/20

This project is a primary source, a critical thinking, a technology, and an art based activity, where students will evaluate Chinese propaganda posters, using the documentary The Mao Years tie those posters to their place in time, and use either high or low-tech approach to create a propaganda poster concerning an important issue in their lives.

In our world of visual information, students must be able to effectively interpret images through a variety of media. This activity will introduce students to a long-time practice of public persuasion through the introduction of primary sources, specifically posters and film, and students will learn to deconstruct the visual meaning and to evaluate the posters based up its subject matter, colors, and use of symbols and words. Students will also gain an understanding of from whom the point of view originates, its audience, stereotypes and what bias the propaganda shows.

This project is designed for approximately five weeks, and it ultimately will be determined by the level of technology for the art-making process.


  1. Assign as homework the film The Mao Years. Allow nine days for this, which gives the students two weekends and a full week to watch the video.
  2. Students will fill out the above linked Film Question Sheet by midnight on the last Sunday within the given time period.
  3. Begin class with a discussion of the film The Mao Years and review the Film Question Sheet. Allow fifty minutes for this.
  4. Use a PowerPoint presentation (needs to be attached) to introduce the students to the propaganda posters. Guide the students through an analysis of two posters (find four for this), mirroring the questions on the “Poster Analysis Sheets.” Encourage the students to define these two posters’ messages and describe how the illustrations, colors, words and symbols communicate the posters’ intended messages. Allow fifty minutes for this.
  5. Give each student a links to the “Poster Analysis Sheets.” While in class each student will analyze each poster. Each student should complete his/her “Poster Analysis Sheets” individually. Allow up to fifty minutes for this to take place.
  6. Once the students have individually completed the poster analysis, have them discuss as a group their discoveries. Allow up to thirty minutes for this guided, group discussion, where students will discuss the activity. Which poster provoked the strongest response? Why? How were illustrations, colors, symbols and words used to communicate the intended message? Were the posters effective? Why or why not? etc.
  7. (Do not tell the students about this ahead of time.) As a homework assignment students will find an issue with which they have an emotional attachment and vested interest. Have the students write one to two paragraphs in any form, i.e. poem, prose, etc. Allow three days for this.
  8. Review in class each idea. Allow fifty minutes for this.
  9. As a homework assignment have each student create three rough, disparate sketches that illustrate the text that they completed and the class reviewed. Allow three days for this.
  10. As a group the class will review and critique each student’s drawing and ideas. The students will work together to choose the strongest piece for one another. Allow fifty minutes for this.
  11. As a homework assignment the students will take the chosen rough drawing and clean it up to produce a final preparatory drawing. The students may use the media of their choice. Allow three days for this.
  12. Each student will work from their final drawing to create a poster to the determined scale. This will be done in class. Allow three days for this.
  13. A final group critique should be held. Allow three days for this. Each student will submit a final poster piece with an artist statement describing the process and the poster.


  1. Students will complete the “Film Question Sheet” and be graded on thoroughness, grammar, etc.

  2. The students will create a propaganda poster of their conception and design. The poster must be made at least 11 x 14 inches in either direction. If a digital image is made the resolution should be 300 ppi and in CMYK color mode. The piece will be graded on the students’ use of color, images and words, as they are applied using the Elements of Art and Principles of Design. Effectiveness will also factor into the final grade.

  3. The poster will be graded according to the criteria outlined on the attached rubric.

  • Photoshop

    Editing and compositing for photos, web and mobile app designs, 3D artwork, videos, and more.

  • Photoshop Elements

    Organize, edit, create, and share your photos.

Age Levels
1+ Month
Custom Standards
This project meets many standards but was not designed for anyone specifically.

Primary sources (document, photograph, artifact, diary or letter, audio or visual recording, etc.) needed – cite detailed information:

Secondary materials (book, article, video documentary, etc.) needed – cite title and other detailed information:

Technology required:

  • Important video clips will need to be projected when reviewing the film.

  • Images need to be projected for in-class discussion of posters.

  • For a low-tech approach you can use basic drawing materials and construction paper mounted on poster board, paint, collage, etc.

  • For a cost-free high-tech approach you can use the freeware gimp (, which is a photo-manipulation program that lacks much of what Photoshop can give you.

  • Adobe Photoshop or any photo-manipulation software is appropriate for this project.

CC License
3 / 5 • 1 Rating