So here's a bit of the insanity that goes on in my head when working on something like this...
First, here's the quick thumbnails that preceded my color sketch. I liked the quick, gestural black shape of the vampire's body. Because I didn't want to mess with that shape while experimenting with his hand-gestures, each of the hand sketches was a brand new sketch. Erasing over and over to make a single perfect drawing will just make you nuts, while drawing quickly over and over makes you continually rethink the image.
Same method with the female figure. This thumbnail probably took less than two minutes. Roughly piecing together the best elements in Photoshop took maybe 5-10 minutes. Working quickly like this ensures that the final image doesn't become too intricate, and ensures that the viewer can understand the image quickly as well.
No matter how wonderful you are as an illustrator, no matter how much detail you can pour into an image, and no matter how sure you are that the viewer will pull up a lawn chair and wistfully stare at your picture for hours, the reality is that 99% of viewers probably won't give it more than 3-4 seconds. For a poster, billboard or advertisement to be successful, the viewer needs to "get it" in that tiny space of time. Less becomes more.
Moving on to piecing together my color sketch in Photoshop...
For the coloring, it's a bit of the yin-yang design. The color divides up the space horizontally using black and yellow. Black/yellow is often a more striking, higher contrast color combo than even black/white, but on this I opted for a subdued yellow to suggest a sepia tone (though this 1979 film one is obviously full-color).
The poster is generally divided up into three themes, the Female (bright, white, yellow dreamy), the Vampire (black, solid, with that sharp hand invading the Female's space), and the Info. The Vampire's blackness bleeds down to create a clear backdrop for the Info. In the Info space I used a clear, symmetrical, bottom-anchored type layout that denotes the event as a film (and not a band or festival or chili cook-off).
The Nosferatu (Dracula) story is almost an archaeology story. Modern, civilized man is digging up this eastern European supernatural relic, but discovers that the relic is alive and just as curious about modern, civilized man (and woman). Pre-modern versus post-modern. Because I want to place the poster in the same era as the story, I use modern (Futura) and pre-modern (Blackletter) fonts. Also, I used zeroes for the letter O, because Futura's zeroes are perfect circles, to create more of a turn-of-the-century feel.
On the final, inked, colored version, I only made a few changes.
The Female's face became a profile, again for clarity and also to reflect the profile of the Vampire. The Vampire's head becomes a bit more refined and the shape of it changes from a round egg-shape into a parallelogram whose angles point directly at the Female.
The Female's hair no longer flows dreamily around. Now it hangs almost directly down, this makes her body seem to rise directly up from the Vampire's palm.
The Vampire's hand originally was very dark, almost a silhouette. This felt too grubby, so I went in and filled in all the details for the hand and gave it a more 50/50 ratio of black shadow to white flesh. This creates a more real sense of depth, and it makes the fingers more animated, more spidery.
Lastly, to tweak the overall layout I reduced the width of the yellow-colored background, and added a circular shadow into that space. This makes the overall layout seem a bit taller and focuses the viewers' eyes away from the dead black space of the Vampire's body and toward the dreamy/intense space between the Vampire's face and the Female form. The Vampire's body now becomes fluid, connecting the Info to the Female in an elegant fiddle-head shape.
Quiz Monday, class dismissed. Hah.