Going underground: The iconic Tube map and how to make your own London Underground poster.

Put your own spin on a classic piece of subterranean visual design with our London Underground poster ideas. Find inspiration for an Underground poster mock-up using our fantastic range of free templates, and check out our top tips.

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Summary/Overview

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When Harry Beck created the first version of the modern Tube map in the 1930s, a navigational legend was born. While significant changes to the London Underground mean the map has been updated several times, Beck’s distinctive concept has remained an iconic piece of British design.

Today you can find London’s Underground map on posters, jumpers, tea towels and more. Alternative versions showing other cities, music genres and even fictional characters – connected like stations on a Tube-style network – have also proven popular. Here, we’ll show you how to make your own London Tube-inspired poster, for some distinctive directional artwork.

History of the iconic London Underground map.

In days of yore, maps of the London Underground were focused on the geographical accuracy of stations, and their positions in the city. Indeed, the very first map created in 1908 was simply overlaid on a street map – making it difficult to decipher when multiple stations were crowded near each other.

As the Tube evolved and expanded, however, so did the maps. Elements of the original design were removed or altered to make navigating London’s Underground easier. But there were still plenty of opportunities for improvement.

8 tips for making your own London Tube inspired poster & art.

Looking to whip up your own London Underground-inspired poster? We’ve put together eight tips to get you started. It’s not just posters though – you could apply your imagination to flyers, online banners, social posts and more.

1. Think of a theme.

When making a poster inspired by the London Underground, having a theme to tie it all together can help make things original – and fun.

It might be that you want to focus on your favourite books set in the capital, or you might want to create a design for the landmarks of your hometown. Whatever you choose, it’ll help you determine the ‘stops’ and, ultimately, the design of your map.

2. Decide what you want each station to be in advance.

Before you can start building your map, you’ll need to know how many stations you’ll have in total. The current tube layout features over 270 (!), so think about how big or how detailed you want your own map to be.

Depending on your theme, you might struggle to think of 20 ‘stations’, let alone 200, but there’s no reason your map can’t be significantly smaller, and more focused. If you’re finding it particularly tough, feel free to change or broaden your theme.

3. Think about the ways your stations are connected.

When you’re plotting out your Underground-inspired poster, consider the ‘lines’ that will connect your stations. Creating categories that relate to the theme, and assigning stations to each category, is a good way of approaching this.

For example, if you’re creating a poster based on local history, you might categorise stations based on types of notable events. If you’re making a poster based on your favourite meals, you might categorise your stations by the main ingredients or cuisines.

4. Consider connecting stations.

One of the most iconic and useful things about the Tube map is the connecting stations that sit on multiple lines. If you want to create a poster that’s similar to the distinctive layout of the London Underground map, think about how your stations can interact.

Once you’ve got your themes, you might find that some of your stations can sit in multiple categories. Instead of tossing a coin and committing to one theme, bookmark these stations and use them as intersections for different lines.

5. Build your map steadily.

Don’t worry about jumping straight in and building a fully fleshed-out map. Instead, start by drawing out straight or simple lines and adding your stations. This early stage is the perfect opportunity to see if your lines and stations match up, and to identify anything major that’s missing.

Remember, with tools like Photoshop and Adobe Express, it’s easy to undo mistakes and edit your image, one layer at a time.

6. Make the most of every colour.

Colour is without doubt one of the most distinctive aspects of the Underground map, and you can draw on this heavily for your poster design. Feel free to take influence directly from the existing Tube map or pick the colours and shades that suit your own purposes. You might find that certain lines lend themselves to specific colours, based on connotations and colour meaning, or your overarching theme may help you pick a palette.

Either way, people should be able to clearly trace each line as they snake their way through your map. So, try to use bold shades if possible, and avoid using colours that are too similar, especially if they cross multiple times.

7. Play around with your line work.

Now you’ve laid the foundations, feel free to shake things up a little. While the London Underground map relies on straight lines, your poster could include additional curves or flourishes.

Naturally, the overall shape of the Tube map reflects London’s geography, and you might find something similar with your map. But, depending on your theme, the overall shape could vary greatly. While moving the lines on your poster around, think of the bigger picture and how your theme influences it. Could your culinary inspired creation be shaped like a bowl or a food truck?

8. Take inspiration from the underground’s Art Deco architecture.

London’s Underground map is an iconic piece of British design and culture – everything from the font to the notation is instantly recognisable. While a whole range of art styles are at your disposal, you can still use the Art Deco approach to keep your work and its inspirations recognisable.

London Underground poster ideas and inspiration.

If you’re looking for even more ideas for an eye-catching poster, or want some inspiration for your Underground style map, explore our selection below:

Useful things to know.

What inspired the London Underground map?

Believe it or not, one of the main inspirations behind the London Underground map was circuit diagrams. Harry Beck, the designer of the modern-day map, was an electrical draughtsman who saw an opportunity to apply his day-to-day work to the London Underground.

Beck believed that Underground passengers were more concerned with being able to easily read and navigate the transport system than it being 100% geographically accurate – and history has proven him right.

What are the Tube line colours?

Many of London’s Tube line colours have changed over the years as the map has evolved, but others have stayed the same for many decades. Currently, the colours for each are:

  • Bakerloo – Brown
  • Central – Red
  • Circle – Yellow
  • District – Green
  • Hammersmith & City – Pink
  • Jubilee – Grey
  • Metropolitan – Maroon
  • Northern – Black
  • Piccadilly – Blue
  • Victoria – Light Blue
  • Waterloo & City – Turquoise
  • Elizabeth Line – Purple double stripes

Make sure you incorporate a few of these colours in your own poster designs.