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Poster Design: Tips

The Principles of Good Poster Design

Grabbing Attention

  • Give your poster a title that will draw attention and summarize your project
  • Important information should be largest (text hierarchy)
  • Often the title is largest, then your name (or group names) and affiliations
  • Title should be readable from approximately 10 feet away (letters approx. 1.5 inches tall)
  • San serif fonts (like Arial, Helvetica) are easier to read far away (think of the font used on highway signs)
  • Serif fonts (like Times New Roman) are easier to read in block or body text
  • If you are printing out slides, boxes, figures, or images, add dark borders as they will help provide contrast against a lighter background

Organizing Information

  • Common organization for scientific posters: Introduction, Materials / Methods (if applicable), Results, Conclusions, Literature Cited, Acknowledgements, Further Information)
  • It can be helpful to sketch out how your information will be organized / will flow throughout the poster

Overall Advice

  • Poster should generally be 300-800 words
  • Keep your body text as brief as possible and use lists of sentences rather than blocks of text
  • Light / neutral colored backgrounds with dark text are easiest to read
  • Use bright colors sparingly
  • Use images, graphics, charts, figures that support your ideas. (Captions as needed)
  • Use no more than 3 fonts total
  • Review specific event details of the conference or event you are presenting at for poster requirements and suggestions
  • If you are printing power point slides to stick to your poster, be careful of the glue you use. The best adhesives are rubber cement or spray adhesive (especially designed for paper) to adhere text pages, title banners and other paper materials to the poster backing. White glue (Elmer's glue), paste, mucilage, glue sticks, craft glue etc. will not work as well. They either do not adhere nicely (as in the case of glue sticks) or they cause the paper and even the poster board to shrink, wrinkle and generally look terrible.

Fairfield University Research & Creative Accomplishments Poster Guidelines

Tools to Use

  • PowerPoint - design slides and print them out to glue or tape to a posterboard
  • Word - You can use good old MS Word (or web-based alternatives like Google Docs) to make individual pages or boxes as part of a larger poster design
  • Design programs such as PhotoShop or InDesign (downsides: expensive, often more complex to learn)
  • Free, web-based image editing products like  Gimp,,, Inkscape,
  • Piktochart or Canva- free infographic/poster/handout design tool

Finding Images

Using images from the internet can be problematic because of copyright issues, the following recourses will clearly explain usage rights for each image on their platform and will help you navigate what images you can or cannot use. 

  • Creative Commons - While using Creative Commons to find images is a great first step, check each image's usage rights to understand how you can reuse, distribute, or edit.
  • Google Images - Be sure to show the tool bar that will filter for images with clear usage rights. 
  • Wikimedia Commons - Check all usage rights before using
  • Pixabay - Before using any image from Pixabay check the usage rights (should be on the right hand side of each image, example)

Using Images

Use the following tips to avoid blurry or pixilated images on your poster:

Image from Udemy Support

  • Use a photo with a large pixel count. You can find the pixel count by right clicking on your image and then selecting properties.


  • Getting an image with a large pixel count is a great first step but the clarity of a photo will mostly depend on how much you are going to enlarge the image. To get a sense of your image in relation to how it will look when you enlarge it you can:
    • Zoom in on the photo 200%, if it is starting to look pixilated or grainy you might want to opt for a better image.
    • Calculate Pixels Per Inch or PPI. This can get tricky so here is a website that will walk you through the process.
    • Stretch the image in MS Word or a similar program to the approximate size it will be when printed and see if it is clear.


  • Some photos are meant to be stretched and enhanced and will never pixilate or blur. These images files are called vector images. These image files are different from the common images we use (JPG, GIF, PNG) in that they are created without a fixed amount of pixels and can easily be adapted to difference sized.

More Advice

A lot of our advice was gathered from these great online guides. Visit them directly for more practical advice and guidelines on conference poster design:

ASEE Conference Poster Guidelines (for Engineering students)

Sample Design

Image from American Nurse today

Poster Layout

Image from The Natural Sciences Undergraduate Research Conference: Guidelines for Poster Preparation, University of Pittsburgh

Printing a Poster

Use PowerPoint - this option is by far the easiest and also the most popular. Here are the basic step you will need to complete to design a poster in PowerPoint.

  1. Open a blank slide
  2. Resize the slide to the correct proportions (36 x 24, 48 x 24 etc.) This video will help you with sizing in PowerPoint.
  3. Design the slide and add your content. This video will show you how to properly design a conference poster.
  4. Save your poster as a .PDF file.
  5. Upload the file to a printing service platform (FedEx, Staples) 

Use conference poster templates to give you head start

** Templates can save you a ton of time, but always check the custom dimensions in PowerPoint before saving the the slide as a PDF and sending it off to print. You can find these under the design tab > slide size (top right) > custom slide size. **

Places to Get a Poster Printed

If you are presenting at a professional or academic conference and need to have a polished finished product here are a few places you can go to print your poster:

Design & Digital Print Office: To place an order you will need to fill out a print request form. Forms usually take about 5 days to be approve and the actual printing will take another 5 days. Cost varies based on the size of the poster but you can get a quote from them after filling out their print request form.

Many office supply stores will print posters of almost all sizes. For more money you can have them mounted to poster board or even laminated.

Two local options for printing:


Don't want to spend money on printing? Do it yourself! If you are on a budget and don't need a professionally printed poster (e.g. class or club presentation):

If you are crafty, you can make a good impression by printing individual text boxes and trimming them neatly with a paper cutter or straight edge and Xacto knife. You can adhere sheets of paper using craft glue or double-sided tape. Glue sticks or Elmer's glue can be problematic as they could bleed through the paper. You can also save files as PDFs and print them as Posters (select this option in Print Preview of Adobe Acrobat).

Presenting Your Poster

View the presentation below to find out tips for presenting an effective poster presentation.

Presenting Your Poster: Tips and Advice on Presenting an Effective Poster