Making a Poster

Getting Started...

What is the focal point of your poster? People only spend 3 - 5 minutes looking at a poster. What is the one idea that you want the viewer to remember?  Make this the theme of the poster. 

Include a statement of the problem, a description of the research methods you used, and your results i.e., your conclusion.

Write an outline for your poster as if you were writing a term paper.  If it helps to visualize, try clustering your ideas in a balloon and then link them in order.  Your goal is to create a road map that will guide the viewer through your project from start to finish.

Poster Basics...

Your poster should look simple and uncluttered.  Someone standing 3 feet away should quickly understand, and be able to see, what each component is.  To ensure this, use 24-pt. type or larger.

Each poster should have a title that were created by computer to guarantee that the lettering is clear and easy to read i.e., at least 85 pt.

Illustrations and photos are nice to use but make sure that they are clear and properly proportioned.  Use high resolution images; TIFF or GIF images seem to work best.  The drop-and-drag method of adjusting an image's width or height can result in distortion.  It's better to resize images using commands such as "image size, scale, or fit content proportionately."

Be sure to connect your words to your graphical elements. If a statement refers to a diagram off to the side, say so e.g., "Wind blows over ocean, generates waves (Fig. 1)." Captions under figures can be 18 pt.

In general, a font like Times New Roman is better for text while Ariel is good for titles and to label figures.

Color should be used for emphasis, but be aware of the connotations that certain colors and color combinations might carry. Black and orange, for example, can make your poster look like Halloween!

Posters can be created either wholly on computer or by printing out groups of components and gluing them to posterboard. Use the method that looks the best to you. Graphic programs like PowerPoint or Adobe Illustrator or Photoshop are good choices.

Sketch our your ideas early. Print out your photos, illustrations, and other materials. Look at them from a distance. Remember that colors may print differently than they appear on your computer screen.

Get someone else to proof your writing.

Printing your poster ...

  1. Poster dimensions are 36 x 48. See details below for PowerPoint instructions.
  2. Printing should be done as far in advance as possible to avoid delays with busy printers.
  3. Email your poster document to the print shop.
  4. Pick up and pay for your poster during normal Digital Center hours. Students are responsible for printing fee. Your student ID will be used for payment.

A quick checklist...

  1. What is the theme of my poster? Does every item included support that theme?
  2. Does my poster have a conclusion? Does it flow logically from my introduction? Are there any steps missing?
  3. Does the title of the poster accurately reflect my work? Is it easy to read from 3-5 feet away?
  4. Are my sentences properly punctuated and all of the words spelled correctly?
  5. Is my arrangement of graphics and text simple and uncrowded? Look at each element. Does any element duplicate other material?
  6. Is my information arranged in columns? If not, are my sections numbered so that viewers won't get confused?
  7. Are my photos in focus and tightly cropped and my lines straight and margins even?
  8. Am I prepared for accidents? Handy tools are tape or glue stick, correction fluid, and a marking pen for making last minute, day-of-Celebration corrections.

Presenting your poster...

Remember to bring with you on the day of Celebration, extra pins in case your poster starts to come off the foam core; a notepad and pen; and about 50-75, 8.5"x11" printouts of your poster that you can give out to interested people.

During the poster session, your audience members will have other posters than yours they wish to see. Five minutes of undivided attention is very optimistic in this situation. Because of this, most folks want to be walked through your poster, rather than reading it themselves. This isn't alway the case, however, so always ask if they want to be walked through. If they choose to read the poster on their own first, let them know you'll be happy to answer any questions after they've finished.

The "walk through" 1. Ignore the introduction completely. Just give the main research question/ problem, and your hypothesis. This is a pitch, so make it interesting. Unless it is a major element of your research, citing previous research here is pretty pointless; 2. Who, what, where (quick rundown of methods/ design used); 3. Findings- show your graphs and take the time to point out the major elements and why they are important. Typically, you don't have to cite your statistics or anything like that; they will take your word if you say "this was significant."

Dress nicely. Smile, introduce yourself, make steady eye contact, etc. Always thank your audience for their questions, interest, etc.

After the conference, if you promised someone you would e-mail them the paper or make contact, then do it.

Be excited about your project and you'll infect your listeners. Shake hands, take notes, and be professional in your demeanor.


If using PowerPoint to make your poster, use the Page Setup menu to immediately change the size of the slide to 36" x 48".

Only choose colors that go together and try to stick to a 2-3 basic, solid color scheme for your poster. Gradients will not print onto a poster well nor will large background colors.

After resizing your PowerPoint slide, you'll need to make text boxes for your major sections. You can block off each section with white space. You should turn on the gridlines on PowerPoint, which will help you line up major elements so they are gridlines.