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Poster Design: Tips for Creating Your Poster

Creating a virtual poster or recorded presentation for 2021

For information on how to create a digital poster or a recorded presentation, go to the 2021 Virtual Undergraduate Conference tab.

Tools to Use

There are plenty of ways to create your poster, here are a few of our favorites:

PowerPoint: You might already have experience with PowerPoint as a presentation tool, so you shouldn't be surprised to learn that it is among the easiest ways to create a poster for a presentation too! Use this template to get started on a standard sized 48" x 36" tri-fold poster.

Google Slides: Don't have PowerPoint? No worries! Google Slides comes free with your Google account and is another easy platform to use to create a great poster

Canva: Canva is a free design website that allows you to create posters, handouts, infographics, and more. Create a free account and start designing! When you're done with the design, easily export to PDF or JPEG files. Another free infographic tool is Piktochart.

* When you're using any of these platforms, start by making sure that your page dimensions are appropriate for when you're ready to print. In Slides, go to File > Page Setup and in PowerPoint, go to Slide Size on the Design tab. Also, make sure that your dimensions are in INCHES NOT PIXELS.

You can use Microsoft WORD and EXCEL (or web-based alternatives from Google) to make individual pages or boxes as part of a larger poster design

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)

Note: Before copying and pasting a Fitchburg State logo, make sure you're doing it right: Fitchburg State University General Visual Identity Guidelines (Logos and more)

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.

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.

More information: Preparing your Poster for the Fitchburg State Undergraduate Research Conference

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)

Contact Information

undergraduate conference logo

Contact the Conference Co-chairs, Renee Fratantonio and Katharine Covino at for more information about the Undergraduate Conference for Research and Creative Practice.

Poster Layout

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

Sample Design

Image from American Nurse today

Preparing a Poster Using PowerPoint

Producing a Poster using PowerPoint

The following give some suggestions on producing an appropriate sized poster using PowerPoint.

  1. Open up PowerPoint.
  2. Change the size of the page (Under the Design tab, click Page Setup or on the Mac, choose the File menu then Page Setup) by selecting "Slides sized for": Custom, then "Width": 48, "Height": 36.
  3. The default for a PowerPoint slide is a slide title and slide body. You should put the poster title and all authors and sponsors in this box, and resize the box if needed.
  4. The main poster material should go in the box. At this stage you can create boxes for text, import images and other desired layout features. Most of this layout is in the Home tab (on the PC) or on the Insert tab on the Mac.
  5. After creating your poster, you should save the final version as a high quality PDF. Under the Save As… menu item, this is listed as an option.
  6. Your sponsor can submit the poster for printing by emailing the PDF file to

Other Helpful Points

  • The Title of the Poster should be at least 80 pts.
  • You should include all authors and their affiliations as well as the faculty sponsor. These should be displayed at 54 pts.
  • Any body text should be at least 24 points.
  • For posters with a good deal of text, often making 3 or 4 columns is a good layout decision.
  • Use color for accent or emphasis instead of for the basic font color. The most legible text is black on a white background. Even though PowerPoint includes many templates with lots of color, refrain from using too many colors.
  • Any images should be included at a high resolution (at least 150 dots/inch).

Thank you!

Thank you to librarians at DiMenna-Nyselius LIbrary, Fairfield University for sharing their Poster Printing guide.