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Guidelines for Poster Design

When you start a new poster, set up the page size as no more than 42 (height) x 60 inches (width). While 42 x 60 is the maximum poster size, 36 x 48 preferred.

Background picture must be high resolution (~300 dpi) so it is not pixilated when printed.

The background should not be distracting from the rest of the poster:

  • Low saturation (not too much color in it)
  • Not too dark – the key is to not use too much ink everywhere because that will make the poster crinkle

There should be an odd number of columns, but the optimal number is 3.

Make sure the poster is balanced: if you have pictures on one side, you also have to have pictures on the other. Try not to have too much empty space in one area.

Keep in mind your target audience.

Graphs and pictures:

Graphs should be well labeled and easy to read. If your background is black and white, try to use bright, bold colors to draw the eye.

On the outside columns, graphs should never be the first or last thing. Lead in with text first.

Use word wrap to have pictures inside text paragraphs without covering up text. Not only does it help create a dynamic layout, but it also ties in a visual aid with your paragraph. Don’t go overboard though. Only 2 sides of the picture should be touching text.


Never EVER use decorative fonts (papyrus, comic sans, etc). Decorative fonts detract from the seriousness of your poster.

Use a sans serif (ex: century gothic) or a modern font for your title and headlines and use an oldstyle font (book antique, times new roman, etc.) for the body of text. Old style fonts are easier on the eye to read, so it will not be a strain on the eyes to read a paragraph of text in that font.

Do not use all capital letters for your title. It feels like you’re shouting at the viewer.

Use the same font sizes and types throughout the poster. Consistency is key! The exception is the references, where you may have to squeeze a lot of info in a tiny spot.

Only use sans serif or modern type fonts for headings or titles. Never use them for the whole paragraph. It is a strain on the eyes and no one will want to read it.

If available, use “Justify with last line aligned left” paragraph setting (adobe illustrator) (found under the paragraph tab: window --> type --> paragraph)

Special characters can be inserted under Type --> Glyphs

Have as few end-line hyphenations as possible.

Do not end a paragraph with a single word on its own line (called orphan words)


The Information Management Lab provides poster printing services, but posters are limited to 42 inches on their short axis and 60 inches on their long axis. If you have any further questions, contact the Information Manager.

Templates are also available: 

PDF (for use in adobe Illustrator):


To Change the Template in Adobe Illustrator

Background Image:

  1. select the background layer on the layers tab on the right hand side of the screen. Make sure there is not a little lock sign next to it. If there is, simply click on the lock to make it go away
  2. Click to the right of the circle sitting next to “Background picture”
  3. There should be a big yellow X over the background picture. This means it is selected. Go to the top left and click on the file name “background.jpg” Click relink.
  4. Select your filename and voila, the background is changed.


  1. Select the text button on the left hand toolbar
  2. click on the text you wish to replace.
  3. Begin typing just as you would in Microsoft office.


  1. Begin as you would to change any other text.
  2. after you are finished changing it, you can edit the font size under Window --> Type --> Character at the top.
  3. Highlight the Title Only (not your name or Coweeta) and then go to Type --> fit headline at the top. This will automatically resize the spacing on your text to make it look nice and full.


  1. Select the little black arrow at the top left of the toolbar. Click on the picture you wish to replace.
  2. Go to the top left and click on the file name “xxxxx.jpg” Click relink.
  3. Select your filename.

To Add Images:

  1. make sure the image is in the same file location as the file you are currently editing.
  2. In the layers tab, click on the text and pictures --> body of text layer
  3. go to File --> Place
  4. Select your image.
  5. resize it to your liking and place it where you want.
  6. to make text wrap, go to Object --> Text Wrap --> Make
  7. your image should now be wrapped in text and you can move it wherever you need to.

Instructions for Powerpoint:

Set up your page to size the poster. If you’re in PowerPoint 2003, you’ll do this by selecting file, then page setup. If you’re in 2007, then go to the design tab, then select page setup. Scroll down the slides sized for selector to the bottom, at custom. Set the width for up to 60 inches; set the height for 42. Set the orientation for landscape.

You’re now ready to add your text and photos. You will not need to allow for a border on your poster, since the paper is sized for your final poster size of up to 42 X 60 inches. While 42 x 60 is the maximum poster size, 36 x 48 preferred.

In choosing your photos, you’ll need to pay attention to their size. As a general rule, you’ll want to select a photo that is around 1800 px on at least one axis (width or length), or around 1 MB. Bigger is better. Although a smaller image may look fine on your screen, it will not print well; a printer needs a much larger sized image then a screen does to compose the image. If you do a Google image search, don’t right click on the small image that comes up with the rest of the search results. Instead, double click the image to open it, then click the blue link at the top for see full size image. Only when it’s displayed at full size should you right click the photo to save it for use.

If you’re scanning, check the scan window where it says resolution. Make sure that the resolution is set for 200 dpi. You’ll have to use your scanned image at a size close to the original; i.e., if you scan an image that is 2 X 3 inches, you can’t stretch it to 6 X 9 and expect it to look good.

There are Web sites where you can find free stock photos. (This phrase just means that they’re not shot-to-order for a context.) Do a search for “free stock photos,” and you’ll get many hits. Skip any that say something along the lines of “free stock images by subscription.” Skip sites that say “royalty free”; they’re not free. Stock.xchng is a good site; You’ll have to sign up with their site to download stuff, but once you’re registered, their pics are free. With any stock photo sites, the same downloading tips apply: check the px count and/or the size. Again, don’t right click to save the thumbnails; open the full image then save.

When you start working on your poster, save the file as a PowerPoint 2003 file, even if you’re using 2007. It makes the printer happier that way. Save the PowerPoint folder in a folder in a folder along with all the images you use. This will make it easier to troubleshoot if there’s a printing problem. When you are ready to print, save the 2003-format file as a pdf.