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Poster Design Guidelines

The following are general guidelines for printing posters for class presentations, conferences or events such as the Festival of Science. If you have specific questions not answered here please contact Carol Cady.


The Main Title should be at least 100 points (4 cm high) 

Subheadings should around 50 points (Between 1.5 - 2 cm high)

Body text is most easily read when it is 25 points (Between 0.5 - 1 cm high) The absolute minimum for text is 18 points.

  • The title of your poster should appear at the top in large letters.
  • People will not read a lot of text, and certainly won't read standard journal-sized text.
  • Printed text should be very brief, or most people will walk away.
  • Studies show that text written in all capital letters is hard to follow; it is better to use bold print than all caps.
  • Bullets may be helpful in summarizing information.
  • Divide the contents of your poster into appropriate sections.

Things to Remember

  • Carefully and completely prepare your poster in advance of the conference.
  • The flow of your poster should be from the top left to the bottom right.
  • You may wish to use color for highlighting and to make your poster more attractive.
  • Use pictures, diagrams, cartoons, figures, etc., rather than text wherever possible.
  • References - Concentrate on key references only. This is not meant to be an exhaustive listing.
    You can expand on your sources during discussions with viewers attending the poster session.
  • Pay attention to grammar and syntax.
  • Do take time to make the poster visually pleasing and professional.
  • Don't wait until the last minute to assemble your poster; things always go wrong!
  • Photos print well if they have not been resized more than 1.5 times their original size. Anything beyond that will result in a blocky, pixilated reproduction.
  • Proof your poster thoroughly before submitting. Posters that need to be re-printed due to author error will be charged twice.
  • Save a copy of the file to T:/Atlas/Printjobs and fill out the Print Request Form .
  • All print requests must be submitted to the Spatial Analysis Lab Staff at least 3 days in advance. During high volume print times, such as before the SLU Fellows presentations or the Festival of Science, late requests may not be printed.
  • Large size plots take time to print. Generally, plots will be completed in 2 – 3 days. (There may be delays due to the size of your plot, demand on the plotter, and availability of the network.) You should plan on time required to produce a plot in your print request. When your request is completed we will notify you.

Special Fonts
If you are using imported fonts, it is your responsibility to embed them in the document or make them available at the time of printing. To Embed fonts in Office 2003, go to the tools menu, then options--> Embed TrueType fonts.

Problem Files
Most files will print out just fine, however, if a problem arises we will try to determine the source of the problem and contact you for any needed information.

Apple Users
Be sure to let us know if your file was created using an Mac instead of a PC as this may affect the formatting of your poster when it is opened on the PC we use for printing. If possible open your Mac created file on a PC in one of the computer labs and make sure everything looks as it should. Alternatively, we can send your poster out to be printed, but please note that this has a considerably longer turn around time.

Backup Files
When saving to T:Atlas/Printjobs, never save the original file, save a copy. This folder is emptied routinely, and we are not responsible for lost or damaged files saved in the Printjobs folder.

If this is your first attempt at creating a large-format poster, follow the steps below:

  • Choose the program you want to create your poster with. Many students use Microsoft Powerpoint, though other programs such as Adobe Illustrator or InDesign may be used also.
  • Set poster size using the Design Tab> Page Setup
  • Set the height and width according to your needs.  The standard poster size is 36" x 48", though other sizes may be used.  It is important to keep one dimension to 42" or less, as that is the maximum width of the plotter.
  • Choose portrait or landscape orientation 
  • Add content to your poster.  Keep your color scheme and layout as simple as possible.  Avoid complex backgrounds that interfere with readability.  Dark colored backgrounds will use more ink resulting in paper that is wrinkled.  The printed color does not always match the screen color.
  • Use the PLACE or INSERT command to add an image or graphic to your poster.  Avoid using Copy & Paste
  • Use fonts that are readable at a distance.  Use ZOOM to 100% option to see what the actual printed page will look like