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Designing a Research Poster: Design Tips

Choosing A Color Scheme

Choose a simple yet dynamic color scheme before you begin to add content. You can choose from the color schemes in PowerPoint or utilize online color scheme generators. Here are a few websites that specialize in pre-made color palletes:

Some text and background color combinations are problematic.

  • Color Blindness: red and green together are difficult to differentiate for people who are color blind
  • Low Contrast: combinations like white and yellow do not have a high enough contrast to see clearly
  • Tone-on-tone: two tones of the same color are hard to read

Learn from Others

Here are a few websites that give advice on what successful and unsuccessful research posters look like.

  • For an example of what a poster shouldn't look like and why, take a look at this blog post by Colin Purrington
  • For tips on effective research posters, check out 5 Pointers for a Better Poster by Katie Shives
  • For useful tricks on improving poster design, visit the blog Better Posters. Academics submit their posters for comments and suggestions and use the feedback to update their posters.

Design Considerations

Word Count

  • Remember that your poster's main goal is to promote discussion between you and the viewer. Try to limit the amount of wording on your poster. Keep your word count under 1,000 words for the entire poster.

Font Size and Type

  • Your title should use at least 70 pt. font size. It should be readable by the viewer from at least 6 feet away.
  • All text of your poster should be at least 24 pt. font size.
  • Use easy-to-read, Sans Serif fonts such as Arial, Calibri or Verdana.
  • Limit the number of fonts on your poster. Usually, researchers use one front for the title and headings and another for the text.


  • Create a logical flow of information. Columns are easy to follow therefore, arrange your content in 3 or 4 columns.
  • Include at least an 1 inch margin on your poster. This ensures that no content will be lost in the printing process and that no content will be covered when you hang up your poster.
  • Don't forget to utilize white space. This will help keep your content well organized and easy to read.

Images & Graphics

Use Images Wisely

Don't let your images (and a fancy poster) detract from your research findings. Your images and graphs should highlight your research and add something- not just serve as place fillers.

Charts and Graphs

Always include captions for any charts or graphs you use to explain your research findings.

Cite your Images

Unless you are using free images, be sure to give credit to any images or graphics you use in your poster. See the Using Images tab of this guide for more information.

Recommended File Types

Use PNG, TIF or JPEG files. For more information on the differences between file types, read: Digital Image File Types Explained

Editing your Images

If necessary, use a photo editing software like Photoshop to resize or touch up your photos. Photoshop is available on several library computers. You can also try free software such as Paint.NET. Go to to download the software on your PC. 

Evaluating your Poster

Use the following rubrics and checklists to critique and evaluate your poster. 

Printing your Poster

Before you send your poster to be professional printed: 

1. Make sure that if you created your own template, you resized the PPT slide BEFORE you added any text or images. This will prevent pixilating when the poster is printed.

2. Print your slide on an 8 1/2 " X 11" sheet of paper to make sure that everything is proportional.

3. Have someone read your poster to double-check all spelling and grammar. Once your poster is printed in large size, mistakes will be very noticeable.

4. To see how your poster will look full sized, save your PPT slide as a .pdf (File -> Save As -> .pdf) and print as a "poster" document using Adobe Reader.  Open your .pdf file, click print and select the "Poster" printing option. This will print your poster on multiple sheets of paper. Remember to check for grainy or fuzzy images.

4. Send your poster to be printed at Butler Campus Impressions or Kinkos (or similar business with large format printing). Leave time to have your poster printed (3-7 days). If you catch a mistake, you want time to be able to print it again. This may cost you more money, but it could be worth it if you are presenting at a professional conference.


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