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Poster printing at the Bollinger Digital Fabrication Lab, Biotech Commons: Design help

Quick start guide

  • The goal of a scientific poster is to quickly communicate your research to someone walking by your poster.
  • Unlike a formal presentation, your poster audience is not captive. You want passerby to
    • Stop and read more.
    • Remember something from your research.

Step 1: Read the requirements!  

Follow the requirements of the conference / event / course over anything you see here. 

Step 2: Make an outline 

Unless the requirements say otherwise, the most common sections of a scientific poster (generally in this order) are:

  • Introduction (sometimes broken out into Abstract and Objectives sections)
  • Materials and Methods
  • Results*
  • Summary/Conclusions*
  • References
  • Acknowledgments

*The results and conclusions are the most important sections.  Consider highlighting, bolding, or framing them for added emphasis. 

Step 3: Assemble your poster. 

Method 1: Use a PowerPoint template.  Although they make for rather “cookie cutter” posters, they’ll save you a lot of time.  Most posters are made this way. 

Click here for UPenn PowerPoint templates.

You can also find PowerPoint Templates online with a basic Google search.  Here are some sites that have worked well in the past:

Method 2: Start from scratch.  Powerpoint is the easiest program to use, albeit not the best.  Set up the custom slide size before you do anything else! The rest is easy, just like working on a regular ppt slide.  Scroll below for some useful tips. 

There are other programs you may use (Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign) but they have a steep learning curve.  

Step 4: Proofread! 

Have someone else proofread your poster.  Then proofread yourself again.  And once more. 

Step 5: Save/export as PDF

  • Check the final PDF to make sure everything looks good
  • Avoid Print To PDF if possible  
  • LaTeX users: make sure to export your file using XeLaTeX, not the default PDF LaTeX (Menu --> Settings --> Compiler).  If using Overleaf, make sure to clear the cache as well

Step 6: Schedule an appointment or use the print-by-email option: Keep in mind that we are heavily booked before major conferences, so plan ahead!

Poster Size

  • There is no official standard poster size.  Use the size recommended by your class, conference, or poster session guidelines. Keep in mind that conferences usually give you the size of the board available - your poster can be smaller than that. 
  • If you’re unsure, or if the conference provides requirements in aspect ratio terms, use 36” by 48” for 4:3 and 24*48 for 16:9 aspect ratio respectively.  
  • Keep in mind that most poster printers are 42" wide, so ONE side of your poster cannot be larger than that.  The other side can be as long as the poster roll if you so wish :)

Powerpoint-specific guidelines

Note: Powerpoint doesn't allow dimensions larger than 56".  If you need a larger size, set the dimensions to half their final print size, then request to print the poster at 200% (A 36” x 72” poster would have a page size set to 18” x 36”).

  • Always insert a picture instead of using copy and paste. This will avoid problems when your poster is opened on another platform and when printing. Exception: graphs and diagrams that are already in PowerPoint or Excel are safe to copy and paste.
  • Save a copy of any graphics in their original file format to the flash drive you're brining to print, just in case there are problems.
  • Avoid using gradient or pattern fills, as they are less likely to print correctly.
  • "Ungroup" all graphs, charts, and formulae generated outside of PowerPoint after insertion to prevent printing errors and shifting.
  • All symbols must be "inserted". After placing your cursor in a textbox, go to the Insert menu, then choose Symbol and select the symbol you want to place in your file. If the symbols are not placed in your file through the Insert menu, they may not print or may print as the wrong symbol.
  • Guides, Align and Distribute features in Powerpoint are your best friends - use them! Here's a quick video on using Align/Distribute

Fluorescence images:

  • Whenever possible, use bright colors (bright red, green, etc.) in your microscope images. 
  • Avoid dark colors that are too close to black - they look fine on screen but they will not print well. Blue tends to be particularly problematic. 
  • Increase the contrast if possible. 
  • Always expect fluorescent images to appear darker in print than on screen, especially on fabric posters. 

General guidelines

  • Be consistent. Stick to 1 type of font, preferably non- serif, and only a few colors. Arial, Calibri, Verdana are preferred.  Stay away from anything curly. 
  • Less is more
    • Use less than 800 words. Posters don’t require complete paragraphs.  Use bulleted lists whenever possible. 
    • Leave plenty of white space.
  • Use a light background. No gradients, patterns, background images. 
  • Avoid 3-D graphs and shadow effects. 
  • Use high resolution or vectorized graphics.  
  • Graphics! Use them whenever possible, both for quantitative and qualitative data. (Do not use graphics just for decorative purposes, though!)

Right-click on the image and open in a new tab (Chrome) or view image (Firefox) to get a better look at the font sizes on this 36"x48" poster.  The person standing next to it is 5'9".

Design help

Resources

Individual consultations

Individual consultations are available at no cost to UPenn students, faculty and staff to help troubleshoot design and formatting issues with scientific posters.  Please send a draft of your poster to varvarak@upenn.edu, at least 5 business days prior to when you need your poster by.  

Please note, this is only for design consultations, not an appointment to print your poster

No time to put your poster together? We can help!

Cost: $0.10 per square inch. 

Turnaround time: 5 business days, contingent upon staff and printer availability.  

More info

Head, Digital Media and Virtual Services