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Creating Effective Scholarly Posters: Building

Step-By-Step guide to creating scholarly posters
  • Create one folder and place ALL the parts of your poster (documents, pictures, etc.) in that folder.  Always keep everything together in this same folder.
  • Decide whether to use a poster template or create your poster from scratch.  There are online templates, as well as templates available within PowerPoint.  If you use a template, be sure to re-size it to the size you need to print.

Basic PowerPoint Elements


  • If you are using the printer in MSU Document Services, set WIDTH to no more than 48 inches and HEIGHT to no more than 42 inches (under PAGE SETUP).  If you are using another printer, be sure to know the size limitations on the particular printer.  
  • Set view to around 33% (can ZOOM in or out as needed).
  • Choose to show RULER, GRID, and GUIDES when needed.

- Use a legible font, preferably a serif font for the body text (uses small tails on the ends of letters to improve readability). You can use more than one font, but you generally want to be consistent between similar elements like headers and general bodies of text.

- Your poster should be readable from six feet away. The most prominent element and therefor the largest text on the poster should be your title, followed by your subtitle, and any headings.

- Every poster is unique, but make sure to use appropriate colors for your text. You should not be using yellow text on a light background, or dark text on a black background. Even if it looks readable on a screen, it may be a different story once the poster is printed on paper. Be safe, and use colors that contrast well.

Shape Fill
- Each shape or text box has a fill property which can be set to change the background of the box to a solid color, gradient, etc. Attractive posters should be consistent with these settings, probably using a solid color or transparent background that does not conflict with the text.

Shape Outline
- The shape outline acts as a border around text boxes or other objects which can be customized to change thickness, color, patterns of dashes rather than a solid line, or can be turned off completely. 

Shape Effects
- Shape effects are a quick way to make elements stand out by adding effects like drop shadows and glows. Consistency is key, and less is usually more with these effects for poster creation.

Image Formats
- Whether from a camera, a scanner,  or the internet, the most common image format will be a JPEG image. For illustrations or logos with transparent backgrounds, PNG images are more likely the way to go. Powerpoint can handle these and several other image formats. If you need help converting or creating images in different formats, see the Learning Technology Lab at the Camden Carroll Library for help.

Size and Quality
- Remember that your poster is going to be printed at a very large size, therefor any images used in your design need to be as large as possible and of the best quality possible. This may require scanning images in at higher DPI settings than usual, or limiting search results to large images. Generally, your image should look good and without obvious pixelation when you set the zoom to 100% on your Powerpoint poster slide.

- Many of the same options from the "Shapes/Text Boxes" section also apply to images, such as adding borders, or effects like drop shadow. Again, try to stay consistent with these options, and subtle is usually better.

Resizing and Cropping
- *Important* Scaling up images (making them larger than the original) should be done as sparingly as possible to preserve image quality. Scaling images down (making them smaller) is generally not a problem. If the image you import looks too small for your poster, you may need to find an alternative image or a better source of your image of higher size and quality.

Powerpoint allows you to crop images by right-clicking the image and choosing "Crop", then moving the boundaries to show only the portion of the images you choose.

Creating in Excel
- Charts can be created in PowerPoint, but Excel can also be used for a wider variety of chart styles and an easier time dealing with large amounts of data.

Copying from Excel
- Charts can be exported as images from Excel in high quality for use on posters.

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