Guidelines for Poster Presenters

2014 WUC Poster Presentations


  • Poster size is 42x56”.
  • All posters will be displayed in a single 1-hour session. You’ll stand beside your poster during that time.
  • They will be printed on campus, on paper (note that they will not be mounted on foamcore.)
  • They will be charged to your faculty adviser unless you specifically request otherwise. $5/linear foot
  • This tutorial takes into account the requirements of many national scientific conferences, as well as the requirements of the WUC.
  • What if I already have a poster from another conference? Check with the committee, but usually you can use it for the WUC with no modifications.
  • Contact Deberah Simon, Chemistry Department, with questions.

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Poster size is 42 x 56”

This size meets the requirements for most national conferences. It works within the parameters of our large-format printers and the size of the display panels at the conference, and is large enough to display all but the most complex presentations.

All of the templates given here are a horizontal format. If you design your own, you may choose either vertical or horizontal format. The most common orientation in the US, Asia and Australia is horizontal, and the most common in Europe is vertical.

If something goes terribly wrong and you have to change the aspect ratio of your poster after you’ve finished, here’s a page size converter:


There are many options for software, but by far the most common choice is Microsoft PowerPoint. If you want to use another program (InDesign, Photoshop…) contact the Multimedia Development Lab in Hunter before proceeding. There are formatting issues that you must discuss with them in order to successfully print the poster.

The instructions below are written for the new version of PowerPoint that is found on all Whitman computer lab computers. This version saves a file with the “.pptx” file extension. Do not switch from PC to Mac, or ppt to pptx – stay with one format the entire time.

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Templates vs. Designing Your Own

You can start from scratch or you can start with one of the templates available here. The templates are still fully customizable, but they will give you a structure with which to begin. They are already sized correctly. If you have never done a poster before, then the templates are highly recommended. Your poster will still be distinctive. You can easily change the color scheme, the layout, and the fonts within the templates. The templates are set up so you replace the text and image placeholders with your own information. They use default fonts and layouts that give a pleasant finished product, even without any customization. But customization is easy.

If you want to start from scratch, then any of the tutorials on the following websites are highly recommended. The most important thing is still the size. The maximum size when designing from scratch in PowerPoint is 42x56”.

Poster Design Tutorials

If you want to use a template, click on the image of the template to download it to your computer. It will be a PowerPoint file.  Name and save it on your computer.

The file will be a single PowerPoint slide with boxes of text and image placeholders. Simply replace the text and placeholders with your own text and images. Click on the background to change its color. Read the rest of the tutorial here before you begin.

Template A
Template B
Template C
Template D

Template E
Template F
Template G
Template H

Template I
Template J
Template K
Template L


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Your Message

A poster is a graphic display of your message. It’s not just a paper tacked to the wall. The best posters make just one point. What’s your message?  Focus! What do you want them to learn? Readers should be able to tell right away what your Big Question is.

Design and Layout


There are no hard and fast rules for the sections in a poster, but here is a suggested list:

  • Title (with authors and affiliations)
  • Introduction / Objectives / Aims / Problem / Goal
  • Methods
  • Results
  • Conclusion
  • References
  • Acknowledgements
  • Contact Info (including QR code)

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Look at a few examples (search “scientific poster examples” on the internet.) Note that poster content is always arranged in columns on an invisible grid. Draw a storyboard – take a piece of paper and sketch out a possible arrangement of the sections, showing boxes for titles, text and graphics.

Put your research objective (the “Big Question”) in a prominent place. Usually that’s the upper left, because a reader’s eyes will land there first. Readers eyes move from top → bottom, left → right.

Use graphics to convey most information. If you can’t tell it graphically, you don’t have a poster. Keep text minimal; this is not a wall-size version of a written paper. A typical poster has about 1000 words, or about 250 per section. Let the graphics do the talking. Captions must convey much information – many people will read no text except the titles and captions. Give graphs titles that explain what the viewer should “get” out of the graph.

Keep all elements of a section tight to each other (place captions close to their graphics), but leave space between the sections so that the reader can see what’s grouped together.


Your poster will be viewed from 4-15 feet. The title has to be large enough to be read from 10-15 feet, and even captions should be readable from 4 feet. A design guideline that has been shown to be effective is to use sans-serif fonts for the titles and headings, and serif fonts for the text and captions.  Use the same sans-serif font for titles and headings, and use the same serif font for text and captions.  Left-justify (align) the text. Use italics or bold for emphasis, but never underline or use all caps.

Here’s a suggestion for effective font choices:

Title = 100 pt bold sans serif font (Ariel)
Section Headings = 48 pt bold sans serif font (Ariel)
Body Text = 28 pt serif font (Times New Roman)
Captions = 24pt serif font (Times New Roman)

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Dark text on a light background is easiest to read. If you have a very dark background, use large, bold white text. Be very careful about this option because the text will look much less defined in the printed version than when viewed on a computer.  Avoid color-on-color, especially bright colors. Keep backgrounds simple; if you want to use a photo, then choose “watermark” to make it very light and unobtrusive so your text is still readable. Choose a simple color scheme with only 2-3 related colors. Change colors on your graphs and figures so they complement the background color.

Writing: Style Guides

Follow the WUC style guide for punctuation and formatting of your proposal and program note. Use style guides for your discipline for the text of the poster.

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Section Tips

Title Tips

Keep your title under 12 words. Put important words first.  Leave out unnecessary words. Example: “Investigation of Threshold Characteristics of Materials Fracture Under Impact Loads Produced by Pulsed Magnetic Fields” can be shortened to “Threshold Fractures Produced by Pulsed Magnetic Fields.”  Keep your title formal, and be wary of making claims that the data doesn’t support. It is customary to put a logo in the title section from your institution, any other institution where you did work, the conference at which the poster is presented, or a sponsoring agency. (See the “Downloads” section for selected logos.) The full names of the authors and their affiliated institutions are listed directly below the title.

Objective / Introduction Tips

Give a context for your work by stating what’s already known about the topic, then showing how your question fits into that framework and seeks to expand or explain some aspect of it.

Methods Section Tips

Keep the methods section minimal. Consider using a graphic of the steps, or making a bulleted list. You’ll be standing there to answer questions about specifics.

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Results Section Tips

Organize the data. A table is much better than a list, but use a bulleted list if you feel it’s appropriate. Don’t forget to put units on everything. Results sections typically have very little text.

Conclusions Section Tips

This is the “take away message” – what they’ll learn from your poster. Explicitly state what you found, and its significance. Focus on the big picture. Be sure you directly address the question you proposed in the introduction, using the same terminology and phrasing. This is a great place to use a graph. Give a recommendation of how your results might be used, explain how they’ve added to your field’s knowledge base, show how they answer a vexing problem in your field, evaluate how well the results answered your question, show how they lead to other areas of study, or give an idea of what new questions they open up. Never say that this requires further study unless you have a specific plan for the next step.

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References Section Tips

Keep your reference list short (3-5). You can use small type (16pt) if the list is long, but it’s better to list only a few major references. Use whatever style guide your field normally uses for references (check with your adviser for a journal to use as an example.)

Acknowledgements Section Tips

Acknowledge the people who contributed directly to the work.  Thank your adviser. Acknowledge any funding you received. If you worked off-campus, acknowledge that group. Keep it ~50 words.

Contact Information Section Tips

Your full name and address goes here. Use Whitman’s address, not your personal address.  Whitman College, 345 Boyer Avenue, Walla Walla, WA  99362. Phone numbers for Whitman’s Division Offices: Div I 509.527.5798, Div II 509.527.5248, Div III 509.527.5225.  Give the URL for your department’s homepage if you do not have one of your own.

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QR Code

A new addition to posters is the QR (Quick Response) Code. It is often put in the lower right hand corner with other contact information. You do not have to use a QR, but it adds a level of professionalism to your work.

 WUC QR Code

What is a QR? A QR code allows your audience to scan the code with a smartphone or tablet and receive more information.  The code can open a text document, web site, video, e-mail address, phone number, map page, or WiFi connection.  You can link to the WUC website if you don’t have anything special prepared. The QR code above links to the Whitman Undergraduate Conference main webpage: A jpg image of the WUC QR code can be found in the “Downloads” section.

To generate a new QR code: Go to one of these sites: or and enter the full URL of what you want the code to link to. It will generate a shortened URL for you; click on “details” to see the code image. Copy the image, and save it in your poster folder.  (Example: The shortened URL for the Whitman Undergraduate Conference page is and the resulting jpg image is shown above.)
It’s not a high-resolution image, so keep the printed size about 2x2”. Leave plenty of white space around it. If phones have a hard time reading it on a glossy poster, try shading it with your hand.
More information about QR codes:

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Working with Images

Most images will be about 8x10” when your poster is printed full size. No image should be smaller than 5x7”. Most issues in printing the poster come from improper image files.

File Types

Use .tif, .jpg or .png images.  Do not use PICT or EPS.

Graphs, Charts & Tables

While it is possible to create graphs and charts directly within PowerPoint, it’s very restrictive and quirky. We do not recommend it. It’s far better to use Excel to create graphs and charts.

Inserting Graphs from Excel

While it is possible to simply highlight the graph in your spreadsheet, copy it, and paste it into your poster, you’re asking for trouble if you do it this way! It’s far better to turn your graph into an image file (a “.png” file) first, and then insert that png file into the poster. It seems like an extra step, but it is a bulletproof way to get great images in your poster. Here’s why: If you insert a graph by the “cut-and-paste” or “Insert Object” route, the graph will still be live and editable. That means it’s still linked to the Excel workbook. If you break that link (by trying to print the poster, for example) it rebels.

Here’s how to make a png file from an Excel graph:

  1. Open Excel, and enlarge your graph until it fills the entire screen – maybe10-15 columns wide. If you have multiple graphs in your workbook, enlarge all of them.
  2. Choose "Save as Web Page." (Yes, that's right – "Web Page"! Trust me.) You should already have a dedicated folder for all your poster images, so save it into that.
  3. An .htm file will appear, and ALSO a folder with every chart in the entire workbook saved as separate png files.  (You won’t use the htm file, but just ignore it and keep it.)
  4. Rename each .png file so you know what it is.
  5. Now insert the .png file into your poster by “Insert → photo → picture from file”.

**Don’t use “Insert → Object → Microsoft Excel Graph.” While this seems like the logical choice, it puts you right back into the issue of inserting a live graph, with all the problems of being linked to an Excel workbook.

**Don’t worry that you won’t be able to change your graph if you need to – you can still go back to your Excel workbook, change the graph, and make a new png file to insert!

Illustrations & Photos

You’ll need images for your poster, no matter what the topic. You should have a folder with photos you’ve taken of your project, or images you’ve gotten from other sources. You’ll want a good quality image so it won’t look fuzzy when it’s printed. See the tips below on how to create image files and how to check to see if the image quality is good enough. Warning: Most images found online are not high enough quality to use on a large poster.

You’ll want your images to be ~300 dpi. Less than that and the image may be fuzzy, larger and the file size will be unwieldy.

Inserting an Image

Once you have an image, use insert-picture-from-file to bring the image into PowerPoint.

How to Create an Image File by Scanning Hard Copies

If you only have a hard copy of your illustration, you need to scan it to make an electronic file. There are scanners in the Multimedia Development Lab.

  1. Scan as a TIFF file, not jpg.
  2. Scan at 220 – 300 dpi.

Using Images Found Online

  1. Check to see that it falls under the Fair Use copyright rules. Usually, using an image to illustrate an educational poster is considered fair use. Give an attribution. If you need more information, contact Penrose for help.
  2. Online images are low resolution. Although the image appears sharp and crisp on your computer screen, it will not enlarge to poster size. Many sites, especially microscope image databases, give you the option of downloading a higher resolution image, so choose 220 dpi or slightly higher.

Sources for Copyright Free Images

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Image Resolution: How to Check to See if Your Image will be Fuzzy on the Printed Poster

To check if your image will print clearly, you need to know two things: the final printed size and the dpi (“dots per inch”) AT THAT SIZE. You can’t increase the resolution of the original image – it’s fixed when it’s created.  The only thing you can do is check to see how big you can make the image before it looks fuzzy.

Think of it this way: Your image file is a box of colored dots. If you lay those dots out side-by-side so each is touching the other, you have a nice crisp image. If you decide you want that image to be bigger, you have to spread out the dots and the image gets blurred. There’s no way to add more dots to the box – all you can do is push the dots closer together (make the image smaller) or slide the dots apart (make the image larger.) If you have lots of dots in the box to start with, it’s not a problem.

First, find out how big the image will be on your printed poster. If you want a graph to be 10x10” on the poster, jot that down.  (How do you know how big it will be? Start designing your poster. Open your poster file and look at the rulers along the top and side of the screen – those show how big the image will be.)

How to find out if your image will work at the size you want:

Method 1:

Use the zoom button in PowerPoint to zoom up to 100%. If the picture looks jagged, it will look jagged when printed.

Method 2:

Right click (control+click on a Mac) on the image file, “get info”, then “more info.” Look at “dimensions” – it will say something like “1901 × 2387” – the first number is the number of pixels in width and the second is the height. Divide the first number by 96. The resulting number is the largest width (in inches) that you can print the picture and have it be crisp.

Method 3:

  1. Open the image (double click on a Mac), and choose “Adjust Size” from the “Tools” menu.
  2. Uncheck “Resample image”.
  3. Type in the size you want the image to be on your poster.
  4. The resolution will change to show the resolution at that new size. If it’s 96 dpi or greater, you’re good! If it’s not, you can’t use the image at that size – it will be fuzzy. You only have two choices: use the image at a smaller size, or get another image.

An example:
Here’s the image I want to insert:

Chemistry Logo

Here’s what it looks like when I double-click on it, and choose “Adjust Size” from the “Tools” menu.

adjustment menu 1

It shows that my image will be clear only up to 4.86 x 4.86” – it’ll be fuzzy at any larger size. So I can use it if I keep it smaller than about 5 x 5”.  But, drat, I really want it to be 8x8” in my poster. Here’s what the image placeholder looks like on my computer screen. Look at the ruler to see what size it will be in the finished poster.

resample image

I really want this image, so just to be certain that I can’t make it bigger, I uncheck “Resample image”, and type in “8” for the width.

image adjustments 2

Now it shows that the resolution at the size I want will only be ~58dpi.  Because anything less than 96dpi is going to look terrible, I can’t use this image at this size! Solution: I’ll use this image in a small size in another place on my poster, and go find a better image for this spot.

When you get an image that works, insert it into the poster in the placeholder, then use the resizing handle on a corner and hold down the Shift key while you click-and-drag.  This enlarges it proportionally, without distortion.


How to See What the Layout Will Look Like When Printed

Use the view-zoom button in PowerPoint to look at specific elements.  To see the entire poster, just click “print” and print a copy on regular 8.5x11” (computer paper). Although this is tiny, it does give you a sense of the overall design and balance of the poster.

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How to Print Your Poster

Your poster will be printed on campus on plotter printers which are located in Science and Maxey General Computer Labs. The Multimedia Development Lab (MDL) in Hunter no longer has a plotter printer.

Make an Appointment

You must make an appointment to print your poster. To request an appointment and learn more about logistics involved in printing, please visit the plotter printing website here: 

Hours for the printing labs are Monday 10-12, 4-6; Tuesday 10-12, 4-5; Wednesday-Friday 10-12, 1-4; and Sunday 6-10pm.
When filling out the request form, be prepared with the following information:

  • This is a poster for the WUC
  • Your full name
  • Your preferred contact info (email, cell phone…)
  • Your preferred appointment times.
  • List your top 2-3 times.           

There are many posters to print in a short time, so aim for 3 days in advance. Not everyone will be able to print the day before the conference.

Things to Know Before You Go


Decide before you arrive on the type of paper you want.
Matte Paper: Flat finish. $3/linear ft. Hung on a wall exposed to indoor light it will be visibly faded in 3 months
Semi-gloss Paper: Shiny finish. $5/linear ft. Hung on a wall exposed to indoor light it will last 2 ½ years before it’s visibly faded.


Printing does NOT include a proof (a full-size print for you to proofread.) You’ll be charged an additional full charge if you decide that you need this step. Check with your adviser to make sure they will cover the cost. You may have to make two appointments, giving yourself time to proofread and fix any issues before the final printing. It’s your responsibility to proofread, proofread, proofread before you come to print. You will be charged for a printed poster even if it has typos.

Transporting the File

Bring your file on a USB flash drive or CD. You can also use NetFiles (contact the MDL for instructions.)
Printing takes about half an hour. You must stay while the poster is printed.
You’ll take the poster home with you, rolled up with a rubber band securing it. If you have a poster tube, bring it.


The posters are $3-5/linear foot. They will be charged to your adviser’s account unless you specify otherwise. If you pay yourself, you must bring cash or a check with you.


The printed image will not match the exact color seen on your computer screen. Inks and lights do not give the same colors. For example, purples will be darker, and light letters on a dark background may be harder to read.

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Setting Up the Poster in Cordiner

Undergraduate Conference posters will be displayed at Cordiner Hall during the poster session of the conference (1-2 p.m.)

Cordiner will open at 9 a.m. for you to come mount your poster on the display panels. Mounting supplies (tacks) will be provided.

Return to Cordiner by 12:45 p.m., ready to greet visitors and present your poster.

Take your poster with you when you leave Cordiner after the session.

At the Conference: Talking to the Audience

  • Picture yourself standing in front of your poster.  Someone walks up and says, “So, tell me what you did.” What do you say?
  • Practice your “elevator pitch” – a concise, focused 30 second to 2 minute speech summing up your work and why it’s important. The idea is that you should be able to explain your idea and make your listener feel your passion about it in the length of time of a typical elevator ride.
  • If you can’t explain it in plain, simple language, then you need to work on it. Imagine someone who’s smart, but unfamiliar with your field or your research – imagine President and Michelle Obama, Hillary Clinton, Stephen Colbert, Jon Stewart, Bill Gates – what’s your take away message to them? What will they remember tomorrow?
  • The average pitch has ~200 words and lasts just 56 seconds.
  • Also practice an expanded (5 minute) response that includes:
    • What the Big Question was
    • What data you needed
    • What you found
    • What it means


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