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Guidelines for Poster Presenters

2014 WUC Poster Presentations


All posters are displayed at the Whitman Undergraduate Conference in a single session of one to two hours.  Poster presenters must be on hand with their poster during the session. 

Posters are produced on campus.  They are printed on paper and are mounted on panels or on easels with foam-core board backing provided in the Cordiner Hall lobby.

Printing fees are charged to the presenter's faculty sponsor unless otherwise requested.

In most cases, posters used for other conferences will meet requirements for the WUC.  Contact Peter Shultz ( shultzpa@whitman.edu) with any questions.


Poster size: 42" x 31.5"

This size meets the requirements for most national conferences and works within the parameters of Technology Services' large-format printers.  It is also large enough to display nearly all elements in the most complex presentations.

All of the templates provided below are horizontal in format. If you design your own poster, you may choose vertical or horizontal format. The most common orientation in the U.S., Asia and Australia is horizontal. The most common in Europe is vertical.

If something goes awry and you have to change the aspect ratio of your poster after you’ve finished, refer to this page-size converter.


There are many options for software. The most common choice is Microsoft PowerPoint.  If you want to use another program (InDesign, Photoshop, etc.), contact Peter Shultz and the Multimedia Development Lab in Hunter ( mdl@whitman.edu) before proceeding.  There are formatting issues that must be discussed in order to print the poster.

The instructions below are written for the version of PowerPoint found on all Whitman computer lab machines. 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.

Templates vs. Custom Design

Start from scratch or begin with one of the templates available here. Templates provide a structure with which to begin; all can be customized.  They are already sized correctly.  If you are new to posters, templates are highly recommended. Your poster will still be distinctive. You can easily change the color scheme, layout, and fonts within the templates. The templates are set up for you to replace text and image placeholders with your own information. They use default fonts and layouts that give a pleasant finished product, with or without customizing.

If you start from scratch, any of the tutorials on the following websites are highly recommended.  The most important element is size.  Posters for the Whitman Undergraduate Conference are required to measure 42" x 31.5"; email  Peter Shultz with questions.

Poster Design Tutorials

Scientific Poster Tutorials from PosterNerd
Designing Communications for a Poster Fair from Penn State
Guide to Creating Research Posters from the University of Texas at Austin

To use a template, click on the image 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 information on this page before you begin.


Poster Message

A poster is a graphic display of your work. It is a signature of your research. The best posters make one and only one point. What do you want viewers to learn? They should be able to identify immediately your Big Question.

Design and Layout

Poster Sections

There are no hard-and-fast rules for the sections in a poster. Here is a suggested list:

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

Back to Top ↑


Study examples. (Search “scientific poster examples” on the Internet.) Note that poster content is arranged in columns on an invisible grid. Draw a storyboard; 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. Typically, that place is the upper left of a poster, where a reader’s eyes will land first.

Use graphics to convey most information. If you can’t explain your research graphically, you don’t have a poster. Keep text to a minimum. A typical poster contains about 1,000 words, or 250 per section. Let the graphics do the talking. Captions must convey much information. Give titles to graphs that explain what the viewer should understand from the graph.

Keep all elements of a section close to one another, and place captions close to their graphics. Leave space between sections so that the viewer can make sense of the graphics and their corresponding captions.


Titles should be large enough to read from 10-15 feet.  Captions should be clear at four feet.  One design guideline proven to be effective is a sans-serif font for titles and headings, and serif fonts for text and captions.  Use the same sans-serif font for titles and headings, and use the same serif font for text and captions.  Text should be justified (aligned) left. Use italics or bold for emphasis. Do not underline or use all caps.

An example of effective font choice and size:

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


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 hues. Keep backgrounds simple. If you want to use a photo, choose “Watermark” to make it light and unobtrusive. Choose a simple color scheme with only two or three related colors. Change colors on graphs and figures in a way that 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 from your discipline for the text of the poster.


The title of your poster should match the title you used on your proposal.  Keep the poster title to fewer than 12 words. Put important words first.  Leave out unnecessary words. For 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; be wary of making claims that the data doesn’t support. It is customary in the title section to put a logo from your institution and any other institution where you worked; the conference at which the poster is presented; and any sponsoring agency. (See Downloads for selected logos.) Full names of the authors and their affiliated institutions are listed directly below the title.

Objective / Introduction

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

Methods Section

Keep the methods section minimal. Consider using a graphic of the steps or a bulleted list.

Back to Top ↑

Results Section

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

Conclusions Section

Explicitly state what you found in your research. Note its significance. Focus on the larger picture. Directly address the question you proposed in the introduction, using the same terminology and phrasing. Graphs work particularly well here. Recommend how your results might be used, and explain how they’ve added to the knowledge base in your field. Indicate how they answer a vexing problem; evaluate how well the results answered your question; show how they lead to other areas of study; give an idea of what new questions they open up. Never indicate that further study is required unless you have a specific plan for the next step.

References Section

Keep your list of references short (three to five entries). Use small type (16 pt) if the list must be long. Use whatever style guide your field normally uses for references. (Check with your sponsor for a journal as an example.)

Acknowledgments Section

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

Contact Information Section

Include your full name and address. 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: 509.527.5148; Div III: 509.527.5098. Provide the URL of your department’s home page if you do not have one of your own.

QR Code

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


A QR code allows your audience to scan your poster with a smartphone or tablet in order to receive more information.  The code can open a text document, website, video, e-mail address, phone number, map page or WiFi connection.  You can link to the Whitman home page as your default or generate a code to your department's webpage. The QR code above links to the Whitman College home page: http://www.whitman.edu. A jpg image of this QR code can be found in the Downloads section.

To generate a new QR code, go to: http://www.qr-code-generator.com. Enter the URL to which you want to link. It will generate a .jpg image of the QR code that you can download. It is not a high-resolution image, so keep the printed size about 2" x 2". Leave plenty of white space around it.

More information about using QR codes to amplify your work can be found at Research Explainer.

Working with Images

Most images will be about 8" x 10" when your poster is printed full-size.  No image should be smaller than 5" x 7".  Most printing glitches are the result of incorrect image files.

File Types

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

Graphs, Charts and Tables

While it is possible to create graphs and charts directly within PowerPoint, the process is restrictive and quirky. Use Excel to create graphs and charts.

Inserting Graphs from Excel

While it is possible to simply highlight the graph in your spreadsheet and copy and paste it into your poster, the process is rife with hazards. Instead, convert your graph into an image file (a “.png” file) first, then insert the .png file into the poster. This is a secure way to put 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. This means it is still linked to the Excel workbook. If you break that link -- by trying to print the poster, for example -- it rebels.)

How to make a .png file from an Excel graph:

  1. Open Excel and enlarge your graph until it fills the entire screen (10-15 columns wide). If you have multiple graphs in your workbook, enlarge all of them.
  2. Choose "Save as Web Page." (Trust this.) You should already have a dedicated folder for all poster images; save graph(s) into that folder.
  3. An .htm file will appear, along with a folder with every chart in the entire workbook saved as separate .png files. You won’t use the .htm file, but 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.”

Do not use “Insert → Object → Microsoft Excel Graph.” While this seems like the logical choice, it leads directly back to inserting a live graph and all the problems of being linked to an Excel workbook.

Don’t worry that you won’t be able to change your graph. You can always go back to your Excel workbook, change the graph and make a new .png file to insert.

Illustrations and Photos

You should have a folder with photos of your project or images you’ve found from other sources. Crisp, sharp images are crucial. See tips below to create high-quality image files. (Warning: most online images aren't suitable in quality for a large poster.)

Images should be ~300 dpi (dots per inch). Anything less will appear fuzzy; anything larger will make the file size unwieldy.  See Image Resolution and Print Quality section below.

Inserting an Image

Insert-picture-from-file to bring the image into PowerPoint.

Creating 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. Scanners are found in the Multimedia Development Lab.

  1. Scan as a TIFF file, not as a .jpg.
  2. Scan at 220-300 dpi.  See Image Resolution and Print Quality section below.

Using Images Found Online

  1. Check to be sure that the image falls under fair-use copyright rules. Typically, using an image to illustrate an educational poster is considered fair use. Provide attribution. If you need more information, contact Penrose Library for help. Refer to the library's Copyright and Intellectual Property LibGuide.
  2. Online images are low resolution. Although the image initially appears crisp on your computer screen, it will not be sharp when inserted and resized in your poster file. Many sites, especially microscope image databases, provide the option for higher resolution images. Choose 220 dpi or slightly higher.  See Image Resolution and Print Quality section below.

Sources for Copyright-Free Images 

Image Resolution and Print Quality

The quality of a poster image is determined by size and dpi (“dots per inch”) at that size. The resolution of an image is fixed when it is created.

To determine the quality of an image in poster size:

Method 1:

Use the zoom button in PowerPoint to enlarge to 100%. If the picture looks fuzzy, it will also look fuzzy in your final product.

Method 2:

Right click (control+click on a Mac) on the image file, “Get info”, then “More info.” Look at “dimensions.” The first number reflects pixels in width; the second is the height. Divide the first number by 96. The quotient is the largest width (in inches) to which the image be expanded while remaining 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 of the image as it will appear in your poster file.
  4. The new resolution should be 96 dpi or greater.

An example:

Original image:

Chemistry Logo

Double-click on image and choose “Adjust Size” from the “Tools” menu.

adjustment menu 1

The image will be clear only up to 4.86" x 4.86” and fuzzy at any larger size. 

Image placeholder (as it appears on a computer screen). See ruler to measure size in the finished poster.

resample image

To be certain that the image won't work in enlarged size, uncheck “Resample image” and type in “8” for the width.

image adjustments 2

The resolution at this size will only be ~58 dpi, well short of the required 96 dpi.   

After determining that an image will be sharp in enlarged format, insert it into the placeholder. Use the resizing handle on a corner of the image and hold down the shift key while you click-and-drag.  This enlarges the image proportionally, without distortion.

Preview of Poster Layout   

Use the view-zoom button in PowerPoint to look at specific elements.  To see the entire poster, click "Print” to see a copy on 8.5" x 11” paper. The image will be small, but it will give an idea of the overall design and balance of the poster.

Poster Printing

Your poster will be printed on campus on a plotter printer located in the Hall of Science, Room 104 (formerly the computer lab, now Peter Shultz's office), next to Brattain Auditorium.  Printing will occur on the Monday and Tuesday one week preceding the conference.

Things to Know Before You Print


Choose the paper you want.

  • Matte paper: flat finish, $3/linear foot; when hung on a wall exposed to indoor light, it will fade in three months
  • Semi-gloss paper: shiny finish; $5/linear foot; when hung on a wall exposed to indoor light, it will last two or three years before fading


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


Printing   does not  include a proof (a full-size print for you to proofread). There is an additional (full) charge for proofs. Check with your sponsor to determine if the cost will be covered by the department. Allow yourself enough time in order to make any changes to your poster before the final printing. It is your responsibility to proofread before you print. You will be charged for a printed poster even if it has errors.


As stated above, posters are either $3 or $5 per linear foot, depending on paper type.  The rolls of paper are 42" wide, so if the longer dimension of the poster is 42" or less, the length is determined by the shorter dimension. This cost will be charged to your sponsor's account unless you specify otherwise.

Printing Your Poster  

Transporting the File

Send your poster file for printing to Peter Shultz by email at  shultzpa@whitman.edu. (The file may be stored in Google Drive.)

Unlike in past years, you only need to email the file; no appointment is required.  You may also have encountered the  plotter printing website for academic posters, which are normally printed by WCTS at the Technology Services Building.  Please avoid using that sign-up for your WUC poster - all WUC posters will instead be printed by Peter in the Hall of Science.

When picking up your poster, you'll take it rolled up with a rubber band.  If you have a poster tube, bring it.  

After printing your poster, send the digital poster file to Jenny Stratton at strattjm@whitman.edu.

Poster Display

Posters will be displayed at Cordiner Hall during the poster session of the conference.

Cordiner will open several hours before the poster session for poster setup on display panels.  Mounting supplies (push pins) will be provided.

Return to Cordiner fifteen minutes before the poster session is scheduled to start, ready to greet visitors and present your poster.

Take your poster with you when you leave Cordiner after the session ends.  Unclaimed posters will not be saved.

At the Conference: Talking with Attendees

Picture yourself with your poster. Someone arrives and says, “So, tell me about your research.” What do you say?

Practice your “elevator pitch,” a concise, focused, one-minute summary of your work and why it is important.   

Also practice an expanded (five-minute) response that includes: the Big Question, the data you sought, the results you found, the conclusions you drew. 

You will be assigned a student coach in March who will be able to help you think through these ideas.

Archiving Your Poster

Refer to the instructions at the bottom of the  General Guidelines and Instructions page to archive your poster in ARMINDA.  Start this process by talking with your sponsor about it in the weeks leading up to the conference.  Submit necessary forms on the same day that you get your poster printed, or shortly thereafter.  You may also complete this step after the conference itself.


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