Microsoft’s PowerPoint can be used to make different types of presentations.

A file of multiple pages can be used for a media presentation which is viewed using a computer and digital projector; a multi-page file can also be used to make a sequence of 35mm projection slides or overhead transparencies.

When creating a poster, you use PowerPoint as a design program to make a single page, which shows all the information you wish to present.

PowerPoint enables you to place text, data charts, tables and images onto a page to create a poster. You determine the page size and all other aspects of the poster by using the PowerPoint menus and tools.

Many PowerPoint functions can be accessed several different ways, often by using a listed choice from the Main toolbar or by using a button icon. As you use the program, you will become familiar with the different ways to access these functions.

It is beneficial to try out various options in order to get a sense of the range of choices available which will help you to quickly create an effective, interesting poster.

The Help menu is quite useful for answering questions about functions and tools while using PowerPoint.

Design Principles

When designing a poster, there are some basic principles to use in order to present your information as clearly as possible.

Consistent Font

Use just one or two different fonts to keep the appearance uniform and easy to read. Font variety can be achieved by using the BOLD, ITALIC and UNDERLINE choices on the font toolbar. This font is Arial, which is easy to read from a distance. Sans serif  fonts, such as Arial are preferred for reading from a distance.

Consistent Colors

A color scheme of one or two colors helps to emphasize the information in the poster; the use of many colors may distract from the information you are presenting.

Consistent Alignment

Align the textboxes and illustrations in the poster by using guides in order to make the poster easy to navigate when seeing it for  the first time. It is a good idea to recheck alignment after completing the poster, as well as running the spell check tool.

The poster should be arranged in columns instead of rows, so that several people can read it at the same time without zig-zagging back and forth.

Self Contained

A poster should be self-contained, self-explanatory and designed to allow several viewers to view it simultaneously.

Viewed from a distance

The narrative text should be minimized into short, separated  paragraphs using a large typeface. The minimum size we recommend is 24pt; larger typefaces (28pt+) are easier to read from a distance.

Figures should be designed to be seen from a distance and should have clear visible graphics with large typeface. 


The best legibility is achieved by using black text on white backgrounds. Backgrounds made of dark images or texture patterns can cause the text to be obscured.

If you use different colors for text, avoid using yellow or other light colors as these are especially difficult to read.

Note about gradient fills:  While gradient fills in textboxes and titles look smooth onscreen and in small prints, the result in a large poster often has visible ‘banding’, where the gradient’s color steps have distinct edges, which are visible. Banding is especially prevalent when using 2 color gradients.


There are templates available for downloading on the Medical Visuals File Upload page.

The templates are already set up with logos font sizes and color schemes.


Go to the Medical Visuals File Upload page and download the appropriate template.  Save it to your desktop or My files.

After downloading open the template.

Starting from Scratch


Standard Size

  • First, open a new presentation
  • To set up your page size, Go to File>Page Set Up
  • For “Slides Sized for” choose custom
  • A typical poster page size is 36 x 56 inches
  • Choose a “Landscape” orientation

Hint:  Use a white background.  Colored backgrounds, Solid backgrounds and gradients look good on screen because the monitor refreshes but print inconsistently.  

Most of the posters we print are 36" x 56" and are set up in a horizontal (landscape) orientation. Some exhibition venues have restrictions or requirements on the size, or orientation, of posters.

For example, it is common for poster presentations in Europe to require vertically oriented posters. Be sure to find out any specific requirements before starting to create your poster.

We print posters on paper rolls of 36" and 42". The most common size used for posters is 36“, because it has the best combination of size and portability. The 36" paper is much easier to handle than the 42" when setting up for display. Also, 36" posters are easier to carry and store when traveling.

Larger Posters

If you want to make a poster that is longer than the default, PowerPoint limit of 56", simply create the poster page at half size in PowerPoint. We will enlarge it to the full size when printing the poster.

For example, if you want a 36" by 86" poster, set up and create the poster on a page size of 18" by 43".  We will print the file at 200% which will result in a  36" x 86" poster. Be sure to tell us you want the poster printed at double size (& tell us the final dimensions), when placing your order.

When designing a poster using the half-size method, be sure to adjust your font sizes. If your normal title font size is 100pt size, the half-size page’s title font would be 50pt.

(Some events will have requirements for poster sizes and formats, be sure to set the poster up within these restrictions)

Rulers and Guides

Guides and Rulers can help you be more precise as you design your poster.

To view the Ruler:

  • Go to View and trace to Ruler to make the rulers visible
  • On the ruler slot window the indents and bullet spacing can be adjusted by moving the markers. Once you have the poster sections 'roughed-in' you can align the textboxes, section headings and pictures by moving the dotted guidelines to help line up the elements in vertical rows.

Tabs can be added by clicking on the ruler at the place you wish to have a tab.

To View Guide lines, Go to View trace to Grids and Guides.  Check the “Display drawing Guides on Screen” box to see the guide lines.

Hint: create several vertical and horizontal guides by clicking on a guide and then hold the Ctrlkey down while moving the    mouse to position the new guideline. This helps to align elements such as text sections, columns and pictures in the poster.


Make the Guides and Rulers visible and create a tab.

Formatting Text

To add a Text Block

Click on the text box button and start by entering the title, then click the text box button again to enter the authors, repeat for section headings, the text sections, any labels for pictures or charts, etc.

You can size textboxes by right clicking on them and select the Size tab from the Format Autoshape command. Ideally, all textboxes in a poster will be the same width.

Once you have created a textbox, you can duplicate it by pressing Ctrl +D at the same time. Then simply replace the old text in the new textbox. This way you will have the same size textboxes in the entire poster, which will enhance the poster’s overall design.

When a picture or textbox is clicked, it can be moved by dragging with the mouse or more precisely by using the direction arrows on the keyboard.

Hint: if you want to move a picture or textbox in smaller increments with the arrow keys, hold the Ctrlkey down when using the arrow keys.

Recommended font size is 100 point for the title (100 pt = 1 inch)
Font size for the text sections can be set up from 24 points to 36 points. 24pt is the smallest font that should be used; smaller fonts will be difficult to read from normal distances.

Format Font

To Change the font face, size or color on your poster select the text you want to change.

On the Formatting toolbar, click a font name, color or size.

You can also use the Font dialog box, on the Format menu, to change the font for text. Additionally, in this dialog box, you can apply other types of formatting, such as type size, bold or italic type, and text color.

To change all the text in a text box, click on the box surrounding the block of text. Notice the diagonal lines change to dots. Now the characteristics of all the text in the block will be changed.

It is best to enter text into a PowerPoint presentation by using the text tool and typing directly into PowerPoint.

If you copy text from a Word document and paste it directly into PowerPoint, the formatting can become corrupted. It is best to place the text into a native PowerPoint textbox.

To use a section of text from a Word file (.doc), it is best to  highlight the section of text in Word, then press Ctrl +C which copies the text.  Next, go to the PowerPoint file and click the text button, place the cursor where you want the text to go and press Ctrl +V which pastes the text into the text box you have created in PowerPoint. You may have to resize the dimensions of the textbox to fit the poster design.


Enter text into the first text block.  Copy and paste the text block.

Change the font color for an entire text block


To make Greek Letter Symbols change the font to Symbol. For example for alpha- simply type an “a” and change the font to "symbol" at the font selection box on the menu bar.

Do NOT go to Insert_Symbol to create symbols in text. Making symbols this way may cause font substitution errors when the poster is printed. (see example on next slide for instructions on how to make a symbol)


You can Insert pictures from your computer files. JPEG or TIF files are recommended for photographs and GIF files work well for simple colored graphs and tables.

Pictures can be adjusted with the picture toolbar's Brightness controls: and Contrast controls:

Picture Tool Bar

If you are using an image as a background to text, both controls will probably be needed to adjust levels for the image so the picture will be detailed enough to see clearly, while being light enough to not interfere with reading the text.

In general, it is best to adjust the image so that the picture is very light, because when an image is printed, it tends to appear darker than how it appears on the computer monitor.

You  can also select Clip Art from the Insert toolbar’s Picture selection to use illustrations for your poster....

If you use logos, it is best to preview them at 300% to make sure they have good enough resolution to print on the poster. Logos  taken from the web only have 72 dpi and look blurry when printed  on a large poster.

If you need to resize pictures after they have been inserted into the poster, push the Shift key while moving the corner handle and the picture will maintain its original proportions as it is resized.

Another way to resize pictures is by clicking on them once, then right click and select Format Picture  from the drop-down list. Go to the Size tab to resize the picture numerically. You can also crop pictures from this dialog box by going to the Picture tab.

Pasting Pictures

If you are pasting a picture (or graph or chart) from another application, we recommend using Edit Paste Special and paste as Picture (Enhanced Metafile).  If that fails, try Bitmap.  As a last resort, use just Paste and hope for the best.

Scanning Tips

If you are scanning images to use in the poster, scan from 144 dpi to no more than 300 dpi at the size the image will be printed in the poster. Higher resolution scans than 300 dpi, will not look better and they will cause the poster file to become larger than necessary, possibly causing a computer crash.

Preview all pictures (and logos) by looking at them at 300%; this is a good magnification to use for onscreen previewing of print quality.

Final Steps

The PowerPoint page should fit together like pieces of a puzzle, adjacent textboxes and pictures should not overlap.  Also, look for blank textboxes on the page and delete them if found.

Once you have finished entering all the text and images into your  poster, use the guides to make sure the textboxes and pictures are aligned vertically and are the same size. Push Ctrl + A at the same time to get all the objects’ outlines to show at once:

Check the overall appearance of the poster by looking at it using the Fit command on the zoom list.

We recommend reading over the text and doing a "spell check", by going to Tools and clicking on Spelling.

Hint: If your dictionary has mistakes in it, you can correct the errors by opening Custom.dic and then change the misspelled words.

You can send us your PowerPoint file directly over the internet to get your poster printed. Visit our file upload page and follow the instructions. You can send only one file at a time using this method; if you have more than one file, just follow the steps for each file you wish to send. It is best to name the PowerPoint file using your last name and an identifying word and version number, i.e.  SMITH TestTube 01.ppt.

Do Not email files.  Because of the file sizes emailing can cause problems.  

After you call us to tell us you have sent a file, we will print a small version of the poster for you to proof, generally within a day of being notified of your order. If you are on campus, you can pick up the proof at the first floor Public Services Desk during library hours

For questions please call Medical Visuals.

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