Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

Poster Session

This guide will assist you with creating posters for class (and other) presentations.

Basic Design

Design layout by Colin Purrington - See the "Templates" page for more details

Design and Layout

The most standard poster size is 3 feet tall x 4 feet wide (36 inches by 48 inches).  


Your poster may be flat or tri-fold. Tri fold posters are bent into three columns so that they can stand freely on a table. This design will draw people’s eyes in toward the center column of the board.


You absolutely should draw a simple version of your poster before putting it together, like a rough draft. This will give you a chance to rearrange things as you need.

Parts of Your Poster


A poster should include a “banner” at the top. This is where you put your title, author, college or class, and the date of the presentation or semester.


The title needs to be big. People should be able to read it from several feet away.



Below the banner, a poster usually includes three or four columns of content, though you can arrange yours in any way that’s appropriate for your professor, class, or subject. Use large headings for each column or section.

Basic Rules

  • Strive to achieve a simple look.  
  • No single part of the poster should stand out more than the other parts.
  • Use color! Posters are meant to be attractive. But don’t overdo it. Too many colors or colors that are obnoxiously bright will make people look away. Use similar or matching colors throughout the poster.
  • Include a margin of at least an inch along all edges. Be sure to include enough plain background space. If a poster has too many pictures or too much text, it can be overwhelming. Remember, less is more, and simplicity is your friend.  
  • Make sure all of your headings, titles, subtitles, etc. are consistent.

About Boards

Boards are usually foam board, heavy card stock style paper, or cardboard, and you can get them in virtually any color. For most scholastic presentations – especially science presentations – you want your board to be black or white. If you wish to use a colored board, make sure that it is not so bright as to be distracting.


Almost any office supply store, craft store, drug store, or big box store like Target carries a variety of boards. Your school bookstore might, too!

About Text

Use only one font throughout your poster. It should be a standard font: Times New Roman, Calibri, San Serif, Arial, Helvetica etc.


Your text should be black unless you have a compelling reason for it not to be. It should never be a bright or light color – no one reads yellow text!


About Images (A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words)

Images include photographs, drawings, graphics, charts, diagrams, or any visual representation of information. You absolutely need to have images in your poster. If it were only text, you’d be writing an essay!


All your images should be clearly labeled and easy to “read.” Make sure they are large enough and clear enough that people won’t need to strain to see what they are.


Make all of your images about the same size, unless you specifically want to emphasis some over others.


Distribute the content and images in the poster so that it looks balanced. For example, don’t have all of your pictures along the right side. 


For websites where you can get images for you poster, please go to the Resoures Tab!

A Word on Copyright

If you use images or text from the internet, be careful to avoid any copyright law issues. The easiest ways to do this are to:

  • Use sources that are licensed as Creative Commons.
  • Ask permission from the source.
  • Use images or text from government websites.


Creative commons license spectrum

One Thing to Keep in Mind

If a person can’t read, they should still be able to understand what your poster is about. If a person were to only read the text and couldn’t see the pictures, they should be able to get the message.