Research Posters

Overview

Informational and scientific posters convey research and knowledge through a combination of printed text, data visualizations, and images. Researchers often use posters to present and discuss their work with others at conferences and symposiums. Posters may contain embedded infographics, charts/graphs, maps, and photographs. Their overall organization varies across fields and range from sparse and simple to dense and complex.

Standard research posters are often in the landscape orientation (length is longer than height), although posters can also be square or in the portrait orientation. Many conference posters are in a 4:3 ratio (4 ft wide and 3 ft tall), however, be sure to check with your conference/symposium to figure out the recommended/required poster size. If this information is not readily available, we also recommend calling the venue to ask how large their poster holders are.

If you’ve never created a research poster before, talk to a colleague, mentor, or advisor for their recommendations or to see an example of their past work. Also, your organization may have their own template or required colors and logos. For example, UW-Madison has an entire website for their brand that has UW logos for print, as well as recommended colors and fonts to use.

Poster Design Tip:

Often poster sessions include a large array of posters (100+) in one large room and attendees walk through the posters at their own leisure. You want to make sure your poster draws in the attendees to your poster. A catchy heading/title can work to do that, but often a well-designed poster that uses visuals effectively will draw attendees to your poster; then your presentation will keep them there! Get some eyes on your poster before you print it by meeting with one of our DesignLab consultants!

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Recommended Software

There are also many different software programs that can be used to create posters. Below is a list of the software that we recommend for making a research poster. We put the software in order from easiest to use near the top to most difficult near the bottom. We recommend using a software you know well or learning the software well enough to establish an easy workflow, so you can spend less time troubleshooting and spend more time on your poster. Check out our Software Support page for links to tutorials for all of these programs.

Microsoft PowerPoint Logo Microsoft PowerPoint: This software is available to UW-Madison students, faculty, and staff via Office 365. It is also installed on all the all computer lab machines. Using OneDrive will allow for collaboration between multiple creators. PowerPoint also works with Excel to easily make charts and graphs. This is the standard software for creating research posters. But, there are limited alignment and design tools.

Google Slides Logo Google Slides: This software is available to UW-Madison students, faculty, and staff via G Suite (formerly known as Google Apps). It is a web-based system, so can transition easily between multiple computers regardless of operating systems. Google Slides are also very good for collaboration, as they allow multiple users to edit at one time. This software is based heavily on PowerPoint, so there are limited alignment and design tools.

Apple Keynote Logo Apple Keynote: This is a proprietary software program that is available only for Apple products. It is installed on all the computer lab machines, both in the labs and for checkout under the Mac partition. There are limited alignment tools, but the Keynote design tools are more extensive than Microsoft PowerPoint and Google Slides.

Canva Logo Canva: This online program has a limited free option, as well as monthly and annual subscriptions at a cost. Many of the functions of Canva are free, but there are certain elements available via a subscription. Canva files are created online and can be downloaded as PNG, JPEG, or PDF. They do not always allow for collaboration in the free option. Additionally, alignment tools are there but are not easy to follow.

Piktochart Logo Piktochart:This online program has a limited free option, as well as monthly and annual subscriptions at a cost. Piktochart files are created online and can be downloaded as PNG files. These files are usually lower in resolution than a typical poster, but making the dimensions larger will allow for downsizing with a higher resolution. They do not allow for collaboration in the free option and they only allow for 5 active projects at a time. Additionally, alignment tools are difficult to use. However, this software is very good for making charts and graphs!

Adobe InDesign Logo Adobe InDesign: This software is available to UW-Madison students, faculty, and staff via all computer lab machines, both in the labs and for checkout. Using a Creative Cloud account will allow for easy transition from one computer to another. With layers and alignment tools, this is one of the best options for creating posters if you know or have time to learn the software.

Adobe Illustrator Logo Adobe Illustrator: Like InDesign, this software is available to UW-Madison students, faculty, and staff via all computer lab machines, both in the labs and for checkout. Using a Creative Cloud account will allow for easy transition from one computer to another. With layers and alignment tools, this is another good alternative for creating posters if you know or have time to learn the software.

Adobe Photoshop Logo Adobe Photoshop: Like InDesign and Illustrator, this software is available to UW-Madison students, faculty, and staff via all computer lab machines, both in the labs and for checkout. Using a Creative Cloud account will allow for easy transition from one computer to another. With layers and alignment tools, as well as plenty of photo editing capabilities, this is another good alternative for creating posters if you know or have time to learn the software.

Examples

DesignLab’s Standard Poster on Posters with a Background Color and Bounding Boxes:

This poster was designed to mimic the typical research poster style with a background color and white bounding boxes for the text. You can find out a lot of information about sizing and layout by clicking on the poster to see the full size.

DesignLab's Standard Poster on Poster example with a cyan background and white bounding boxes for the text and images. Lots of images, charts, logos, and icons. By clicking the image, you will be taken to the PDF version.

DesignLab’s Creative Poster on Posters without graphs/charts:

This poster was designed to break from the norms of a research poster. The main point in emphasized largely, with just the basic information in the smaller section. From a design perspective, this poster is much better than the standard posters on posters above at streamlining information and being more visually appealing. However, consult with other researchers and colleagues in your field before trying to break from the norms of research posters.

DesignLab's Creative Poster on Poster example with a 60/40 split of white and magenta and significantly less text than the standard posters. No images or charts on this poster. By clicking the image, you will be taken to the PDF version.

DesignLab’s Standard on Posters without Bounding Boxes:

This poster was also designed to mimic the typical research poster style but with a white background and no visible bounding boxes. You can find out a lot of information about sizing and layout by clicking on the poster to see the full size.

DesignLab's Standard Poster on Poster example without bounding boxes for the text and images and a white background. Lots of images, charts, logos, and icons. By clicking the image, you will be taken to the PDF version.

DesignLab’s Creative Poster on Posters with a graph:

This poster was designed to break from the norms of a research poster. The main point in emphasized largely, with just the basic information in the smaller section. Unlike creative poster to the left that is full of text, this poster also incorporates only one graph here. While visuals are good on a poster, too many visuals can bog down the viewer and keep them from the main point of your research. Always place visuals with intention, and when in doubt keep to one.

DesignLab's Creative Poster on Poster example with a 60/40 split of white and cyan, with a magenta bar along the bottom of the white and significantly less text than the standard posters. One chart on this poster. By clicking the image, you will be taken to the PDF version.

Designing Posters Instructional Video

Printing Posters at UW-Madison

Please note that DesignLab does not do any poster printing services. Below is a list of places on campus where you can print posters.

Poster printing services may not be available at the locations below due to the pandemic. We recommend contacting the service to confirm.

College Library

College Library provides UW-Madison students, faculty, and staff access to a wide-format poster printer. Orders can be placed at the College Library Second Floor Service Desk (right by DesignLab!) any time the library is open. You must go in person to submit a poster.

Types of Print Material Available: Satin (semi-gloss) and Glossy

Size Limit: The shortest side can be no longer than 42 inches (Example: 48in x 36in is good to print because the shorter side is 36 inches, but 56in x 48in is not printable because the shorter side is more than 42 inches)

File Format Needed: TIFF — you can ask a staff member at College Library to help you convert to this file format

Payment Options: They accept Wiscard (with Campus Cash or a print account or department funding), credit card (Visa and Mastercard), and department funding strings. No cash.

Turnaround Time: Posters are typically printed within a few hours, but can take up to 2 days.

Questions? See the College Library poster printing website here for cost and contact information.


Steenbock Library

Like College Library, Steenbock Library provides UW-Madison students, faculty, and staff access to a wide-format poster printer. Orders can be placed at the First Floor Service Desk any time the library is open. You must go in person to submit a poster.

Types of Print Material Available: Satin (semi-gloss)

Size Limit: The shortest side can be no longer than 42 inches (Example: 48in x 36in is good to print because the shorter side is 36 inches, but 56in x 48in is not printable because the shorter side is more than 42 inches)

File Format Needed: TIFF — you can ask a staff member at Steenbock Library to help you convert to this file format

Payment Options: They accept Wiscard (with Campus Cash or a print account or department funding), credit card (Visa and Mastercard), and department funding strings. No cash.

Turnaround Time: Posters are typically printed within a few hours, but can take up to 2 days.

Questions? See the Steenbock Library poster printing website here for cost and contact information.


StudentPrint

StudentPrint, located in 333 E. Campus Mall Suite 3301, offers inexpensive printing options as well. Posters can be submitted online through their ordering form.

Types of Print Material Available: Heavyweight Coated, Semi-gloss Photo, Full-Gloss Photo, Adhesive Matte, and Tyvek

Size Limit: The shortest side can be no longer than 42 inches and can be up to 7 feet long (Example: 48in x 36in is good to print because the shorter side is 36 inches, but 56in x 48in is not printable because the shorter side is more than 42 inches)

Payment Options: They accept cash, check, Visa or Mastercard and Wiscard. They can set up accounts for anyone with a Department Funding String (UDDS#). They also accept the following ASM funding: Operations Grants, Event Grants, Open Funds, and GSSF funding.

Turnaround Time: All printing has a 2 day guaranteed turnaround. **Turnaround times may be longer due to the pandemic.**

Questions? See the StudentPrint Services website page here to estimate the cost and learn more.


Digital Publishing and Printing Services (DoIT)

DPPS has 3 locations offering printing services to departments, faculty, campus guests, researchers, staff, state and federal government agencies, and students. All orders are submitted online through their ordering form.

Types of Print Material Available: Semi-gloss, Matte, Vinyl, and Polyester Cloth (with options for mounting and framing). Additionally, they have Event Display poster options in various sizes.

Size Limit: Depends on the material. Contact DPPS for more information.

Preferred Formats: PDF, Illustrator, EPS, or TIFF

Payment Options: They accept WisCard, DoIT Number, direct bill UDDS, or purchase order for external customers.

Turnaround Time: They can provide a reduced size printed proof or a PDF proof within four hours of receiving a Print Ready File. Your final poster will be available within 24 hours of DPPS receiving an approved proof. Additional time is required for quantity orders. After Hours poster printing is available, when scheduled ahead of time, during office hours.

Questions? See the DPPS website here to estimate the cost and learn more.