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Poster Production: Layout,Text and Color

Information about creating your own posters and presentations.

Layout, Text and Color Guidelines

Illustration of poster layout with sections of poster marked offAfter deciding on a size and getting started with your chosen design program, you will want to think about the basic layout for your poster. On this page you will find information on how to choose headings to best organize your material, how to make good use of space, how keep your written material to the point and easy-to-read, and how to use color to effectively present, but not overwhelm, your message.

Layout Guidelines

  • Use headings to help readers find key sections. Include Title, Author’s Name and Affiliation, Introduction, Objective or Abstract, Methods, Data, Results, Conclusions, References, Disclosure, as needed.
  • Balance the placement of text and graphics.
  • Use white space creatively to define flow of information.
  • Don't fight "reader gravity" that pulls eye from top to bottom, left to right.
  • Good column formatting makes posters easier to read in a crowd.
  • For tri-fold posters:  Generally text and graphics do not look good when they are in a fold, so try to adjust your text boxes and graphics accordingly.

Text Guidelines

  • Use phrases rather than full sentences.
  • Use an active voice.
  • Avoid jargon (depends somewhat on your audience).

Fonts and Sizing

Use easy to read fonts for all text: (Arial, Calibri, Garamond, Geneva, Lucida, Palatino, Tahoma, Times Roman). Stay away from Word Art or Script Type fonts.

Guidelines for font size:

  • Titles: 48 point or larger.
  • Section Titles: 24 to 36 point.
  • General Text: 12 to 24 point.
  • Graphic Labels: 10 to 14 point.
  • Text in figures should also be large.
  • Title can be up to two inches tall.

(NOTE: These are guidelines! Not Absolutes. The final font size depends on the size of your poster.)

Color Guidelines

  • Use colors that relate to and enhance your message.
  • Use light text on dark backgrounds.
  • Use dark text on light backgrounds.
  • Stick to a theme of 2-3 colors, if possible.
  • Overly bright colors will attract attention, but wear out readers' eyes.
  • Beware of complimentary colors such as red & green. These are often very hard to read if used side by side.

Additional Resource

The following video, from American Journal Experts, provides a good overview of how to layout a research poster:

For more specific help on working with images, move on to the next section, Graphics and Photos.


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