Poster Planning, Design, and Printing Information

Author: Heiko Spallek

Last Update: 05/07/2011

The information on this page provides you with all of the information for planning, designing and printing scientific posters. The details provided below will help you to produce an organized, informative, and visually appealing poster.

| Design |


Why a poster?

Poster presentations given at scientific meetings are widely used in medicine to communicate research findings. A good poster presentation can be an effective way to share the results of your research with your peers, in a collegial and nonthreatening atmosphere. Feedback received during a poster session can be invaluable in refining your research and preparing for publication in a peer reviewed journal. Other reasons include -

Information Design Aspects

Information Design is -
... the communication of complex information through clear language and design.
Information Design Unit:

... a theoretical structure by which information is organized and presented. The separation of document design into information and graphic design ...
Mike Fletcher, University of Waterloo

... applying the principles of design to the selection, organization, and presentation of information. From paragraphs to pie charts and CD-ROMs to Websites, it is a means of building effective information products.
Ken Dow, Maricopa Information Design

... based on a process view of intentional transformation of data-elements into information ... in order to obtain an understandable representation.
Peter Bogaards, TS Design, Amsterdam, now of Razorfish

Good design is clear thinking made visible.
Edward Tufte, data-visualization guru



Information Design Principles by Tufte who was described by The New York Times as "The Leonardo da Vinci of Data"

Graphical Excellence

Lie Factor
The "Lie Factor" is a value to describe the relation between the size of effect shown in a graphic and the size of effect shown in the data. Edward Tufte, Prof. at the Yale University, defined the "Lie Factor" in his book "The Visual Display of Quantitative Information" in 1983. He states the principle that "The representation of numbers, as physically measured on the surface of the graphic itself, should be directly proportional to the quantities represented.

In other words, the Lie Factor is "the size of an effect shown in a graph divided by the actual size of the effect in the data on which the graph is based". To ensure the Integrity of a graphic, its Lie Factor should have a value between 0.95 and 1.05. If the value is less or greater, it indicates a substantial (and often intended) distortion, far beyond minor inaccuracies.

Data Density
Data density presents as much of the information as possible in one view, allowing the reader (rather than the graphic creator) to ask questions and explore the data. Displays with good data density allow for micro and macro readings by giving an overview while providing the opportunity to look at the details. There are several techniques for ensuring that data-dense graphics remain uncluttered and clear.

Telling a logical narrative with a simple design and complex data can transport, inform and delight viewers in ways that can't be conveyed even with a published paper or abstract. Properly executed, the scientific poster becomes a visual experience that repays over and over again. (from SciFor Guidelines)


Hue for Quantities
Color (hue) is frequently used to represent density or quantity especially in geographic maps, satellite photographs, and medical imagery. But hue is a substitutive representation, and the values of interest are usually additive scales. Hence hue is inappropriate for this purpose. The use of hue should lead to interpretive difficulties. Many colorful scientific graphics, usually generated by a computer, use different hues to represent numerical value. These graphics force the viewer to keep referring to the legend that gives the mapping between the additive scale of interest and the hues.
Density, saturation, or brightness would provide a superior representation.
(from: Things That Make Us Smart by Donald A. Norman. Cambridge, MA: Perseus Books, 1993.)

Naturalness Principle
Experiential cognition is aided when the properties of the representation match the properties of the thing being represented. Representations that use arbitrary symbols require mental transformations, mental comparisons, and other
mental processes.
(from: Things That Make Us Smart by Donald A. Norman. Cambridge, MA: Perseus Books, 1993.)

Provide Supplemental Information
Add a section on the poster where visitors can get a 8.5" x 11" reduction of your poster (black and white is fine) -- you can title the section "Please take one" and attach a plastic sleeve with the US-letter sized reductions. These may be difficult to read, but the viewer will remember the look of your poster. On the back side, include your poster abstract as well as detailed contact information and, if available, a Website address for the project.

Consider adding a QR code which points to your CV or your project Website if you have one. Or to any other Web-based resources you would like to share with visitors. Read the QR code section of The Chronicle of Higher Education Article "Using Twitter and QR Codes at Conferences"

Technical Tips

Technical Tips

Do not use glossy paper: It results in a lot of unwanted reflections and makes it very hard to read.


Data Import:


Define Black
To avoid banding in filled areas of black, define black as follows:
C=10 M=10 Y=10 K=100 (never define text as 4-color black)


Scanning Formula

For example, for a 2.5" x 2.5" image that you want to scale up to 34" x 34", use the above formula as follows:
[(34 + 34) ÷ (2.25 + 2.25)] x 150 = Scan resolution

which would be...
(68 ÷ 4.5) x 150 = 2,266 dpi (dots per inch)

For this example, you should scan your 2.5" x 2.5" image at 2,266 dpi (dots per inch) to print as a 34" x 34" poster.

Examples in Determining Final Resolution

Original Size Output Size Scanning Resolution Formula Used
3" x 5" 18" x 24" 787 dpi (42 / 8) x 150 = 787
4" x 6" 24" x 36" 900 dpi (60 / 10) x 150 = 900
8" x 10" 36" x 48" 700 dpi (84 / 18) x 150 = 700
1" x 2" 20" x 30" 2500 dpi (50 / 3) x 150 = 2500
2" x 3" 48" x 96" 4320 dpi (144 / 5) x 150 = 4320

Software Supported by FDIM

Windows and Macintosh

- Adobe Creative Suite

- Microsoft PowerPoint: If you're using PowerPoint to create your poster, follow these file set-up instructions before building your poster. Click here to get PowerPoint poster templates that you can download and use to start your poster project.

Other graphics and desktop publishing software applications can be used to create posters, but they are not supported by FDIM. These include Quark XPress and the CorelDRAW Graphics Suite.

Print Production

Printing Material

Indoor Photobase UV Photobase

University Image Printing Services

The Department of Biomedical Informatics (DBMI)
Location: Suite 301, Cancer Pavilion, Shadyside
Contact person: Lucy Cafeo/Rob Guzman (
Hours: 8:30 - 3:00 weekdays
More information: Self-service large format (poster) printing for dental/biomedical informatics trainees/faculty.

Center For Craniofacial Regeneration
Location: Center For Craniofacial Regeneration, 5th Floor - Salk Hall
Contact person: Diane Turner (
Hours: 8:30 - 3:00 weekdays
More information: A large-format color printer that will print up to 40 inches high, and 10 feet wide. There are no costs if your poster is for SDM research.

Pitt's CIDDE - Poster Printing Service
Location: A114 Information Sciences Building, 135 North Bellefield Avenue
Submission: E-mail your file to (
Contact: Alec Sarkas ( 412-628-7368 or Bill Johnston ( 412-648-2615
Hours: 8:30 - 5:00 weekdays
More information: A large-format color printer that will print up to 42 inches high, and 10 feet wide.
Cost: $5 per square foot at the finished size, plus a $15 setup/trimming charge.

Their turnaround for posters is 48 hours. They only charge the setup fee once on each order, so if you have colleagues in your department attending the same conference (and using the same account number), encourage them to submit their posters at the same time to save money.

Commercial Image Printing Services
4-color digital offset printing, large format poster printing, color laser copies, color photo prints, hi-res scanning, film & optical camera services, design & prepress services
Typically, printing can be accomplished within 24 hours.
Example: Indoor Photobase, 59''x96'', $177.00 (plus shipping & tax)
Connected to some of the top commercial printers in the industry, prints on the best commercial printing presses using the best inks (including raised ink or "thermography"), printed on the best professional paper stock, various shipping methods available.

FedEx Office
full-service color and black & white digital printing, poster-size enlargements, banners & signs also available
pick-up in as little as four hours, delivery via courier or FedEx Pay online or in a branch
4-color digital printing, full color printing of ALL digital file formats, catalogs, booklets, letterhead, postcards, brochures. Print, fold, ships order within 5 days of your proof approval



If your file is too large in size (over 10Mb) to share by email, Adobe Acrobat PDFs are the popular choices for creation and mass-distribution of files. Adobe Acrobat allows you to turn documents into electronic files that can be controlled and securely distributed by the creator. You can create PDF documents from any application that prints, including one-button conversion from Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, Publisher, and Access, as well as Firefox and Internet Explorer - without ever leaving your authoring application.

Poster Design and Production Resources

These PowerPoint template files will get your project started quickly. The School of Dental Medicine background is already integrated into the file. All you will need to do is add your data and images. There are two sizes available, 36 x 48 inches and 36 x 56 inches. If you are using an older version of Microsoft PowerPoint (1997 - 2003) choose the 2003 version of the template. Otherwise, select the 2007 version. Save the template files to your computer by right-clicking the file link and select Save Target As... (Internet Explorer) or Save Link As... (Firefox).

SDM Poster Template 36 x 48 - 2003
SDM Poster Template 36 x 56 - 2003
SDM Poster Template 36 x 48 - 2007
SDM Poster Template 36 x 56 - 2007

Here is a great example of a finished scientific poster file using PowerPoint and the 36 x 56 format. You can download and view the PowerPoint file or click and view the Acrobat PDF version of the file.

Poster Example - PowerPoint
Poster Example - Acrobat PDF

If you have never produced a scientific poster, read this two part series called The Art and Science of Poster Preparation. It provides information which will help you plan and design a poster that is a great communication tool and visually engaging as well.

The Art and Science of Poster Preparation - Part 1
The Art and Science of Poster Preparation - Part 2

More Resources ...

Guidelines for Creating a Research Poster
This site provided sample posters, research poster templates, tutorial and other resources to get your poster project going.

History Flow
Example of visualizing dynamic, evolving documents and the interactions of multiple collaborating authors

Poster Presentation of Research Work
Describes nicely the entire process of poster design from data gathering up to the proof reading.

Ten Simple Rules for a Good Poster Presentation
Thomas C Erren, Philip E Bourne

F1000 Posters
Browse and collect poster design ideas from other poster authors.

Poster Perfect
How to drive home your science with a visually pleasing poster.


Let me know if you have additional poster design resources, thus I can update this section.
Heiko Spallek: