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Create an Academic Poster

How do I use this guide?

Need to create an academic poster for a conference or class presentation? This guide will tell you all you need to know about layout, visuals, presentation, and using PowerPoint to create your poster.

How can I make my poster more visually appealing?


  • Contrast is essential for readability – use simple colour, boxes and lines. A contrast ratio of at least 7:1 is ideal. Try using a contrast checker online to ensure your content is readable
  • Generally it’s easier to read a dark text on a light background, and you might find that this prints more clearly as well
  • Avoid neon colours and gradients
  • Consider using background images/colours that are neutral and don’t detract from the text content

Graphs and charts

  • Use a clear title and well-labelled axes
  • Think about where flow charts or graphs can represent methods and processes better than bullet points and text
  • Avoid copying and pasting low quality images from other files – build these directly in PowerPoint to ensure quality and proper formatting
  • If you are adapting a graph/chart from another author, you can re-create their image directly in PowerPoint and cite it as “adapted from: original author’s name (year of publication)”

Images and pictures

  • When using logos, use only high resolution logos you obtain directly from your department and the U of G Brand Guide.
  • Be sure to include all necessary logos for your project. If you are working with community partners, it is advisable to ask them if they would like their logo included and have them send you a high quality graphic.  
  • Use pictures with a purpose – pictures can be an extremely useful way to demonstrate information, but it should be clear how that image is connected to your project and research.
  • Ensure visuals are high quality and readable from 1-2 metres away.
  • Use a resolution of at least 150 ppi (when downloading images from the Internet be sure to use the highest resolution possible).

Resources to help with making your poster visually appealing

Resources to help with graphic design

Link to Guide: Find audio and images for remixingLink to Dos & Don'ts of Designing an Academic PosterLink to Guide: Write clearly: Grammar

Where can I find images to use in my poster?

  • The Find Images Guide is a great tool.
  • Posters are a form of academic publication and content (including visuals) must be referenced appropriately.
  • If you take a photo yourself, obtain written consent from people you photograph.
  • When using images that are not your own, it is important to consider the copyright of the image.
  • Creative Commons provides a search tool that lets you see the copyright licenses of images and how to reference the image properly – just read the license!

How should I lay out my poster?

Main content

  • Use section titles to clearly identify what each section is about. 
  • Use colour, spacing, and/or font to make titles and section headers prominent.
  • Think about what content you want to be most prominent, and where you want to draw your audience’s attention on your poster.
  • Common section titles follow the scientific method (background, methods, results, conclusions), but are not required to
  • Generally your audience members will read your poster from left to right, and top to bottom. It may be helpful to put content in an order that makes sense to your reader (e.g. background and research question at the top left, and references at the bottom right).
  • Consider what information is necessary on your poster. During the presentation, you will be there to provide extra information and answer questions your audience may have, but it also needs to stand alone.
  • It can be very helpful to plan before you create.  Brainstorm what you will put in each section using the Poster Layout Guide.

References & acknowledgments

  • Be sure to include a References and Acknowledgements section. 
  • References must be included, but can usually be shortened.  Use short forms like J. Physiol, Fritz et al (2018), and omit article titles.
  • Your references section can also be written in a smaller font than the rest of your poster.
  • Recognize the funding agencies supporting your research, and refer to your funding requirements for any specific content that must be included in your poster.


  • Maximize space for content by leaving only 1 cm borders.
  • Don’t have too much text / content on your poster as this can make it difficult to read.
  • White space is your friend - it can help define points and make your poster more readable.
  • You don’t need to use full sentences! Use bullets to shorten your text and create space between points.

Resources to help with the layout of your poster

How do I present my poster?

Presenting a poster

  • Be concise: practice 1, 3 and 5-minute versions of your presentation.
  • Your poster is the basis for your presentation: follow its structure to highlight important points – if 40% of your poster is Results, then spend 40% of your time talking about that section.


  • Tailor your presentation to the audience. Use language they can understand
  • Emphasize your key take-away points 

Resources to help with presentations

Guide: Present like a ProVideo: Present Like A ProHandout: Presentation Planning 101

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