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Posters with a Powerful Point: A practical guide to designing academic posters

Production

Informative posters are a popular way to share information and research work at conferences and exhibitions, and PowerPoint is a simple but effective tool for designing them.

The text content of an academic poster will generally be very important, so you need to make sure it is easily readable, and helps viewers follow the flow of ideas.

In this section we'll take a look at some basic principles of text layout for posters, and then we'll look at the process of adding and configuring text in PowerPoint.

Exporting for print

Your final poster will need to be printed on a large-format printer; this service can be provided by Design & Print Solutions, who are equipped to print in excess of size A0.

Printing is not done directly from a PowerPoint file. You need to export the poster to PDF format, ensuring you maintain the high resolution for your images.

PowerPointExporting a PDF

Check through your poster before exporting. If possible, get someone else to read through it carefully — a fresh pair of eyes is better at spotting spilling mistokes.

The PowerPoint File tab/menu includes the option to Save or Export as a PDF.

If you choose Export:

  1. Select Create PDF/XPS — the publish dialogue opens
  2. Choose a location, check the export is optimised as "Standard" and select Publish

If you choose Save As:

  1. Select File > Save As
  2. Browse to the appropriate location, but in the Save As dialogue box change Save as type: to PDF (*.pdf) Check the export is optimised as "Standard" and select Save

An alternative approach: printing to PDF

Check your PDF thoroughly. If you have used transparency settings and/or drop-shadows, this is the point when you may notice some shapes or images not rendering correctly.

Common rendering issues are missing shadows or jagged diagonals

If shadows or transparencies are not appearing correctly on your PDF, you could try using a PDF Print method instead:

  1. From the File tab/menu, choose Print
  2. Take a look at the choices of Printer — you may find PDF printers listed, e.g. Microsoft Print to PDF or Corel PDF Creator
  3. Choose one of these — if you don't see colour in the preview, you may need to configure the "Printer Properties"
  4. Select Print. After the page has been prepared, a Save As dialogue should open — save the PDF in the usual way.

Hopefully this will solve the issue, and increasingly such problems are few and far between, but in some cases the only 'cure' is to simplify your use of effects.

Adobe AcrobatTest prints

Before you commit to a commercial full size print, you may want to print a test version to see what it looks like on paper. It's easier (and more accurate) to do this from an exported PDF rather than directly from PowerPoint.


Scaled down to A3

You can get a reasonable idea of what your poster looks like by printing a scaled-down version at A3 size. To do this, you'll need to print from a computer with a 'desktop' version of Adobe Acrobat PDF Reader (or similar). These instructions assume that's what you're using.

  1. Open the PDF using the Adobe Acrobat PDF Reader application (a browser-based PDF reader is unlikely to have the settings you need)
  2. From the File menu choose Print... — the Print dialogue will open:
  3. To scale the PDF, choose Fit and un-tick "Choose paper source by PDF page size"
  4. Select the correct "Orientation" if not detected automatically
  5. Make sure Print Cloud is selected as the printer in the "Printer" box at the top of the dialogue, and then press the Properties button to open the "Properties" dialogue:
  6. On the "Paper/Quality" tab select A3 as the paper size
  7. On the "Color" tab, make sure it's not set to print in grayscale
  8. OK the "Properties" dialogue and choose Print.

Obviously you'll need to use a bit of imagination to imagine what the poster looks like at its proper size. A1, for instance, is four times the size of A3.


Tiled printing

If you want more of an idea as to what your poster looks like at actual size you could use the tiled printing options in Adobe Acrobat PDF Reader (or similar): This will print your poster on several sheets of paper which you can then piece together like a jigsaw. Again you'll need a 'desktop' computer from which to send the print job.

  1. Open the PDF using the Adobe Acrobat PDF Reader application (a browser-based PDF reader is unlikely to have the settings you need)
  2. From the File menu choose Print... — the Print dialogue will open
  3. From the "Page Sizing & Handling" section choose Poster
  4. In this section you can adjust the amount of overlap on the tiles, which may make it easier to piece together
  5. Select the correct "Orientation" if not detected automatically
  6. Make sure Print Cloud is selected as the printer in the "Printer" box at the top of the dialogue, and then press the Properties button to open the "Properties" dialogue
  7. On the "Paper/Quality" tab select A3 as the paper size (though you could also tile with A4; it just means twice the pieces of jigsaw)
  8. On the "Color" tab, make sure it's not set to print in grayscale
  9. OK the "Properties" dialogue and choose Print
  10. Trim any whitespace from your printouts and assemble your poster.

Printing a section of your poster at full size

Sometimes it can be useful to just get a full-size view of a section of your poster. There are two methods you could use:

  • Use the tiled print method but print to a PDF rather than to Print Cloud; open the new PDF and print only the page you're interested in.
  • Again, in Adobe Acrobat PDF Reader, with the zoom set at 100%, find the section of page you're interested in, open the Print dialogue, and select Pages to Print > More Options > Current view — this will print only the part of the poster you had visible on your screen. Ensure that Page Sizing & Handling > Size is set to "Actual size".
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