Creating a Poster using PowerPoint

Following on from my previous post about posters and graphic panels this one looks at how to create a poster using PowerPoint (these instructions will create an A0 Poster, just adjust the size settings for other sizes)

  • Open PowerPoint
  • Click on ‘New’


  • In the blank presentation delete the two text boxes (you can change layout again at a later stage if you wish)
  • Go to ‘Design’, then ‘Slide Size’


  • Click on ‘Customize’


  • For Portrait set the Width at 84.1cm and Height at 118.9cm, for Landscape reverse the dimensions

slide size

  • Go to ‘Insert’ to insert pictures, text boxes, shapes etc


  • To format background go to ‘Design’ then to ‘Format Background’.

format background

There are a myriad of things you can then do when designing your poster. For example, to insert pictures go to ‘Insert’ then ‘Pictures’. To add borders, picture effects and picture layout click on ‘Format’.

Make sure to save you poster as a PDF prior to printing (also it’s a good idea to print out a small version of your poster before the final printing so you can get an idea of what a it will look like, albeit in a scaled-down version)

Here’s a not very imaginative poster I put together in about five minutes. You can do a whole lot more with PowerPoint than I’ve done here!

Poster example


Posters and Graphic Panels – Part I

All images

Some thoughts on posters and graphic panel texts which have been inspired by my students (who are busy creating posters about the 1916 Easter Rising as part of an assignment).

Obviously the criteria for every poster or graphic panel is different as there are so many different variables in terms of how big the poster will be, how much additional information will be provided in other ways – a guidebook, artefacts, a guided tour etc. For the purposes of this post I will assume a stand-alone poster or graphic panel (largely because that is what my students have to create, though they will have an accompanying guidebook to flesh out the details).

There are many, many guides to exhibition and poster design – some written by academics and some by museum professionals – indeed many museums have created their own set of guidelines. Below is a short and sweet version gleaned from some of these guides combined with personal experience.

An arresting image and a snappy title is key.

Before you begin to write the text think very carefully about what information you want to convey. Don’t try to tell a detailed and complex story in a poster (you can point to the complexity, but don’t tease it out in one poster or panel). In general don’t try to get more than three key pieces of information across.

Brevity (and accuracy) are vital:

  1. Be concise
  2. Have no more than 8 words in the your main title or headline
  3. Paragraph 1: no more than 80 words
  4. Paragraph 2: no more than 150 words
  5. Captions for images should be short and sweet and no more than 20 words per caption
  6. Font choice and font size is also important.
Panel Text - Getty

An informative, but clear & concise example from the Getty Museum

These two examples (from Grizedale Forest in the Lake District and Loop Head Lighthouse in Co. Clare) show the perils of trying to fit too much information onto a panel. In both cases there is great information, but no one will linger long enough to read them.

Text-Heavy Posters/Panels:

  • Title: At least 100pt, but can be up to 240pt
  • Introductory text: 80pt
  • Main body of text: 48pt
  • Captions: 20pt

Graphic Heavy Posters/Panels:

  • Title:  At least 100pt, but can be up to 240pt
  • Main body of text: 48pt
  • Additional text: 36pt
  • Captions: 20pt

Sometimes there can be too little information as is the case at Fort Popham in Maine

Font: Serif fonts can be used for titles, but sans serif is better for the main text

Below are a range of fonts all in font size 20. As you can see some fonts appear bigger than others so bear this in mind when making your selection.



  • Be crisp, clear and concise
  • Avoid complex terminology
  • The text should be easily understood by a 14 year old. Readability is very important


  • Convey only a few ideas
  • consider using quotations, time-lines, diagrams, sub-headings to help make the poster both attractive and informative.

Finally, think carefully about your colour scheme. The poster or graphic panel should attract attention. It is important that as much time and effort is put into the design of the poster as is put into the choice of images and the text.


Posters and Graphic Panels: Part II


When planning your panel or poster make sure you know what you want people to understand having read the panel. What message or information are you trying to convey?

The content of your poster or graphic panel should be accessible at a number of levels. Think of your text as a pyramid – the information should become increasingly detailed as the reader reads on.


Provide a short introductory paragraph. This should include one or two overview sentences which allows visitors to get the key information without having to read all the text.

Writing Style

  • Use appropriate language – avoid using colloquial or complex English
  • Use the active voice
  • Be enthusiastic in tone
  • Use short sentences – 15 words is best, no more than 25
  • Use short lines – generally no more than 55 characters per line
  • Provide images to illustrate the text where possible
  • Link the text to the images
  • Link paragraphs
  • Try to tell a human story. This will help engage the reader
  • Don’t be afraid to use quotes – but make sure they are relevant

Your writing style should not be complex. Think about how you would explain what you want to convey if you were speaking to someone. Then try to put that down in writing. This doesn’t always work, but it often helps identify what the most important part of the message is. Use direct language. If you need to use specialist terms then make sure you explain them.

As a general rule you should have one idea per sentence and one subject per sentence.

Is this the only panel on a topic or part of a series? That makes a difference. You might have an introductory panel and then several panels which will deal with different elements of the theme/event/object. You may also have labels for artefacts or images. Each panel or label will have a different function. But it may also be the case that you have only one panel or poster for the topic and that will have to convey everything you want to say!

However many panels or posters you have always remember you are not are not writing a book for a wall. Visitors will not want to stand and read lengthy complex texts. They are at the museum or heritage site to experience the objects, the exhibitions, the building or the site not just to read long passages of text on a wall. If they just wanted to read they could have bought a book.


I have mentioned fonts before. Generally speaking keep to sans serif fonts.

Here are some examples:Fonts

For readability make sure to keep the use of italics to a minimum

The V&A has a very useful guide to gallery text at the V&A. It focuses on the V&A collections, but much of what is in the guide is  transferable to other topics, themes and genres. There are quite a few examples of ‘before’ and ‘after’ text like the example below:


There are many other things to consider when creating your poster or graphic panel – think about layout and legibility; think of the colour scheme you are going to use; think of the images and how they will work with your text. It’s crucial that images of a sufficiently high quality to be reproduced without pixellation. Posters and graphic panels are so much more than simply text on a wall.

Posters and Graphic Panels – Part III

Reading Order:

Think about how your poster will be read. It is helpful to divide the poster into two or three columns with the reader/viewer reading from the top down and then left to right.

Don’t overfill the poster with text and images. Imagine the poster divided into 6 or 7 sections with a combination of text and images the sections. Some might have text and images, other might have one or the other. The examples below are simply for illustration purposes – the divisions do not need to be so rigid in a real poster.

Poster - landscape
Poster - portrait

Don’t fill all the available space. Try to ensure each section is clearly defined.

Have a good balance of images and text and ensure that the text isn’t all bundled together.


  • On an AO poster try to keep images at least 13cm x 15cm. This will make them easy to see.
  • Images should be 300dpi (dots per inch). The larger the reproduction the more likely you are to have pixelated images so make sure that the resolution is sufficiently large. Very often images downloaded from the web are too small (usually only 72dpi) to reproduce in a large format. 72 dpi images might look clear and crisp on your computer screen but they will be very pixelated when printed at A0 size.
  • The best format to use are high resolution JPEG files.
  • Crop images where necessary.
  • Make sure you don’t stretch images.
  • Caption images so that it is clear what they are – this might not be immediately clear to the viewer.

If you need to resize the images always do so using the corner handles (see below) otherwise you are in danger of stretching the image.



  • Stick to two or at most three colours for text and background colours.
  • Be careful with your colour choices – not all go well together.
  • Try to use complimentary colours.

This example shows colours that do not work well together:

not good

Colour Wheels:

A colour wheel can be helpful in finding colours that work together:

colour wheel

Opposite colours often work well together, but there are lots of other options you could go for.

Monochromatic colour wheel: In this case you would use shades of the same colour as your poster palate.

colour wheel - monochromoatic

Analogous Colour Wheel – in this case you would use colours that are adjacent to each other on the colour wheel.

analagous colour wheel

You may find this article on ‘The Meaning of Colour’ of interest when making your colour choices:

Other quick tips:

  • Avoid using clip art
  • Avoid placing text an angle
  • Avoid using lots of text with shadows or mirroring
  • Stick to two fonts at most. The main body of text should be a sans serif font, but headings can be serif fonts.

If you follow the advice and suggestions in the few blog posts the end result should be a a visually attractive and informative poster!