Creating posters with Adobe Illustrator

This guide will walk you through how to create a poster for printing on a large printer (plotter). Refer to the Poster Printing guide for help with printing to a plotter. You can view a printable version of this document here. You can also refer to this Adobe Illustrator Basics for Research Posters slideshow created by Dr. Amy Collier.

Setting Up Your Document

The first thing you will do is make a new document. The document size is set in this initial process and Illustrator will read the embedded information in the document every time it is opened.

  1. Select File > New (opens the New Document dialog box) or CREATE NEW
  2. Choose PRINT
  3. Name your Document
  4. To costume size go to  Units, select Inches
  5. For Width and Height reference look at poster size guide located by the plotter

6.For Orientation, select Landscape or Portrait.


Now you are back to your poster. To zoom out so you can see the entire document, select View > Fit in Window.

Save you file NOW! Save early! Save often!


  1. Select File > Print (opens Print dialog box)
  2. Printer: select POSTERS
  3. Set Media Size to Custom (this should pick up the dimensions from your document and display the entire document in the preview window to the left)
  4. Select the Color Management tab, in the Color Handling field, select “Let Postscript printer determine colors”.
  5. Click on the Print button
  6. Release your print job just as you would any other


Illustrator Toolbox

Adding Text

  • Basic text entry:
    1. Select the Type Tool
    2. Position the cursor and click to make an insertion point
    3. Type your text
  • Entering text inside a text box:
    1. Select the Type Tool
    2. Position the cursor
    3. Click and drag a rectangle from the starting position
    4. Type inside the text box
  • Select text in Word
    1. Copy the text
    2. Create a text box in Illustrator (as described above)
    3. Paste into the text boxImporting text from Word

Editing text

  • To change font size/style:
    1. Select text using the Type Tool
    2. Change font attributes in the Options bar
  • To change the background color of a text box:
    1. Using the Selection Tool, click on the text to select
    2. Using the Direct Selection Tool, hold down the SHIFT key and deselect the text by clicking on the text box
    3. Release the SHIFT key and click on the text box again. This selects the text box
    4. Using the Fill and Stroke tools and the color and stroke panels, edit fill/stroke of the box. (See “Editing Objects” below for details.)

Adding shapes

  • Select the Rectangle Tool. Or, for other shapes (ellipses, polygons, lines, stars) click and hold the Rectangle Tool button until the other shape options appear. Click and drag your mouse on the canvas to add the shape
  • Select the Pen tool to draw a line. Click on the starting point for your line and then click on the next point or end of your line.
  • To make a line into an arrow, draw a line and select the line to which you want to add the arrow head. Open the Stroke panel and select the style, direction, and scale of the arrow head.

Editing shapes/objects

  • Fill color
    1. Select the object
    2. Click the fill tool
    3. From the three little boxes below the fill tool, select color, gradient, or none
    4. Select a color in the color palette
  • Stroke/line color or width
    1. Select the line/path
    2. Click the stroke tool
    3. From the three boxes below the stroke tool, select color or none (gradient doesn’t make much sense for a line)
    4. In the color panel, select a color
    5. In the stroke panel, select a line weight

Importing images

  • Photos and line drawings:
    1. GIF, JPEG, or PNG formats are best.
    2. From the menu, select File > Place.
    3. Select the image file to insert.
    4. Uncheck the Link box.
    5. Click the Place button.
  • Graphs from Excel:
    1. Create a graph in Excel.
    2. Select the graph.
    3. Copy and paste or click and drag into
    4. Illustrator.
    5. From the menu, select Object >
    6. Ungroup. (You might have to do this a few times, depending on how many things are grouped together in your graph.)
    7. Now you can edit text, fills, and strokes, just like any other object.
  • Graphs from DeltaGraph:
    1. Create a graph in DeltaGraph.
    2. Select the graph.
    3. From the menu, select File >Export, and export the graph as an Encapsulated PostScript (.eps) file.
  • Chemical structures from ChemDraw:
    1. Create a structure in ChemDraw.
    2. Select the structure.
    3. Copy and paste or click and drag into Illustrator.
    4. (Optional) From the menu, select Object > Ungroup.
    5. Now you can edit the strokes and text in the structure.


Design Tips

General Design and Layout

  • Simple and uncluttered
  • Brief
    • Focus on one main point; do not try to present too
    • much.
    • Readers will want to grasp your main point quickly.
  • Legible
    • Use only one or two type faces (e.g. Times-Roman and Arial)
    • Keep the style consistent throughout the poster
  • Use an organized layout
    • Standard scientific headings are good: e.g. Abstract, introduction, methods, results, conclusions.
    • Vertical arrangement is preferable to horizontal layout so that the reader is not required to walk back and forth to read each section.
    • 3-4 columns are good
    • The reader should not need a road map to negotiate your poster!

Text Guidelines

  • Title
    • Lettering about 2.5-5 cm high (about 100-144 pt.)
    • Should be readable from 5-7 m away. (You’re trying
    • to attract a reader from across the room!)
    • Authors’ names and affiliations slightly smaller
  • Headings
    • Lettering 1-3 cm high (36-72 pt.)
  • Body
    • Should be readable from 2 m away
    • Minimum size: 18 pt.
    • Keep it brief
    • Use left-justified rather than full-justified type
  • Use Cross-platform Fonts (like Arial, Times New Roman)

Graphics Guidelines

  • If possible, display data with simple graphs rather than complex tables.
  • Remove all non-essential information from graphs (e.g. topics not discussed by the poster)
  • Use colors, but use them judiciously (2-3 colors can add a lot; many more colors can be a distraction)
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