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Creating Effective Posters

Use this guide to get ideas for designing scholarly research posters.


There are several software programs that you can use to create a poster.  When choosing a program, consider what software you have access to, what you are comfortable using, and whether or not you are willing to learn a new program.

Here are a few programs that you can use to make your poster:

Adobe InDesignAdobe InDesign

InDesign has page design and layout features that allow you to create a polished and professional poster.

Adobe Illustrator

Adobe Illustrator

Typically used for creating vector graphics, such as logos, diagrams and illustrations.  Can be used to make posters, but not the preferred program.

Microsoft Publisher


Microsoft Publisher

Microsoft's program for page design and layout.  Not as sophisticated as InDesign, but may be easier to learn how to use due to general familiarity with Microsoft products.

Microsoft PowerPoint

Microsoft PowerPoint

PowerPoint is easy-to-use and probably already installed on your computer.  

Design Software Tutorials

Helpful Links

Image Resources

Looking for images, audio, and video tools and resources you can freely use in your poster? Try these resources!

  • CWU Brand Images Flickr
  • CWU operates a Flickr account with CWU approved professional brand image where high-resolution images are available for download. 
  • Creative Commons Search
  • Creative Commons is a nonprofit organization that develops, supports, and stewards legal and technical infrastructure that maximizes digital creativity, sharing, and innovation. You can also find CC searches in Google Images (under the gear icon in Advanced Search) and other sites like Flickr
  • Google Images Advanced Search
  • In Google Advanced Search you can choose a large image size, a particular image type or color, public domain images from .gov sites, or Creative Commons licensed images under usage rights.
  • Finding Public Domain and Creative Commons Media guide from Harvard
  • A guide to freely usable image, audio, and video resources from Meg Kribble at the Harvard Law School Library.
  • Public Domain and Creative Commons: A Guide to Works You Can Use Freely
  • Written and managed by Tammy Ravas, Visual and Performing Arts Librarian at the University of Montana, this guide provides definitions, sources, and tips for using copyrighted or non-copyrighted works.
  • The Noun Project
  • Contains symbols and icons which you can download for a fee.
  • NASA Image Library
  • NASA still images, audio files, video, and computer files used in the rendition of 3-dimensional models, such as texture maps and polygon data in any format, generally are not copyrighted.
  • Wikimedia Commons
  • Freely usable media files (images, audio, video). Check the image summary for details on permitted use.
  • Pixabay
  • See FAQ under Help for information regarding re-use of images.
  • Unsplash
  • Unsplash is a website dedicated to sharing stock photography under the Unsplash license.

Alternative Poster Designs

Free Online Poster Templates