Creating and Printing Large Format Posters

This how-to is adapted from material prepared by Kirk Larsen, Professor of Biology. For a PDF of Kirk's material which includes screenshots, see Creating and Printing Large Format Posters.

The easiest way to create a large format poster is by making a single custom-sized slide in PowerPoint 2016. Follow the steps below to set up your poster.

  1. When you first open a "Blank Presentation" in PowerPoint, it will open a standard title slide.
  2. In the “Slides” panel at the top on the "Home" tab, click the “Layout” pull-down menu and click on “blank” to remove the existing text boxes.
  3. Set your “slide size” to the actual size of your poster (VERY important)
    1. Choose the “Design” tab at the top.
    2. On the "Customize" panel on the top right, click on the "Slide Size" icon.
    3. Choose "Custom Slide Size...".
    4. The “Slide Size” window will now open.
    5. Set the “Slides sized for:” to Custom.
    6. Set the width and height to the size you want your poster.
    7. Be sure to set the “Orientation” for both “Slides” and “Notes, handouts & outline” to either portrait or landscape depending on the dimensions you’ve chosen. (the HP DesignJet 500 plotter only has rolls of paper 42” wide, so don’t make both dimensions larger than 42”)
    8. A nice size for many posters is 42” wide by 30-36” tall. This minimizes paper waste by having the poster width be the same size as the paper roll.
    9. Click “Maximize” to start creating your poster.
  4. To create your poster, simply “insert” (not “paste”) pictures and text into “text boxes” and format them any way you would like.
  5. Avoid colored backgrounds as much as possible to conserve ink (most plotters require 4 cartridges @ $50 a piece)
  6. DO NOT put any objects closer than 1” from the edge of your paper as they may not print.
  7. A test page can be printed to a local printer by checking “Scale to fit paper” when printing. (A good rule of thumb is that if you can’t read the text of a poster on an 8 1/2 × 11 sheet of paper, the text will be too small to read during a poster session at large format as well)

Printing Your Large Format Poster

A large format plotter is available for a reasonable fee in the Document Center in Main. A second HP plotter is located in the GIS Computer Lab (Valders 377) for use only by approved faculty/staff/student users from the science division (sign-up for approval must be with Michelle Einck in SHL 231). Valders 377 has networked Windows machines with USB slots, CD-ROM, and PowerPoint 2016. The plotter has regular draft paper, while some departments have their own rolls of high-glass photo paper for printing for professional meetings. Extra ink cartridges and rolls of draft paper are kept locked in the closet behind the door of V377. The steps below refer to printing for yourself in Valders 377.

  1. After opening your PowerPoint slide for printing, recheck your “Page Setup” under the “Design” tab to be sure of your poster dimensions (it must be sized as you want it printed-NOT as 8.5×11!). Then click “OK”. 
  2. Under the "File" tab, select “Print” and a new "Print" screen will appear.
  3. Under printer where it says Valders 377 Double Sided", select HP Designjet 500. Then click the “Printer Properties” link. This will open another window titled “HP Designjet 500 Properties”.
  4. In the “HP Designjet 500 Properties” window, first click on the “Finishing” tab, and check either portrait or landscape depending on the orientation of your poster.
  5. Then click on the “Paper/Quality” tab and click on the “Custom Paper Sizes” button. This will open a “Custom Paper Sizes” window. Change the width and height from 8.5 and 11 to the actual dimensions of your poster (this is why you rechecked your dimensions under “Page Setup”!).
  6. Click “OK” to return to the “HP Designjet 500 Properties” window.
  7. Under “Paper Options:” it should now read “Custom 1: yourwidth x yourheight in.” Click “OK” to return to the “Print” window.
  8. Click the “Print” button to have you poster sent to the plotter.
  9. At normal quality, the plotter will print about 1 ft every 5 minutes. To be safe while the poster is printing, use another workstation to browse the web or perform other work while you wait. Some users have had printing problems possibly connected to conflicts created by other applications while printing.
  10. If printing on high-gloss paper, be aware that it tends to smear VERY EASILY, and will need about 30-45 minutes to dry.


Printing out a (partially) blank poster – check for a “ghost” overlay background and remove it!

Images or Graphs printing in “strips” in inverted order – some types of images do not print properly, even though they appear OK on screen. Delete the image from your poster, resave the image in an outside graphics program as a jpeg or tiff image, and reinsert it into your poster. This seems to happen with images that are copied from other programs and pasted into the poster slide, rather than using the insert option.

Out of ink or out of draft paper – extra supplies are available in Valders 377. If you use the last of any item, please notify Michelle Einck immediately so supplies are available when others need them.