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Designing Effective Posters: Images and Graphics

Learn how to design and publish effective posters. This guide includes sections on design elements, the poster design process, and using software to create posters.

Using Logos

It is often a good idea to include the logo of your organization near the top of your poster. If you are including a logo in your poster be sure the resolution is high enough to look good in print. 

We have a collection of school-specific logos for UNC's Health Science schools on the page UNC Logos in this guide. Please remember to review UNC's guidelines for branding before including a logo in your poster.

Finding Images

Images and Graphics

Images and Graphics

Include graphic elements, such as photographs, diagrams, and charts in your poster. A poster that only includes text is dull! Graphics can engage the attention of viewers, which is good. But be sure that the graphic elements reinforce your content rather than distracting attention away from it.

Major types of graphic elements include

  • Photographs
  • Diagrams
  • Charts
  • Artwork

You don't need to include all of these in a single poster. Your choice of graphics depends on your purpose. For example, a poster that describes the evolution of a project is likely to include photos of participants and possibly a diagram showing the project process. A poster describing a quantitative study will probably include charts.


To be effective, a photo needs to:

  • contribute to your message (be relevant to your purpose)
  • be well composed (aesthetically pleasing)
  • have proper exposure, focus, contrast, and resolution.

To improve your photographs, use a good camera, and be sure to take enough pictures. If you take several pictures in a photo shoot, you will have more to choose from. And your picture-taking ability will improve with practice. For information about digital photography and reviews of digital cameras, see

To edit your images, you should be familiar with an imaging software program such as Photoshop or Photoshop Elements. For more information, see HSL's Introduction to Photoshop online guide. 

Keep in mind that images that may look good on a Website or computer screen may not have enough resolution to look good when displayed on a poster. Images display on a computer screen at about 96 pixels per inch, but in prints should be at least twice that resolution (ideally between 200 ppi and 300 ppi). If you use an image from a Web site on your poster, it may look excessively pixelated. 

Original image

Pixelated image


For more information about the relationship between image resolution and print size, see the video demonstration at

Diagrams, Charts, and Artwork

Diagrams, such as flowcharts and models, can be very useful in visually representing concepts, structures, processes, and procedures. Software programs such as Visio are available for creating flowcharts and other diagrams on the computer. You can then import the diagram into PowerPoint or InDesign. Or you can create simple diagrams within PowerPoint or InDesign.

If your poster describes a quantitative study, it will probably include charts, such as bar charts and pie charts, which display data tables graphically. You can create such a chart using Excel, and then import the Excel chart into PowerPoint or InDesign. Or you can copy and paste the data from an Excel spreadsheet into a program such as Adobe Illustrator, and create the chart in that program.

Note: In general, avoid using a 3-D chart unless you have a specific reason for doing so. 3-D charts are often more difficult to read.

Art created on a computer (using programs such as Adobe Illustrator) is usually vector art. Vector art differs from images made up of pixels in that vector art can be resized without any loss in resolution.) Common examples of vector art include logos and cartoons. Art can also be drawn or sketched by hand and then scanned into a program such as Photoshop, and saved as an image file. Such artwork is made up of pixels (unlike vector art, it cannot resized without loss of resolution).

Diagrams, charts and artwork should be

  • Clearly related to the content of the poster
  • Large enough to be readable by a person standing few feet away
  • Not too complex
  • Aesthetically pleasing: eye catching but not garish
  • Clearly labeled
  • Easy for your audience to understand


Frequency Charts from Icon Array

Frequency charts are used all the time in consumer health documents because they're a great way to convey the number, risk, or frequency of a certain condition. The free website Icon Array is sponsored by the University of Michigan’s Center for Bioethics and Social Sciences in Medicine. You can customize the colors and the icons used in the graphic.  


Vector icons are a great way to add interesting and relevant images to your poster. There are several websites that have collections of icons that you can edit and download for free. Pay attention to usage restrictions -- you'll likely have to cite the creator on your references list when you use them. The citation listed with the icons on this page (below) was provided by the website and is what you can use on your poster to credit the artist(s).


Icons made by FreepikSmashiconsIcongeek26, and Eucalyp from is licensed by CC 3.0 BY



Word Clouds

A Word Cloud is a collection of words that are arranged into a specific shape. These can be very visually appealing and can add some color to your poster. Be aware that some of the programs listed below may require you to purchase the word cloud image you've created in order to download it.