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Designing Effective Posters: Powerpoint for Macintosh 2016/2011

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.

Created by Health Science Librarians

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Getting Started With PowerPoint for Mac

Microsoft PowerPoint was originally designed for creating slide presentations, not posters. But it can also be used to create a poster.  When you create a poster with PowerPoint, you are creating the poster on only ONE slide (a very large slide). 

NOTE: PowerPoint for Macintosh versions 2016 and 2011 are very similar. This section describes both. Screenshots from the 2011 version may differ slightly from the 2016 version but the features work the same way. 

PowerPoint 2016 includes a few new features. Features unique to 2016 are identified below by the highlighted text New for 2016.

The following are steps and techniques to get you started creating your poster in PowerPoint.

Getting Started

Click on the PowerPoint icon in the dock, or double-click on the "Microsoft" in the Applications folder on your Macintosh.  The "Powerpoint Presentation Gallery" appears.  In most cases (unless you have previously created a template you want to use), choose to create a new presentation with a white background by clicking the "White" thumbnail in the list of themes.

Or if you are editing a presentation you previously created you can click on its name in the "Recent Presentations" at the bottom of the left-hand column of the window. 

Alternatively, you can click "Cancel" and a new, blank presentation will appear.  Or you can go to the File menu and choose "New Presentation" or "Open...".

A new PowerPoint document appears. By default, it shows text entry boxes for a title slide. 

Above the document window, a formatting toolbar or "ribbon" appears.  Above the toolbar is a row of tabs (Home, Themes, Tables, Charts, etc.) 

Set up your page and work area

Click the Home tab. Then click on the Slides Layout drop-down menu and then click on the "Blank" thumbnail. This will remove the "Title" and "Subtitle" text boxes on the slide, with you probably don't need to use. (You can also delete them by selecting them (click and drag over the them with the mouse cursor) and pressing the delete key. 

Next set your poster size by clicking on the Themes tab, then click on "Page Setup" Slide Size" and choose "Page Setup...".

In the Page Setup dialog, enter the dimensions of your poster. 

NOTE: PowerPoint will only accept sizes up to 56 X 56 inches. If your poster is larger than that, create the poster at half size. Then when you print it, print at 200%.  For example, if you set the size at 20" X 40" and print the poster at 200%, it will end up being 40" X 80".

If you are not currently connected to a large format printer, the following dialog box may appear.  Click OK if you know you will be printing it on large format printer that can print at your desired size. 

To make your workspace less cluttered, you may want to remove the slide thumbnails and a notes panes from your document window. You can do this by dragging the handles on the edges of these areas to the left and to the bottom, as shown below. 

Here is the way the work area looks without the thumbnails and notes window panes: 

Adding and Revising Content: Text

Adding and Revising Text

Posters are typically made up of a combination of text, graphics (lines, shapes, diagrams, charts), and images. To add text, insert a text box by clicking on the Text Box icon (under Insert on the Home tab): 

Click and drag on the poster to add the text box. Then you can either type to add text, or you can copy and paste text from another application such as Microsoft Word. 

You can change the position of the text box as well as its dimensions by clicking and dragging on the text box handles. 

If you have a text box with a large amount of text, you can format it into multiple columns by selecting the text box, then clicking on the dropdown menu columns icon (under Paragraph in the Home tab). Also, you can choose "Column Options..."  in the dropdown Columns menu to apply additional formatting to your columns of text. 

Adding and Revising Content: Shapes, Images, and Charts

Shapes and Lines

To add lines and shapes, click on the Lines and Shapes icon (under Insert) and choose a line or shape type. Then click and drag to create the line or shape on your poster. 

Note: Perfect circles and squares can be drawn by holding the SHIFT key as you size the objects.

Once you have created a shape, you can easily change it by choosing options under "Format" in the Home tab, as shown below. To apply options to a selected object, click the icon for Quick Styles, the paint bucket (for object fills), or the line style.  

If you have selected multiple overlapping objects on your poster, you can change the order (top to bottom) in which they appear by selecting one or more of the objects and then clicking on the Arrange icon. 

If you have multiple objects selected, you can align them by choosing Arrange, then Align (in the Home tab) or by clicking Align on the Format tab. 

Editing Shapes

To constrain proportions as you are drawing or editing an object or image, press the SHIFT key down as you drag on one of the "handles" (small circles and squares that appear around an object that indicate it is selected). 

Right-clicking on an object or image lets you access additional editing options, including

  • Cut, copy and paste
  • Send to front/back (for items that overlap each other)
  • Grouping (lets you ‘lock’ objects together and manipulate them as a unit)

Note: Right-clicking on the background lets you access additional formatting options: 

  • Ruler/grid line options, including snap-to-grid (alignment)
  • Layout options
  • Background options (including color)

Editing Shapes (New for 2016)

In PowerPoint for Mac 2016, when you select a shape (by clicking on it) a Format Shape panel appears on the right side of the window.

You can edit the shape by clicking on the Change Shape icon on the left side of the toolbar. You can either change the shape to be another shape or alternatively you can edit the points that define the shape. 


To insert a picture, click the picture icon under Insert on the Home tab.  Then browse to find the image you want.  Once you insert the image you can easily reposition or resize it by clicking on its handles. 


The Picture Format tab gives you several options for pictures, including Quick Styles (borders) and Artistic Effects, shown below. 

You can alter and add effects to your picture in various ways, including:

Adding a border or shadow

Adjusting the color (Picture Color)

Adjusting the layout (Picture Layout)

Inserting Equations (New for 2016 )