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Creating an Academic Poster: Tips and Tricks

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Graphs, Charts, and Images

Images and graphics give readers' eyes a break between text, helping them further engage with the content. 

  • Find ways to demonstrate your research visually--complex information can be shown with visuals like charts and graphs.
  • When using images from the internet, try searching some of the many websites containing royalty free images or images that display a Creative Commons license that allows you to use them freely (see below for suggestions).
  • Always give credit to the original creator of an image, cited in the required citation style.
  • Don't use too many images (think 60% text, 40% graphics as a guideline) and be sure only to include images relevant to the poster content (otherwise they will distract from it).

Raster and Vector Graphics

Raster graphics (.bmp, .jpg, .png, .gif, .tif, etc.) are based on a grid of pixels. The pixels represent colours that make up a bigger image and are resolution dependent. As a raster graphic is resized, eventually it will begin to look "pixelated" due to the pixels being “stretched” beyond their original size.

Tip: If using a raster image, use a large enough file size (resolution) so that the image will not look pixelated when resized.

Vector images (.ai, .eps, .svg, and some .pdf) are based on a mathematical equation. For example, if an image is a vector format circle, it is drawn by the computer from a mathematical formula. If you resize that circle by 1000x, the formula still calculates in correct proportion. This means that no matter how much you resize vector images they will scale properly and will not pixelate.



Raster and vector image examples

Tools for Finding Images

Remember that you need to cite any work created by others, including images, even if they are in the public domain. For information and examples of image citation in three different citation styles, see this guide from SFU Library.

Below are some suggested websites with searchable images. For each image you use, remember to check for a license stating that image can be freely used, then cite the image. 


Unsplash: freely usable images searchable by keyword

Pixabay: free images and royalty-free stock images searchable by keyword

The Noun Project: searchable database of graphic icons and photos: many can be freely used

Google Images: do a search, then choose: Settings-->Advanced Search-->Usage Rights-->"Creative Commons licenses"

Wikimedia Commons: free media repository

Rijksmuseum Rijksstudio: art historical images


Example image license statements: Look for something like these so you know you are allowed to use an image freely. 

Image license examples