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Poster Printing

Grad students print a lot of posters. Every time this grad student tries, something goes horribly wrong. So, finally, I’ve documented a successful poster printing process, and now I’ll share it with you.

Background Info:
Before you even begin to design your poster, make sure you know

  • The dimensions your poster is allowed to be
  • How wide the poster printer’s paper is
  • What file format the poster printer likes best
  • Whether you will be allowed to install fonts on the computer from which you send your poster to the printer

Standard posters for conferences are often 36″ x 48″ or something close to it. Some poster sessions require portrait orientation, some landscape. Most poster printers on my campus (and at FedEx Kinkos) print on paper 42″ wide. Poster printing is usually charged by linear foot. Most poster print shops use Windows PCs and Windows-based software to manage poster print jobs. Using a file format such as PDF with embedded fonts should ensure that your poster looks the same on a Mac and on Windows.

Now, you’re ready to design your poster. Many people use PowerPoint. I am not one of those people. If you’d like help designing and printing a large poster in PowerPoint, go here instead. I use Inkscape, an open source alternative to Adobe Illustrator. Inkscape produces .SVG files and allows you to save in a variety of formats including .EPS, .PDF, and .AI. Inkscape is available for Mac, PC, and Linux. I’m a Mac user, so I use the Mac version.

The instructions below assume you have already finalized your design. I recommend designing a poster with edges no longer than 42″ because that’s the size of the poster printer’s paper. By designing a poster that’s 36″ x 42″ instead of 36″ x 48″, you’ll save yourself a linear foot of printing cost and the hassle of trimming the extra paper off your poster. If you use another tool such as PowerPoint or Illustrator to design your poster, you can still use the instructions but start at #12.

I perfected these instructions using the poster printers, Macs, and PCs, available at the Tech Deck and Angell Hall computing sites at the University of Michigan. Both poster printing shops use HP printers. Both places also offer user support, and all the staff I worked with rocked! See special notes below about each of these poster printing sites.

The Instructions:

  1. Open your SVG file in Inkscape
  2. Go to File -> Save As...
  3. Choose EPS from the drop down at the bottom right
  4. Choose a location, probably a jump drive, to save your poster as a EPS
  5. Take your jump drive to a computer at the poster print shop that has Illustrator (I’d stick with a Mac at this point if you can)
  6. Open Illustrator
  7. Choose New Print Document and set the dimensions to the size of your poster
  8. Choose File -> Place and select your EPS file
  9. Quadruple check all the parts of your poster to make sure it looks right (See Note 1 for tips perfecting your poster in Illustrator)
  10. When it’s perfect, save your poster as PDF. DO NOT print to PDF. SAVE AS PDF.
  11. Take your PDF on your jump drive over to a PC that can print to the poster printer
  12. Open the PDF
  13. Quadruple check your poster in Acrobat on the PC
  14. Send your poster to the poster printer (See Note 2 for details about appropriate settings in the print dialog box)
  15. Cross your fingers, and hope for the best
  16. Enjoy your perfect poster!

Note 1: Illustrator and File Formats
Where ever you print your poster probably uses Illustrator. Illustrator will be happy to make a nice PDF of your poster, and you may be able to go straight from placing your EPS file to saving as a PDF. If you use transparent fonts or have placed images from PowerPoint, you will have to make some adjustments. Changing the fonts should be easy enough – you can simply select the text and change its opacity. If you’ve placed an image from PowerPoint, and it looks wrong, go to PowerPoint, save as a PNG, and place the PNG using File -> Place in Illustrator.

Note 2: Setting Properties in the Print Dialog
You’re using Windows because the print dialog box will let you adjust the settings appropriately. The Mac print dialog box will probably not work. Remember, these instructions are for HP poster printers (e.g. HP DesignJet 5500) So, in the print dialog box

  • Select the poster printer from the drop down list of available printers.
  • Click on the Properties button.
  • In the Properties window, select the “Advanced” tab.
  • Expand the Paper/Output selection and select “PostScript Custom Page Size” from the Paper Size: drop down menu.
  • In the PostScipt Custom Page Size Definition window enter your document’s height and width.
  • If the longest edge of your poster is the width of the printer (in my case 42″) or shorter, from the Paper Feed Direction: drop down menu select “Long Edge First.”
  • In the print window, verify that your document size is correct.
  • Click the Print button to send your document to the printer.

Tech Deck Notes:
The Tech Deck uses some software on a PC directly attached to the printer. You can print directly from Illustrator on the Mac to the poster printer, and then you’ll do your last quadruple checking over on the PC attached to the printer. Tech Deck staff will help you through all of this. You will pay for your poster at the Shapiro Undergraduate Library’s Circulation desk.

Angell Hall Notes:
The Sites personnel may or may not be able to help you. The instructions above will work if you design your poster in Inkscape on a Mac, use a Sites Mac to make a PDF, and then use a Sites PC to print to the poster printer. After you click “OK” to print your poster, you must visit http://mprint.umich.edu/poster and release your job to the printer. Your student account will be billed for the cost of printing your poster.


So, what do you think ?

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