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How to select the best images for your scientific poster

Image of a scientific conference poster surrounded by scientific figures

Have you ever found yourself at a conference, standing in front of a scientific poster that was clearly a labour of love, meticulously designed and brimming with ground-breaking data, only to be distracted by a jarring, pixelated image with a glaring white background? Or perhaps you've seen a logo stuffed uncomfortably into the edge of a poster, as if it were an unwanted guest at a party.

I’ve seen it all, and I’m sure you have too.

The problem is that these graphical blips are far too common. For some, these little mistakes in a poster’s design may even detract from the quality of the overall presentation.

So, how do we avoid these mistakes? Read on, and we’ll discuss some simple ways to avoid these pitfalls in order for you to select the best images for your scientific poster! 👇

With, or Without Pesky White Backgrounds?

Finding the perfect image for your poster can sometimes feel like a treasure hunt. You're on the lookout for the ideal representation of the cell cycle, or a neat diagram of a complex chemical structure, or simply need a clean logo for the institutions you’re affiliated with.

But then, argh! There's often pesky unwanted backgrounds attached on most images you find on Google.

So what should you do? 👇

Search for images with no background

When searching for images, a helpful tip is to add "transparent PNG" to your Google search. Alternatively you can filter for these images by going to Tools → Colour → Transparent. This applies to any image, including institutional logos. Some transparent logos come as SVG (scalable vector graphic) files, which can be directly imported into PowerPoint or other digital design software.

Fake PNG of Earth on a grey grid

Most PNGs are identifiable with a white/grey grid behind them in Google Images. But watch out for pesky JPEGs with these grids burnt-in who are disguised as PNGs!

Fake PNGS meme knife in hand

Remove the background yourself

Can't find an image without a background? No worries, the digital era has got you covered! In PowerPoint, you can use the 'Remove background' tool under 'Picture Format.' For quick fixes, websites like come in handy (but can sometimes reduce the resolution). To maximise the quality, we recommend Adobe Photoshop's various background removal tools.

Different ways to remove background from an image

Have a white background for your poster

Sometimes, we work with images that are notoriously difficult to remove the backgrounds from. Or sometimes there simply is no other choice. In these cases, we recommend having a white background for your poster, or even having white sections for images to slot into.

Correct and incorrect ways for adding a logo to a scientific poster

As an extra hint: If you’re looking for a University logo with a transparent background but can’t find one on Google, you can contact the branding representatives at your University!

How to seamlessly incorporate photos and images

Once you've dealt with the backgrounds, it's time to focus on incorporating your photos and graphics into the poster in a way that's both seamless and visually appealing.

Match the colour scheme

To make images blend effortlessly into your poster, opt for images that already match your poster's colour scheme. This little trick gives your poster a more uniform, curated feel.

Matching the colours of figures to the colour scheme of a scientific poster

Get creative with cropping

Up your design game by cropping your images into different shapes. Circular cropping, for example, can soften a design‘s look and feel. This savvy design choice adds a touch of personality and can really boost its appeal. Steer clear of complex shapes like stars, as those will make images harder to interpret.

Different ways to crop images for a scientific poster

Give your graphics some room to breathe

If you're incorporating an attention-grabbing graphic into your poster, let it have its moment! This isn't the time to skimp on space. Avoid cramming your images into a tiny corner. Instead, make the necessary adjustments to your layout and give your graphic its own dedicated section on the poster. By doing this, not only do you allow your image to stand out, but you also create a visually balanced poster that's easier on the viewer's eyes.

Space for figures on a scientific poster

Check your images for quality!

Repeat after me: “No pixelated images in my research posters!”

This applies for any images you find on the internet or create yourself—including any graphs you export from software like Microsoft Excel or GraphPad Prism.

But how do you know if your images are sufficiently high resolution for print? You’ll need to find the resolution of your images, which are measured in dots per inch (DPI)—and it's crucial that your images have a high DPI of 300 to ensure they look good in print. After all, nobody wants to squint their eyes to understand your poster. 😣

Here's how you can find your image’s resolution for different operating systems:

How to check for DPI resolution on Windows 🪟

  • Right-click on the image file and select 'Properties'.

  • Click on the 'Details' tab, and scroll down to the 'Horizontal Resolution' and 'Vertical Resolution' fields. These fields will show you the DPI of your image.

How to find image resolution DPI on a Windows computer

How to check for DPI resolution on Mac 🍏

  • Open the image in Preview.

  • Click on 'Tools' in the top bar menu, then select 'Show Inspector' or press Command+I.

  • In the popup, click on the 'i' tab and go to the 'Image DPI' section. The 'Image DPI' field will show you the DPI of your image.

How to find image resolution DPI on a Mac

Incorporating images seamlessly into a scientific poster isn't just about the aesthetics; it's about effectively conveying your research. By following these suggestions, you're well on your way to creating a visually pleasing poster that communicates your data clearly and professionally, without those pesky distractions. Who knows, these tips may even get you closer to the coveted poster prize! Poster design might seem daunting at first, but remember, it’s one of your best tools for effective storytelling!

Ready to shine at your next poster session?

Bravo! Your newfound expertise in image selection and placement will undoubtedly elevate your poster's title to new heights of visual appeal! ✨

But let's be real, amidst the hustle of research and deadlines, you might only have enough time to sort out your images. You still have the daunting task of designing the rest of the poster, and the conference is growing eerily close.

I can't find the panic button meme gif

Hold on, don’t panic! Because Animate Your Science has released several scientific poster template kits to meet the needs of busy researchers like you! So if you’re strapped for time before the conference, these templates will definitely help save tonnes of time on your design.

Scientific poster template kit


Good luck at the conference! 😉

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