I can usually recognize a poster that has been made in PowerPoint because nothing lines up. This is part PowerPoint’s fault, but not entirely. If you must use PowerPoint to make your poster (even though you shouldn’t), here’s how to make it look like it was done in a real graphics package.
Click to enlarge any of these images.
First, turn on the grid. Under the View tab, select the “Gridlines” button (just to the left of the magnifying glass).
The default grid size is a strange value: one twelfth of an inch. (Page layout is about the only part of my life where I routinely use Imperial measurements.) You can change the grid size by bringing up the Grid Dialogue box (the little pop-out button is just underneath the button you clicked to get gridlines).
If you drop down the “Spacing,” it will show your options for grid size in fractions rather than decimals.
I usually find it much easier to work with a coarser grid. Grid spacing at one quarter inch makes it easier and faster to align things.
PowerPoint has two “guides” that cross the vertical and horizontal center of the page. Because they cannot be changed, they are useless for most purposes.
As a work around, I draw in my own guidelines for columns and such using the line tool. This takes a bit of calculation, since you have to work out the exact position of each line in advance, and can’t tell PowerPoint you want a three column grid, like you can with Publisher.
After you create your guidelines, you can start dropping in your text and pictures, safe in the knowledge it makes it much easier to get everything with a consistent width.
But after you’ve laid everything out, you have to remember to go back and delete all the guidelines you had for the margins and between the columns.
If you are very careful and consistent, you can make a poster in PowerPoint that looks like it was done in a proper graphics package.
For examples of what you can do with PowerPoint, check out this post at the I was lost but now I live here blog and the featured artwork. Or some of the artwork at PowerPoint Heaven. I particularly like this portrait of Jack Sparrow from the Pirates of the Carribean films (ZIP file) and this anime girl (ZIP file).
It’s a long, long way from yellow bullet points on a blue background. I think you have to work to hard for these results, but I am nevertheless impressed by the perseverance of the artists!
The importance of alignment