One of my favorite conference activities is attending poster sessions. I especially love hearing from undergraduates about their research. The topic isn’t even that important to me. In fact, the less I know about the topic, the more fun it is for me to listen and the more questions I get to ask. “Wait. I’m not familiar with that construct. Can you explain what that is?”

While I enjoy posters, it pains me to see conference attendees carrying around tubes, wrestling with getting posters in and out of tubes, and forgetting tubes in airplane overhead bins.

Fabric posters have been around for a while. These hold a number of advantages over their paper counterparts. Fabric posters can be folded up in your carryon, won’t tear, and when printed on the right kind of fabric, make lovely (and nerdy) scarves. Many services that make fabric posters charge over $100 for a 56″ x 36″ poster. That makes them much less attractive.

Did you know that you can have a 56″ x 36″ fabric poster made and delivered for under $25? Check out Spoonflower. (Shout out to Suzie Baker for telling me about this service – and, frankly, I was envious of her poster scarf in the brisk March wind of Philadelphia on the last evening of the Eastern Psychological Association conference.)

Spoonflower will custom print fabric, giftwrap, or wallpaper. While I love the image of conference posters printed on wallpaper and giftwrap, let’s stick with the fabric for the purposes of this post.

Before designing your poster, check the conference website or the email you received from the conference organizer to find out how big the conference poster boards are. Be sure to design your poster to fit in that space.

You can find detailed instructions on how to go from a poster designed in PowerPoint to a Spoonflower-made, fabric poster in your mailbox. If you are on the main Spoonflower page, mouse over “Design,” select “Upload,” choose your file, check the box to confirm that you own the copyright, and then click upload. Otherwise do as the instructions say.

[Ridiculously important note: When you save your PowerPoint as a pdf, do it as “save as” pdf. Do not “print to pdf.” They sound the same, but for this purpose they are not the same. “Print to pdf” will get you a poster that is half the size you ultimately want. “Save as” yields a poster that is the correct size. It took me 45 minutes of troubleshooting to learn that. You’re welcome.]

The recommended “performance piqué” fabric is $20/yard. You only need 1 yard – and you’ll get 10% off for creating a design. Now you’re at $18. Standard shipping ($3) will ship in “10 to 12 days,” and of course it will need some time to get to you. The Spoonflower pricing page says that the standard shipping will take 7 days to get to you once it ships. In other words, be sure to give them 3 weeks before you have to leave for your conference. The total cost is $21.

If you procrastinate, it will cost you. The conference will be over in 3 weeks? You can have your fabric poster in about a week and a half for $15 shipping. If you need it in 4 or 5 days, it’s $25 shipping. Frankly, $43 (18+25) is still a lot cheaper than the other poster printing services I’ve seen – and you get your poster by the end of the week. If you’re a big-time procrastinator – or if you keep making changes up to the morning you need to leave, stick with printing on paper.

While I’m here, here’s a quick plug for Better Posters for those who are ready to up your game. Poster quality at conferences seems to be getting better, but we all have room for improvement.

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