The VRC offers one-on-one training in creating, managing, and using images to all faculty and students in the Department of Art and Art History. Email us to make an appointment.

The dramatic increase in image availability and use in recent years has outpaced the parameters of current style guides, whose guidance can be inadequate for some types of visual content. Therefore, you may encounter images with chararcteristics and sources not addressed by style guides. Students should check with their instructors about their criteria for captioning and citing images for research papers and presentations.

  • In her 2018 article, Harder to Find than Nemo: The Elusive Image Citation Standard, Jennifer Weinraub explores the shortcomings of the image citation guidance found in style guides and other guides, as well as in a selection of image sources that include the Library of Congress, AP Images, and Artstor. She states, “The MLA Handbook, 8th edition, and Chicago Manual of Style, 16th edition, do not adequately clarify how to caption, attribute, and cite images. Other image captioning and citing resources are available, but they refer to the MLA and Chicago manuals. Image captions from scholarly journals vary widely and cannot be used as examples for students to follow.”  Instructors may wish to consult Weintraub's recommendations for future editions of the MLA Handbook and Chicago Manual of Style (see the last section of her article before the conclusion).
  • See Citing Images from the University of Cincinnati Libraries, which features sections on MLA, APA, Turabian, and Chicago Manual of Style. These include helpful examples of bibliographic entries, footnotes/endnotes, captions, and credit lines.
  • For Artstor images, consult their Generating Citations page.

Whether using PowerPoint, Keynote, Google Slides, or another image presentation tool, these basic principles will help you create effective and professional image presentations.

Best Practices

  • Use high quality images
    • The most important thing for making an image presentation look good is starting with quality images. A good quality image is one that looks crisp and clear at screen-size. The data projectors in our department have a resolution of either (1024 x 768) or (1280 x 768). So a good screen-size image is crisp and clear at 1024 to 1280 pixels wide (if it is a horizontally oriented image), or 768 pixels high (if it is a vertically oriented image).
    • Do not enlarge small images you find on the Web. They will likely be pixelated when projected.
    • If you are having trouble finding the images you need at a high resolution, please come by the VRC and we may be able to help you find or create a higher quality image.
  • Pre-size your images
    • Have your images already sized to screen-size or slightly larger to accommodate different data projector resolutions (see above for screen sizes) before inserting them into your presentation tool. If you insert very large images into the presentation software and then try to resize (shrink) them, your presentation can quickly become a very large file.
    • Use JPEGs for presentations, as this is a compressed format that will help keep the size of your presentation smaller. If you think you may want to reuse the image in future presentations or elsewhere, consider archiving a master image at its largest size (TIFFs are generally the best format for archiving), and make a smaller, derivative JPEG copy at screen size.
    • To resize images in Photoshop, go to Image > Image Size. Enter an appropriate pixel width or height (as noted above), depending on whether the image is horizontal or vertical. Be sure that the Constrain Proportions box is checked so that the image does not become distorted. The VRC can also show you how to batch resize images in Lightroom.
    • Pixel dimensions (width and height) are important, but disregard resolution—in general, this only applies when printing images. The VRC offers scanning stations with Photoshop and Lightroom available for use by faculty and students in the Department of Art and Art History.
    • Need software for at-home use? The VRC recommends GIMP, a free and open-source image editor that offers sophisticated features.
  • Keep your slide design clean, consistent, and readable
    • Use text sparingly.
    • Text must be large enough to read and images large enough to see; this will depend on the size of the room and the size of your projector and screen. Format your presentation for a person sitting in back.
    • Choosing a font size depends on the font you select, but here are some basic guidelines:
      • Titles or headers: 36 to 44 points
      • Minimum size for bullets body text: 18 points
      • Preferred size for bullets body text: 24 points
    • To help ensure that your presentation will look as expected on different computers and operating systems, use standard fonts that are widely available. 
    • Avoid scripts, handwriting, and novelty typefaces; all caps; and italics.
    • Consider accessibility when choosing between serif or sans serif fonts (“sans serif” means “without the decorative line”). Some people with disabilities, especially with visual impairments or learning disabilities such as dyslexia, have difficulty reading serif fonts because they distract from the overall shape of the letter.
    • Safe font choices include Calibri, Century Gothic, Helvetica, Tahoma, and Verdana.
    • When using text to identify an accompanying image, consider placing the text above the image at the top of the slide, so that audience members whose views may be partially obscured by those in front of them can more readily read its.
    • A black background behind a centered image is perhaps the simplest and most effective format for image presentations; text should be white. Ensure adequate contrast for optimal readability.
    • Keep your presentation as uniform as possible. Once you have created a slide, duplicate it to use as a template for your next slide.
    • Try to keep images centered and text in the same location from slide to slide. When text jumps around between slides it can be distracting to the viewer. Remember, the presentation is supposed to focus on the images, not the text.

Don'ts

  • Avoid distracting slide transitions.
  • Avoid canned themes for backgrounds.
  • Don’t create noisy slides with too many images per slide, unless there is a specific reason to do so.
  • Don’t use an image unless it is relevant to the presentation.
  • Don’t decorate your slides unnecessarily with fancy fonts or clip art.
  • Mac Users: Don’t drag and drop in PowerPoint. When making a PowerPoint presentation on a Mac, always insert an image from the Insert > Picture menu, do not drag and drop images from your desktop. This can lead to compatibility issues if the presentation is ever run on a Windows machine.

​This content is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License. Visual Resources Center, Department of Art and Art History, University of Colorado Boulder. https://www.colorado.edu/artandarthistory/vrc