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Preparing Figures for Journal Articles (continued)



Preparation of Figures

We recommend that you submit all figures as electronic files. You should keep the following tips in mind as you prepare your figures.

  • Artwork should be drawn to at least final reproduction size (see Quick Guide to Preparing Figures).
  • Lines should be at least 0.5 pt (0.175 mm) in order to reproduce well in print or online. (Note that many CAD programs default to 0.25 pt (0.88 mm) lines, so you will need to adjust the line weight accordingly.) In general, lines in graphs should not be heavier than 1.5 pt (0.53 mm).
  • Words should be set in a clear, readable typeface, such as Arial, Helvetica, or Times Roman. The type size should be no smaller than 8 pt and no larger than 11 pt.
  • Symbols in the figure should be about the size of a lowercase “oh” in the accompanying text.
  • Lines in graphs can be differentiated by using solid, dashed, or dotted lines or by varying the line weight.
  • Do not draw boxes around your figures.
  • Set the color to RGB, black-and-white, or grayscale. If you would like color in print (additional charges apply), submit electronic files of color art as CMYK (not RGB).
  • Crop your images to eliminate unnecessary white space on the borders. Eliminate stray elements (such as lines or type) that you do not intend to be printed as part of the figure.

Preparing Electronic Files for Figures

  • If you are drawing your figures using computer software, we recommend the use of a drawing program such as Adobe Illustrator, Macromedia Freehand, or AutoDesk AutoCAD. (Do not draw your figures in Microsoft Word or Excel unless you plan to submit high-resolution scans as electronic files.)
  • Follow the general guidelines above on size, line weight, and typeface.
  • Save the files in one of the following formats, listed in order of preference:
    1. EPS/PS, with the fonts embedded
    2. TIFF, at the optimum ppi from Quick Guide to Preparing Figures  
    3. PDF, with fonts embedded (see Creating PDF Figures for more information).
  • When you save the files, use a file name that is descriptive and be sure to include the file type extension (for example, fig1.tiff, fig 2a.tiff, fig 2b.eps, etc.).
  • If you are using gray shading and text in your figures, the figure should be saved only in EPS or PDF format, with the fonts embedded (see Creating PDF Figures for more information.)
  • If you choose to scan line drawings or photographs, see the Tips on Scanning section below for help producing high-quality scans.
  • Note that graphic files downloaded or saved from Web pages are not of acceptable quality for print publication, and may be protected under the copyright policy of the Web page.

Preparing Original Artwork for Figures

  • Follow the general guidelines above on size, line weight, and typeface.
  • Do not use gray shading as part of original artwork.
  • The final artwork should be prepared on bright white paper with crisp black lines and type. There should be no stray marks, smudges, or dirt.
  • Scan the artwork according to the Tips on Scanning section below.

Tips on Scanning

You may decide to scan line drawings or photographs in order to submit them as electronic artwork. Reasons for doing so include: you are using a figure previously published in a journal (separate permission must be obtained—see the Permission FAQs page for details); you prefer to draw your figures in Microsoft Word or Excel; you have unique or fragile art. The tips below will help you produce good scanned images that pass smoothly through the production process.

  • If possible, use a flatbed scanner rather than a sheet-fed scanner. Flatbed scanners produce less distortion.
  • Determine the optimum size of your figure (from Quick Guide to Preparing Figures) and calculate the percentage of expansion or reduction before you scan. Then, scan your figure at that percentage.
  • Determine the optimum resolution of your figure (from Quick Guide to Preparing Figures) and scan your figure at that resolution. If you are in any doubt, scan your figure at a higher resolution.
  • Avoid scanning line drawings or photographs that already have screening or have been previously published. The existing screening will interfere with the screening that will be applied when your article is printed. If you must scan them, look for the feature in your scanning software that compensates for existing screening (sometimes called "de-screening").
  • Use a suitable software program (such as Adobe’s Photoshop or Photoshop Elements) to correct and adjust your scans. Specifically,
    • Adjust each image so that it is straight (not tilted).
    • Crop each image to eliminate excess white space and stray lines. Try to crop each image to eliminate extraneous objects or areas.
    • Clean up (using the eraser function) dirt, scratches, and smudges.
    • Convert color images to black-and-white or grayscale images, if choosing to print in black-and-white.
    • Eliminate muddiness by adjusting the contrast of photographs. Pictures should have strong black areas and strong white areas.
  • Save your scans as TIFF files.

Tips on Preparing Photographs

Photographs require a little extra care to prepare, whether you are submitting original artwork, scans, or images from a digital camera. The following tips apply to all photographs.

  • Select photographs that show only what is important to your text. Crop out blank areas, clutter, and unrelated objects.
  • Select photographs in sharp focus and with good contrast; photos tend to lose some detail during reproduction.
  • If you are taking the photographs yourself, make sure the subject is adequately lighted. Use plain backgrounds for objects, and consider adding an element to indicate scale. Take several shots from different angles and with different settings, so you can select the best one.
  • Avoid including company logos, unless the point of the photograph is to show a specific piece of equipment.
  • If a photograph has a recognizable face, you may need to obtain an image release from the person/people in the photo.

If you are scanning photographs in order to submit electronic files, please see the Tips on Scanning section above.

If you plan to submit images taken with a digital camera, use a camera with at least 2 megapixels—preferably with 3 megapixels or more. Set the camera to collect enough digital information. Many cameras default to 72 ppi, which is not adequate for print reproduction. Select a setting to collect at least 600 ppi. Images from digital cameras must be submitted as electronic files.

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