Figures (for papers)

VH Lab Journal Figure style guide

  1. Total size: No larger than 7 inches in width and 9 inches in height
    Figures should be prepared so they can fit on a page of the journal. When prepared in a program like Adobe Illustrator, one should work on an artboard of this size and ensure the area is not exceeded. Working at another scale is not recommended because it becomes difficult to ensure that font sizes and stroke widths will be appropriate after scaling. The journal may scale your 7 inch by 9 inch image, but usually any scaling beyond this is minor. Examples: 7 inches wide by 1 inch tall is OK. 7 inches wide by 2 inches tall is okay. 7 inches wide by 10 inches tall is out of range. 2 inches wide by 7 inches tall is okay. 2 inches wide by 10 inches tall is out of range.

  2. Artboard size: Match the contents of the figure.
    The "artboard" in Adobe Illustrator should exactly match the bounds of the content of the figure. This ensures there will not be inappropriate white space around the figure when it goes to the journal.

  3. Text alignment:
    Proper text alignment makes it easier to re-size the figure during editing without needing to move the tick mark labels and other labels after scaling. Matlab will use all sorts of alignment so I usually edit this after placing the figure in Adobe Illustrator.

    1. Graph titles: Centered

    2. X-Axis tick mark labels: Centered

    3. Y-Axis tick mark labels: Right justified

    4. Axis labels: Centered

    5. Panel labels: left justified (typically)

  4. Font sizes: (in points (pts); be sure to evaluate this after any scaling to a 7 inch width by 9 inch height size)

    1. Panel labels (that is, a letter usually or sometimes a number): Ideally 12, no smaller than 10. Check journal standard to see if a capital letter or lowercase letter must be used (some journals are flexible). Be consistent from figure to figure in your paper.

    2. Section labels or panel titles: Ideally 12, no smaller than 10

    3. Graph axis labels: Ideally 11 or 10, no smaller than 9 (8 in extreme cases)

    4. Axis tick mark labels: Ideally 8-9, no smaller than 7

    5. Table text: Ideally 11, no smaller than 9

  5. Stroke widths (in points (pts) ):

    1. Data: 1-3 pts

    2. Axes: at least 0.75 pt, ideally at least 1 pt

    3. Tick marks: at least 0.5 pts, ideally 0.75 - 1 pt

    4. Scale bars: at least 3 pts

  6. Fonts: use a sans-serif font, and Helvetica is almost always the best choice