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Figure Guidelines   ●   Figure Specifications   ●   Figure Instructions   ●   Table Specifications   ●   FAQ


PLOS Figure Specifications

1. General Information

2. Captions and Citations

3. Stereograms


1. General Information

File Format

PLOS articles accepted for publication may contain figures in EPS or TIFF only. For specific information on how to transform other formats to EPS or TIFF, see our instructions for creating EPS and TIFF.

Dimensions

“Dimensions” refers to the dimensions of the entire figure, surrounding white space included. For this reason, cropping excess white space is recommended. Figures should fit the columns of the final article's printable PDF as specified in the tables below. We will accept figures that fall between the maximum and the minimum dimensions, but the outcome will not be optimal. For more instructions on how to reduce figure dimensions, see the PLOS Figure Instructions page.

2-column article types

Research Article, Expert Commentary, Guidelines and Guidance, Learning Forum, Neglected Diseases, Primer, Review, Symposium.

* At the height maximum, the figure occupies the whole page and excludes the caption.
2-column Inches Centimeters Pixels
Width for 1-column figures 3.27 8.30 980
Width for 2-column figures 6.83 17.35 2049
Height maximum for all figures* 9.19 23.35 2758

3-column article types

Editorial, Education, Essay, Health In Action, Historical and Philosophical Perspectives, Historical Profiles and Perspectives, Interview, Message from ISCB, Opinion, Perspective, Policy Forum, Policy Platform, Research In Translation, Special Report, Viewpoint.

* At the height maximum, the figure occupies the whole page and excludes the caption.
3-column Inches Centimeters Pixels
Width for 1-column figures 2.09 5.30 626
Width for 2-column figures 4.45 11.30 1335
Width for 3-column figures 6.83 17.35 2049
Height maximum for all figures* 9.19 23.35 2758

Resolution and Quality

TIFFs must be at least 300 ppi at the desired dimensions. Save all TIFFs with LZW compression. EPS figure quality can be checked by zooming in to a large size.

If the original image was not created in a dedicated graphics software (such as Adobe Photoshop, Inkscape, etc.), do not save directly as a TIFF; the resolution will be too low for our requirements. See our instructions on Converting Figures to TIFF or EPS.

The quality of a low-resolution figure cannot be improved by increasing the resolution in graphics software. If you create a 72 ppi line graph and place in it a 300 ppi TIFF, the graph will still render poorly when enlarged.

Color Mode

Figures containing color should be in RGB (millions of colors), 8 bits per channel. No other color space is allowed, such as CMYK, indexed, or bitmap. Save grayscale or RGB files with a depth of 8 bits per channel, not 16.

Background Color

Create figures with a white background. Figures with a transparent background may not display well online.

Flattened TIFFs

TIFF files with multiple layers are not acceptable. Figures with a single layer named “layer 1” or “layer 0” are in fact “layered.” Please provide a flattened version of any multiply layered file.

Single-Page TIFFS

TIFFs that span multiple pages are not acceptable. To combine multiple figures, use the instructions for combining figure panels.

Text in Figures

Text within a figure should be Arial, Times, and/or Symbol 6-12 point to ensure legibility. EPS text in other fonts may be lost or render improperly, so should be converted to outlines. Do not include author names, article title, or figure number/title/caption within figure files.

Lines, Rules, and Strokes

Lines should be at least 0.5 point and no more than 1.5 point.

White Space

Figures should be cropped to minimize surrounding white space. A 2-point white space border around each figure is recommended to prevent inadvertent cropping of content at layout.

File Size and TIFF Compression

Each figure should be 10 MB or less. To reduce the size of a TIFF, trim excess white space, save with LZW compression, and don't set resolution unnecessarily high (300-600 ppi is adequate). Make sure TIFFs are flattened. A flattened TIFF has a single layer called “background"” and has a smaller file size than a TIFF with “Layer 1.” If an EPS exceeds 10 MB, convert to TIFF.

Orientation

Figures will be inserted into the final typeset article in the orientation in which they are supplied. If a vertical image is submitted in a horizontal orientation, it will be set horizontally in the article.

LaTeX

PLOS does not accept vector EPS figures generated in LaTeX. We can accept TIFFs generated in LaTeX as follows:

  1. Export the LaTeX files as PDF.
  2. Open in Photoshop, GIMP, or another graphics software that enables TIFF.
  3. Export as TIFF.

2. Captions and Citations

Titles and captions for both publishing and Supporting Information figures should be listed at the end of the main article file, not as part of the figure files themselves nor as a separate submitted document. Do not include author names, article title, figure number, caption, etc. within figure files.

Captions

At a minimum, figure captions should include:

  • A figure label in Arabic numerals: Figure 1, Figure 2, Figure 3, etc.
  • A concise, descriptive title

A legend may also follow the figure title, but is not mandatory. Each part of a multi-part figure should be described by a lettered panel label, for example, (A) or (a). If at any point you change the numbering order of your figures, make sure that all figure captions are changed correspondingly.

Figure caption from: Sawaya MA, Stetz JB, Clevenger AP, Gibeau ML, Kalinowski ST (2012) Estimating Grizzly and Black Bear Population Abundance and Trend in Banff National Park Using Noninvasive Genetic Sampling. PLoS ONE 7(5): e34777. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0034777

Image Credits

Place image credits at end of caption.

In-Text Citations

Figures are inserted into the published article file according to the placement of their first citation in the article. Therefore, they should be cited in numerical order upon first mention. Figure citations should appear in ascending numeric order upon first appearance in the body text. If citations appear in other article elements, they can then appear in the following order:

  1. Text boxes
  2. Figure legends
  3. Tables
  4. Supporting Information legends

Figure parts may be cited in any order in the text, as long as the first mention of each whole figure is in numerical order, for example: Figure 1, Figure 2B, Figure 3C-3F.

Captions for Supporting Figures

If Supporting figures will be published with your paper, include their captions at the end of the article file. Use the same formatting as for publishing figures.

In-Text Citations for Supporting Figures

While it is recommended, it is not technically required that all Supporting Information be cited in the text. Citations for Supporting Information need not be in numerical order, as is required for regular publishing figures and tables.


3. Stereograms

Stereograms are figures with two almost identical pictures placed side by side which, when viewed through special glasses or a stereoscope, produce a three-dimensional image.

Image modified from Figure 2 in Dodson ML, Walker RC, Lloyd RS (2012) Carbinolamine Formation and Dehydration in a DNA Repair Enzyme Active Site. PLoS ONE 7(2): e31377. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0031377

For best viewing results, stereograms should be sized so that the center of each of image is 63 mm apart in the final PDF version. The figure itself should be sized to the dimension you wish it to display in the PDF printout; we recommend that it span the width of the PDF page (17.35 cm [8.30 in]). Use the term “stereogram” in the figure title.

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