Figures, Tables and Artwork Guidelines

On this page: Color Figures | Image Manipulation  | Tables | Excel Spreadsheet Conversion Errors | Supplementary Information 

Figures and images should be labeled sequentially, numbered, and cited in the text. Figure legends should be brief, specific and appear on a separate manuscript page after the References section. Refer to (and cite) figures specifically in the text of the paper. Figures should not be embedded within the text. If a table or figure has been published before, the authors must obtain written permission to reproduce the material in both print and electronic formats from the copyright owner and submit it with the manuscript.  This follows for quotes, illustrations and other materials taken from previously published works not in the public domain. The original source should be cited in the figure caption or table footnote. Do not use three-dimensional histograms when the addition of the third dimension gives no extra information. Scale markers should be used in images taken on a microscope and indicate the type of stain used. Please note that red and green must not be used together in a figure as some readers cannot perceive a difference between them. Detailed guidelines for submitting artwork can be found by downloading the artwork guidelines PDF.

It is preferred that you submit production quality artwork with your initial online submission. Then, if your article is accepted, we will not require the artwork to be resubmitted following the peer-review process. We can review articles that do not contain production quality artwork, but if your article is accepted, the artwork quality will need to be improved prior to publication. Back to top of page

Color Figures

Color charges apply for figures printed in color: $500 for the first color figure and $250 for each subsequent figure. Current ACMG members who are first or senior/ corresponding authors are exempt, as are authors who have opted for Open Access. This exemption does not include student members. Authors may choose to have their figures in color in the HTML online-only version of the manuscript and in black and white in the PDF/print version of the manuscript (gratis) by providing both color and greyscale versions of each, and opting out of color charges at submission and on the Color Artwork form available here.

Please note, for ACMG members claiming a color fee waiver, color figures in the printed journal are at the managing editor’s discretion.

Color figures for production must be supplied in the following format:

Minimum resolutions:

Halftone images

300 dpi (dots per inch)

Color images

300 dpi saved as CMYK

Images containing text

400 dpi

Line art

1,000 dpi


Figure width - single image

86 mm (should be able to fit into a single column of the printed journal)

Figure width - multi-part image

178 mm (should be able to fit into a double column of the printed journal)

Text size

8 point (should be readable after reduction - avoid large type or thick lines)

Line width

Between 0.5 and 1 point

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Image Manipulation 

Images submitted with a manuscript for review should be minimally processed. Authors should retain their unprocessed data and metafiles, as Editors may require them to aid in manuscript evaluation. If unprocessed data is available, manuscript evaluation may be stalled until the issue is resolved.

A certain degree of image processing is acceptable for publication (and for some experiments, fields and techniques is unavoidable), but the final image must correctly represent the original data and conform to community standards. The guidelines below will aid in accurate data presentation at the image processing level.

  • Authors should list all image acquisition tools and image processing software pack- ages used. Authors should document key image-gathering settings and processing manipulations in the Materials and Methods section.
  • Images gathered at different times or from different locations should not be combined into a single image, unless it is stated that the resultant image is a product of time-averaged data or a time-lapse sequence. If juxtaposing images is essential, the borders should be clearly demarcated in the figure and described in the legend.
  • Touch-up tools, such as cloning and healing tools in Photoshop, or any feature that deliberately obscures manipulations are to be avoided.
  • Processing (such as changing brightness and contrast) is appropriate only when it is applied equally across the entire image and is applied equally to controls. Contrast should not be adjusted so that data disappears.
  • Excessive manipulations, such as processing to emphasize one region in the image at the expense of others (for example, through the use of a biased choice of threshold settings), is inappropriate, as is emphasizing experimental data relative to the control.
  • Positive and negative controls, as well as molecular size markers, should be included on each gel and blot—either in the main figure or an expanded data supplementary figure. The display of cropped gels and blots in the main paper is encouraged if it improves the clarity and conciseness of the presentation. In such cases, the cropping must be mentioned in the figure legend.
  • Vertically sliced gels that juxtapose lanes that were not contiguous in the experiment must have a clear separation or a black line delineating the boundary between the gels.
  • Cropped gels in the paper must retain important bands.
  • Cropped blots in the body of the paper should retain at least six band widths above and below the band.
  • High-contrast gels and blots are discouraged, as overexposure may mask additional bands. Authors should strive for exposures with gray backgrounds. Immunoblots should be surrounded by a black line to indicate the borders of the blot, if the background is faint. For quantitative comparisons, appropriate reagents, controls and imaging methods with linear signal ranges should be used.
  • Microscopy adjustments should be applied to the entire image. Threshold manipulation, expansion or contraction of signal ranges and the altering of high signals should be avoided. If pseudocoloring and nonlinear adjustment (for example, “gamma changes”) are used, this must be disclosed. Adjustments of individual color channels are sometimes necessary on merged images, but this should be noted in the figure legend.

We encourage inclusion of the following with the final revised version of the manuscript for publication:

In the Materials and Methods section, specify the type of equipment (microscopes/ objective lenses, cameras, detectors, filter model and batch number) and acquisition software used. Although we appreciate that there is some variation between instruments, equipment settings for critical measurements should also be listed.

The display lookup table (LUT) and the quantitative map between the LUT and the bitmap should be provided, especially when rainbow pseudocolor is used. It should be stated if the LUT is linear and covers the full range of the data.

Processing software should be named and manipulations indicated (such as type of deconvolution, three-dimensional reconstructions, surface and volume rendering, “gamma changes,” filtering, thresholding and projection).

Authors should state the measured resolution at which an image was acquired and any downstream processing or averaging that enhances the resolution of the image. Back to top of page


Tables must be cited in the text. Each table must begin on a separate page, double-spaced. The table number should be Arabic followed by a period and a brief informative title. Use the same type as used for the text. Supply a brief heading for each column. Indicate footnotes to tables with lower case, superscript, italic letters. Create tables using the table creating and editing feature of your word processing software (e.g., Word, WordPerfect). Excel or comparable spreadsheet programs can be used for large tables that will be published online-only. Do not sub-divide into Table 1A, 1B etc.

Excel Spreadsheet Conversion Errors

Excel spreadsheets, when used with default settings, can convert gene names to dates and floating point numbers (see references: “Mistaken Identifiers: Gene name errors can be introduced inadvertently when using Excel in bioinformatics” and “Gene name errors are widespread in the scientific literature”). Zeeberg et al. details several options on how to avoid these errors.

We therefore ask the authors to check carefully any Excel Spreadsheets being submitted as files, both at review and at publication (especially for supplementary files), for these type of errors. Back to top of page

Supplementary Information

Supplementary information is material directly relevant to the conclusion of an article that cannot be included in the printed version owing to space or format constraints. It is posted on the journal’s web site exactly as submitted by the author(s), not copy edited and linked to the article when the article is published.  It may consist of data files, graphics, movies, or extensive tables.

The printed article must be complete and self-explanatory without the supplementary information. Supplementary information enhances a reader’s understanding of the paper but should not essential to that understanding.

Supplementary information must be supplied to the editorial office in its final form for peer review.

Supplementary information should be cited in the text as “Figure S1, S2, etc.” “Table S1, S2, etc.” or “Supplementary Materials and Methods.”

Please supply the supplementary information via Editorial Manager, the electronic manuscript submission and tracking system, in an acceptable file format (see below).

Accepted file formats:

  • Quick Time files (.mov)
  • Graphical image files (.gif)
  • HTML files (.html)
  • MPEG movie files (.mpg)
  • JPEG image files (.jpg)
  • Sound files (.wav)
  • Plain ASCII text (.txt)
  • Acrobat files (.pdf)
  • MS Word documents (.doc)
  • Postscript files (.ps)
  • PowerPoint files (.ppt)
  • MS Excel spreadsheet documents (.xls) Please see formatting of Excel files and Gene Names

We cannot accept TeX or LaTeX.

File sizes must be as small as possible, so that they can be downloaded quickly. Images should not exceed 640 x 480 pixels (9 x 6.8 inches at 72 pixels per inch) but we would recommend 480 x 360 pixels as the maximum frame size for movies. We would also recommend a frame rate of 15 frames per second. If applicable to the presentation of the supplementary information, use a 256 color palette. Please consider the use of the lower specification for all of these points if the supplementary information can still be represented clearly. Our recommended maximum data rate is 150 KB/s.

Please note: We do not allow the resupplying of Supplementary Information files for style reasons after a paper has been exported in production, unless there is a serious error that affects the science and, if by not replacing, it would lead to a formal correction once the paper has been published. In these cases, we would make an exception and replace the file; however, there are very few instances where a Supplementary Information file would be corrected post publication. Back to top of page

Last Updated: July 2019