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


Frequently Asked Questions: Figures, Tables, and Supporting Information

1. My figure was “failed” by the submission system. What should I do?

2. Why do you accept only EPS and TIFF as graphics file types?

3. Which is a better format for submitting figures - EPS or TIFF?

4. How do I get my figure files under 10MB?

5. How do I fit all my panels into one page?

6. How do I know if my figures will look good?

7. How do I check my image quality upon submission of my manuscript?

8. Why is my figure quality poor?

9. Your table guidelines are so rigid. How can I make my table look like I want?

10. Is the merged PDF the way my article will look when it's published?

11. Where can I find a decent map?

12. Why can I submit lots of different file types as Supporting Information but not as regular figures or tables?

13. I'm still confused / I still have a question. Whom do I ask?




1. My figures were “failed” by the submission system when I uploaded them. What should I do?

It is not unusual to encounter QC system error messages when submitting your figure files. Simply proceed with your submission. Three of these messages can be disregarded: “AQC error,” “Testing in Progress,” and “Alpha channel.” Should your paper be selected for publication, you will be contacted if further work is required.

2. Why do you accept only EPS and TIFF as graphics file types?

To ensure consistent quality and a smooth production workflow, our systems restrict figure file type to TIFF and EPS. See our Figure Instructions for information on how to convert different file formats to TIFF or EPS.

3. Which is a better format for submitting figures - EPS or TIFF?

For most people, TIFF tends to be easier to work with than EPS. EPS often have missing/corrupted fonts, oversized masks, stray points, and boxes, which can result in errors and poor output. With TIFF, if your figure is dense with information or has very small type (especially gene sequences) resolution may be increased to 600dpi. An advantage of EPS is that it is resolution-independent because it is vector-based, so dimension can be increased without loss of resolution.

4. How do I get my figure files under 10MB?

  • Resave TIFF using LZW compression in order to reduce the file size. LZW is loss-less compression and will reduce the file size by about 75%.
  • Keep TIFF resolution between 300 ppi and 600 ppi. A 1200 ppi file is 16 times the file size of a 300 ppi file, but the resolution will not measurably improve quality.
  • Flatten TIFFs. TIFFs made from PDFs are layered, even though they contain a single layer called “Layer 1”. A flattened TIFF has a single layer called “background” and has a smaller file size than the TIFF with “Layer 1”
  • If your EPS file is over 10 MB, convert it to a high-resolution TIFF and save it flattened and with LZW compression. See our instructions for converting EPS to PDF, then to TIFF.

5. How do I fit all my panels into one page?

See our instructions for combining figures.

6. How do I know if my figures will look good?

What you see on your computer monitor is not always an accurate reflection of the figure's published quality. Screen resolution is 72 ppi, which is less than 1/4 of the standard print resolution (300 ppi) and renders badly in the PDF version. A better gauge of image quality is to print out the figures.

7. How do I check my image quality upon submission of my manuscript?

PLOS has produced a short video that will walk you through the steps to check your image quality.

8. Why is my figure quality poor?

  • If the resolution of the figures in your merged PDF is sufficient for peer review, please continue with the rest of the submission process; you will be able to address quality concerns just before acceptance.
  • The quality of your figures is only as good as the lowest-resolution element placed in them. So, if you created a 72 ppi line graph and placed it in a 300 ppi TIFF, the graph will look blurred, jagged, or pixilated anyway.
  • When viewing your merged PDF file, figure resolution may look lower than it actually is, because it will have been downsized to reduce the size of the merged PDF. This merged file does not represent the quality of the final published article.

9. Your table guidelines are so rigid. How can I make my table look like I want?

Our guidelines are intended to help authors create clear tables that will not encounter conversion problems at layout. If the table has a very complex structure or contains inserted graphics, the safest solution is to make it into a figure: export the table as a TIFF and re-label it as a figure for submission.

10. Is the merged PDF the way my article will look when it's published?

No. The figure preview and merged PDFs generated on your manuscript page are low resolution and are intended for review only. Their quality and layout do not represent what will be published.

11. Where can I find a decent map?

Do not use Google, Mapquest, or other copyrighted maps. Many maps from SEDAC are under open access licensing. All USGS maps are in the public domain. World of Maps contain links to public domain maps. Important: a map that is free to download may be restricted in other ways. Please check usage rights.

12. Why can I submit lots of different file types as Supporting Information but not as regular figures or tables?

Supporting Information files are not published within the article; instead, the article contains a section called Supporting Information, which lists captions for the files and links to them from the online version of the article. The files are hosted on servers that can handle a variety of file types.

13. I'm still confused / I still have a question about figures, tables, or Supporting Information. Whom do I ask?

Email us at figures[at]plos.org.