Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Making nice figures

Figures are Important
http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/nature12871.html
Everyone seems to know that figures are the most important part of the paper, so why not do a little research into not only what makes a great figure, but also what makes a unique memorable figure. 

Before you write a paper, or even start a project, its a good idea to know what figures you want to make. There are many different ways to display data, so have a look through them and decide which ones might be suitable for you. 

These are some websites I like to take inspiration from 

https://github.com/mbostock/d3/wiki/Gallery

http://nicefigure.tumblr.com/


http://www.plosone.org/article/info:doi/10.1371/journal.pone.0007783
One important part of making figures is the use of color. Most journals will let you publish online color figures, but these must also be view-able in black and white (greyscale) format. It is therefore important to vary shading in your figure between subjects or variables. I found the following websites very helpful in choosing colors regimes for figures.   

http://colorbrewer2.org/

Change the number of classes you need for you data, then use the 'eyedropper' tool from your graphics program. 



Also here is a paper from nature methods, showing the best color and shading techniques for figures. 

http://www.nature.com/nmeth/journal/v7/n8/full/nmeth0810-573.html

Finally, most people know this, but for most figures (that aren't photos) you will need to build your figure in a program which can produce a scalable vector graphic. 

Corel and Adobe illustrator are the most popular but also cost money

Inkscape is a good free alternative. 

Learn how to use one program well, its worth the time. 

Let me know if you have any other helpful suggestions i can add.