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Why you should submit vector graphics for publications

Many scientific graphics are vector based, such as data plots and visualizations generated in Origin, Matlab, or Excel, chemical structures created in ChemDraw, and schematics drawn in PowerPoint or Adobe Illustrator. When submitting your figures for publications, you can choose an image format such as PDF, EPS, or Adobe Illustrator (*.ai) to preserve the vector graphics in the figures. Here are 2 reasons for doing that.

1. Vector graphics looks much better than bitmap images in online PDF files you download from journal websites. This is important because most people read your publications through these PDF files. The high-resolution bitmap images you submitted for print are converted to low-resolution, low-quality images to reduce the PDF file size. On the contrary, vector graphics look shape and clean.

2. Vector graphics are resolution independent. As a result, you don’t need to worry about the resolution requirements from journals. You can concentrate more on the content of your figures.

Note: If your figures have multiple panels and include both bitmap images and vector graphics, you and check out the post below to see how to preserve the vector graphics.

5 Tips for preparing multi-panel figures for publications

4 comments… add one

  • alex January 10, 2014, 2:46 pm

    Further, editors should refuse to accept rastered graphics if it is obvious a vector graphic can be created from the source!

    • Yan Liang January 11, 2014, 1:45 pm

      Thanks for the comment, Alex!

  • Bill Wilson May 13, 2014, 10:17 pm

    I agree strongly that vector graphics should be used — even required — for most figures in scientific publications. But how do you generate a 3D picture of a molecule from Chem3D, Gaussian, or PCMODEL? Over a decade ago I could save atomic coordinates in a file format that could be opened by an ancient Mac version of Chem3D, and that Chem3D could make an EPS or PDF file that could be opened in Illustrator. Even a stero view could be made with vector graphics.

    • Yan Liang May 17, 2014, 11:13 am

      Hi Bill, I agree that it is challenging to generate 3D molecules in vector format. To do that, you might need to import the molecule into an advanced 3D application (such as Maxon Cinema 4D) and it will generate vector images for you. But even so, the results might not be as good as high-res bitmap images, since bitmap images can have smooth shadow gradient to enhance the 3D look. I think it might be good to use bitmap images for 3D renderings.

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