The instructions on this page pertain to figures included in the main article, except where otherwise noted.
PLOS ONE waives all formatting requirements until your manuscript has received a provisional Editorial Accept decision.
The following requirements apply to any figures and supporting Information files that report blot or gel data. The underlying data requirement is in place to ensure that the results are reported in a fully transparent manner, and that readers can verify results by reviewing the primary data in its original form. The original images also provide additional information for readers about background within the experiment and the specificity of reagents used. The figure preparation guidelines that follow clarify PLOS ONE standards and requirements, and aim to ensure the integrity and scientific validity of blot/gel data reporting. If you have questions about these requirements please email us at .
Original images for blots and gels
Authors must provide the original, uncropped and minimally adjusted images supporting all blot and gel results reported in an article’s figures and supporting information files. Whilst it is not necessary to provide original images at time of initial submission, we will require these files during the peer review process or before a manuscript can be accepted.
Please follow these instructions when preparing and submitting blot/gel data files:
If any concerns arise about the availability of the original blot or gel images or compliance with the figure preparation guidelines (see below), the submission will be placed on hold while this is resolved. A manuscript must comply with the above requirements, and the guidelines below, in order to be published. If concerns are noted after publication, journal staff will follow up with authors and correct the literature as needed.
Reporting blot and gel results
Authors must comply with the following guidelines when preparing figures that report results from blots (including, but not limited to, western blots) and electrophoretic gels:
The following guidelines aim to help authors prepare high quality figures and avoid common errors that result from inappropriate image manipulation. In preparing figures, image files should not be manipulated or adjusted in any way that could lead to misinterpretation of the information present in the original image.
Please read our requirements for reporting blot and gel data and uploading original image files. Additionally, if further analysis is needed, please be aware that we may also require you to supply us with your original photographic images in the original file format and at the resolution at which they were first created.
Avoiding inappropriate image manipulation
We realize that the extent to which figures can be changed as part of normal preparation can pose a dilemma. Please refer to the general guidance below on aspects to consider when preparing your figures. If evidence is found of inappropriate manipulation, we reserve the right to ask for original data and, if that is not satisfactory, we may decide not to accept the manuscript, and may also contact the authors' institutions to ask them to assist with investigation.
Common issues to avoid
The following examples are all considered to be unacceptable image manipulation:
Creating high-quality images
Poor-quality images may raise figure manipulation queries and/or result in requests to remake figures. Follow these tips for creating high-quality images:
When opening your image file in graphics editing software, you have the option of setting the size and resolution of the image. Do not set the total number of pixels to be greater than that in the original image (e.g., from the digital camera attached to your microscope) while keeping the image size the same; otherwise, the computer must create data for you that were not present in the original, and the resulting image is a misrepresentation of the original data. The resolution (ppi) can be increased only if the image size is reduced proportionately.
The list below is an abbreviated summary of the figure specifications. Read the full details of the requirements in the corresponding sections on this page.
Your figures contain three elements: figure files, captions, and in-text citations.
When naming your figures, match the figure file name and the caption label with the corresponding in-text citations in the manuscript. Example: a figure file named “Fig1.tif” should match the citation “Fig 1” and the figure label “Fig 1.” in the caption.
Please refer to our downloadable sample manuscript (PDF) to ensure that your figure captions, citations, and file names meet our formatting requirements.
Although our staff can offer guidance and advice, PLOS does not provide graphics services. Preparation and final quality of figures is the responsibility of the author.
PLOS provides a free, simple-to-use tool called PACE to help you review and prepare your figures for submission and achieve high publication quality figure presentation.
PACE will assess whether your figures meet our technical requirements by comparing each figure against our figure specifications (see Figure File Requirements). The tool can also convert figures to TIFF format, resize, and rename figures to our file naming conventions. In cases where PACE cannot process your figure file, the tool will provide you with a report of what it could not fix. Please note that figures must be captured between 300 and 600 dpi in order for PACE to successfully process your figures.
NOTE: Supporting Information figures should not be processed through PACE.
Please review your figures after PACE’s assessment to ensure that they adhere to journal figure guidelines and that they are not blurry or difficult to read.
To use PACE, first register as a user.
Go to PACE now.
If you prefer to assemble figures with vector graphics, we recommend that you use Adobe Illustrator or Inkscape (free). These figures must be exported to EPS format per our requirements.
If you prefer to use raster graphics, the following free programs can both manipulate and export TIFF files:
PLOS does not accept vector EPS figures generated in LaTeX. Submit TIFF or EPS figures created in standard software. Read about other software options.
Converting LaTeX-generated EPS figures to TIFF
While we cannot offer assistance using the software in this section, the instructions below indicate the proper settings for creating specialized scientific images that meet our figure requirements.
This is the preferred output format when using SigmaPlot. To make sure your image is saved in a compatible format, perform the following steps.
Export figures from RStudio in EPS format. If you prefer to submit a TIFF file, use PACE to do the conversion and achieve a resolution of 300dpi. TIFF files exported directly from RStudio will only achieve a resolution of 72dpi.
The table below provides the export settings and instructions for authors that choose to create TIFF source images with the software indicated.
Export your graph with the following settings:
File format: TIFF Resolution: 300 Color Mode: RGB Size Make Width: 7.5 in
Stata does everything at screen resolution (72 dpi). If you want to have a panel that is half page width, export the image at 39.52 cm. For full page width, export at 79.25 cm.
Export to SVG (Windows Version only). The SVG format, like a PDF or EPS, is a vector based graphic format. GIMP and Photoshop will treat it in the same way as they would a PDF. Use Photoshop or GIMP to edit your figure.
To get a 300 dpi PNG file for a 4.92 inch by 9.25 inch image, use the following settings.
Ray-traced: Ray 1458,2757
OpenGL: Draw 1458,2757
Export a PDF, then bring that PDF into Photoshop or GIMP.Export as Image. Unit: cm.
Print Width: 19.05, Lock Aspect Ratio, Image Resolution (in dpi): 600.
“Save Graph As” with the following settings:
Save as Type: TIF Color: RGB
Custom Resolution: 600
PLOS applies the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license to all the works we publish. Read about our licenses and copyright policy for figures.
When creating a figure that includes a map, be sure to check the usage rights. Several sites provide maps that are compatible with CC BY licensing, including:
A map that is free to download may be restricted in other ways. Do not use Google, Mapquest, or other copyrighted maps.
PLOS neither endorses nor takes responsibility for the maps or geodata from the above sites.
All figures must comply with PLOS policies covering depictions of humans, and licenses and copyright.
Depictions of humans
Authors submitting manuscripts that include identifying or potentially identifying information must comply with our requirements for informed consent.
Identifying information includes, but is not limited to:
Read our guidelines for documenting informed consent. If you require further information, please contact the journal before submitting.
Licenses and copyright
Figures, tables, and images are published under the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license.
Do not submit any figures, photos, tables, or other works that have been previously copyrighted or that contain proprietary data unless you have and can supply written permission from the copyright holder to use that content.
Read the full licenses and copyright policy.
If you still have questions about how to prepare your figures, please contact for assistance.