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Format Figures and Videos


Figures should be submitted as separate files and not embedded in the Word document. If the figure is made up of multiple images or panels, submit each panel separately. A panel may contain only 1 image. Panels should be directly related to each other and generally of the same type. Avoid grouping panels that contain macro and micro images or that are not directly related such as an image from pulsed-field gel electrophoresis paired with a phylogenetic tree panel.

Eliminate unnecessary white space around the image. The final image files must be a minimum 8.4 cm wide to appear in print. To check the resolution and size on a PC, locate the image on your computer, right click on it to bring up a sub-menu. Select Properties and then the Summary tab. The vertical and horizontal resolution and image dimensions will be displayed. Large figures (i.e., those that exceed a 17.02 cm by 17.02 cm width) will appear online only.

File Types Accepted

Send editable files (see file types below) in native format. Do not embed images in programs such as Word, PowerPoint, or Excel; send in the actual image file instead. If the software that was used to create the figure file does not have an option to export an editable file type, send the image as a 600 dpi resolution .jpg or .tif file.

Editable file types: .xls, .xlst, .xlsm, .xlsx, .ppt, .pptx, .doc, .docx, .ai, .eps, .psd

Noneditable file types: jpg, .tif, .pdf

Naming Figure Files

When submitting a new manuscript, number figures consecutively as they appear in the text. If an article has only 1 figure, do not number it.

When naming figure files, indicate the figure number and panel letter. Examples: Figure 1, Figure 1A, Figure 2C.

When submitting a revised manuscript, include the manuscript number when naming the figure file. Examples: 12-0355 Figure 1, 09-0875 Figure 2C

If you are submitting a revised figure, add “rev” to the figure file name to distinguish it from previously submitted figure files. Example: Figure 1A rev.

Text in Figures

Place figure keys within the figure (see Figure Keys section below) or within figure legends at the end of the manuscript file. Use Arial (or an equivalent sans serif font, such as Calibri) 10 point or 12 point font. Symbols, lettering, and numbering should remain legible when reduced to minimum print size. Use boldface font only to indicate statistical significance. Italicize genus and species names. Capitalize only the first letter of the first word of an axis title, label, or key entry, and omit unnecessary words (e.g., use %, not “Percent of total,” “No. patients”, not “Number of patients”). Horizontally align all text except labels on vertical axes. Include descriptive axes labels that clearly convey what is being shown so that the figure can be understood if it were presented without the manuscript text.  Text should not have drop shadow or shadow effects applied to it.

Color Figures

Colors may be used in the following order: red, blue, green, gold, purple, orange, brown, dark pink. Avoid light or pastel colors.

Graphs and line art should be set in black and white to produce a better contrast and to more clearly present the data. For figures with vertical columns, use black, white, and gray columns. Use shades of gray if needed and try to avoid the use of patterns. If you have too many columns consider using a different type of chart or graph.

Figure Keys

Figure keys provide additional information to interpret the data in a figure. Keys can define the color codes that indicate number ranges, for example. If you can interpret the figure without the key, then the key information should be moved to the figure legend to keep the figure as simple as possible. Complex figures do not portray information as easily as simple figures.

Figure Legends

Figure legends should be self-explanatory. If the legend begins with a sentence, include a period at the end of the sentence. Place a minimum of text in the figure and use the legend for more lengthy explanations. Place the legend in the article’s text file, after references and tables. Spell out terms even if they have been introduced in the text. Terms may be abbreviated in the figure if they are defined in the legend. Provide magnification levels or indicate scale bar information within the legend. If you are submitting black and white figures in addition to color figures, provide a legend for both versions of the image.

If a reference is used in a figure key or label or in a figure legend, it should be numbered in order with any reference numbers that have preceded the first figure citation in text. For example, if references 1–10 have been cited in text, and the figure contains a previously uncited reference, that reference should be numbered as 11 (and text reference citations renumbered accordingly).

Types of Figures


Photographic images include those captured with a camera (e.g., radiographs, micrographs, x-rays, magnetic resonance and computer tomographic scan images, and gel images. Such images generally do not contain labels. They should be submitted as high resolution (600 dpi) .jpg, or .tif files. If appropriate, the image should contain a scale bar in the lower right corner that is part of the image and not a separate layer. The unit of measurement for the scale bar should be included in the figure legend. If the image is magnified to show detail, please include the magnification level within the figure legend. Use credits as needed. If the figure needs to include text labels, the labels should be in Arial (or equivalent sans serif font), 10- or 12-point Arial (or an equivalent sans serif font). Refrain from adding labels (e.g., A, B, C) to individual panels; instead make the panel label part of the figure file name.

Computer-generated Figures

Computer-generated figures include graphs, charts, and flow diagrams and are typically generated in computer programs such as Microsoft Excel, PowerPoint, and Word. Whenever possible, submit computer-generated figures in the editable native format that was used to create the figure. Do not embed an Excel file into Word or PowerPoint; instead, send the Excel file. Do not submit charts or graphs in a 3-dimensional form.

Excel Charts and Graphs

When submitting figures generated in Excel, include the linked data within the workbook. If you send the generated chart without the data, edits cannot be made. We do not publish the actual Excel file, just the final edited chart or graph generated with Excel. If you have several graphs or charts created in Excel, submit them in the same workbook with each figure’s data and chart on a separately named worksheet.

Omit unnecessary boxes, borders, and horizontal lines in plot areas for graphs. Text along the x-and y- axes should be oriented horizontally. The y-axis label should be rotated parallel to the y-axis and read left to right from the bottom to the top of the axis. Additional y-axis labels should be rotated to continue in a clockwise rotation; that is, for a chart with a right y-axis, the text label should read left to right from top to bottom. Labels should be as concise as possible; abbreviate days to “d”, week(s) to “wk,” month(s) to “mo," years to “y.”

A chart cannot overflow one page when printed. You may need to shrink the font, use landscape orientation on wide charts, or simplify the data display (e.g., 3 letter month, year only) for a long listing of dates. Do not use vertical text in a figure.

For pie charts, start at the 12 o’clock position and set the largest segment in a clockwise direction. Smaller segments should continue to be set in a clockwise direction around the pie chart.

Three-dimensional bar charts should not be submitted. Bar charts should be 2-dimensional stacked or clustered bars.


Map images should be submitted as text-editable files; otherwise submit as .jpg or .tif files at 600 dpi resolution if you cannot provide a text-editable file. If you have a large map and an inset, split the figure into two panels and submit each panel as a separate file. Maps should have country or region labels, country boundaries, and a symbol indicating north. Topographic maps should not be submitted unless relevant to the study.

Phylogenetic Trees (Dendrograms)

Phylogenetic trees or dendrograms should be in regular text. Use bold-face font only to indicate a special meaning. Genus and species names should be in italics. Include a scale bar if necessary and define the scale bar in the figure legend.

Spanning Trees

Spanning trees should be submitted in black, white and shades of gray if necessary. To have color figures online, submit  color versions of figures.


Submit as AVI, MOV, MPG, MPEG, or WMV. Videos should not exceed 5 minutes in length and should include an audio description and complete captioning. If audio is not available, provide a description of the action in the video as a separate Word file published or copyrighted material (e.g., music) is discouraged and must be accompanied by written release. If video is part of a manuscript, files must be uploaded with manuscript submission. When uploading, choose “Video” file. Include a brief video legend in the manuscript file. Place the legend after references, tables, and figure legends. Spell out terms used in the video even if they have been introduced in the text.

Additional Information:

Manuscript preparation: Figures
Formatting Tables

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Page created: February 04, 2010
Page updated: June 23, 2022
Page reviewed: June 23, 2022
The conclusions, findings, and opinions expressed by authors contributing to this journal do not necessarily reflect the official position of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Public Health Service, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or the authors' affiliated institutions. Use of trade names is for identification only and does not imply endorsement by any of the groups named above.
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