What makes good science figures?

Universal readability

Clarity

High resolution

Flexibility for diverse use

Making good science figures is no easy task. Even though it is one of the fundamental and most widely used scientific methodologies, scientific visualisation is not yet broadly taught at universities. Moreover, financial funding for graphical aspects of research, or even employing professionals, is rarely granted. Most scientist therefore struggle to produce good science figures that are clear, high-quality, and accessible. It is important to the s-Ink team to not just provide high-quality science graphics, but also to spread awareness and, hopefully, even deepen basic visualisation skills amongst members of the science community.

Below are a few basic, but key aspects to keep in mind when creating science figures. A more detailed overview is provided in Crameri, F., G.E. Shephard, and E.O. Straume (2022, Pre-print), Effective high-quality science graphics from s-Ink.org, EarthArXiv, https://doi.org/10.31223/X51P78 

Not all see the same.

That is why we aim to provide graphics that are readable also by people with any form of colour-vision deficiency (CVD).

Common appearance ⟷ Deuteranopia appearance

Some print it in B&W.

That is why we aim to provide graphics that are readable also after they have been printed in black&white.

Plate age shown in the batlow colour gradient by Fabio Crameri.
Colour appearance ⟷ B&W appearance

Background matters.

That is why we aim to provide graphics that are either suitable, or have different versions, for both light and dark backgrounds.

Plate age shown in the batlow colour gradient by Fabio Crameri.
Light-background version ⟷ Dark-background version

The example figure (available from s-ink.org/ocean-plate-age) is showing the ocean-plate age using the Scientific colour map batlow (Crameri 2018) on a custom Interrupted Mollweide map projection from Crameri et al. (2020).

Open-access tools to create good science figures

Scientific colour maps

Perceptually uniform, colour-vision deficiency friendly colour palettes.

DiVA

Fully automated effective plot design and image file creation for MatLab.

deLight

Advanced colour image inversion tool for MatLab.

GMT

A flexible visualisation and mapping toolbox.

Professional graphic design

Undertone.design

Scientific graphic design support to elevate and communicate your research.

Leave a Reply