AFS Figures Style Guide

The following guidelines will to help ensure that your pictures, charts, graphs, and diagrams will reproduce as well as you designed them.

Dear Author,

We are committed to giving your graphics the best presentation possible in our publications formats—printed books, CD-ROMs, or Internet documents. Please review the following guidelines to help ensure that your pictures, charts, graphs, and diagrams will reproduce as well as you designed them. Any comments, questions, or suggestions are most welcome. Contact one of the book coordinators: Debby Lehman at 301/897-8616, ext. 223,, or Kurt West at 301/897-8616, ext. 229,

—AFS Books Department

General Guidelines

Illustrations in AFS publications usually fall into two categories: (1) line art, consisting only of lines or of solid black and white, also with areas of consistent and uniform shading formed by patterns of dots, lines, or symbols; and (2) halftones, which reproduce gradations of shading or tone between black and white, as in photographs.

Image size—We get best results if we can use your graphic at its full size, with no enlargement or reduction.

Permissions and credits—If art or data is taken from another source, be sure to obtain permission and give the appropriate credit in the caption. Publications of federal U.S. and Canadian agencies may be reproduced without permission, though they must be credited. We grant you permission to use any published AFS material without formally requesting it, but do credit the source. A sample permission request is included in the author packet.

Color vs. grayscale—Design your figure with an eye to its black-and-white reproduction, not its color appearance. Color schemes in charts and graphs may not produce grayscales with enough differentiation to clearly show separate elements. Likewise, color type over a color background may look fine printed on a color printer but may not work well in a black-and-white version. A good-quality black-and-white xerox will approximate grayscale results.

Color printing—Color line art or color photos will be converted to black and white or grayscale unless the author specifically requests color in his or her chapter. Extra charges for printing color will be charged back to the author.

Figure numbers—Number the illustrations with Arabic numbers in consecutive order, making sure the figure numbers in captions and on actual art correspond to figure callouts in the text.

Line Art

Orientation—Use portrait layouts only. We will not place figures or graphics in a landscape orientation (broadside).

Screens and lines—Please keep line weights 0.5 point or above. Avoid hairlines, as they may drop out in scanning your original. Stay between 20% and 70% for your screen values. Try to maintain 20% difference between adjoining screens for clear contrast (for example, use 20% - 40% - 60% screens for side by side columns or pie slices, not 20% - 30% - 40%).

Labels—Use 9 or 10 point Helvetica, upper and lower case (sentence style). Avoid the use of boldface, italics, and all caps. Use the same typeface throughout. For charts and graphs, labels should clearly describe x- and y-axes. Labels for the y-axis should be placed to the left of the axis and oriented to read sideways from bottom to top. Put type, symbols, keys, and scale bars above, below, or inside the illustration (except for the y-axis label). Do not put elements beside the figure. Avoid space-consuming borders around figures (but maps may have a delimiting border). Arrowheads and leaders should be proportional in size with type, and should be consistent throughout.

Captions—Do not include figure titles or captions in your graphic. We’ll put the caption under the illustration in our layout program. Be sure to indicate the figure number in the caption entries.

Electronic Art

We encourage authors to send us electronic files for their artwork whenever possible. Placing digital graphics directly into our page layout programs saves time and expense and can produce better quality reproductions of submitted art. When preparing digital art, please use the general guidelines above. The following additional suggestions will help ensure that we can use the files you send us.

File formats—We prefer to receive Adobe Illustrator, EPS, or TIFF files. EPS graphics are vector-based and can be crisper, cleaner, and smaller in size than TIFF images, which are made of dots (pixels) only. Many chart and graphics programs will allow exports to EPS or TIFF formats. Charts and graphs created in Microsoft Excel can be submitted as Excel files. Windows Metafile or Enhanced Metafile formats are also acceptable but sometimes problematic. If you have the option, export text as outlines. If in doubt, please send your native layout files and indicate the program with which they were created. Mac Illustrator—save as Illustrator EPS and select 1 bit TIFF preview for PC.

Filenames - Save each graphic to a separate file. Please use some consistent 3- or 4-letter derivation of the primary author’s last name, preceded by the letter f (for figure) and followed by the figure number. Use the extension .ai for Illustrator files, .eps for EPS, .tiff for TIFF, .wmf for Windows Metafile, and .emf for Enhanced Metafile.


frich3.eps — Figure 3 from author Richardson (EPS)

fgrey7.tiff — Figure 7 from author Greydon (TIFF)

Layout—Note the general recommendations above. Crop the figure closely vertically and horizontally to avoid white space above and below. Many programs that generate charts, such as DeltaGraph, Excel, or PowerPoint, use a default color scheme for shading parts of figures. These color schemes may not produce grayscales with enough differentiation to clearly show separate elements. Please set up your graphic using shades of gray with at least 20% difference between adjoining screened elements. Print on a black-and-white printer to approximate a grayscale reproduction.

Screen captures and web images—Avoid the use of screen captures because of their low resolution; likewise, images captured from web browsers are usually only 72 dpi and are too coarse for print. JPG and GIF formats are not acceptable for print, whatever the resolution, because they compress the information.

Scanned images

Black-and-white line art—please scan at your scanner’s highest optical resolution

(up to 1200 dpi) and save the images as TIFF files. Lower resolutions, such as 300 dpi—a common optical resolution for personal scanners—will likely produce grainy or ragged results for line art.

Black-and-white photographs—scan at 300 dpi; save as TIFF.

Color photographs—unless your chapter will have color, your images will print in black and white. Please convert the image to grayscale and save as TIFF. If you want to use color in your chapter, contact the AFS Books Department and we’ll discuss the options available to you.