I’m currently preparing a paper for publication and so trying to construct the figures. I’m finding it more difficult than making figures for a report mainly because journals expect one figure file for each figure, regardless of whether it contains subfigures or not. This leads to some problems/hurdles:

  • I can’t use LaTeX’s subfig package, so I have to manually place an (a), (b) and (c) on the figure and keep track of the caption if the ordering of these changes.
  • Journals’ rules about figure submission vary quite a lot, some can take pdfs, some want vector graphics, others raster.
  • I have to somehow merge the output from various programs into a single file; for example diagrams made with Tikz make up the same figure as a graph plotted with python’s matplotlib.
  • With having to merge subfigures in such a way, my workflow becomes quite convoluted if I have to modify one of the subfigures, and then regenerate the single figure file.

With all of this in mind, I wondered whether the academic community of Stack Exchange had any tips/techniques/workflows for best practice when it comes to preparing figures. This isn’t a topic that comes up much in training, lectures, and so on, but to me it seems silly that most people I’ve met have had to just find their own way of doing things without really being able to build on the experience of others.

Message to mods: when I wrote the title of this question SE told me “The question you’re asking appears subjective and is likely to be closed”, but I’m hoping it stays up for the following reasons:

  • Where else can we get such a large community of academics to input answers to such a question, and have it so easily accessible?
  • I couldn’t find a similar resource anywhere else.
  • It’s not a topic usually covered in undergrad before people move into academia, most people have to learn it on-the-job.
  • I thought there might be people on here who work for publishers who could
    give valuable contributions.
  • The answers could act as a survey of academics.
  • The question could serve as a community resource.

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