Graphical Abstract

Graphical Abstract: Journals are increasingly requesting more graphical abstracts because they effectively convey the main topics and results of a study in a concise, clear, and visually appealing format. Research indicates that humans process visual information much faster than text. Moreover, a 2017 study by Ibrahim A.M. found that Twitter posts about new articles containing graphical abstracts received approximately three times more paper views and eight times greater social media engagement. 

Given these benefits, it is crucial to invest time in creating high-quality graphical abstracts. Compelling graphical abstracts can augment the visibility and impact of your research, and they can be created with numerous free and paid tools, such as: 

  1. Free: GIMP, Canva**, Inkscape*, Photopea (Most similar to Adobe Photoshop), Vectorpea* (Most similar to Adobe Illustrator)
  2. Paid (One-Time): CorelDraw*, Affinity Designer*
  3. Paid (Subscription): Microsoft PowerPoint, Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator*, BioRender** (Paid plan required for permission to use in journals)

*Vector-Editing software, preferred.
**Wide range of built-in icons and templates

Creating an excellent graphical abstract requires attention to the following principles:

  1. Font: Use Calibri with a reasonable font size, keeping in mind the image will be resized in publication.
  2. Color: Use complementary color schemes to engage your audience and enhance comprehension. Online generator tools like Coolors, Colormind, and Adobe Color can help you select harmonious color palettes. Popular color palettes include gray to red, black to pink, and salmon to aqua. It is recommended to align the colors of your abstract with ones already present in your images and figures. Choose your colors carefully so the text in your graphical abstract can be read easily on colored backgrounds. 
  3. Simplicity: Utilize minimalist iconography to maintain focus on key information. (Drop shadows and beveled edges on text or images are discouraged to maintain simplicity. Avoid writing paragraphs where possible.) 
    1. For general icons, websites such as Freepik, Flaticon, and Google Material Symbols have a wide selection of options and styles. 
    2. For specific scientific icons, refer to repositories like Reactome and Bioicons. 
    3. Applications that offer free icon generators are Canva, Fotor, and AI Icon Generator. 
  1. Consistency: Ensure consistent text formatting for given heading levels (e.g. font size, capitalization, spacing). Use common abbreviations and no complex jargon. Wherever possible, select icons with a similar style to one another (ex. All icons are lineless).
  2. Layout: Use negative space to reduce clutter and guide the reader’s eye to key elements. Group related elements together, use arrows to convey information, and organize the abstract in a readable direction. Employ a grid structure for proper alignment. It can be helpful to make several iterations of how the graphical abstract is laid out to choose the most effective option.
  3. Relevance: Get feedback from individuals not directly involved in your study to ensure the abstract clearly communicates your research. Review graphical abstract drafts with multiple people before finalizing for publication. Ask specific questions and remember your communication goals when seeking feedback.
  4. High Resolution: Maintain clarity and legibility with a minimum resolution of 300 dpi. Vector-based graphics programs are particularly ideal for preserving high resolution. As a baseline, graphical abstracts should be minimum 1000px wide to display clearly on screens. If parts of the abstract are blurry or otherwise hard to read, you may be asked to replace them. Keep your original editing file (.ai, .psd, etc.) on-hand for any requested changes.
  5. File type: Preferred file types are JPEG and PNG. JPEGs should be set to High Quality or Best.
  6. Licensing: Verify the licensing of any graphics you did not create to ensure legal use. Stock image and icon websites will often have “free” or “Creative Commons” filters for easy browsing of properly licensed, free-to-use images. Give credit when requested by the creator/owner of a graphic.
  7. Accessibility: Optimize with suitable contrast and color-blind safe palettes, avoiding background colors that reduce visibility. Many web-based applications can be used to check for accessibility.
    1. Graphical abstracts should always have accompanied text known as ALT text. 
    2. Websites such as Coolors and Adobe Color have simple color contrast checkers that will rate how readable your text will be on colored backgrounds. 
    3. If you place text on top of images, use the Brandwood A11y accessibility checker to ensure readability. You may only need to move your text to a more clear and uncomplicated part of the image to achieve a higher accessibility rating.
    4. To check if your graphical abstract can be read as intended by colorblind readers, use the Coblis-Color Blindness Simulator and similar tools. 

Please include your graphical abstract within the submitted manuscript and as a separate source file. By adhering to the aforementioned guidelines and using the recommended tools, you can create a graphical abstract that significantly enhances communication and the impact of your research. Food Science Publisher also provides insightful feedback on graphical abstracts as part of their English Editing Services.

Improved Graphical Abstracts:

Below are two examples of how a “poor” quality graphical abstract was improved for publication. Two or more of the above principles were employed to achieve more desirable results.

                     Before                                            After

pastedGraphic.png     pastedGraphic_1.png

Before improvement, the graphical abstract includes very small text, inconsistent icons, and unnecessary information adding clutter. The new version has clear and obvious icons, good layout flow, and is more direct in its wording.

                  Before                                                  After

pastedGraphic_2.png     pastedGraphic_3.png

The original graphical abstract has a non-standard layout and lack of imagery that may hinder a reader's understanding of the text. The improved version employs a grid structure and uses icons the reader will instantly recognize for efficient communication.