What do you see in a pdf article when you scroll it for the first time? This is a question that you should be asking yourself when you write a paper. Experienced authors know that figures constitute an important part of your paper. Reviewers, journal editors, and readers are all humans after all and we have a similar way of thinking. If your figure catch someone's eyes your paper has a good chance to catch his/her attention. If otherwise, you loose your audiences. So, the question is how to prepare quality figures?
-Quality has a direct relationship with time spent on something. If you care about the quality of your paper, take your time and be patient when you prepare your figures. In fact, the processing of your figures may take longer than writing the actual text of your paper. For instance, if you spend 2 weeks for writing the first draft of your manuscript, you may want to spend 2 or more weeks to prepare quality figures. In reality, however, these two may not be separable. The point is that it is not a waste of time to spend more than 50% of your time for figure preparation.
-Use advanced computer programs for analyses, graphs, and figure processing. A good program, commonly used in biology for analysis and drawing graphs, is Graphpad Prism. Another good program for preparing your figures is Adobe illustrator. If you are not a program guru, you should be one when it comes to writing a paper.
-represent data in the right format. A set of data can be represented in many different ways, such as bar graphs, line graphs, circle graphs, etc. You need to find out what is common and what is comprehensively clear. Represent your data in the most accurate and clear way. For instance, a dose response experiment must be shown using linear graphs. Bar graphs, although used in some papers, are not suitable in dose response experiments because they do not visually convey the message that this is a continues dose experiment.
-Do not use uncommon fonts in your figures. Arial is a very popular font when you need to label your figures. Calibri is a similar font with slight diffrences. On the other hand, Times New Roman, is not common for labeling figures.