Hopkins Fulfillment Services

Illustration Guidelines

Guidelines for Book Authors, Volume Editors, and Chapter Contributors


Part 1. General

Part 2. Technical Questions about Hardcopy Illustrations

Part 3. Technical Questions about Electronic Illustrations

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Part 1. General

Are there different rules regarding illustrations for book authors, volume editors, and chapter contributors?

First, a note about the terminology used in this set of guidelines: for ease of reading, we will use the term author in our answers to the questions. A book author is an individual writing a book that does not contain chapters written (contributed) by others. A volume editor oversees a collection of chapters written (contributed) by others (often the volume editor contributes chapters to the book as well). A chapter contributor writes one or more of the chapters in a book.

The rules for authors are very straightforward: they are simply expected to acquire illustrations and the permission to use them as specified in the contract.

Volume editors also acquire illustrations as specified in the contract, but they must assign shares to each chapter contributor. Some volume editors simply divide the total number of illustrations specified in the contract by the number of chapters in order to determine the number of illustrations per chapter. Other volume editors decide what is needed on a case-by-case basis. Chapter contributors must submit illustrations to the volume editor. Chapter contributors should be guided by the volume editor on issues related to electronic file size and resolution, type and size of font to be used (which should be standardized for the book), and number and type of illustrations allowed in the chapter.

What do publishers mean when they use the word illustration?

For an author's purposes, an illustration is a graphic element, including photographs, graphs, charts, maps, and drawings.

To whom should I address my questions regarding illustrations?

In general, you should talk to your editor or your editor's assistant if you have questions. On occasion, your editor may refer you to the Press's Design and Production Department.

Is a table considered an illustration?

No, a table is not considered an illustration. A table is part of the "text" of the manuscript. In rare cases, a table may contain elements that are illustrations. In such cases, the table is a hybrid of text and illustration. When a table has illustrations in it, you must consult with your editor regarding proper format. Typically, the author will provide an electronic file with the table and its embedded illustrations, plus additional files: one file of the table only (typically prepared in MSWord) plus a file for each illustration that the table will contain. For complex tables with many illustrations, careful consultation with your editor is required. Each table should be submitted as a separate electronic file, not embedded in your main text (manuscript) files.

When should I start to think about the book's illustrations?

Early on in the process, you should plan the kinds of graphic material your manuscript will require and how to procure them. Include only illustrations that make a positive contribution and that support and extend the message of your manuscript. Superfluous illustrations may distract rather than help the reader and will increase the cost, production time, and price of your book.

Illustrations should be prepared with an eye to both esthetic considerations and proper technical requirements. If you are unfamiliar with general art styles or unable to determine what approach may be best for your book, your editor will be glad to point out samples in other books (or from other sources) that can help you visualize the sort of illustrations that would be most appropriate for your manuscript.

Who is responsible for obtaining the illustrations?

Except in rare cases (for example, those where grant funding for illustrations is involved) the author is responsible for obtaining all illustrations and permission forms and making sure the illustrations conform to book publishing standards. Your book contract specifies the terms of agreement related to illustrations. Your editor can guide you if you have any problems.

How many illustrations will appear in my manuscript?

The terms of your book contract specify the number of illustrations (and often the types of illustrations) that will appear in your book. The book contract is an approximation and, as a rule of thumb, publishers allow authors to have ±5% of the number listed in the contract. If you believe your illustration count will differ from the number in the contract by more than ±5%, you should contact your editor immediately.

How will the book designer know where to place the illustrations in the book?

You must indicate within your manuscript the approximate location for every illustration. You should code your manuscript using the following convention: 

<Figure 1 near here> or <Figure 1.1 near here> 
<Table 1 near here> Etc.

Electronic files of illustrations should be named to correspond to what is shown above. For example: 


Do I need permission to use an illustration created by someone else?

Most illustrations are protected by copyright law. The U.S. copyright office states that you are always better off getting permission and indeed you are. However, it may or may not be necessary to obtain permission for a given work (for example, illustrations created before 1923 are generally in the "public domain" and can be used without permission).

If you can get permission you should do so, as copyright law is often difficult to interpret. If you cannot obtain permission for some reason, you should determine what the law requires in the particular circumstance and also consult your editor, who is somewhat familiar with copyright law. Sometimes, it may be necessary to consult with a lawyer to determine whether an illustration is covered by copyright law.

It is the author's responsibility to make sure that the illustration being submitted is accompanied by a signed permission form unless it does not require permission. However, your editor will make an independent assessment of that need and may tell you that you need to obtain permission for one or more illustrations.

How do I obtain permission for an illustration that was created or is owned by someone else?

You must send a form (provided by your editor) to the person or entity holding the rights to the illustration and then return a signed permission form to your editor. In general, editors prefer that all the necessary permission forms are submitted to the Press at one time, not individually as they are acquired. Generally, the person who holds the rights is the person who created the illustration (artist, photographer, etc.) or that person's agent.

My editor talks about three main types of illustrations: line art, halftones, and color art. What's the difference?

Three basic types of illustrations are used in books: line art, halftones, and color art.

Line art is any illustration that has black ink only, with no gray tones or shadings. Thus, line art is printed in "pure black and white." Examples of typical line art are graphs, diagrams, charts, maps, and drawings that use black and indicate shades by use of stippling (tiny dots). Line art illustrations should be kept simple; extraneous detail will defeat the meaning and value of the art. Line art should be prepared with sharp, well-defined lines of black ink or type on smooth white illustration paper or board.

Halftones are any illustration showing gradations of gray tone only (no other colors). Typical halftones are black & white photographs and charcoal-type pencil sketches.

Color art is any illustration with a range of colors, to be printed with four-color-process inks. Examples of color art include color photographs, color graphs, color maps, and color drawings.

A fourth category might be considered hybrids of the three listed above – for example, a photograph that includes arrows and text. Hybrid art should be created using Adobe Illustrator or another common graphic art program that allows the illustration to be created and preserved using "layers." The more complex your illustrations will be, the more you should consider employing the services of a qualified graphic artist (typically, this is done at the author's expense). A qualified graphic artist is one who is accredited by a reputable organization or adheres to the standards of a reputable organization such as the Graphics Artists Guild. Contracting with your own graphic artist can result in high-quality illustrations for your book. Most universities have a service department that employs qualified graphic artists for use (at a fee) by the university's faculty and staff. Alternatively, the Johns Hopkins University Press can recommend graphic artists that you could consider hiring to assist you.

How should I submit my illustrations when my manuscript is completed?

These days, more and more authors submit electronic files of their illustrations. When doing so, the author must submit "high-resolution files" in the "proper format" (discussed elsewhere). Some authors still submit hardcopies of illustrations – including photographs, slides (film positives), paper maps, and original drawings and paintings. Illustrations in either electronic form or hardcopy form are acceptable unless your contract specifies a format. However, the illustrations must be "acceptable to the publisher," something your editor must determine. For example, an electronic file that is below the resolution standards or is in an improper format (e.g., PowerPoint files will not work) or a photograph with a scratch may not be acceptable.

I have a color illustration that will be printed in black & white. Do I need to do anything special?

Generall,y you do not need to do anything special. However, you should print out a black & white version of the illustration and examine it carefully to make sure that the illustration effectively conveys your intended meaning when it is printed as a halftone. (And the figure caption should not, of course, make any reference to color in the illustration.)

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Part 2. Technical Questions about Hardcopy Illustrations

May I submit slides, photographs, paintings, and original drawings for use in my book?

Unless specifically requested to do otherwise, you may submit your illustrations in any manner suitable for publication. Traditionally, illustrations were received by publishers as painting or drawings. A century or so ago, photographs and slides (film positives) were also accepted. Today, publishers are much more likely to receive electronic files from authors. This change has had both positive and negative aspects for publishers. Receiving electronic files can save a publisher time and money, but only if the electronic files meet the stringent guidelines that book publishers require. Thus, if you have slides, photographs, paintings, and original drawings, you should tell your editor, as he or she may prefer that you submit them for consideration instead of electronic scans.

How large should my hardcopy illustrations be?

At a minimum, your hardcopy illustrations should be as big as they will be in the book. Preferably, they should be 150% the size that you expect them to appear in the book.

If I submit original, hardcopy illustrations, will I get them back?

Yes, all original illustrations will be returned. However, it is customary for publishers to retain the illustrations until 60 days after the book has been published. When we receive original illustrations, we log them into our records and store them with due diligence. The illustrations are often sent to the book printer where they are scanned on expensive professional scanners and then retained in case the originals need to be matched to test prints. Thus, the printer must return the illustrations to us before we can return them to you. When we receive the illustrations from the printer, we check them to make sure all pieces have been received in good order. The illustrations are then returned to you.

May I photocopy an illustration from other publications and submit the photocopy for use in my book?

In general, the answer is no. However, there are exceptions. The first thing you must consider is the issue of permissions. If you have or do not need permissions (for example, the illustration is in the public domain), then you must consider the impact of photocopying on the quality of the illustrations. Most published halftones and color illustrations, for example, have a screen (if you look at a photograph under 10x magnification you will see the screen) and thus are not suitable for reuse as either scanned images or photocopies (even when photocopied in graphic mode). Line art, on the other hand, can sometimes be photocopied; however, you often need to clean up scanned or photocopied line art images using a program such as Adobe Illustrator (so it is better to scan in the first place). Although rare, there are occasions when an illustration must be photocopied, such as when working in a remote location with a hard-to-find image and not having a high-resolution scanner at hand. Exceptions aside, if possible, contact the creator of an illustration and ask the person for the original illustration or electronic file and submit that instead of the photocopy.

If I have hardcopy illustrations that need to be cropped, will you crop them for me?

Yes, we will crop the image as long as you provide clear instructions as to how it must be cropped. Print a copy of the image and draw lines on the copy to show us where to crop it.

I have several pieces of hardcopy illustrations that need to be combined into a single figure. Will you combine them for me?

Yes, we will combine them for you as long as you provide clear instructions as to how the final figure should look. We strongly prefer that authors do not combine the illustrations, particularly when the final figure is a mix of line art and halftones. It is very helpful when authors provide mock-ups of what the final figure should look like.

What should I do if words or symbols need to be added to my hardcopy illustration?

Do not attempt to add the words or symbols unless you are an experienced graphic designer. Instead, hire a graphic designer to create an electronic file with a separate layer that contains the words or symbols (at 1200 dpi or as a vector file). If you have only one or two such illustrations, talk to your editor, as she or he may be able to arrange for the publisher to assist you.

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Part 3. Technical Questions about Electronic Illustrations

What is the standard resolution for electronic illustrations that are submitted for a book?

Electronic versions of line art (black ink only) must be 1200 dpi (also called ppi) when the illustration is sized at the approximate dimensions it is expected to appear in the book. Photographs, paintings, and sketches made with pencil (color or gray pencils) may be 300 dpi (at the expected size in the book), as long as they do not contain line art elements (line art elements include such things as text, numbers, arrows, etc.).

When submitting electronic illustrations that include a mix of line art and non-line art illustrations, you should work with a software that can layer the illustration, either a vector-based program that creates layers or a raster-based program that can save line art in one layer (at 1200 dpi) and the non-line art component in another layer (at 300 dpi). Vector-based programs such as Adobe Illustrator are ideal for combining illustration types.

What programs and file formats should I avoid for electronic illustrations?

It is impossible to list here all the file formats that are not acceptable, but it might be helpful to list the most common programs and formats that generally will not work for print publishing purposes. The most commonly rejected electronic graphics are PowerPoint (ppt files) and MSWord files. PowerPoint is a popular program for presentations, but it is not at all suitable for book publishing. On occasion, hardcopy versions of MSWord line art files are acceptable, but most MSWord and other word processor files are not appropriate for submitting illustrations. Files with the extensions .gif are almost always unusable.

What programs may I use when making electronic illustrations?

As a rule, the programs used by graphic designers are the best programs to use when creating graphics. However, if the illustration is simply a photograph with no line art, then you can choose from among many graphics programs that create a high-resolution .tif or .jpg file, as long as the final resolution is 300 dpi at a size 1.5 times what you expect the printed size to be.

If the illustration is line art, it is ideal to work in a vector-based program such as Adobe Illustrator.

May I submit scanned images?

Yes and no. It really depends on the source image. For example, scanning color art or halftones from a book generally does not work because the art has a screen and the screen will distort terribly when the book printer tries to screen the illustration a second time. (To see the screen, look at an image in a book using a 10x magnifying glass, such as a jeweler's loop). Scanning line art may work.

Most publishers would prefer to have the original illustration rather than a scan, but this is not always possible. Thus, when you are scanning, be very careful to scan at high resolution and make sure that the scan is clean and the colors are identical to the original. Before scanning many illustrations, try a practice scan and send it to your editor to review.

May I put multiple electronic illustrations into a single figure?

Yes, but you must know what you are doing. Each part of the illustration should be a separate layer and should be either a vector-based graphic or the appropriate resolution for the type of illustration. Do not flatten the layers unless requested to do so by the Johns Hopkins University Press. Create a draft combined illustration and send it to your editor so that it can be checked.

May I use a graphics program to add text or symbols to an illustration?

Yes, if the text or symbols are maintained in a separate layer and if they are vector-based or 1200 dpi. Typically, you should be sure to submit the application file when creating these combined graphics (for example, submit an Adobe illustrator file rather than a .tif file that was generated from Adobe Illustrator).

I want to include a lot of graphics in my book, but most of what I've read here is over my head! What should I do?

The Johns Hopkins University Press works with a number of freelance graphic artists. We would be happy to make a recommendation. Please ask your editor for a recommendation.

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