Ten Simple Rules for Drawing Scientific Comics: Rules 1 – 5

April 19, 2018 R.T. Thomason, Ph.D., Figure Editor

This week, we will work toward wrapping up our discussion on simple rules for drawing scientific comics (and just a reminder, these rules can apply to design and assembly of your figures).


ICYMI: https://journals.plos.org/ploscompbiol/article?id=10.1371/journal.pcbi.1005845

Citation: McDermott JE, Partridge M, Bromberg Y (2018) Ten simple rules for drawing scientific comics. PLoS Comput Biol 14(1): e1005845. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pcbi.1005845


I wanted to take some of these rules from this article and talk about how we can actually apply these to our everyday manuscripts. And don’t think that I don’t completely get it!


You: “I am not drawing comics, I’m putting together my data I’ve spent my life collecting!”

Me: “Yes, but let’s apply these rules to how you are designing and constructing your figures for your manuscripts.”

You: “FINALLY! We’ve been talking about these rules for two months, let’s actually apply them.”


Quick breakdown each rule and discuss application to the real data:


  1. You don’t have to be good at art – think about previous discussions we have had. You are the artist with your figure. Start with a general layout and work from there – anyone can do this!
  2. Comics should be simple – your figures should be simple. Putting too much wording or colors or arrowheads will confuse the reader to the point that they will have to spend too much time understanding your point.
  3. Make it right, not perfect – getting your data out there to the world is the most important. As the article states, you need to make sure it is factual, but if you forget to put a little arrowhead in, it isn’t the end of the world.
  4. Characters can improve engagement – when drawing a schematic, tell your story. Put yourself in your audience’s shows (re: audience analysis). Adding a little more detail can make a world of difference
  5. Don’t punch down – present your data as a figure and be as accurate as you can. People are looking to you as a leader in the field, show them the great, honest leader you are.


And we are out of time today… next time we will wrap up the final five rules and how they relate to your data figures.