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I have my paper back from a reviewer. The main point is that a quality of the image is not good enough for the publication. I reproduced this image from another paper (with permission) but the only thing I could do, was a print screen of the original and paste into graphical software. I improved the quality by smoothing, but it is still not good enough for the publisher.

The reviewer comment:

The quality of the figures 1 and 2 is still not good. I recommend authors convert the schematics into vector graphics.

I can't find what and how to do it. Did you have a similar problem and solved it?

EDIT to explain what is on the figure: The figure shows elements of a vehicle with dimensions (numbers), different coordinate systems, force... it is rather complicated and maybe I could redraw the arrows (alhough many of them) but the background is a photo of the element.

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Welcome to AC.SE. I think that this question is off topic here as it is really a question about image reproduction. – StrongBad Feb 27 '13 at 13:21
@Daniel E. Shub - I agree that it is off topic in how to do the reproduction, but I believe the idea that graphics for publication must be high quality (read: vector or 600+DPI) is appropriate. I've seen enough crappy graphs in review to know that more people in academia need to know how to produce proper publication-ready material. – Chris Gregg Feb 27 '13 at 13:42
since the image in creative commons, could you put the link to it here, so that we can have an idea of what we're talking about ? – woliveirajr Feb 27 '13 at 18:19

It is difficult to provide a detailed reply without knowing more about the figure, for example if it is a photograph or a line graph. I will therefore concentrate on the general aspects.

First, the best would be if you could get some form of original from the author (or whoever) has the copyright). Screen dumps are clearly not sufficient since printing requires high resolution (300 dpi in final reproduction size is a commonly quoted resolution in journals)

Second, if it is a line graph, and it sounds as if that is the case, I would argue that the best way is to put the image in the background of a vector-based drawing program such as Inkscape/Illustrator/Corel Draw and manually redraw the figure. This is done by placing the illustration in a background layer and then draw lines in the program to reproduce the background. This requires learning a vector-based software and is a tough solution for the short-term but one I strongly recommend for the long-term. If the plot is based on data, for example a scatter graph, then you could digitize the data and re-plot it as long as you think of the re-plot as a version of the original plot and not use data points for additional analysis.

There are of course numerous kinds of complicated plots where the second approach will not work so trying to get the source would be the first choice. Screen dump quality bitmaps will be rejected by most if not all journals.

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+1 for "contacting the original author". You must have already been in touch with that person to get permission to use the image; just send an email asking for the figure they used when they went to publication. – eykanal Feb 27 '13 at 13:41
@eykanal: I think some journals may allow figures from their own journal to be reused, and in some cases its the journal, rather than the author, who is asked for reprint permission. – aeismail Feb 27 '13 at 13:44
Still, an email to the original author could be the quickest way to get a high-quality image. I suggest you email the author, explaining the situation. – che_kid Feb 27 '13 at 13:58
I have one of figure from an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. I contacted the authors a few times, but never get back from them. – tomasz74 Feb 27 '13 at 14:36
@aeismail - If you're asking the journal for permission it may be worth asking them for the image. If they retain the rights then they may also retain the image itself. Not sure how that works. – eykanal Feb 27 '13 at 15:02

Without going into the how of your question (which @Peter Jansson answered succinctly), I would say that going forward you should always try to have the best quality graphs when you provide a submission. That means they should either be vector graphics (i.e., graphics that do not rely on bitmapped representation but rather are scalable), or high DPI (dots per inch); I try for 600dpi in all images that aren't vector.

Tips: if your graphic has a .jpg, .gif, .png, or .tiff extension, it is not a vector graphic. If it has a .eps or .pdf extension, it may be a vector graphic, but you need to zoom in to ensure that the lines are not turning fuzzy. If it is a .svg, it is (I think) a vector graphic, but I always do the zoom test to make sure.

Finally, always do a zoom test on all your graphics in your PDF submissions. I've had vector graphics turn into bitmapped graphics during the conversion-to-PDF stage. If that happens, you need to figure out where the problem is taking place and fix it (e.g., it could be that your conversion from .eps to .pdf for an individual figure changes the image, and another conversion tool might be able to handle it properly).

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An SVG image can contain bitmap graphics in the same way that EPS and PDF can. – zwol Feb 27 '13 at 16:28
@Zack - I wondered if that was the case. A Google search didn't prove fruitful. Thanks! – Chris Gregg Feb 27 '13 at 16:30

Many PDF viewers (including Adobe Acrobat, Skim, and Preview on the Mac) can be used to copy regions out of a PDF file as independent PDF files. (A typical workflow is to select a rectangle with the marquee tool, Copy, and then New from Clipboard.) In particular, you can extract pixelmap graphics from PDF files at exactly the same resolution as they appear in the source PDF, and you can extract vector graphics. If there are undesired elements of the paper that overlap the figure, you can usually remove them in Adobe Illustrator, which reads and writes PDF files natively, so editing will preserve vector graphics and pixelmap resolution.

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