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I am currently reviewing the proof of an accepted paper for its publication. I have noticed there is a figure whose colors I have chosen very poorly: one of them is yellow and cannot be seen very clearly and when printing the paper in gray scale it is invisible. Also, there is a Figure in which the order of the legend is not the best possible.

Can I change these two figures without the paper going back to the editor? I would of course only modify the colors of the Figure and the order in which legend appears.

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If you want to change it, there is no harm in asking for this in the proof response (make sure you supply the new figure you want to update it with). The change might be considered to be merely stylistic, in which case the copy-editor could approve it without needing further guidance from the higher editor/referees. While editors don't usually like changes in the proofing stage, if it improves the readability of the paper then they might actually be glad you raised it. In any case, you won't know if you can change it if you don't ask.

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    Please correct me if I'm wrong: As far as I know, by default the paper does not go with the editor again unless some substantial change is made.
    – D1X
    Mar 23 at 9:53
  • It depends what you mean by "editor" and it also depends on the journal. Usually it would stay with a copy-editor only. Sometimes if a proof correction goes beyond what the copy-editor is comfortable with, and which they consider might be a substantive change, they might query with the article editor for approval. At least, that's my understanding of the practice of some journals.
    – Ben
    Mar 23 at 10:41
  • @Ben It might be a good idea to edit your answer to replace "editor" with "copy-editor" and "referees" with "editor and/or referees", then. Mar 23 at 11:05
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Nowadays there are less and less printed papers.

A potential reader of your paper will most likely go through the electornic version of your paper. Then, if the reader decides to print the paper it would be to read the text, readability of the figure will surely have an impact, the reader will curse you and the journal copy-editors for not spotting the issue and he will read the paper, trying to access the figure electronically.

So I would say "ask if you can, but don't bother yourself too much".

Said all this, I hope you learned your lesson (and that your lesson is learned also by others) about readability of plots.

Final remark: colormap jet is crap, damned shall be Matlab and Matplotlib for making it the default colormap for almost 15 years https://jakevdp.github.io/blog/2014/10/16/how-bad-is-your-colormap/

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    Papers are still often printed out though! Mar 24 at 17:31

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