Friday and today I have been making edits to a paper I am about ready to submit. It is a paper presenting most of the work from my doctoral dissertation, which will finally be published four years after I earned my degree.
Despite having published several papers, I am always surprised at how long one particular aspect takes -- making figures and graphs. For some of my papers, a picture is worth more than a thousand words, as it can contain information about tens of thousands of stars. For that reason, I am a bit anal about my figures. Friday I spent the entire day on a single figure that STILL isn't done to my satisfaction, though it is close.
Not only do we need to convey information, but we have to worry about some silly details. The journals will only publish color figures at a high cost and with extra editing steps, so I work to make all of my figures grayscale or black and white. Also, the journal takes a full-page figure and shrinks it down to about 1/8 of a page, so I have to make sure my plots are still legible when they are reduced. And, now that most astronomers use Powerpoint to give research talks, I need to make sure that my figures will also look nice when pulled into the lower-resolution Powerpoint presentations.
Hopefully today I can finish that figure...