Today, 25% of figures in biomedical publications contain images of various types, e.g. photos, light or electron microscopy images, x-rays, or even sketches or drawings. Despite being widely used, published images may be ineffective or illegible since details are not visible, information is missing or they have been inappropriately processed. The vast majority of such imperfect images can be attributed to the lack of experience of the authors as undergraduate and graduate curricula lack courses on image acquisition, ethical processing, and visualization.
Here we present a step-by-step image processing workflow for effective and ethical image presentation. The workflow is aimed to allow novice users with little or no prior experience in image processing to implement the essential steps towards publishing images. The workflow is based on the open source software Fiji, but its principles can be applied with other software packages. All image processing steps discussed here, and complementary suggestions for image presentation, are shown in an accessible “cheat sheet”-style format, enabling wide distribution, use, and adoption to more specific needs.