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Published September 25, 2020 | Supplemental Material + Submitted
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Structural biologists, lets mind our colors


In structural biology, most figures of macromolecules are aimed at those well-versed in structure, requiring prior familiarity with scales and commonly used color schemes. Yet, as structural biology becomes democratized with the increasing pace of structure determination, the accessibility of structural data is paramount. Here, we identify three keys, and have written accompanying software plugins, for structural biologists to create figures truer to the hard-won data and clearer across different modes of color vision and to non-expert readers. Use perceptually uniform colormaps Consider readers with different modes of color vision Be explicit about scales and color usage

Additional Information

The copyright holder for this preprint is the author/funder, who has granted bioRxiv a license to display the preprint in perpetuity. It is made available under a CC-BY 4.0 International license. We thank members of the Clemons and Rees labs for discussion and S. Petrovic for comments on the manuscript. This work was supported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) grants GM105385 and GM097572 (to WMC) and a National Science Foundation Graduate Research fellowship Grant 1144469 (to SMS). Software availability. Patches to make Viridis and accompanying colormaps easily accessible in PyMOL, ChimeraX, and VMD can be found here: https://github.com/smsaladi/pymol_viridis, https://github.com/smsaladi/chimerax_viridis, https://github.com/smsaladi/vmd_viridis. A guide for creating a scalebar across various visualization programs can be found here: https://github.com/smsaladi/structure_scales. All code is made available under the open-source MIT License and will be deposited in the CaltechDATA institutional repository. The authors have declared no competing interest.

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Submitted - 2020.09.22.308593v1.full.pdf

Supplemental Material - media-1.zip


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August 19, 2023
October 20, 2023