Skip to Main Content

APA 7: Figures

Sample Figures

Parts of a Figure, Illustrated

Reproduced from American Psychological Association publication manual (7th ed.).

Figure Components

Figures include: graphs, charts, drawings, maps, pictures, photographs, or any other visual depiction.

Number: The figure number (e.g., Figure 1) appears above the figure in bold.

Title: The figure title appears one double-spaced line below the figure number in italic title case.

Image: The image portion of the figure is the chart, graph, photograph, drawing, or other illustration itself.

Legend: A figure legend, or key, if present, should be positioned within the borders of the figure and explains any symbols used in the figure image.

Note: Three types of notes (general, specific, and probability) can appear below the figure to describe contents of the figure that cannot be understood from the figure title, image, and/or legend alone (e.g., definitions of abbreviations, copyright attribution). Not all figures include figure notes.

Adapted from American Psychological Association publication manual (7th ed.).

Descriptions of Figure Elements

Figure Numbers

Number all figures that are part of the main text (i.e., not part of an appendix or supplemental materials) using Arabic numerals—for example, Figure 1, Figure 2, and Figure 3. Assign the numbers in the order in which each figure is first mentioned in the text. Write the word “Figure” and the number in bold and flush left (i.e., not indented or centered).

Figures that appear in appendices follow a different numbering scheme. If a text appendix contains tables or figures, give each one a number preceded by the letter of the appendix in which it appears (e.g., Table A1 is the first table within Appendix A or of a sole appendix that is not labeled with a letter; Figure B1 is the first figure within Appendix B, etc.

Figure Titles

Give every figure a brief but clear and explanatory title. Write the figure title in italic title case below the figure number and double-space the figure number and title. Avoid overly general and overly detailed figure titles.

Figure Images

The image part of the figure (e.g., graph, chart, diagram) should be saved in a resolution sufficient to allow for clear printing or viewing (see Section 7.4). Attend to the following considerations when creating images.

Size and Proportion of Elements. Use a simple sans serif font within the image portion of the figure with enough space between letters to avoid crowding. Letters should be clear and should be sized consistently throughout the figure, the font size should be between 8 and 14 points.

Spelling, Capitalization, and Numbers Within Figure Images. Use title case for axis labels. Abbreviate the words “number” to “no.” and “percentage” to “%.” Words within figure images other than those on the axis labels or in the figure legend may be written in either title case or sentence case, depending on the contents of the figure. Labels, phrases, or words that serve as headings are set in title case, other descriptive phrases, sentences, or paragraphs within a figure would be better set in sentence case.

Shading. Limit the number of different shadings used in a single graphic. If different shadings are used to distinguish bars or segments of a graph, choose shadings that are distinct; for example, the best option to distinguish two sets of bars is no shading (“open”) and black or gray (“solid”).

Color. Color can serve both communicative and decorative purposes in figures. Students preparing a figure for a course assignment may use color provided that the assignment will be delivered in a format that supports it.

When selecting colors for a figure, ensure that there is plenty of contrast so that people living with a color-vision deficiency (often referred to as “color blindness”) or people who do not see color in a typical way can understand the information and tell the colors apart. Best practice is to use a contrast checker such as the free Colour Contrast Analyser ( to evaluate the contrast ratio and confirm that your content passes the standards for WCAG 2.0 AA or later.

Adapted from American Psychological Association publication manual (7th ed.).