Computer graphics programs have been devised to display selected atomic features and to simplify images of complex macromolecular structures. By using boundary outlines, adjustment of size and shape of the molecular components, color coding, shading, and selective omission of obscuring detail, attention can be focused on specific interactions which determine higher levels of organization. A balanced color table has been constructed in which different hues have equal steps in brightness; this table has facilitated distinction of atom types and sequence coding together with representation of an optimum range of depth cueing and surface shading. The graphics system has been used with the atomic coordinates of the tobacco mosaic virus structure to simplify images of the protein subunit, to illustrate intermolecular interactions, and to relate subunit packing arrangements in different assemblies to the underlying atomic structure. The system has also been used to construct a schematic representation of the polyomavirus capsid, based on low resolution data. Application of artistic methods contributes to the effective presentation and interpretation of detailed scientific information about complex macromolecular structures.