With the advent of high density restriction fragment length polymorphism (RFLP) maps, it has become possible to determine the genotype of an individual at many genetic loci simultaneously. Often, such RFLP data are expressed as long strings of numbers or letters indicating the genotype for each locus analyzed. In this form, RFLP data can be difficult to interpret or utilize without complex statistical analysis. By contrast, numerical genotype data can also be expressed in a more useful, graphical form, known as a "graphical genotype", which is described in detail in this paper. Ideally, a graphical genotype portrays the parental origin and allelic composition throughout the entire genome, yet is simple to comprehend and utilize. In order to demonstrate the usefulness of this concept, graphical genotypes for individuals from backcross and F2 populations in tomato are described. The concept can also be utilized in more complex mating schemes involving two or more parents. A model that predicts the accuracy of graphical genotypes is presented for hypothetical RFLP maps of varying marker spacing. This model indicates that graphical genotypes can be more than 99% correct in describing a genome of total size, 1000 cM, with RFLP markers located every 10 cM. In order to facilitate the application of graphical genotypes to genetics and breeding, we have developed computer software that generates and manipulates graphical genotypes. The concept of graphical genotypes should be useful in whole genome selection for polygenic traits in plant and animal breeding programs and in the diagnosis of heterogenously based genetic diseases in humans.