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I feel intimidated in learning TikZ. I was wondering if there are some nice materials (or just your replies) at different level:

  1. for providing big picture, which is important to beginners to not lose direction during learning.
  2. for comprehensive reference.

Examples are important, but only examples are not always clear for understanding the big picture and organization.

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The manual has both extended examples and a reference. Is it not to your liking? – Matthew Leingang Apr 14 '11 at 1:25
@Matthew: There are too many details and it is suitable for comprehensive reference. Is there some concise one? – Tim Apr 14 '11 at 2:09
then you are welcome to skim through the only first chapter. – Dmitry Volosnykh Apr 14 '11 at 3:04
up vote 38 down vote accepted

I learned through just the manual. It starts with great tutorials. I highly recommend it.

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TikZ, in common with Beamer and Memoir, is a very, very rich, and, as a result, intimidating, package, so don't feel too bad about it.

The way I learned all three was basically demand-driven --- "learning by doing". Whenever I needed something "new", I'd dig into the manual and try stuff until either it worked (not always most elegantly), or in desperation go to the examples website, or moan here on TeX-'n-Friends. Occasionally supplemented by trying to answer "challenging" questions here.

After what --- one or two years --- that additional effort has worked like a savings account, and I now have the three tools on my belt, with which I can do almost everything I need. I still need to go back to the manuals, but it's a lot easier now.

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In addition to the excellent manual, try M R C van Dongen's LaTeX and Friends. It not only introduces you to pgf, but also pgfplots and beamer. It is available on Amazon.

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Thanks! How does learning pgf, pgfplots and beamer help learning Tikz? Or how are they related to Tikz? – Tim Apr 14 '11 at 2:38
Thanks! (1) What is the difference between "graphics" and "plots"? (2) how does Tikz fit into the suite: pgf, pgfplots and beamer? Is Tikz "graphics", "plot", "presentations", or something else? – Tim Apr 14 '11 at 2:50
To quote from van Dongen's website: "Due to copyright restrictions I had to remove the preliminary version of my book on LaTeX and Friends. ...". Amazon shows a print version available at the end of 2011 – mas Aug 6 '11 at 14:18
One may find part of the book still at csweb.ucc.ie/~dongen/LAF/LAF.pdf – ilakast Jul 11 '12 at 23:27

You could also try to learn by example: http://www.texample.net/tikz/ after having a look at the manual first.

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If you are intimidated the Tikz manual then I would suggest a much shorter PDF by Mertz and Slough from TUGboat volume 30 at: http://www.tug.org/TUGboat/tb30-2/tb95mertz.pdf and another example, a little bit longer with more depth is a "Minimal Introduction to Tikz" that you can find on the CTAN site here. But really, the Tikz manual is excellent and authoritative. Thanks to Jasper Loy for the manual he pointed out and, finally, let me mention the excellent site for PGFPlots for those interested in examples of mathematical plots that can be downloaded (a la TEXample.net) at: http://pgfplots.sourceforge.net

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If you read French, there's an excellent guide for the impatient at http://math.et.info.free.fr/TikZ/index.html. And in the Cahiers Gutenberg there's a tutorial by Yves Soulet, and another by Till Tantau himself.

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(+1) Thanks for sharing this great resource. – chl Jul 3 '11 at 21:42

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