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What is the quickest way of importing graphics you need into your tex file. Say if you need to put figure's, charts, or plots from a textbook into your document. What's the fastest (but still get beautiful results) and less painful way of achieving this task?

For instance, say for a school assignment or research paper of some sort where the needed picture is on paper and not digitized. And I do not want to go to means of photo scanning the book/paper to make it digital format.

I know pstricks and tikz can always be used for such a thing, but can it be done another way somehow if one does not have knowledge and time to learn these packages in depth at the moment?

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I guess this question is a bit too general, but I'll try, nevertheless, to give some tips.

It seems like you have to distinct between two different tasks:

  • Graphics reuse
  • Graphics reproduction

Graphics Reuse

To that end I do recommend to scan the figure you need, and using either .png or .pdf format importing it into the test. The most prominent disadvantage here, is that the quality is, normally, bad. In particular, even when using pdf you don't have a scaleable graphics. The advantage, on the other hand, is that it is normally quick and smooth - so if you need something for drafting phase, this is a practical method. One should keep in mind, when scanning, copyrights issues...

Graphics Reproduction

In this case, using tools like tikz is good in case you want to "program" your graphics. Or something like inkscape if you want to use a more WYSIWYG tool. BTW, inkscape can export to tikz code. Here, I think you have two drawbacks. First, you have to know the tool you want to use. I don't see a way around it. The second, especially, when programing the image, you have to know the logic/mathematics/system behind it... Otherwise it can be really hard. However, this approach will result with high quality figures you can use, and reuse.

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Dror: what if what you want to scan (say a diagram) is on the middle of a page with text on the bottom and top of it. How would I deal with this if all I want is the diagram to include in my TeX? –  night owl Sep 18 '11 at 5:12
    
Depending on the tool you're using, you can easily crop the box you're interested in. This can be done using, for example, GIMP, inkscape, preview (mac OS X) and many many others. –  Dror Sep 18 '11 at 6:47
    
Say I have inkscape, how would one go about doing this? I never used inkscape. –  night owl Sep 18 '11 at 9:20
    
inkscapeforum.com/viewtopic.php?f=5&t=312. However, if you have an image, probably gimp is better. In any case, there are zillion tools which provide cropping ability. Just pick one out of google :) –  Dror Sep 18 '11 at 10:26
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I do the following :

  1. Take a picture with a digital camera.
  2. Import it to your computer and do a little brightness/contrast adjustment.
  3. Either put it as it is in the TeX file or or if it is something like a graph or block diagram import to Ipe as a seperate layer and draw over it.
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