TeX - LaTeX Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for users of TeX, LaTeX, ConTeXt, and related typesetting systems. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

I have got a table that I would like to adorn with some coloured rings to pick out some overlapping subsets of its elements. The table itself consists simply of a rectangular array of numbers. I was wondering whether I could make it in a graphics program, do the adornment there, save it as an image (e.g. a .pdf), and then call it from Texmaker as a table. It needs to be numbered e.g. 'Table 5'.

The idea is that from the reader's point of view, it would be a table in the same way as any other.

I'd be grateful if someone could advise on whether this is possible, and if so, how to do it.

Many thanks in advance! Harry

share|improve this question
There have been some questions about circling elements in tables before, perhaps some of these are interesting. For example Highlighting table cells and Highlight a table row with a rectangular overlay/ – Torbjørn T. Sep 9 '12 at 9:26
If you want to do it in a graphic program, you can export it from inkscape as pdf+latex, so that your text gets replaced by LaTeX and is the right font and size. – Juri Robl Sep 9 '12 at 9:53
Another reference: Highlight table cells using thick, colored border. – Claudio Fiandrino Sep 9 '12 at 10:09
\begin{table}\includegraphics{fancytable.pdf}\caption{This describes the fancy table.}\end{table} – clemens Sep 9 '12 at 13:20
up vote 10 down vote accepted

You certainly don't have to use a tabular (or related) environment to produce the tabular part of what LaTeX calls a table environment: If you're familiar with creating figure environments (including the use of \includegraphics to load an external image file), then doing the same in a table environment will be simple for you.

In LaTeX jargon, both figure and table environments are "floats". The main difference, as far as users are concerned, is that the \caption{bla bla bla} command will create different headers -- Figure x: bla bla bla in the former case, Table y: bla bla bla in the latter case. Almost everything else is pretty much identical (from a user perspective).

The main challenge I'd perceive arising from creating the tabular material in an external program is that it'll almost certainly look quite different from any tabular material you create using one of LaTeX's own tabular environments. Consistency of the look of tables in a document is rather important and desirable. Thus, if you do create one table with rings, ellipses, and what not using an external program, you may want to create all tables that way.

share|improve this answer

a table environment (or a figure environment, for that matter) may contain anything you fancy.

however, i would think that using an external program to generate this effect would be difficult to "get right" (doing the numbers in the correct font, for example).

i would do it using some package like pgf. (i shan't show how, i don't do pgf much ... someone will be along soon to suggest how...)

[oops, wrote svg when i meant pgf. comes of writing an svg announcement before coming to sx ... sorry]

share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.