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I will be writing my Master's thesis in Aeronautical Engineering and was wondering about the following:

I will have lots of illustrations such as parts of aircraft, mechanical components, mathematical graphs and diagrams. I am sure you get the idea.

I found info on Metapost, Tikz, Inkscape, xypic, xfig, graphviz although I am not sure which is best at which.

I think Tikz is very good for mathematical/geometric illustrations.

But, what would you suggest for drawing the rest?

Probably we are talking about vector graphic editor such as Adobe Illustrator, Inkscape etc. But which is the best for Latex?

Sorry if my question seems about confusing, but it really represents the state I am in now.

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Check this question tex.stackexchange.com/q/26972/15717, may be its similar. –  texenthusiast Oct 23 '12 at 22:43
The best for LaTeX is not really relevant. Just pick a vector graphic editor that suits you best, and export the drawings as pdf's and include those pdf's in your TeX files. LaTeX does not care where the pdf is from. I am in a comparable field myself and I use Illustrator to produce vector graphics for LaTeX. Learn to use the pen tool well as that will help you trace existing pictures and add anything you want to it. Also (if you choose Illustrator) take a look at the autotrace functionality. –  Bart Arondson Oct 23 '12 at 22:49
Ipe has really nice LaTeX integration. But it's probably not the best choice if you need lots of fancy graphics features. –  G. Poore Oct 23 '12 at 22:52
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2 Answers

I just want to give you another idea, another point of view: do you want the best for LaTeX or for your document?

If you want a very good typography in your document, you should use also in tables, images etc. only one font optimal in the same font size. So you should use programs like matlab or gnuplot. The can run inside LaTeX and use the LaTeX fonts.

If that is not possible, use a program you knew and use a font very close to your used font in the LaTeX document. Prepare images in that way, that they all can be included without scaling (results in a better quality) and use for all images the same print resolution, for example 600 dpi. Ask your printing company what they need.

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I suggest you mix-and-match.

For truly arbitrary yet still technical drawings (even complex ones) like parts of an aircraft and mechanical components, I would suggest Google SketchUp. As a taste of drawing a model jet, consider viewing a quick YouTube video.

You can also use parts of already-created models from the 3D Warehouse:

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You can even scale up to full size:

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As a tutorial on working with SketchUp, consider the Harwood Podcast Network SketchUp: A 3D Toolbox podcast. Also see Draw an aircraft with Tikz.

For mathematical graphs and diagrams (something that has more expressible structure, mathematically), you can use any of the graphical packages used throughout this site: tikz, pstricks, Asymptote, ...

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