Consider the code below:

\documentclass[convert = false]{standalone}
  \draw[-latex] (0, 0) ellipse [x radius = 3cm, y radius = 2cm, start angle = 30,
  end angle = 150];

enter image description here

This code produces no compiling errors but it doesn't acknowledge the start and angle or the arrow option. I could use the command arc, but then to have the arc centered at the origin, I would need to define the arc starting coordinate as

\coordinate (P) at ($(0, 0) + (30:3cm and 2cm)$);

And then draw the arc:

\documentclass[convert = false]{standalone}
  \draw[-latex] (0, 0) ellipse [x radius = 3cm, y radius = 2cm,
  start angle = 30, end angle = 150];

  \coordinate (P) at ($(0, 0) + (30:3cm and 2cm)$);

  \draw[thick, red, -latex] ($(0, 0) + (30:3cm and 2cm)$(P) arc
  (30:150:3cm and 2cm);

enter image description here

This isn't terribly difficult but is there a way to use the ellipse command to achieve the desired result?

  • 6
    The ellipse command always draws a full ellipse, so unless you're willing to clip it, that's not the way to go. You don't need all that \coordinate and calc stuff for the arc, though: Just use \draw[thick, red, -latex] (30:3cm and 2cm) arc (30:150:3cm and 2cm);. The definition of your coordinate (($(0, 0) + (30:3cm and 2cm)$)) doesn't really make sense: It's perfectly equivalent to just saying (30:3cm and 2cm) (you're simply adding 0 to the coordinates).
    – Jake
    Jul 8, 2013 at 19:54
  • @Jake I don’t think the problem here is the use of calc but that to draw an arc around a coordinate you need to evaluate/input start angle and radii twice. Jul 8, 2013 at 22:26
  • @Qrrbrbirlbel: Possibly. I wasn't sure from the question (hence the comment), but I am sure that the ($(0, 0) + (30:3cm and 2cm)$) syntax is unnecessary.
    – Jake
    Jul 8, 2013 at 22:28

2 Answers 2


You can define a new style that automates setting the start coordinate and drawing the arc:

    partial ellipse/.style args={#1:#2:#3}{
        insert path={+ (#1:#3) arc (#1:#2:#3)}

Then you can simply say

\draw[thick, red, -latex] (0,0) [partial ellipse=30:150:3cm and 2cm];

to draw the arc:


Apart from defining a custom to path or an insert path solution, one could re-define the way TikZ draws its arc. For that, I add two keys:

  • move to start,
  • line to start.

This implementation does only affect the superior [ ] syntax, though (but that could be changed with a small fix to \tikz@do@arc).

The advantage of settings this up as a key is that it can be applied to a scope or to a path and can be used inside other styles.


\def\tikz@arc@opt[#1]{% over-write!
    \tikzset{every arc/.try,#1}%
    \pgfkeysgetvalue{/tikz/start angle}\tikz@s
    \pgfkeysgetvalue{/tikz/end angle}\tikz@e
    \pgfkeysgetvalue{/tikz/delta angle}\tikz@d
      {\pgfkeysvalueof{/tikz/x radius}}
      {\pgfkeysvalueof{/tikz/y radius}}}%
  \def\tikz@arc@moveto{\tikz@@@parse@polar{\tikz@arc@@movetolineto#1}(\tikz@s:\pgfkeysvalueof{/tikz/x radius} and \pgfkeysvalueof{/tikz/y radius})}}
  move to start/.code=\tikz@arc@movetolineto\pgfpathmoveto,%
  line to start/.code=\tikz@arc@movetolineto\pgfpathlineto}
\begin{tikzpicture}[x radius=1, y radius=.6]
  \coordinate (C) at (rand,rand);
  \draw[ultra thick] (C) ellipse [];
  \draw[green]   ([shift=(30:1 and .6)] C) arc [start angle=30,   end angle=150];
  \draw[red]     (C) -- ++ (180:1 and .6)  arc [start angle=180, delta angle=70] -- cycle;
  \draw[blue!50] (C)    ++ (270:1 and .6)  arc [start angle=270, delta angle=80] -- cycle;

\begin{tikzpicture}[x radius=1cm, y radius=.6cm, move to start]
  \coordinate (C) at (rand,rand);
  \draw[ultra thick] (C) ellipse [];
  \draw[green]   (C) arc [start angle=30,   end angle=150];
  \draw[red]     (C) arc [line to start, start angle=180, delta angle=70] -- cycle;
  \draw[blue!50] (C) arc [start angle=270, delta angle=80] -- cycle;


enter image description here

  • @Jake Come to think of it, the **s were not such a good idea. I think using keys is a better approach and suits the system of TikZ better. Jul 9, 2013 at 2:19

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