\begin{tikzpicture}[remember picture,overlay,spy using overlays={connect spies,blue!50}]
  \spy [rectangle,height=2cm,width=3cm,magnification=4] on (a.center) in node [right,line width=3pt] at (2,0);

Why \spy does not work when the remember picture and overlay options are specified? Is there a way to let it work again without suppressing the aforementioned options?


Edit: actually the "conflict" is between remember picture and \spy. Using overlay only works fine.

  • 1
    If you remove [remember picture] it takes two runs to start working again, and if you put it back it takes two runs to fail. So my guess is that it has something to do with the \pgfsyspdfmark in the aux file. Jan 8, 2015 at 20:08
  • @JohnKormylo so it's a bug?
    – Benji
    Jan 8, 2015 at 23:55
  • Remember picture works by saving the origin locations to the aux file, but it looks like the spy and the original are using different origins. Jan 9, 2015 at 5:23

1 Answer 1


A workaround is to specify the coordinate explicitly. See Extract x, y coordinate of an arbitrary point in TikZ if you still want to call it by node-name.

    \begin{tikzpicture}[remember picture,spy using overlays={connect spies,blue}]
            on(\the\tempx,\the\tempy)in node at(4,0);

Why did \spy fail with node-name?

Actually \spy is still working. For example

\begin{tikzpicture}[remember picture,spy using overlays={connect spies,blue}]
        on(a)in nodeat(1,0);

The problem is that the magnificent glass is not focusing on the right position. Assume you want to spy on (a) in (b). Then you need to apply the transformation


But somehow the follows is applied.


I do not know why. So far the only thing I can tell is: go to tikzlibraryspy.code.tex and check out the definition of \tikz@lib@spy@do#1#2#3. Between the following two lines


there are two messenger-dimensions \pgf@pt@x and \pgf@pt@y bringing the wrong vector. This happens only when TikZ needs to parse a node-name.

Can I \spy on some remembered point?

I guess you, and probably some other users, are here because you want to remember a point and spy it later. However this cannot be done in this manner.

When one mark a scope (in this case, the whole tikzpicture) with spy using ..., TikZ stores this scope in a box called \tikz@lib@spybox. It prints this box once normally and once for each \spy. After this scope the memory is released.

Therefore, if you want to spy something not in the current scope, you need to copy that scope instead of remembering the position.

Can I \spy something outside? headers/footers?

No, unless (i) the whole page is now a tikzpicture; or (ii) you extract materials by hand.

As far as I know (ii) is possible. For instance crop package is used to do something on the whole page. It should contain something useful.


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