How are you initiating tikz graphs?

I tried a whole variety of approaches. I tried to draw my first sketches on a glassboard and photograph and autotrace this, but no auto-tracing software that I tried was capable of dealing with the milky background. I also could not find an easy to use hand-assisted tracer for my ipad pro with pencil. so I started hand-translating. uggh.

because autotracing to tikz seems to be unavailable, I looked around for GUIs for tikz, but the pickings are very slim. Ideally, I need basic features (lines, rectangles, circles, points, text, grid). I have not found anything that I like. Tikzedt is built with a deep windows toolchain (and/or its somewhat buggy linux adaptation). ktikz is really not a GUI but more of a tex editor with a fast preview. I am about to investigate inkscape with the tikz plugin.

for those of you that are like me awestruck by such drawings as TikZ - How can I filldraw areas spanned over an arc? or (more amazing:) Generate analog clock with numbered face, add seconds, Roman numerals , do the folks that draw and design such diagrams speak tikz as a natural language and think in geometric terms, or do they have helpful tools that I don't know about yet?

update: I am an occasional user. once a year. there is little mental retention when I have to do it a year later again. the most tedious tikz part for me is to try to figure out where each point is. right now, I overlay a grid and peck and guess.

so, for someone like me, workflow would be easier if there was just one simple app or program, which would underlay my existing handdrawn image, allow me to click on the canvas, have sequential letters or numbers placed at those coordinates (or removed), and then save all the coordinates to a file (perhaps with a scale, perhaps with a grid).

\node at (20,22) ($1$);

such a program should be easy to write for someone who knows graphics programming. underlaid image, mouse click, increment numbers and place, save coordinates. alas, graphics programming is another task I never managed to find time for.

  • 2
    I think tools like GeoGebra offer to export drawn pictures to tikz code. However, these codes are far from good readable, easily understandable and customizable. So actually it is all about learning. When I look now at the code I've written a year ago, I see clearly the advances I've made. And how is said, if you spent something doing for 5000 hours, you're going to be a semi pro, after 10 000 hours your professional. I guess it takes not as long with tikz, but it takes time. And until then, I give you the advice, read the fucking manual :-P (just a joke)
    – JMP
    Apr 29, 2016 at 15:52
  • But do read the manual - that's not a joke. Don't sit down and read it, but use it when you need to know how to do something. And maybe work through the tutorials in part 1. I didn't do this as tutorials bore me silly, but if you like tutorials, they are ones people seem to have found very effective.
    – cfr
    Apr 29, 2016 at 20:58
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    I'm curious about why you want to use TikZ at all. If you want a nice GUI which works with a graphics tablet etc., TikZ is really not a good choice IMNSHO. It is like asking where the GUI with the nice drop-down menus and unified code-preview interface is for TeX. If you want those things, it makes no sense to use TeX, I don't think. In fact, even less so in the TikZ case. You might be required to use TeX by a journal or for some special typesetting need, but I can't imagine that ever being true for TikZ.
    – cfr
    Apr 29, 2016 at 21:03
  • thanks, esp jmp and cfr for the many answers on tex.sx. I use them a lot when looking for simple examples to get me started. the simpler ones are better than the complex ones. without your posts, I could not have handled tikz. the tikz manual is 1,100 pages. really. by the time I was at the end, I had forgotten the start. I like the numeric alterability of tikz over Inkspace. Learning curves seem the same for me.
    – ivo Welch
    Apr 30, 2016 at 16:57
  • This really seems off-topic now as it looks like a request for new software not even especially related to TeX. To be honest, I don't see why adding a grid to the image why you work on it isn't a more efficient way of getting the information you want than the kind of programme you'd like. Essentially, you can just read the coordinates off the grid, which seems less work, really, than messy around with the 2 stage process you envisage. But if you only draw a diagram once a year, use a GUI programme and forget about TikZ - it isn't worth it.
    – cfr
    Apr 30, 2016 at 21:38

1 Answer 1


I use KTikZ (QTikz on windows) for everything but if it is going to be involved I use Inkscape or just skip TikZ and use LaTeXDraw and use the image.

One particularly useful trick that I stole from Mark Wibrow is to use Inkscape with snap to integer grid coordinates such that when you export it to TikZ the numbers are pretty decent that you can easily modify. Otherwise it tends to spit out quaternion looking stuff.

The rest is really really trial and error... well almost always error until it is not. Once you get used to it, you start to understand what to write. The quickest way is to answer questions here especially draw-it-for-me ones with trying to use the shortest and the most general way without any dirty hacks. That gives you a lot of ammo.

....without overdoing it please :)

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