# Is it possible to have a Bézier curve with 3 control points in TikZ?

In TikZ, it is possible to draw a Bézier curve of degree 3 with 2 control points p0, p1, p2, and p3 as follows:

\draw(p0)..controls (p1) and (p2)..(p3);


I am wondering whether there is a way to draw a Bézier curve with 5 points where 3 of them work as control points. That would then look like:

\draw(p0)..controls (p1) and (p2) and (p3)..(p4);


It looks like it is not available.

• I don't understand why you need 3 control points. – kiss my armpit Mar 11 '12 at 9:29
• With 5 points you get a curve of degree 4 – Alain Matthes Mar 11 '12 at 10:39
• I tried to give a brief explanation in this answer for the regular case. If you can tell us what the extra point will do, then, maybe we can come up with something. But I also didn't understand your original intention. – percusse Mar 11 '12 at 11:00
• @percusse: Bézier curves are not limited to 4 points and a polynomial of degree 3 (what you call regular case) and I am wondering how I can get with Tikz a Bézier curve with 3 control points and 2 end points (instead of two control points and 2 end points). – pluton Mar 11 '12 at 14:12
• Bezier curves are a family of curves of arbitrary degree so the question makes sense. However, TikZ/PGF only implements cubic beziers because the output formats that it uses do not do higher degree curves. – Andrew Stacey Mar 11 '12 at 20:06

The fact that TikZ/PGF only has capabilities for cubic beziers is a facet of the output formats that it produces: those only support cubic beziers.

So to produce anything of higher degree, you would have to produce an approximation (indeed, TikZ/PGF approximates arcs by cubic beziers since PDF does not have a native arc command (Postscript does)). There are methods that could be used for implementing one, for example using a plot command, but as it would be an approximation and not a common feature, there is not - to my knowledge - an already inbuilt implementation. If you found an algorithm for approximating higher degree curves by cubic beziers, I can think of no reason why it would not be straightforward to implement one via some sort of to path magic.

Here is some code to create a Bezier's curve with three control points. If you require more or less points to draw the curve, just modify the argument {0.05,0.1,...,1} on the "foreach" line. With the provided values the curve is drawn with 20 points. P0 and P4 are the end points, while p1, p2, and p3 are the control points.

\newcommand {\bezierq}{
%\bezierq{p0}{p1}{p2}{p3}{p4};
\newdimen\pxa
\newdimen\pya
\newdimen\pxb
\newdimen\pyb
\newdimen\pxc
\newdimen\pyc
\newdimen\pxd
\newdimen\pyd
\newdimen\pxe
\newdimen\pye
\pgfextractx{\pxa}{\pgfpointanchor{#1}{center}}
\pgfextracty{\pya}{\pgfpointanchor{#1}{center}}
\pgfextractx{\pxb}{\pgfpointanchor{#2}{center}}
\pgfextracty{\pyb}{\pgfpointanchor{#2}{center}}
\pgfextractx{\pxc}{\pgfpointanchor{#3}{center}}
\pgfextracty{\pyc}{\pgfpointanchor{#3}{center}}
\pgfextractx{\pxd}{\pgfpointanchor{#4}{center}}
\pgfextracty{\pyd}{\pgfpointanchor{#4}{center}}
\pgfextractx{\pxe}{\pgfpointanchor{#5}{center}}
\pgfextracty{\pye}{\pgfpointanchor{#5}{center}}
%\def\pxi{4}
%\def\pyi{4}
\foreach \t in {0.05,0.1,...,1}{
\pgfmathsetmacro{\pxf}{\pxa*(1-\t)^4 + \pxb*4*\t*(1-\t)^3 + \pxc*6*\t^2*(1-\t)^2 + \pxd*4*(1-\t)*\t^3 + \pxe*\t^4}
\pgfmathsetmacro{\pyf}{\pya*(1-\t)^4 + \pyb*4*\t*(1-\t)^3 + \pyc*6*\t^2*(1-\t)^2 + \pyd*4*(1-\t)*\t^3 + \pye*\t^4}
\pgfmathsetmacro{\q}{\t-0.05}
\pgfmathsetmacro{\pxi}{\pxa*(1-\q)^4 + \pxb*4*\q*(1-\q)^3 + \pxc*6*\q^2*(1-\q)^2 + \pxd*4*(1-\q)*\q^3 + \pxe*\q^4}
\pgfmathsetmacro{\pyi}{\pya*(1-\q)^4 + \pyb*4*\q*(1-\q)^3 + \pyc*6*\q^2*(1-\q)^2 + \pyd*4*(1-\q)*\q^3 + \pye*\q^4}
\draw (\pxi pt,\pyi pt)--(\pxf pt,\pyf pt);
}

• Welcome to TeX.sx! Your code looks like a useful starting point, thanks for the contribution. – Andrew Stacey Nov 6 '12 at 10:33
• @Juan yes interesting, thank you. By the way, on how many points does the usual command \draw(p0)..controls (p1) and (p2)..(p3); draw the curve? – pluton Nov 6 '12 at 19:56