# How to establish node-anchor-like points on a (tikz) rectangle path (is there a better method than the one described)?

## Background and desired functionality

Rectangles can be drawn with tikz in a number of ways, one way of doing so is to define a rectangle node as follows:

\node (rectangle) [draw, rectangle] {A rectangle};
% Strictly speaking, rectangle is not needed in the [] as nodes are rectangular by default

A useful feature of this is that, as a node, it has anchor points around it such as rectangle.north, rectangle.south west and so on.

Another way is to draw a rectangle path, like this:

\draw (0,0) rectangle (3,2);

I would like to be able to use this second path-based method* but also be able to have (some) named anchors on the path.

## Approach from the time of asking

### MWE:

The method I had for this is demonstrated by the following MWE (inspired by this inventive answer and later improved by Altermundus' comment):

\documentclass{report}

\usepackage{tikz}

\begin{document}

\begin{tikzpicture}

\draw
(0,0)
coordinate [xshift=-{0.5\pgflinewidth},yshift=-{0.5\pgflinewidth}] (rectangle south west)
rectangle
coordinate (rectangle center)
(3,2)
coordinate [xshift={0.5\pgflinewidth},yshift={0.5\pgflinewidth}] (rectangle north east)
edge [draw=none]
coordinate (rectangle north)
(rectangle north east -| rectangle south west)
;

\end{tikzpicture}

\end{document}

Obviously this only defines anchors for center, north, north east, and south west, but it can be fairly easily extended to provide south, east, west, north west and south east (as demonstrated in my answer).

### Caveat:

As pointed out by Andrew Stacey in his answer, there was a slight discrepancy between the positioning of these pseudo-anchor coordinates and the anchors on a normal rectangular node. The edge-based solution above originally placed the pseudo-anchors exactly on the coordinates of the rectangle whereas on a rectangular node they would be placed at the outside edge of the lines of the rectangle. Although this was only likely to cause issues with thick line widths I have now added some x/yshifting to the above code to compensate.

The following image shows the difference in anchor positioning between standard node rectangles, the original edge-based solution (without x/yshifting) and the above (revised) edge-based solution (with x/yshifting). The line widths for the lower pictures are set to 0.5cm.

Node rectangle labelling code to illustrate the key to the colours (and for the generally curious):

% styling yoinked from Altermundus' answer
\tikzset{dot/.style={circle,fill=#1,inner sep=0,minimum size=4pt}}
\node [dot=red] at (rectangle.south west) {};
\node [dot=blue] at (rectangle.center) {};
\node [dot=purple] at (rectangle.north east) {};
\node [dot=green] at (rectangle.north) {};
\node [dot=orange] at (rectangle.north west) {};
\node [dot=yellow] at (rectangle.south) {};
\node [dot=brown] at (rectangle.south east) {};
\node [dot=black] at (rectangle.east) {};
\node [dot=pink] at (rectangle.west) {};

## Back to the question

Is there a neater/better way to establish node-anchor-like points on a rectangle path* than the method given in the MWE above?

* = An equivalent drawing method that also allows specifying a rectangle by corner coordinates would be more than acceptable!

• @Andrew (/other experienced users): Would it make sense to put the method I was using as an answer instead of including it in the question? (I ask as I've just gained the privilege to do so, without waiting 8 hours or so.) Mar 12, 2012 at 10:27
• No. The right place for your code was in the question as the question was "Here's what I'd like to do, here's what I've tried, is there a better way?" so the code is a definite "plus" to the question as it shows you've put some effort in already. Anyone reading this will see your code and can use it if they wish so moving it to an answer doesn't actually help anyone. Mar 12, 2012 at 19:01
• That's cool, thanks (still getting used to this!) ^^ Mar 12, 2012 at 21:22
• @Staves edge [draw opacity=0] is not pretty and you can insert after (3,2) coordinate (path_rectangle center) Mar 12, 2012 at 23:50
• @Altermundus: I think you must have meant after rectangle you can insert the center coordinate - but that's neat, I'll add it in to the question code, cheers. With regards to the edge [draw opacity=0] bit, would you consider edge [draw=none] prettier? (Now that I know about [draw=none], from Andrew's answer, I'm going to add it in anyway as it seems somewhat cleaner to me.) Mar 13, 2012 at 11:41

I think that the best way to establish node-like anchors is to use a node. I'm guessing that the annoyance of using an actual node to draw the rectangle is that specifying a node rectangle by its coordinates is a little more complicated than just saying (0,0) rectangle (3,2). So here's some code that puts an invisible (rectangular - but that's only because the default is a rectangle) node around the current path. If the path is more complicated then the node is guaranteed to contain the rectangular bounding box.

Here's the code:

\documentclass{article}

\usepackage{tikz}
\usetikzlibrary{fit}
\makeatletter
\tikzset{
fitting node/.style={
inner sep=0pt,
fill=none,
draw=none,
reset transform,
fit={(\pgf@pathminx,\pgf@pathminy) (\pgf@pathmaxx,\pgf@pathmaxy)}
},
reset transform/.code={\pgftransformreset}
}
\makeatother

\begin{document}
\begin{tikzpicture}[line width=.5cm]
\draw[thick,green] (-2,-2) -- (4,4);
\draw (0,0) rectangle (3,2) node[fitting node] (rect) {};
\draw[->,red] (5,5) -- (rect.north east);
\draw[->,red] (0,5) -- (rect.north);
\end{tikzpicture}
\end{document}

The green line is to show that the bounding box used is that of the path and not the current picture. The thick lines are to show that the node anchors are on the proper border of the path, not the "theoretical" path[1].

Here's the result:

[1]: With your method of specifying anchors via coordinates, the anchors would be on the "theoretical" path, namely the north west anchor would be at (3,2) not (3 + half line width, 2 + half line width). If you prefer this, it's easy to modify this method to do that.

Edit Now copes with scale=2 as Altermundus asked about. With more complicated transformations then it gets increasingly difficult to keep track since nodes work differently, and it is working on the actual bounding box rather than the path itself. So in those cases, caveat texer.

• That's great - thank you very much ^^ You're quite correct that the reason I'm not using a node is that it cannot be simply defined by corner coordinates, as the path can. Also I'm glad you pointed out the "theoretical" path versus proper border aspect. I hadn't noticed the difference as the lines I'm using are predominately thin. Are the draw=none and fill=none lines in the tikzset necessary? (They don't seem to affect the output for me - perhaps a better question is: could you give a case using this where they would come into play?) Mar 12, 2012 at 9:13
• @Staves: It's protection against an every node/.style={draw} type command earlier in the path or scope or picture. There are probably other settings that should also be reset, but those were the most obvious ones. The point (such as there was one) was to ensure that the node was truly invisible. Mar 12, 2012 at 9:17
• Ok cool, that makes sense - cheers again! Mar 12, 2012 at 9:23
• And what you do after scale=2? Mar 12, 2012 at 16:56
• @Altermundus: Good catch. Fixed that, but working with more complicated transforms rapidly gets ... complicated so I shan't attempt it. Mar 12, 2012 at 18:58

Update

Finally I found what I want Without node, you can use scale easily.

Code

\documentclass{article}

\usepackage{tikz}

coordinate [pos=0,xshift=-0.5\pgflinewidth,yshift=-0.5\pgflinewidth] (#1 south west)
coordinate [pos=1,xshift=0.5\pgflinewidth,yshift=0.5\pgflinewidth]   (#1 north east)
coordinate [pos=.5] (#1 center)
(#1 south west |- #1 north east)     coordinate (#1 north west)
(#1 center     |- #1 north east)     coordinate (#1 north)
(#1 center     |- #1 south west)     coordinate (#1 south)
(#1 south west -| #1 north east)     coordinate (#1 south east)
(#1 center     -| #1 south west)     coordinate (#1 west)
(#1 center     -| #1 north east)     coordinate (#1 east)
}}}

\begin{document}

\begin{tikzpicture}

\draw (1,0) rectangle (4,3) [add reference=R1];

% to verify if the points are good:
\tikzset{pt/.style={circle,fill=#1,inner sep=0mm,minimum size=4pt}}
\node[pt=red]    at (R1 south west){};
\node[pt=red]    at (R1 north west){};
\node[pt=red]    at (R1 north east){};
\node[pt=red]    at (R1 south east){};
\node[pt=black]  at (R1 center){};
\node[pt=orange] at (R1 west){};
\node[pt=orange] at (R1 south){};
\node[pt=orange] at (R1 east){};
\node[pt=orange] at (R1 north){};

\end{tikzpicture}

\end{document}

Edit: Compensated for the anchor-positioning issue with some nifty x/yshifting - Staves ^^

Picture

• No the code works with pgf 2.1 and 2.1 cvs Mar 13, 2012 at 16:08
• @Staves You have pgf 2.0 ? Mar 13, 2012 at 16:17
• @Staves /pgfversion after \begin{document} Mar 13, 2012 at 16:18
• That's a nice solution, I agree that it's cleaner than the edge-based one I presented :) Mar 13, 2012 at 17:03
• Wow, this is great. One question: Why the use of coordinate in \draw (1,0) coordinate rectangle (4,3) [add reference=R1] ;. I have always used that without coordinate and your example seems to work fine without it. So, just wondering if there is some hidden benefit to including coordinate? Or, are there other commands with similar syntax that require the use of coordinate? Mar 14, 2012 at 16:08

We can see, there are many solutions, I'll propose a new

you can choose the number of points

\documentclass{article}
\usepackage{tikz}
\usepackage{calc}

\newcommand{\MyRectangle}[3]{
\draw (#2) rectangle (#3);
\foreach \ii in{0,1,...,#1}{
\pgfmathsetmacro{\pos}{\ii/#1}
\path (#2) -- (#2-|#3) coordinate[pos=\pos](south\ii);
\path  (#2-|#3)--(#3) coordinate[pos=\pos](east\ii);
\path (#3) -- (#3-|#2) coordinate[pos=\pos](north\ii);
\path (#3-|#2) -- (#2) coordinate[pos=\pos](west\ii);
}
}

\begin{document}

\begin{tikzpicture}

\begin{scope}[rotate=12]
\coordinate(a) at (0,0);
\coordinate(b) at (5,3);
\MyRectangle{12}{a}{b}
\end{scope}

\foreach \ii in {0,...,12}{
\draw (south\ii) circle (0.1);
\draw[red] (east\ii) circle (0.1);
\draw[blue] (north\ii) circle (0.1);
\draw[green] (west\ii) circle (0.1);
}

\draw (north3) to[bend right=120] (west6);

\end{tikzpicture}

\end{document}

You can use the fit library to draw a rectangular node.

### Illustrative example:

\documentclass[border=3mm]{standalone}

\usepackage{tikz}
\usetikzlibrary{fit}

\begin{document}

\begin{tikzpicture}
\draw[blue]
(0,0)
coordinate (a)
rectangle
(3,2)
coordinate (b);
\node[draw=red,fit=(a) (b),inner sep=0pt] (box) {};
\draw (box.30)--(box.210);
\end{tikzpicture}

\end{document}

You don't need to draw the original rectangle, just two corners. With inner sep=0pt the fitting rectangle adjusts to the defined corners.

The result of this is as follows (the initial blue rectangle is drawn over by the node command):

### A more minimal example for general use:

\documentclass[border=3mm]{standalone}

\usepackage{tikz}
\usetikzlibrary{fit}

\tikzset{corners/.style={draw,fit={#1},rectangle,inner sep=0}}

\begin{document}

\begin{tikzpicture}
\node [corners={(0,0) (3,2)}] (box) {};
\end{tikzpicture}

\end{document}
• Nice, thank you for this it also helped me to understand @Andrew's answer better. As a side-note, I'm not sure if it's worth drawing the rectangle with an initial \draw command, as opposed to relying on the \node command to draw it and simply defining a and b beforehand as follows: \coordinate at (0,0) (a); \coordinate at (3,2) (b); \node [draw=red,fit=(a) (b),inner sep=0] (box) {}; Mar 12, 2012 at 9:22
• @Staves No, it's not worth. I just wanted to show you that fitting rectangle with inner sep=0 had exactly the same size of the original one. As you can see in the example, the red rectangle covers the blue one. Mar 12, 2012 at 9:56
• Or rather I couldn't see! ;) But thanks, I understand what you mean :) Mar 13, 2012 at 15:50
• With further experimentation I've realised the coordinates don't even need to be defined before the \node command, so the whole rectangle can be created with: \node [fit={(0,0) (3,2)},inner sep=0pt] (box) {}; Just in case anyone else didn't know that besides me :) Mar 13, 2012 at 17:14
• I've proposed an edit to this answer with an additional, and slightly more minimal, example given which is the basis for the code I'll actually be using. (Hopefully Ignasi will approve/adapt it as I'd rather that happen than posting my own minor variation of this answer.) Mar 13, 2012 at 18:08

I add another answer because in my first answer I did not want to use the notion of node. I think it's not in the spirit of TikZ to impose these kinds of conditions to a node but if you want a simple code to this::

\documentclass{article}
\usepackage{tikz}
\makeatletter
\tikzset{set dim/.style={insert path={%
coordinate [pos=0] (tmpa)
coordinate [pos=1] (tmpb)
\pgfextra{%
\pgfextractx{\pgf@x}{\pgfpointanchor{tmpa}{center}}
\pgfextracty{\pgf@y}{\pgfpointanchor{tmpa}{center}}
\pgf@xa\pgf@x %
\pgf@ya\pgf@y %
\pgfextractx{\pgf@x}{\pgfpointanchor{tmpb}{center}}
\pgfextracty{\pgf@y}{\pgfpointanchor{tmpb}{center}}
\pgf@xb\pgf@x %
\pgf@yb\pgf@y %
}%
}, minimum width=\pgf@xb,minimum height=\pgf@yb
}%
}%
\makeatother

\begin{document}
\begin{tikzpicture}
\draw[ help lines,lightgray](0,0) grid (5,5);
\draw[line width=5mm,draw=gray] (0,1) rectangle node[set dim] (R1){} (4,3) ;

% next line is to compare with a node
%\node [line width=5mm,
draw=gray,
minimum width=4cm,
minimum height=2cm] (R1) at (2,2){};
% to verify if the points are good:
\tikzset{pt/.style={circle,fill=#1,inner sep=0mm,minimum size=4pt}}
\node[pt=red]   at (R1.south west){};
\node[pt=red]   at (R1.north west){};
\node[pt=red]   at (R1.north east){};
\node[pt=red]   at (R1.south east){};
\node[pt=black] at (R1.center){};
\node[pt=green] at (R1.west){};
\node[pt=green] at (R1.south){};
\node[pt=green] at (R1.east){};
\node[pt=green] at (R1.north){};
\end{tikzpicture}
\end{document}

I mentioned in my question that the edge-based solution I presented could be expanded to provide the remaining anchors. Here is a quick demonstration of how this could be done:

\documentclass{report}

\usepackage{tikz}

% dot styling yoinked from Altermundus' answer
\tikzset{dot/.style={%
circle,
fill=#1,
inner sep=0,
minimum size=4pt
}}

% establish a macro to take care of all the drawing
\newcommand{\drawRectangle}[4][]{%
\draw
[#1]
(#3)
coordinate [xshift=-{0.5\pgflinewidth},yshift=-{0.5\pgflinewidth}] (#2 south west)
rectangle
coordinate (#2 center)
(#4)
coordinate [xshift={0.5\pgflinewidth},yshift={0.5\pgflinewidth}] (#2 north east)
edge [draw=none]
coordinate (#2 north)
(#2 north east -| #2 south west)
edge [draw=none]
coordinate (#2 east)
(#2 south west -| #2 north east)
coordinate (#2 south east) at (#2 south west -| #2 east)
edge [draw=none]
coordinate (#2 south)
(#2 south west)
coordinate (#2 north west) at (#2 north -| #2 south west)
edge [draw=none]
coordinate (#2 west)
(#2 south west)
;
}

\begin{document}

% draw a standard-width rectangle
\begin{tikzpicture}
% call the macro to draw the rectangle:
\drawRectangle[gray]{rectangle}{0,0}{3,2}
% draw some markers to show the anchors:
\node [dot=red] at (rectangle south west) {};
\node [dot=blue] at (rectangle center) {};
\node [dot=purple] at (rectangle north east) {};
\node [dot=green] at (rectangle north) {};
\node [dot=orange] at (rectangle north west) {};
\node [dot=yellow] at (rectangle south) {};
\node [dot=brown] at (rectangle south east) {};
\node [dot=black] at (rectangle east) {};
\node [dot=pink] at (rectangle west) {};
\end{tikzpicture}

\vspace{2em}

% draw a thicker rectangle
\begin{tikzpicture}[line width=.5cm]
\drawRectangle[gray]{rectangle}{0,0}{3,2}
\node [dot=red] at (rectangle south west) {};
\node [dot=blue] at (rectangle center) {};
\node [dot=purple] at (rectangle north east) {};
\node [dot=green] at (rectangle north) {};
\node [dot=orange] at (rectangle north west) {};
\node [dot=yellow] at (rectangle south) {};
\node [dot=brown] at (rectangle south east) {};
\node [dot=black] at (rectangle east) {};
\node [dot=pink] at (rectangle west) {};
\end{tikzpicture}

\end{document}

Edit: Added some nifty x/yshifting to compensate for the anchor-positioning problem ^^

Which produces this (cropped):

This is definitely not the most elegant solution, but I'm providing it just in case it's informative to somebody.

• (I figured this would be better contained in an answer as opposed to bloating the question more - if this was a bad idea, let me know and I'll merge it into the question.) Mar 14, 2012 at 19:00