I am up with the following:

Using the code given at the bottom.

Suffice to say, I don't really like the result: I wanted to draw this picture without explicitly calculating the circle and the lines going into and out of it. However, I just don't know how to draw that part-circle to the right (with $\theta$ in it), such that I...

  • get an arc which is shaped like a circle,
  • have it intersect the shown without actually crossing them, and
  • have $\theta$ placed between the middle of the actually drawn arc and its center.

How could I achieve this?


\coordinate (a) at (-3,0.5);
\coordinate (b) at (-1,0.5);

\draw[solid,-latex] (a) -- (b) coordinate[at start] (p);

\draw[thin,solid,latex-latex] (p) -- node[left] {$p$} ++(270:0.5);

\draw[thin,dashed] (-3,0) -- (3,0) coordinate[very near end] (angleStart);

\node (interaction) [circle through=(b)
                    , solid
                    , draw
                    , fill=lightgray
                    ]  at (0,0) {interaction};

\draw[solid,-latex] (interaction.north east)  -- ++(45:2) coordinate[near end] (angleEnd);

\draw (angleStart) to[out=50,in=-20] node[below left=2pt] {$\theta$} (angleEnd);
  • 1
    While code snippets are useful in explanations, it is always best to compose a fully compilable MWE that illustrates the problem including the \documentclass and the appropriate packages so that those trying to help don't have to recreate it. Especially with tikz since there are numerous libraries that could be used. May 2, 2012 at 21:03
  • Are the coordinates of (a) and (b) given? Actually what are the given data and what do you want to automate exactly?
    – percusse
    May 2, 2012 at 21:19
  • @PeterGrill: Thank you, I will keep that in mind.
    – mSSM
    May 2, 2012 at 21:47
  • @percusse: Nothing as complicated as that. I think, my question was already answered below.
    – mSSM
    May 2, 2012 at 21:48

4 Answers 4


I suggest that you base everything on the center of the circle in which case the calculations can easily be automated with the additional TikZ library: \usetikzlibrary{calc}

enter image description here

You can set the angle and radius you want via:


Everything else is computed based on these. You can adjust these to get the specific result you desire.

Two other tweaks that I have defined below are to adjust how far the dashed lines extend past the arc, and how far past the arc the label is placed (as percentages):







\coordinate (Origin) at (0,0);

\draw [thin, dashed] (Origin) -- ($(\LineExtend*\ArcRadius,0)$);% Horizontal

% Extend this past the (\XValue,\YValue)
\draw [thin, dashed] (Origin) -- ($\LineExtend*(\XValueArc,\YValueArc)$);

\node (interaction) [circle, solid, draw, fill=lightgray]  
    at (Origin) {interaction};

\draw [<->] ($(Origin)+(\ArcRadius,0)$) 
    arc (0:\ArcAngle:\ArcRadius);

\node at ($\LableExtend*(\XValueLabel,\YValueLabel)$) {$\theta$};
  • Thanks, I will have a look at that. I already like that picture you put there much better than what I did...
    – mSSM
    May 2, 2012 at 21:49

With pgf 2.1 cvs for the node \theta



\coordinate (Origin) at (0,0);
\node (interaction) [circle, draw, 
                     fill = lightgray] at (Origin) {interaction};    

\draw [thin, dashed] (interaction.0) -- ++(0:1.5) 
                     (interaction.60)   -- ++(60:1.5) ;

\draw [<->] (0:2.1)  arc (0:60:2.1) node [right,pos=0.5] {$\theta$};

enter image description here

  • I like that, too; this (name.xx) syntax is new in 2.1?
    – mSSM
    May 2, 2012 at 23:12
  • I use it recently so I'm not sure. The new thing in the cvs version is to use node [pos=...] with arc operation. May 3, 2012 at 5:17
  • actually it is not that new, you have the access on all nodes (it is just particularly useful on circle nodes).
    – nickpapior
    Aug 9, 2012 at 19:15

Just for fun.

enter image description here


    \rput(D){\tiny Interaction}
  • Yes, you can do an ellipse arc, as mentioned in the first example in the tikz documentation (description is somewhat missing in "the arc operation"-section). you specify the xradius and the yradius in the last argument, connected by ' and '. \draw (\CENTERx,\CENTERy) ++( 45 : 1 ) arc ( 45:0:1 and 2);
    – user23316
    Dec 14, 2012 at 17:07

The easiest way to draw an arc from the center is

\draw (\CENTERx,\CENTERy) ++( 45 : 1 ) arc ( 45:0:1 );

Draws an arc on a circle of radius 1 centered at (\CENTERx,\CENTERy), from (45 degrees) to (0 degrees).

See here for an example

  • Can you draw an elliptic arc with your method above? Aug 9, 2012 at 18:42
  • I cannot. The first parameter defines the center (\CENTERx, \CENTERy), then what point on the circle to start and what radius that circle is ++(45:1), that it is an arc, and degstart:degEnd:radius of the actual arc to draw. I would be interested to know if it is possible though.
    – bobobobo
    Aug 9, 2012 at 19:01
  • 1
    Maybe with some coordinates scaling (different scales for the different directions) this can be achieved. I didn't try...
    – Dror
    Aug 9, 2012 at 19:10

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