I would like to create some vector graphics for my LaTeX documents. The graphics would often contain mathematical expressions that would should be typeset using LaTeX. As far as I know, my best options are:

  • Using Tikz or similar packages
  • Use Inkscape in combination with plugins that allow to render latex formulas.

The problems with these two options are that TikZ is quite complicated to use with complicated diagrams and that Inkscape is difficult to use on non-Linux operating systems.

Could you please tell me if there are other options on Mac OS X?

  • It is also possible to use TikZ to draw only the labels on top in combination with any graphics software that can output to pdf.
    – Alexander
    Oct 24, 2012 at 18:17
  • Please go through these two questions tex.stackexchange.com/q/78850/15717 tex.stackexchange.com/q/26972/15717 as it may be similar. Its always a good to select a cross-platform graphics editor Oct 24, 2012 at 18:22
  • What's the best way to place labels on top of the pdf output? Do I have to place the labels using coordinates or is there a method to place markers or placeholders from the vector graphics software? Oct 24, 2012 at 18:49
  • Welcome to TeX.SE. If this is something you are doing a few times, a graphical method would suffice. Otherwise, I would highly recommend tikz. It does have a bit of learning curve, but once you get going the basics are quite simple to do. From the brief description of what you need perhaps \tikzmark would suffice. There are numerous example on the usage of \tikzmark on this site. If you put together a small example of exactly what you require and make an attempt, people here can help you along the way. Oct 24, 2012 at 18:49
  • One way to place them would be using coordinates -- you draw a grid on top of the image, and you can tweak the coordinate to suit. The other way is to mark the location with something such as \tikzmark and then use this marked location to place the label. I use both techniques depending on the application. Oct 24, 2012 at 18:51

2 Answers 2


I recommend tikz. The advantage of tikz over graphical methods are analogous to the reasons to use LaTeX in other situations:

  1. To write documents, many people in science use LaTeX instead of word-processing software. It has a steep learning curve, but saves time in the end and produces better-looking results.

  2. To create presentations, quite a number of people use beamer instead of powerpoint-like software. Probably a bit less than #1, but the story is the same: It has a steep learning curve, but saves time and produces better-looking results in the end.

  3. Some people use tikz (and pgfplots) to create their graphics. Probably a considerable lower number than in #1 and #2, but again, the reasoning is the same: It has a steep learning curve, but...

Does it start to sound familiar? I guess it should! For a long time, I used LaTeX only for #1. When I prepared my Master thesis presentation, I made the jump and decided to learn beamer, and then I used LaTeX for #1 and #2. Then, when I was writing my licentiate thesis (midterm PhD thesis in the Swedish academic system), I wasn't satisfied with the diagrams and plots, and decided to learn tikz and pgfplots. So then I used LaTeX for #1, #2 and #3.

That's my current situation. I don't know right now if I will make any further steps in the forseeable future. If any, it would be package writing, but so far the prospect of programming in TeX looks daunting to me. Quite possibly the reasoning will once again be the same: It has a steep learning curve, but...


P.S. Of course, you can always use other programs to create graphics and then draw on top of your picture!

  • As I said I use tikz and I like it very much, but for certain drawings it is too much complicated and I find it better to use a graphical software, also because I can use my graphics tablet with it. I found a decent solution with Adobe Illustrator (it should work with other software too) and LaTeXit, which can export formulas as PDF contours. Then I save the graphics as PDF and include them in LaTeX. For simpler graphics tikz is the way to go! Nov 4, 2012 at 9:54
  • Well, see my 'P.S'; you can still use a hybrid solution, for example, you could create the complicated parts with external software, but write the text labels with tikz
    – gerrit
    Nov 4, 2012 at 11:00

Ipe has really nice LaTeX integration. But it's probably not the best choice if you need lots of fancy graphics features.

You can install Ipe under OS X via MacPorts. There may be some other ways to install it as well.

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