TikZ (together with its PGF backend) is the most widely used picture drawing tool by regulars here, having more than 50x as many questions as for Metapost, alongside a wealth of documentation and user support elsewhere. TikZ is supported by several of the most popular TeX engines, while Metapost has native support only in LuaTeX, needing invocation as a separate program from other platforms. And TikZ uses familiar TeX syntax, not requiring another macro-based language to be learned.

Yet Metapost has a band of loyal followers. There are "traditional" reasons for this: Metapost is more "Knuthian", being derived from Knuth's Metafont and by report is Knuth's preferred tool; Metapost is rather older than TikZ, and so some prefer it for reasons of sticking with the better-understood tool.

Are there other reasons why users might prefer Metapost to TikZ?

  • I looked for thsi qn before asking and contrived to overlook an older qn, tex.stackexchange.com/questions/34523/pgf-tikz-vs-metapost - I guess I would not have asked the question, although this question asks for advantages of MP over Tikz from the viewpoint of an MP user, not differences between the two. Nov 8, 2012 at 10:52
  • Make no mistake that if you don't mind the dvips route it's as good as TikZ and sometimes even better because of the underlying PS engine. I've learned a lot after asking a similar question. See: tex.stackexchange.com/questions/60778/…
    – percusse
    Nov 8, 2012 at 10:52
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    Also I need to say that MP,PSTricks and others have a certain scientific vibe to it and TikZ is much more graphics based and neutral when it comes to documentation. I think the manual is making a tremendous difference in terms of popularity. I couldn't resist :)
    – percusse
    Nov 8, 2012 at 11:08
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    metapost has been used successfully in the development of new fonts. i'm not sufficiently familiar with the details of tikz to know if this is possible, but i suspect that, even if it is, it's more difficult/complicated. Nov 8, 2012 at 17:03
  • @barbara - Right. Indeed, Latin Modern was developed using METATYPE1 (essentially some scripts, library support, and templates for turning Metapost figures into Type-1 fonts). There's no reason I can think of why some similar script/template system could not be put together for PGF, though I guess that PGF does not map onto Postscript in as clean a way as Metapost. If that's true, that's an answer. Nov 9, 2012 at 8:28

3 Answers 3


Here are a few reasons why I use MetaPost.

  • MetaPost is tightly integrated into ConTeXt
  • MetaPost is by an order of magnitudes faster than TikZ
  • MetaPost is included in the TeX backend (in LuaTeX). That's one of the reasons where the speed gain comes from. Not being implemented in TeX is another.
  • I created some custom MetaPost macros ages ago which I still use and there is no reason to port it to a TikZ or to another package.
  • I find the MetaPost syntax easier to understand than TikZ
  • It has a brilliant manual (this does in no way imply that the Tikz manual is inferior)
  • 7
    The manual I was referring to is the MetaFun manual. It's not strictly MetaPost, but large parts are applicable to plain MetaPost as well.
    – Marco
    Apr 8, 2013 at 10:27
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    gmp package (ctan.org/pkg/gmp) integrates Metapost with LaTeX too. It also lets you use your LaTeX document parameters inside Metapost code.
    – mmj
    Apr 13, 2013 at 15:58
  • How about the capability of 3D drawing and plotting? Nov 9, 2013 at 1:59
  • Is there a good tutorial for drawing commutative diagrams with metapost?
    – qed
    Dec 29, 2016 at 21:49

I don't know about Metapost. I use the Metapost inspired language Asymptote. I preferred it because I felt that it's

  • More general-purpose
  • C++-like and object-oriented (thus a soft learning curve for me)

That said, I still believe PGF/Tikz is very powerful and I do use circuitikz for circuit diagrams rather than draw all the electronic elements from scratch in Asymptote. I only wish I had more time to learn PGF/Tikz. I think the deciding factor for me was time.


For what it's worth, I finally found the time to learn some TikZ and I totally get where you're coming from now: TikZ is a godsend!

  • 3
    I actually went in the opposite direction: I learned TikZ first, and then switched partially to Asymptote because of its 3D capabilities. But I still use TikZ sometimes. Nov 9, 2013 at 2:42

i expect that many metapost users are ex-metafont-users; if you're fluent in metafont, metapost's probably as good as anything. remember that pgf came along really rather recently; it's clear that it's a good _thing_, since its adoption has been exponentially fast, but old habits die hard.

(including my habit of almost never drawing anything, which dates back to the 1980s...)

  • 7
    I learnt Metapost without knowing Metafont, it's a very natural language indeed. In fact with Metapost you are able to do easy things quickly, and hard things easily, once you have spent some time in learning it.
    – mmj
    Apr 13, 2013 at 15:53

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