Wikipedia:Historical archive/How to draw a diagram with Draw

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This tutorial aims to instruct a beginner on the basic principles of vector graphics. There are several important vector graphics programs about that allow you to do very fancy things, and one of them is Draw.

Specialized programs such as OpenOffice Draw are free of charge, and easy to obtain and learn by novices, whereas proprietary equivalents cost more money and are only available on certain types of computer. (see Wikipedia:How to draw a diagram with Microsoft Word for a tutorial on how to do the same thing in the Microsoft Word program) The basic principles are the same. Once you learn how to do it in a vector-graphics program, you will quickly pick up how to do it in a general-purpose word-processor.

Getting Started[edit]

If you don't already have OpenOffice, the latest version can be downloaded free of charge from Once you've downloaded it, it might be worth offering copies of the program to other people you know to save them the trouble of downloading their own copies. This is completely legal, see the OpenOffice license pages for details.


The bases of vector graphics are simple lines and shapes. Select any of the drawing tools from the toolbar on the left hand side, or hold the mouse down over any of the tools (with the little arrow) to see more options. For example, hold the mouse down over the rectangle tool to see squares, filled rectangles, etc.

File:Openoffice draw shape.png

Notice the green little boxes at the "corners" of the shape, these are called handles and allow you to resize the shape bigger or smaller. To rotate, or distort shapes, try using the transform tools toolbox.

Colouring In[edit]

File:Openoffice draw area styles.png

To change the background colour of a shape, simply use the toolbar at the top of the window. A range of colours, textures, and patterns are available, each of which may be modified with various types of transparency. Click on the "paint can" icon to the left of that list to see the full range of styles available, or right-click on the object and select Area properties.

File:Openoffice draw fill.png

Joining Up[edit]

File:Openoffice draw object group.png

When your diagrams get more complicated, it can be useful to create groups of objects, which can be cut, pasted, and moved around as if they were one item.

Select a group of objects, right-click on one, and use Group or Ungroup from the menu.

You can also select a number of objects simultaneously by holding down shift and clicking on each object. The mousepointer will change to a + symbol to indicate that you're adding to the list of selected items.


File:Openoffice draw text.png

To add text to any object, just double-click on it. A cursor will appear and you can type text. The text-formatting menus (font, size, colour) will become visible, and it's possible to combine several different text-styles in the same object.

The character and paragraph menus change the appearance of an item's text and its text-layout, respectively, while the Text menu is used to align the text within its parent object.

  • Keep the font simple. Sans-serif fonts such as Bitstream Vera Sans are good for diagrams (Arial is a good alternative for Windows users)
  • In many cases, it's better not to put a title in the diagram itself, but to write the title in the web-page when you publish the diagram. This makes it easier to change, and easier (on Wikipedia) for others to translate.

Exporting images[edit]

To export an image to PNG format ready for uploading to Wikipedia, use the File, Export menu, and select PNG from the dropdown list of filetypes.

Don't forget to also save the drawing itself (using the SXD file format) so that you can edit the drawing later.

One quick method of exporting an image is to simply take a screenshot, and load it into your bitmap graphics program. For example on Windows, press Print Screen on your keyboard, and then paste the screenshot into the bitmap editor to clean it up.

A very useful feature of all programs is the ability to export as PDF - while this isn't often used at Wikipedia, it can be a very good way of publishing complex diagrams and multi-page documents so that anybody can read them without needing the same office-suite as you.

Uploading images[edit]

Special:Upload is the Wikipedia page for uploading your JPEG or PNG images once they've been exported

A step-by-step walk through - [drawing type][edit]

Taking a sample request from Wikipedia requested diagrams... an ALU adder

1: Take a simple rectangle, write the label inside the rectangle, and add a few labels and connectors as required

Alu adder 3.png

The connectors are very useful for all sorts of diagrams... once you attach them to an object, you can move the object around and the connector will follow it.

File:Alu adder 4b.png

2: Make what we've got so far into a group, and create 3 copies of it

Alu adder 4.png

The alignment and distribution tools can be used to line-up objects with each other, useful to make the diagrams look neat

File:Alu adder 3b.png

4: Add a splash of colour to show what's an object and what's not. This is 10% grey.

File:Alu adder 5.png

5: Export the image to PNG, and upload to Wikipedia.

See also:[edit]