One of the difficulties for chalk board jockeys (i.e. most theorists) is transferring our diagrams into our tex files. One of the top priorities is effectively drawing Feynman diagrams. There are two schools of thought on this:

  1. TeX purist: Generate Feynman diagrams within LaTeX using TeX packages and some software front end.
  2. Pragmatist: Generate diagrams any way you want, then import them as eps or pdf images into a TeX document.

The first option has the benefit of elegance and portability. A good — if not comprehensive — list of options are available at InsectNation. (I prefer JaxoDraw myself). The trade-offs are that these options usually have a bit of a learning curve and tend to be a bit limited when you want to do something “outside of the box.”

The second option allows one to use a full-fleged graphics program, but it’s tedious to make some Feynman components with very general tools [1]. Luckily, there’s a fantastic pair of how-to videos by AjabberWok for using Adobe Illustrator to create Feynman diagrams:

The handy feature is that one defines Illustrator brushes to implement the particular type of propagator: scalar, vector, gluon, etc. Thus all one has to do is draw the topology of the diagram and apply the appropriate brushes.

But Illustrator is ‘high end’ graphic design software. What is a student to do? If you’re really lucky, your adviser will give it to you [2].  In a pinch, many universities have site licenses for Adobe software for use in computer labs. A third option that you might not be aware of, however, is student licensing.

I recently discovered that the “academic discount” software that my university’s bookstore sells off its shelves are not the best deals students can get. Student licensed software are typically boxed sets with no fancy packaging or manuals, but that are even further discounted. One might also be able to get even further discounted deals on old versions of this software. I was able to get a copy of the full Adobe Design Premium CS 3.3 suite for the cost of two or three hardback textbooks.

Now I can draw funky Feynman diagrams with brane-localized fields.🙂


[1] This is like trying to use a lock picking kit to open a locked door: you have many tools that do many different things, but it’s more complicated than having a particular key for the particular door. This analogy, in turn, reminds me of an old barometer joke.

[2] I know of one lucky PhD student who got a copy of Illustrator from his adviser. I tried asking my adviser for a copy and he laughed at me.