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Formatting Information — An introduction to typesetting with LATEX

Chapter 4: Lists, tables, figures

Section 4.3: Figures

As explained in § 4.2.1, Figures and Tables float to a vacant part of the page, as they are not part of your normal text, but illustrative objects that you refer to.

\caption{Total variable overhead variance (after 

To create a figure, use the figure environment. Like Tables, they automatically get numbered, and they MUST include a \caption (with a \label after it, if needed for cross-referencing). Like Tables, it is conventional to centre the material, but that is a personal choice.

You can see that the structure is very similar to the table environment, but in this case we have a graphic included with the \includegraphics command. Here, it’s also enclosed in an \fbox, which places a frame box around it (see § 4.6.2). Details of including graphics are in the next section: you need the graphicx package. Details of the bibliographic citation mechanism used in the caption are in § 5.3.2.

Figures can contain text, diagrams, pictures, or any other kind of illustration, even a tabular environment — LATEX is agnostic on this point, so Tables can contain an image (of a table, presumably) and Figures can contain a tabulation. What matters is that you describe them properly.

Figure 4.2: Total variable overhead variance (after Bull (1972))


The content of the Figure could of course also be textual, in the form of lists, paragraphs, or other blocks of text. For drawings, LATEX has a very simple drawing environment called picture, which lets you create a limited set of lines and curves, but for a diagram of any complexity, you should use a standard vector drawing program (see § 4.4.3), save the image as a PDF vector, and include it in your Figure with \includegraphics as illustrated.

Another possibility is to create your diagrams within the LATEX document, using TikZ, which is a TEX interface to the PGF graphics language. TikZ is much more powerful than the picture environment, but it’s a whole language, and needs learning. (I used it to create the labelling on the image in Figure 1.4.)