TikZ arrows

  • This post is about exploring TikZ arrows in LaTeX provided by the arrows.meta library. We will learn how to change the arrow tip (head), the arrow thickness, the arrow color and add arrow label.   

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Before going further, we will start with highlighting predefined arrow tips that are independent of the library in question.

Predefined Arrow Tip in TikZ

In this section, we will consider arrow tips that are always defined. 

1. Stealth Arrow Tip

An arrow head can be added at the end of a path by providing the option -stealth to the drawing command. To print the arrow tip at the beginning of the path, we use stealth- instead of -stealth. To get an arrow head at both ends, we use stealth-stealth. stealth represents the style of the arrowhead. Here is an example: 

 \documentclass{standalone}

\usepackage{tikz}

\begin{document}

\begin{tikzpicture}
	\draw [-stealth](0,0) -- (1,0);
	\draw [stealth-](0,-1) -- (1,-1);
	\draw [stealth-stealth](0,-2)--++(1,-2);
\end{tikzpicture}

\end{document}

and the obtained result after compilation:

stealth TikZ arrow

2. Stealth Reversed Arrow Tip

As its name says, the stealth reverse arrow tip is an inverted version of the previous arrowhead. It can be used as follows:

 \documentclass{standalone}

\usepackage{tikz}

\begin{document}

\begin{tikzpicture}
	\draw [-stealth reversed](0,0) -- (1,0);
	\draw [stealth reversed-](0,-1) -- (1,-1);
	\draw [stealth reversed-stealth reversed](0,-2)--++(1,-2);
\end{tikzpicture}

\end{document}
Stealth reversed arrowhead TikZ

3. To Arrow Tip

The next illustration shows the style of the to arrowhead. Check the code below!

To arrow tip TikZ LateX

to arrow tip style in TikZ

To reversed arrow tip TikZ Latex

to reversed arrow tip style in TikZ

 \documentclass{standalone}

\usepackage{tikz}

\begin{document}

\begin{tikzpicture}
	\draw [-to](0,0) -- (1,0);
	\draw [to-](0,-1) -- (1,-1);
	\draw [to-to](0,-2)--++(1,-2);
\end{tikzpicture}

\end{document}

4. To Reversed Arrow Tip

By adding reversed to the arrow tip to we get an inversed version (to reversed), check the image above.

 \documentclass{standalone}

\usepackage{tikz}

\begin{document}

\begin{tikzpicture}
	\draw [-to reversed](0,0) -- (1,0);
	\draw [to reversed-](0,-1) -- (1,-1);
	\draw [to reversed-to reversed](0,-2)--++(1,-2);
\end{tikzpicture}

\end{document}

5. Latex Arrow Tip

The latex arrow head style is shown below. It should be noted that there is another arrowhead with the same name but with a capital L (Latex), it is provided by the arrows.meta library. 

latex arrow tip tikz latex

latex arrow tip style in TikZ

latex reversed arrowhead TikZ LaTeX

latex reversed arrow tip style in TikZ

 \documentclass{standalone}

\usepackage{tikz}

\begin{document}

\begin{tikzpicture}
	\draw [-latex](0,0) -- (1,0);
\end{tikzpicture}

\end{document}

6. Latex Reversed Arrow Tip

The latex reversed arrowhead style is shown in the previous image. It is an inversed version of the latex arrowhead.

 \documentclass{standalone}

\usepackage{tikz}

\begin{document}

\begin{tikzpicture}
	\draw [-latex reversed](0,0) -- (1,0);
\end{tikzpicture}

\end{document}

7. |-| Arrow Tip

The style of the arrowhead corresponds to a small vertical line, check the next image and code to get an idea:

 \documentclass{standalone}

\usepackage{tikz}

\begin{document}

\begin{tikzpicture}
	\draw [-|](0,0) -- (1,0);
	\draw [|-](0,-1) -- (1,-1);
	\draw [|-|](0,-2)--++(1,-2);
\end{tikzpicture}

\end{document}
vertical line arrow tip in TikZ LaTeX

Introducing Arrows.meta Library

The package TikZ is a front end of a more complicated package called PGF (post graphic format) – TikZ has many libraries covering almost all areas of a drawing that a user can think of. In this post we are going to discuss one of the most used tikz libraries called arrows.meta. The latter is loaded as follows:

\usetikzlibrary{arrows.meta}

As the name suggest, the arrows.meta library is used to produce different styles of arrow heads. We will be discussing different types of arrow heads, how they are called, their variations, and options that are available to manipulate them according to our needs. 

Arrows Types in arrows.meta Library

The library lists 27 different types of arrow head that all have different types of uses that can be classified into following types:

1. Barbed Type Arrow Tips

This type of arrow tip comprises of arrow head that points toward the back of the arrow and is not filled. The following table describes various arrow heads that can be produced using command from this family. The different types of arrows in this are Arc Barb, Bar, Bracket, Hooks, Parenthesis, Straight Barb, Tee Barb types.

Arrow Type

Arrow shape

- Arc Barb

Arc Barb TikZ LaTeX arrows meta

-Bar

Bar TikZ LaTeX arrows meta

-Bracket

Bracket TikZ LaTeX arrows meta

-Hooks

Hooks TikZ LaTeX arrows meta

-Parenthesis

Parenthesis TikZ LaTeX arrows meta

-Straight Barb

Straight Barb TikZ LaTeX arrows meta

-Tee Barb

Tee Barb TikZ LaTeX arrows meta

2. Mathematical Arrows

As the name clearly suggest that these are the arrows that we see in mathematical texts. These arrow heads include Classical Tikz Rightarrow, Computer Modern Rightarrow, Implies and To.

Arrow Type

Arrow shape

- {Classical TikZ Rightarrow}

Classical TikZ Rightarrow TikZ LaTeX arrows meta

-{Computer Modern Rightarrow}

Computer Modern Rightarrow TikZ LaTeX arrows meta

[-{Implies},double]

Implies TikZ LaTeX arrows meta

-To

TO TikZ LaTeX arrows meta

3. Geometric Arrows

There are two variation of these arrows: with fill and with empty fill. For an empty fill, we add the option “Open” to the arrowhead command.

-{Circle[open]}

In both case, these arrow heads has a geometrical shape like Circle, Diamond, Ellipse, Kite, Latex, Rectangle and square. Check the next Table lists to get an idea about the arrow head style and how it can be drawn.

Arrow Type

Arrow shape

- Circle

Circle not filled TikZ LaTeX arrows meta

-Diamond

Diamond TikZ LaTeX arrows meta

-Ellipse

Ellipse TikZ LaTeX arrows meta

-Kite

Kite TikZ LaTeX arrows meta

-Latex

Latex TikZ LaTeX arrows meta

-{Latex[round]}

Latex round TikZ LaTeX arrows meta

-Rectangle

Rectangle TikZ LaTeX arrows meta

-Square

Square TikZ LaTeX arrows meta

-Stealth

Stealth TikZ LaTeX arrows meta

-Triangle

Triangle TikZ LaTeX arrows meta

-Turned Square

Turned Square TikZ LaTeX arrows meta

And here is the same arrow tips without filling color:

Arrow Type

Arrow shape

- {Circle[open]}

Circle open TikZ LaTeX arrows meta

-{Diamond[open]}

Diamond open TikZ LaTeX arrows meta

-{Ellipse[open]}

Ellipse open TikZ LaTeX arrows meta

-{Kite[open]}

Kite open TikZ LaTeX arrows meta

-{Latex[open]}

Latex open TikZ LaTeX arrows meta

-{Latex[round,open]}

Latex open round TikZ LaTeX arrows meta

-{Rectangle[open]}

Rectangle open TikZ LaTeX arrows meta

-{Square[open]}

Square open TikZ LaTeX arrows meta

-{Stealth[open]}

Stealth open TikZ LaTeX arrows meta

-{Triangle[open]}

Triangle open TikZ LaTeX arrows meta

-{Turned Square[open]}

Turned Square open TikZ LaTeX arrows meta

4. Cap Type Arrows

Are used to produce a arrow head that is actually a cap. There are only five types of such arrows: Butt Cap, Fast Round, Fast Triangle, Round Cap, Triangle Cap.

Arrow Type

Arrow shape

[-Butt Cap,line width=5pt]

Butt Cap TikZ LaTeX arrows meta

[-Fast Round,line width=5pt]

Fast round TikZ LaTeX arrows meta

[-Fast Triangle,line width=5pt]

Fast Triangle TikZ LaTeX arrows meta

[-Round Cap,line width=5pt]

Round Cap TikZ LaTeX arrows meta

[-Triangle Cap,line width=5pt]

Trianlge Cap TikZ LaTeX arrows meta

5. Special Type Arrows

These arrow heads produce rays and we can increase the number of segments if needed by adding an option to it, check the table below.

Arrow Type

Arrow shape

[-Rays]

Rays TikZ LaTeX arrows meta

[-{Rays[n=6]}]

Rays 6 TikZ LaTeX arrows meta
  • Don't forget to write the arrow tip type between curly brackets {} when you would like to customize it.

Customizing Arrow Heads

Arrow head can be customized by changing its size, scale, arc angles, slant, reversing, halving, coloring and line style. Let’s consider all of these options one by one in details.

1. Change the Size of an arrow Head

The size of the arrow head can be changed by modifying its length and width. These options are specified in square brackets just after we have specified the type of arrow.

For example for a stealth type arrow head, we can change the length to 3mm and width to 2mm of the arrow by using the following line code:

\draw [-{Stealth[length=3mm, width=2mm]}] (0,0) -- (1,0); 

The following figure shows the difference between the default Stealth and our customized Stealth arrow head.

change length width arrow head latex tikz

Custom values

Stealth TikZ LaTeX arrows meta

Default values

2. Scaling an arrow head

A arrow head can be scaled to increase its size where the aspect ratio remains the same. To scale the arrow head in TikZ, we add the option scale=<value> to the square brackets as follows:

\draw [-{Stealth[scale=2]}] (0,0) -- (1,0); 

The result will be an arrow head that is twice of the size of a standard Stealth Arrowhead.

scale arrow head latex tikz

Scaled arrow tip

Stealth TikZ LaTeX arrows meta

Default values

We can also scale individual components of length and width. For example: to scale the length only, we will use -{Stealth[scale length=2]}], where as for scaling the width only we will use : [-{Stealth[scale width=2]}].

3. Adjusting Arc Angles of Arrow Heads

The arrow head from Barbed type family has few arrows that consists of arcs. These arcs can be adjusted and customized using the arc angle command. 

We can write like

 \draw [-{Arc Barb[arc=90]}] (0,0)--(3,0); 

to produce an Arc Barb arrow has 90 degrees arc – staring from -45 to + 45 degrees. (for standard for default arc barb, the angle is 180 degree and it starts from -90 and goes to +90).

 \documentclass{standalone}

\usepackage{tikz}
\usetikzlibrary{arrows.meta}
\begin{document}

\begin{tikzpicture}
% arrows.meta
	\draw [-{Arc Barb[arc=90]}] (0,0)--(1,0); 
	\draw [-{Arc Barb[arc=120]}] (0,-0.5)--(1,-0.5); 
	\draw [-{Arc Barb[arc=280]}] (0,-1)--(1,-1); 
\end{tikzpicture}

\end{document}
Arc Barb modify arc TikZ LaTeX arrows meta

4. Slanting Arrow Heads

The arrow heads can also be slanted which corresponds to adding an italics effect to arrow tip. This is achieved by providing the option slant=<value> to the arrow head options. The slant takes values from -1 to 1 and it uses canvas transformation to achieve the conversion. Check the following example:

 \documentclass{standalone}

\usepackage{tikz}
\usetikzlibrary{arrows.meta}
\begin{document}

\begin{tikzpicture}
% arrows.meta
	\draw [-{Stealth[slant=0]}] (0,0)--(1,0); 
	\draw [-{Stealth[slant=-0.5]}] (0,-0.5)--(1,-0.5); 
	\draw [-{Stealth[slant=1]}] (0,-1)--(1,-1); 
\end{tikzpicture}

\end{document}
Slant Arrowhead TikZ LaTeX arrows meta

5. Change the Color of an Arrow Head

Changing the color of an arrow head can be done by providing the color name to the draw command. However, if we would like to change only the arrow tip color we can provide the color name to the parameters of the arrow head. Here is an example:

 \documentclass{standalone}

\usepackage{tikz}
\usetikzlibrary{arrows.meta}
\begin{document}

\begin{tikzpicture}
% arrows.meta
	\draw [-{Stealth[color=cyan]}] (0,0)--(1,0); 
	\draw [-{Stealth[fill=red]}] (0,-0.5)--(1,-0.5); 
	\draw [red,-{Stealth}] (0,-1)--(1,-1); 
\end{tikzpicture}

\end{document}
Modify arrowhead color TikZ LaTeX arrows meta

We also specified the coloring within the arrow TikZ by using color and fill commands. The command “color” determines the color of the outer line where as the fill sets the color that is to filled inside it.

Multiple Arrow Heads

Consider the case where we have multiple arrow heads that we would like to draw. This can be achieved as follows:

 \documentclass{standalone}

\usepackage{tikz}
\usetikzlibrary{arrows.meta}
\begin{document}

\begin{tikzpicture}
% arrows.meta
	\draw [-{Stealth}{Stealth}{Stealth}] (0,0)--(1,0); 
\end{tikzpicture}

\end{document}
Multiple arrow heads TikZ LaTeX

Conclusion

arrows.meta is one of the very useful libraries of TikZ. It has numerous options to customize an arrowhead from shape to color. From the options discussed above we conclude that almost any type of arrow can be made from this library and for more details you can check the PGF/TikZ documentation.

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