1. Christoph Reller
  2. tikz


Description of the TikZ Sphinx Extension

This extension to Sphinx enables the use of the PGF/TikZ LaTeX package to draw nice pictures. (See CTAN or sourceforge; the manual is, e.g., here. Also have a look at contributions such as pgfplots.)

Use the extension at your own risk. Anything might change in future versions without further notice.

Author:Christoph Reller christoph.reller@gmail.com
License:BSD License
Git Repository:https://bitbucket.org/philexander/tikz
PyPI Package:http://pypi.python.org/pypi/sphinxcontrib-tikz

Prerequisites and Configuration


This extension relies on two software packages being installed on your computer:

  1. LaTeX with the tikz package.

  2. A software package that is able to convert a PDF to an image. Currently, this extension supports four different ways of doing this conversion. We call them conversion "suites" and list for each suite what must be installed on your computer: (Only one such suite need be installed.)

    The Netpbm suite

    pdftoppm (part of the Poppler pdf library) and convert (part of the ImageMagick package)

    The pdf2svg suite


    The GhostScript suite


    The ImageMagick suite

    pdftoppm (part of the Poppler pdf library) and pnmtopng (part of the Netpbm package)

For Ubuntu Linux you roughly have to make sure that the following packages are installed:

  1. texlive and texlive-pictures (and maybe more LaTeX packages)
  2. Depending on the chosen conversion suite the following package(s) have to be installed:
    • Netpbm suite: poppler-utils and netpbm
    • pdf2svg suite: pdf2svg
    • GhostScript suite: ghostscript
    • ImageMagick suite: poppler-utils and imagemagick

For Mac OS X a possible way of getting this extension working is to install the MacTeX LaTeX distribution which per default comes with the tikz package. To install one of the conversion suites you can install homebrew and then use homebrew to install the package(s) listed under B. as above for Ubuntu Linux.

For Windows do the following:

  1. Install the MiKTeX LaTeX distribution and include the tikz package when installing.

  2. Depending on the chosen conversion suite, you have to install the following:

    • Netpbm suite:

      If you don't want to install the full packages above, you can copy the following files to some directory and add this directory to the PATH environment variable:

      From Xpdf:

      • pdftoppm

      From NetPbm:

      • pnmtopng.exe
      • libnetpbm10.dll
      • libpng13.dll
      • rgb.txt

      Also, you need to create a new environment variable RGBDEF=C:\\TikzSphinx\\rgb.txt assuming you copy the files to the C:\\TikzSphinx directory.

    • pdf2svg suite:

      Get the Windows binaries from GitHub copy all the files to some directory and add this directory to the PATH environment variable.

    • GhostScript suite:

      Get the GhostScript binary from here, rename the binary to ghostscript.exe, copy it to some directory and add this directory to the PATH environment variable. Instead of renaming the binary you can also use mklink in a administrator command shell to make a link named ghostscript.exe to the original binary.

    • ImageMagick suite:

      Install Xpdf (as described for the Netpbm suite) and install ImageMagick from here.


If you have installed the Tikz Sphinx extension e.g. using PyPI, then you have to load the extension in the Sphinx project configuration file conf.py by:

extensions = ['sphinxcontrib.tikz']

Additionally, the following configuration values are supported for the html build target:

  • Choose the image processing ‹suite›, either 'Netpbm', 'pdf2svg', 'GhostScript', 'ImageMagick' ('Netpbm' by default):

    tikz_proc_suite = ‹suite›


  • If you want your documentation to be built on http://readthedocs.org, you have to choose GhostScript.
  • All suites produce png images, excepted 'pdf2svg' which produces svg.
  • Enable/disable transparent graphics (enabled by default):

    tikz_transparent = ‹True or False›
  • Add ‹string› to the LaTeX preamble used for building the TikZ picture:

    tikz_latex_preamble = ‹string›
  • Add \usetikzlibrary{‹string›} to the LaTeX preamble used for building the TikZ picture:

    tikz_tikzlibraries = ‹string›


The above configuration values only apply to the html build target. If you want to use the latex target, then you have to take care to include in the preamble for the latex target:

  • The tikz_latex_preamble
  • The tikz_libraries
  • Any ‹tikz libraries› given to the libs option of the tikz directive (see :ref:`usage`)

I recommend to do this as follows:

latex_elements = {
    # ‹...›
    'preamble': '''\usepackage{tikz}''' + tikz_latex_preamble + '''
    \usetikzlibrary{''' + tikz_tikzlibraries + "‹tikz libraries›" + '''}''',
    # ‹...›


If you want to make use of the TikZ externalization library for the LaTeX build output, then you may want to change the line:


in /usr/share/sphinx/texinputs/Makefile to:

LATEXOPTS = "-shell-escape"


The extension adds a tikz-directive and a tikz-role. The usage is very similar to the standard math Sphinx extensions.

The tikz-directive can be used in two ways:

.. tikz:: ‹tikz code, potentially broken
   across lines›
   :libs: ‹tikz libraries›


.. tikz:: ‹caption, potentially broken
   across lines›
   :libs: ‹tikz libraries›

   ‹tikz code, potentially broken
   across lines›

The ‹caption› is optional, but if present it is printed as a picture caption below the picture.

The :libs: option expects its argument ‹tikz libraries› to be a comma separated list of Tikz libraries to use. If you want to build the LaTeX target then make sure that you add these libraries to the LaTeX preamble in conf.py.

The :stringsubst: option enables the following string substitution in the ‹tikz code›: Before processing the ‹tikz code› the string $wd or $(wd) is replaced by the project root directory. This is convenient when referring to some source file in the LaTeX code.

The ‹tikz code› is code according to the TikZ LaTeX package. It behaves as if inside a tikzpicture environment.

Alternatively to providing the ‹tikz code›, the :include: option can be used to import the code from a file:

.. tikz::‹caption, potentially broken
   across lines›
   :libs: ‹tikz libraries›
   :include: ‹filename›

The tikz-role is used as follows:

:tikz:`‹tikz code›`

The ‹tikz code› is code according to the Tikz LaTeX package. It behaves as if inside a \tikz macro.



These examples only render in a Sphinx project with a proper configuration of the Tikz Sphinx extension.

.. tikz:: [>=latex',dotted,thick] \draw[->] (0,0) -- (1,1) -- (1,0)
   -- (2,0);
   :libs: arrows
.. tikz:: An Example Directive with Caption

   \draw[thick,rounded corners=8pt]
An example role :tikz:`[thick] \node[blue,draw] (a) {A};
\node[draw,dotted,right of=a] {B} edge[<-] (a);`

An example role :tikz:`[blue,thick] \node[draw] (a) {A}; \node[draw,dotted,right of=a] {B} edge[<-] (a);`

Example of a plot imported from a file:


If you use the tikz directive inside of a table or a sidebar and you specify a caption then the LaTeX target built by the sphinx builder will not compile. This is because, as soon as you specify a caption, the tikzpicture environment is set inside a figure environment and hence it is a float and cannot live inside a table or another float.

If you enable :stringsubst: and you happen to have a math expression starting with wd (i.e., you would like to write $wd ... then you must insert some white space, e.g., $w d ... to prevent string substitution.