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I am working on my Masters' thesis in aeronautical engineering and would like to make high-quality drawings (not technical drawings as in detail designs in CAD, but drawings of concepts and ideas, eg airplane with basic forces acting on it).

I am sure is this a common task in technical writings and would like to know if there is software available for such purposes?

Disclaimer: I am not a graphic designer and don't have the skill or time to make nice drawings from scratch. I am hoping there is software that has a library of a bunch of basic shapes and images that can be edited and freely used.

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I think there is a TeX.SE question that deals with this. The details are not clear to me, but it appears that with a little work you can use TikZ with LaTeX to draw a plane:

TeX plane

This TeX.SE example used a variety of tools including Inkscape, Sketch, Blender, and Cinema4D (of which only Cinema4D is not FOSS) to produce:

Plane Diagram

From what I can piece together from this TeX.SE answer, details of how the above diagrams are made is available in Italian here. A Google Translate version of the abstract is:

This article shows how you can use the power of LATEX and PSTricks and TikZ packages in the production of advanced illustrations . The creation of designs that represent the three-dimensional scenes with directions of scientific content is made ​​possible with LATEX . The author shows how it is able to manipulate and arrange three-dimensional objects in a scene with the program Sketch of Eugene Ressler edil its intuitive scripting language , getting a ' output in the form of PSTricks or TikZ commands . The proposed working method allows to overcome the limitations that users of a package as PSTricks , which also has relatively advanced three-dimensional drawing capabilities , meet whenever are going to want to draw and manipulate three-dimensional scenes containing objects simple and primitive .

The teaching of a subject such as engineering Flight Dynamics is a field in which he operates, and which they refer to the specific examples given in the article

which suggests that Cinema4D may not be critical.

  • Thank you very much. These drawings of aircraft are very cool examples. My problem is however that I am not allowed to use Latex for my dissertation (go figure). Tikz seems great, but can you save as png images? And how steep us the learning curve? I am not very creative so fear I won't really be able to make drawings as in your examples. – Jonny Oct 9 '14 at 20:34
  • @Jonny, I haven't tried, but my guess is that not many people can make drawings as good as the examples I showed. As for TikZ to png, you can go TikZ to pdf which will allow you to eventually get to png. As for the learning curve my guess is it is pretty shallow, which in this case is bad since it means it would take a long time to get really good. – StrongBad Oct 10 '14 at 7:28
  • Thanks @StrongBad, I will certainly give it a try! I just downloaded the program QTikz which is a QT interface for Tikz and allows for export as .png! – Jonny Oct 10 '14 at 7:32

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