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Figures for a book

  1. Jun 12, 2016 #1
    DISCLAIMER: I had no idea where to put this question, so I apologize if it is in the wrong forum. I would appreciate if a mentor could correct its placement if necessary.

    [mentor's note: moved to computers & technology as this best fits the software aspect of this question]

    So, I have been working on a little book for physics self-studiers with a 9th grade mathematics background to learn moderately advanced physics. I know it will probably never go anywhere, but it is nevertheless a fun project.

    So, my question is, where should I go to get high-quality figures for free and without legal issues if it is ever published or posted online. If I would have to make them to avoid legal issues, what should I use to do that.

    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 12, 2016
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 12, 2016 #2


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    What type of figures are you looking for? And how many? I've written tons of math essays with figures created by myself and it's quiet easy as long as you know what you're looking for.

    As for getting already made figures, I have no idea.
  4. Jun 12, 2016 #3


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    Also, I make my figures in two different ways--the first (my favorite) way is like Paul Hewitt's doodles and the other way is like a normal textbook style. Which would you like?
  5. Jun 12, 2016 #4
    Basically everything. Tangent lines, 3-D graphs (although I'm pretty sure I can use an online graphing calculator for that), right triangles, vectors, vector fields, free body diagrams, etc.
    I'd love the textbook style. Thanks!
  6. Jun 12, 2016 #5


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    Considering that you're not writing some college level textbook (and I'm not sure how serious you're taking this) you could probably use something like Microsoft Mathematics or even Demos for graphs....

    Regarding the other figures, you could get yourself a program/software like Adobe Illustrator (there are cheaper versions of this and probably even free alternatives) and easily create the figures you're looking for. PhotoShop is different because it's pixel-based whereas Illustrator is vector-based (the latter will give you that textbook quality you're looking for).

    Doing this is actually really fun, and these types of programs really make it convenient for you so don't worry.

    I'll try upload some examples of figures I have made, but they're in a external hard drive that I have absolutely no access to (at least for now) and... lol...I'm typing all of this on dumb touchscreen, so sorry for the hasty-sounding post.

    Will come back to this thread later :wink: Also, My method is probably way different from what everyone else does. I've got no real experience, so don't be surprised if some others come back telling you something totally different :)
  7. Jun 12, 2016 #6


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    Warning, don't expect to get decent images thru the Microsoft Word program. Without warning it does a JPEG compression on all images and you lose much detail in the process. Found this out the hard way when I edited a manuscript for my sister.
  8. Jun 12, 2016 #7
    Profuseley's answers are on spot. I'd go with that. Here are my two cents:

    Most of it I think you can do with Python when you want real representations at scale. If you are using Windows, you will prefer a Scientific distribution of python like/similar to this one.

    If you want precise control over your 3D graphs, you can try this tutorial: http://matplotlib.org/mpl_toolkits/mplot3d/tutorial.html
    For vector fields: http://nicolas.brodu.net/en/programmation/vsfplot/
    For drawing your figures and/or editing the vector fields generated with the above: https://inkscape.org/ (Or what Profusely recommended, Adobe Illustrator)
    If you want precise control over your vector fields matplotlib will do the trick.
    For artistic drawings, pixel precision: https://www.gimp.org/ (Or what Profusely recommended, PhotoShop)

    Note that you will probably want vector based images on your book for quality. With matplotlib, you can also output SVG images as stated here: http://matplotlib.org/faq/howto_faq.html#generate-images-without-having-a-window-appear
  9. Jun 12, 2016 #8
    If you want to for instance draw vectors or math over nature or real pictures for your book, what you are looking for is for a license of Creative Commons or that they are in the Public Domain. There is a place where you can search for Creative Commons, albeit you have to choose one of all the places to search into since it is not a search engine. The place is here: https://search.creativecommons.org/

    Some sites that will probably have something for you:

    The National Aeronautics and Space Administration puts some of its images in the public domain. You just have to search for images they have put in the public domain. Make sure they are.

    A word of advise: I found a few others, including pictures in the scientific subject provided by other governmental organizations that is not the one mentioned above, but they are shady. They or other sites say they are free, but then when you perform a close inspection they put you "buts", "whatnots", and it's not even clear to an ordinary person what they are trying to say. So always be careful to make sure they state how the images can be used and/or if they are in the public domain. Anyway, with these links, I believe you can have more than enough.
  10. Jun 13, 2016 #9


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    Heck, Psinter, that's more than two cents, very well said :smile: @Isaac0427 You can pick from any of these options, but (in my opinion) don't go with Photoshop or GIMP, because the purposes for those programs really aren't directed for what you're trying to do.
  11. Jun 14, 2016 #10
    I like Microsoft Mathematics. I used it for Calculus III to help me visualize the concepts and study better. Though I had also forgotten about:

    Which I used in high school for pre-calculus. @Isaac0427 With this one you don't necessarily need to know programming (unlike in my previous post of matplotlib with python). Here you insert your math functions like you write them in paper and with the graphical user interface you modify the looks of it. And you can export your graphs in SVG. You can check it out. :smile:

    There are still more tools out there, but I guess with these you can find others if these ones don't cut it. Who knows, maybe another person has used something else they would also recommend. Recommendations are never too much. Well, that's pretty much it.
  12. Jun 14, 2016 #11


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    I like it, too, for the purposes of creating plotted images. It's not the most flexible program, but it does it's job nicely. Here's the same basic polar graph in 3-dimmensions and 2-dimmensions: graph.png graph1.png

    ...Though I can't help but think that the latter one looks squashed. Probably my current settings or something.

    I never tried geogebra, but just watched some video tutorials and it seems great! I'd try it yet am deterred by the fact of creating yet another account at yet another site. Perhaps when school starts I'll give it a go, though.
  13. Jun 14, 2016 #12
    Hihi. I completely agree in that Microsoft Mathematics is not that flexible and requires a little work to fit graphs to a nice scale for display.

    As of now you don't necessarily need an account for GeoGebra, at least not for the desktop version of the software :wink:.
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