In dealing with subjects known as STEM, or science, technology, engineering and mathematics, we often resort to technical diagrams, reports, specialized illustrations and much other material that certainly requires technical skills but also illustrator ones. Although they are very particular skills, there are some software that every student / teacher should know, at least at a basic level, in order to be able to prepare quality illustrations.


The software produced by Adobe is the masters in the editing of vector images. There are several reasons I push to use vector images for illustrations and all of them are reinforced by the type of illustrations required in STEM. Often you have to deal with specific graphics, lines, patterns and objects that repeat themselves a number of times.

Adobe Illustrator makes it easy to create graphics, illustrations and technical drawings. It also allows you to save specific designs in the library and use them when needed. For example, think of having to draw circuits several times but not only as circuit diagrams but inserted within a more complex design. It may be useful to import the resistor, capacitor, generator, etc. drawing with the default dimensions only once and then repeat it as a simple vector object.


Inkscape is a great free alternative for working with vector files. It allows to satisfy most of the tools present in Illustrator but it is optimized for Windows while on MacOS it is unusable. However, there is a very coma functionality when working in LaTex. In fact, it allows you to insert text and this, once the file has been saved as a pdf, can be saved separately and imported directly into LaTex. So in the LaTex document everything that is image will be displayed directly as in the pdf while the text will be formatted with the style of the whole document, formulas included.

This is very convenient for inserting symbols and formulas using LaTex syntax. The main advantage is that the text remains as it is and therefore is not scaled if the figure is resized in LaTex. You can have different figures, scaled differently, but all will have text and formulas with the same size, unless you change it manually.

$\int_{-L / 2}^{L / 2} I\left(z^{\prime}\right) \frac{e^{j k_{0}\left|z-z^{\prime}\right|}}{4 \pi\left|z-z^{\prime}\right|} d z^{\prime}-\tilde{B} \cos k_{0} z=\\-j \frac{Y_{0}}{2} V_{0} \sin k_{0}|z|$
\int_{-L / 2}^{L / 2} I\left(z^{\prime}\right) \frac{e^{j k_{0}\left|z-z^{\prime}\right|}}{4 \pi\left|z-z^{\prime}\right|} d z^{\prime}-\tilde{B} \cos k_{0} z=\\\: \\-j \frac{Y_{0}}{2} V_{0} \sin k_{0}|z|


The biorender online platform allows you to access a huge catalog of images related to medicine and biology. It allows you to easily create illustrations, presentations and reports with very modern and equally precise designs.


Having also an iPad prepared for drawing with a stylus, it is also possible to use different apps for writing. Among these, GoodNotes stands out. It allows you to write notes and documents with the stylus by switching from writing to drawing mode. It allows you to organize different files in folders and different notebooks. There are tons of features available including automated OCR and it boasts the best indexing system among mobile apps.



Using a text editor is clearly essential however for scientific reports and books it is often convenient to use LaTex. This can also be useful in the case of forms or summaries. I will dedicate a further article to LaTex and the best packages.



A really useful piece of software is MathPix, a cross-platform application that automatically allows you to convert a formula into a mathematical language compatible with LaTex or even with Word. In addition, it allows you to scan OCR by simply taking a snapshot of the section of the screen of interest or a photo. It also allows you to manually write the formula and keeps the history of the last scans in memory.