I often have to generate cashflow diagrams.

I was wondering if anyone has a good tool to generate them in either $\LaTeX$ or a picture?


I found a nice example on this page using the pgf/tikZ package for $\LaTeX$.

The website is giving the code for $\LaTeX$, if you are using LyX, in order to get the same sample than the website you have to do the following. First edit the document preamble using Document->Settings:


and then the following in a code block:

 \begin{tikzpicture}[>=stealth,ultra thick]
    \draw[->] (0,0) -- (10,0);
    \draw (-1,0) node[below] {n} (-1,0.5) node[above] {PMT};
    \foreach \x/\n in {1/0,3/1,5/2,7/3,9/4}
      \draw (\x,0) node(\n)[below] {\n} -- (\x,0.5);
    \foreach \x/\n in {1/0,3/1,5/2,7/3}
      \draw (\x,0.5) node[above] {\num{5000}};
    \matrix (calc) [matrix of math nodes,matrix anchor=north west,nodes={anchor=east}] at (9,-1) {%
      \$ \num{5300.00} & = & \num{5000}\times (\num{1.06})^1 \\
      \$ \num{5618.00} & = & \num{5000}\times (\num{1.06})^2 \\
      \$ \num{5955.08} & = & \num{5000}\times (\num{1.06})^3 \\
      \$ \num{6312.38} & = & \num{5000}\times (\num{1.06})^4 \\
      \$ \num{23185.46} \\
    \draw[thick] (calc-5-1.north west) -- (calc-5-1.north east);
    \foreach \n/\l in {0/4,1/3,2/2,3/1}
      \draw[->,gray!50] (\n) |- ($(calc-\l-1.west)+(-0.5,0)$);
  • $\begingroup$ Why do you think this requires LyX? $\endgroup$ – chrisaycock Apr 16 '13 at 12:50
  • $\begingroup$ It does not, I just gave the steps to use it with LyX, will edit to clarify. I put the steps for $LyX$ because I know many people who are not familiar with working directly with $\LaTeX$ files. $\endgroup$ – BlueTrin Apr 16 '13 at 12:51

This can be done using python with the following function (all the documentation is available in this GitHub Repo):

import matplotlib.pyplot as plt
from matplotlib.ticker import MaxNLocator

def diagram (t, value, cashflow, c1="k", c2="k", currency="$", path = "test.png", aspect = [12,6], int_x = True, bar = True, show = False):

    fig, ax1 = plt.subplots(figsize=(aspect))

    # Define x axis as integer (optional)
    if int_x:

    # Plot value (left axis) with color c1
    if (bar):
        ax1.bar(t, value, color = c1,  alpha= 0.3)
        ax1.plot(t, value, color = c1,  alpha= 0.3)
    ax1.set_xlabel('time (year)')

    # Set value label and currency
    ax1.set_ylabel('Future Value '+ currency, color = c1)
    ax1.tick_params('y', colors = c1)

    # Define twin axis for cashflow
    ax2 = ax1.twinx()

    # Find positive and negative values in cashflow
    pos = [i for i in range(len(cashflow)) if cashflow[i] > 0]
    neg = [i for i in range(len(cashflow)) if cashflow[i] < 0]

    # Plot cashflow (right axis) in the correct direction with color c2
    if (len(pos)):
        markerline, stemlines, baseline = ax2.stem(t[pos], cashflow[pos], markerfmt='^', basefmt=" ")
        plt.setp(stemlines, 'color', c2)
        plt.setp(markerline, 'color', c2)
    if (len(neg)):
        markerline, stemlines, baseline = ax2.stem(t[neg], cashflow[neg] ,markerfmt='v', basefmt=" ")
        plt.setp(stemlines, 'color', c2)
        plt.setp(markerline, 'color', c2)

    # Set cashflow label and currency
    ax2.set_ylabel('Cash Flow '+ currency, color=c2)
    ax2.tick_params('y', colors=c2)

    # Remove the frame to visualize data more clearly

    # Save the plot to the specified path with 500dpi
    fig.savefig(path, dpi = 500)

    # Show plot (optional)
    plt.show (show) 

Aside from TikZ approach that you've found, these scripting languages would work:

  • MetaPost
  • PSTricks
  • Asymptote
  • MATLAB, see cfplot
  • Mathematica, see Cashflow

Vector graphics are most suitable for the task, so if you prefer GUI point-and-click:

  • Adobe Illustrator
  • CorelDRAW
  • Inkscape (free)
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Beyond a list of software packages, can you give examples of how someone would create the plots? Like are there some MetaPost commands the OP could copy and paste? $\endgroup$ – chrisaycock Apr 17 '13 at 2:09
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Yes I could, but it appears from his question that he asked for a good tool, not specific commands. $\endgroup$ – madilyn Apr 17 '13 at 18:44

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