Software recommendations to make diagrams/sketches like this? (example included)


Apr 22, 2007
Hi all! I'm a grad student in physics/engineering. I'd like to start making diagrams/sketches for papers and presentations, that are not pretty and flashy, but illustrate some kind of fundamental structure and/or interaction. Here is an example from a textbook (thumbnail below, click to expand):

sketch example.png

The most important/challenging features are:

1.) Irregular shapes. That is, these are not ordinary rectangles or squares or other common polygons
2.) Curved lines. Like the the way the top and bottom of each layer are slightly curved.

Currently I don't really know how to efficiently create something like this. For starters, it seems to me that my main problem is #2: I would like to be able to draw curved lines that are actually segments of a circle, with a well-defined radius of curvature, rather than arbitrary arcs. Looks like I can do that in Powerpoint, for example, but it becomes very difficult if I want the arc to have very small curvature (large radius).

So, any suggestions for what software would be good for making these kinds of diagrams? Will consider both free or paid software. I could probably get my professor to cover the cost of a software license from our research funding.

However, I would definitely prefer as easy/quick to learn as possible.