Im writing a book on music theory and I need to create some diagrams and illustrations to explain some key points. Im currently writing a section about sound waves and I would like to explain how they work by visualising them with illustrations of a slinky spring

For anyone unfamiliar a slinky is a toy thats pretty much a giant coil of wire

Origional slinky toy

Ref: link

Its also important for me to mention that any software suggestion should free if possible, so something like GIMP or Inkscape

An example of the type of images I would like to create

Slinky wave diagram

Ref: link

My attempt so far

The closest I could get was (dont laugh) using shapes in publisher however this made manipulation of the spring near impossible

Current Attempt

This is also my first post here so please let me know if anything needs changing or clarifying

3 Answers 3


This could be done entirely in Inkscape. Almost any vector image editor could be used similarly. The following isn't a tutorial, but a list of the basic steps.

  1. Draw an ellipse, click Path > Object to Path, to turn it into a path

  2. Break apart the ellipse into two pieces, and squish the top segment, use snapping to make sure the pieces line up

  3. Make a larger section from copies of shape 2, using snapping to get everything to line up, group it.

  4. Copy the larger section 3, squish it

  5. The compression waves are parts 3 and 4 copied and pasted, using snapping to get everything to join up.

  6. Make one long spring. Join all the nodes to make it one stroke. Use Path > Stroke to Path to make one expanded/outlined shape.

  7. Copy it, and add as a pattern along a path effect to a Bézier path, to make sinusoidal waves

enter image description here


Inkscape is a quite flexible free tool for drawing paths.

There you can draw with the Pen a simple 2 node arc which can be copied, flipped and scaled. Multiple parts can be joined to one. An example (the grey rectangle does nothing, I drew it only to remember the wanted size and where are up and down):

enter image description here

Extension Pattern along Path creates easily bent springs.

Unfortunately getting started with the pen, paths and snapping options in Inkscape needs easily a day before anything can be drawn with some repeatability. There's no shortcut, only working tutorials, exploring the manual and practicing give results.

Your own attempt isn't bad. Learning to make edits is a challenge. Unfortunately I know nothing of the capabilities of your program. You seemingly have already succeeded to copy it into Inkscape. Try extension Pattern along Path to make a bent spring.

The longitudal wave needs variable width loops. You can get them with extension Generate from path > Interpolate. In the next image some of them are generated, placed and grouped to make a continuous spring (easy if you have node snappings ON). The spring is duplicated few times and half of the springs are flipped

enter image description here


Taking a flat copy of my spring image from publisher Ive managed to manipulate it using the bend on path tool in inkscape

Taken from here: Answer

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