Draw a basic flow chart in draw.io

You can create many different types of diagrams with draw.io and our online diagram editor. To learn how to use the editor, let’s start with a basic flowchart to document a process.

Flow charts let you visually describe a process or system. The shapes and very short labels let readers quickly understand what they need to do.

Create a new diagram in draw.io Add shapes in the draw.io editor Edit shapes on the draw.io drawing canvas Draw connectors between shapes in the draw.io editor Add labels to shapes and connectors in draw.io Style shapes, connectors and text in draw.io Export and share your diagram created in draw.io

Tutorial: Create and style a basic flow chart to learn the draw.io editor.

Create a new blank diagram

  1. Go to the online draw.io editor.
  2. Select Device to save your flow chart to your device.
    Note: You can select another location to store your diagram file, but you may be prompted to grant the editor permission if you select a cloud storage platform.
    Select Device to save your diagram to your local device
  3. Click on Create New Diagram.
    Click Create New Diagram to start a new diagram
  4. In the template manager, enter a filename for your flow chart, ensure Blank Diagram is selected, then click Create.
    Enter a filename, select Blank Diagram, and click Create

Add shapes to the drawing canvas

There are a number of different ways to add shapes to the drawing canvas in draw.io.

Add the first step - Use one of the following methods to add a rectangle to the drawing canvas. Rectangles represent the steps in your process.

  • Click on a rectangle in the General shape library to add it the drawing canvas.
  • Double-click on an empty area on the drawing canvas and select a rectangle shape.
  • Drag a rectangle from the General shape library to a specific position on the drawing canvas.

Add a rectangle - click on it in the shape library, double click on a blank area, or drag it from the shape library

Add more shapes - Use one of the following methods to add extra shapes to represent the next steps in your process.

  • Hover over the first shape you placed to see the four direction arrows. Click on one of the shapes, then select a shape to add and connect it in that direction.
  • Drag a shape from the shape library and hover over an existing shape until you can see the four direction arrows. Move over one of these direction arrows, and drop the shape you have dragged. It will be added to the drawing canvas and connected in that direction.

Add a second shape and connect it from the first - hover and click on the direction arrow, or drag a shape over another and drop it on a direction arrow

If you added multiple shapes by simply clicking on them in the shape library, you can connect them later. See how to connect shapes below.

Shapes for flow charts

There are many different shapes used to visualise processes in a flow chart.

  • Rectangle - Basic steps in your process.
  • Diamond (rhombus) - Decisions, usually yes/no questions, that split the process into two or more branches.
  • Circle or oval - Optional start and stop points in your process.
  • Parallelogram - Input or output, where your process needs or gives information to an external party or system.
  • Cylinder - Disk drives, used to indicate that data is stored during that step in the process.
  • Rectangle with a wavy bottom line - Documents that are produced as a result of a process step.

A selection of shapes available in draw.io commonly used in flow charts

In addition to the shapes in the General and Advanced shape libraries, you can use shapes from the Flowchart shape library.

  1. Click on More Shapes at the bottom of the left panel.
  2. Click on the checkbox next to the Flowchart shape library’s name to enable it.
    Select the shape libraries you want to work with in draw.io
  3. Click Apply. The Flowchart shape library is now available in the left panel.

Move, resize, rotate, and delete shapes

To select a shape, click on it. To select multiple shapes, hold down Shift or Cmd and click on them.

Move - Select and drag a shape that is on the drawing canvas to another position.

Resize - Select a shape. Drag any of the round ‘grab’ handles to make the shape smaller or larger. Hold down Control when you resize shapes to keep them centred.
See how to resize groups of shapes

Rotate - Select a shape. Drag the rotate grab handle (the round arrow) at the top right corner of the shape to rotate the shape around its center point.
Rotate a shape using the rotate grab handle

Delete - Select a shape, then press Backspace or Delete, or click on the Delete tool in the toolbar.

Move, resize, rotate and delete shapes in draw.io

If one of the connectors, the arrows between the shapes, is going in the wrong direction, you can select and delete it, just like a shape. Follow the steps below to draw a new connector so it goes in the right direction.

Tip: Use the Arrange tab to precisely rotate, reposition and resize shapes

Connect shapes

Connectors are lines that connect your shapes together and may or may not have arrows at one or both ends. There are two types of connectors.

Floating connectors - These move around the perimeter of your shape as you move it around the drawing canvas, or change the route that the connector takes.

Fixed connectors - These stay attached to a fixed point on your shape, even when you move the shape around the drawing canvas.

Draw a floating connector

  1. Hover over the source shape until you see the light direction arrows appear.
  2. Move your mouse cursor over the direction arrow you want to draw the connector from, then drag the connector out from the arrow towards the target shape.
  3. Hover over the target shape and release when the outline of the shape is blue.

Draw  a floating connectors between shapes in draw.io

When you move the shape to a new position, the connector ends will automatically move around the shape to ensure the shortest distance.

Draw a fixed connector

  1. Hover over the source shape until you see the little crosses, connection points, around the shape perimeter.
  2. Drag a connector from the connection point on the source shape towards the target shape.
  3. Hover over the target shape until you see the connection points, then hover over one of the connection points until it is highlighted in green, and release to attach the connector.

Draw  a fixed connectors between shapes in draw.io

Now when you drag the shape around on the drawing canvas, the connector will remain attached to exactly those connection points.

Change the path of a connector

Waypoints are shown as small circles on a selected connector. They are used to define the path that a connector takes across the drawing canvas.

  1. Select the connector that you want to change the path of to see its waypoints.
  2. Drag one of the waypoints into a new position. New waypoints will be added automatically based on where you grabbed the connector and where you move your mouse too.

If it is a floating connector, the end closest to the waypoints you moved will ‘float’ around the perimeter of your shape. If it is a fixed connector, the end will remain attached to that specific connection point.

Change the path of a connector between shapes in draw.io

You can add and remove waypoints to make connectors follow complex paths.

Learn more about working with and styling connectors

Add labels

Short labels on shapes make it easier to understand a diagram quickly.

  1. Double click on a shape. Start typing to replace the label with your own text. Alternatively, single click on a shape and start typing to add or edit the label.
  2. Press Enter to save the label text.

Tip: Press Shift+Enter to add a line break in a label.

Add labels to shapes and connectors in draw.io

Connector labels

You can add more than one label to a connector - at the source end, the target end, and in the middle.

  • Double click in the position you want to add a text label there.
  • To reposition the connector label text, click on the label, then drag the small yellow diamond to a new position.

If you reroute the connector, you may need to update any labels you had manually positioned, but usually the label will move intelligently with the connector.

Style your flow chart

Once you have finished adding all the shapes, connectors and labels, you can style your flow chart.

  1. Select a shape, or hold Shift down and click on multiple shapes and connectors to select many.
    Add colours, styles and change fonts to make your diagrams more attractive in draw.io
  2. Add colours and style your shapes and connectors via the Style tab.
    • The style palette at the top of the Style tab changes both the fill and outline colour. Click the left or right arrows to view more styles.
      Set a new shape or connector style easily with the style palette in draw.io
    • To set your own colour, click on the colour button next to Fill or Line, select a a new colour or enter a hex colour code.
      Choose a colour from the default or larger colour palette, or enter your own hex colour code
    • Style a selected connector to have arrows on both ends or no arrows.
      Select an arrow or another connector end style at both the target and source shape in draw.io
  3. Change the text style of labels on the Text tab.
    • Select a different Font from the list.
    • Add Bold, Italics, or Underline.
    • Change the justification to be left, right or centred.
    • Click on the colour button next to Font Color.
      Style label text via the Text tab in the format panel in draw.io

Tip: When you edit the text itself, you will see additional HTML formatting - add a numbered or bulleted list, indent your text, use superscript or subscript text and more.

Export and share your flow chart

You can share your diagram in a number of different ways via the File > Export as menu. The most common export formats are as images or as a URL.

  • Export as a PNG, JPEG or SVG to convert your diagram to an image that you can paste into a website or email.
    Export your diagram as an image to share it in an email or publish it on a webpage or in a document     The diagram exported as a PNG image
  • Export as a URL to encode your entire diagram in a URL. When you share this (very long) URL, the person viewing the diagram will see a copy - they don’t open or edit your original diagram.

Encode your diagram in a URL in draw.io to share it easily