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The Easiest Way to Draw a Cyclohexane Chair Conformation and Ring Flip

Drawing the cyclohexane chair conformations adds unnecessary stress to most chemistry students. We've created a hack to draw the cyclohexane chair and boat conformations perfectly every time.

Follow the steps below to easily draw the chair conformation and ring flip like a pro so you can focus your mental energy on solving the reaction itself.

Step 1: Draw two parallel horizontal lines slightly offset.

The upper line should be shifted to the left so that it halfway overlaps the lower line. I suggest half inch or roughly 1.2 cm long lines. It's easiest to draw them parallel to your notebook paper lines when you're a beginner.

how to draw a chair conformation step 1

Step 2: Place a dot for each pointy end of the ring and connect it to your lines.

Imagine an isosceles triangle where the base connects the two nearest ends of each straight line. Add a dot where the point of the triangle would go.

drawing a cylcohexane chair conformation

Connect your dot to the two nearest ends of the parallel lines.

Repeat this for the other end to complete your hand-drawn chair conformation! Scroll down for how to draw axial and equatorial bonds to your chair conformation.

how to draw a cyclohexane chair conformation

If yours looks a little sloppy, consider grabbing The Pocket Chemist molecule stencil below to draw quickly draw your chair and boat conformations, benzene rings bonding angles perfectly every time. Get the drawing done in a third of the time so you can focus on the difficult parts of the reactions.

Alternate Step 2: Use The Pocket Chemist molecule stencil

Use the chair conformation stencil on The Pocket Chemist. Decide which ring flip you need to draw. The most traditional representation is drawn with the highest point at the top right which is drawn with the periodic table side of the pocket card facing up.

Chair conformation stencil

If you don’t have it yet, The Pocket Chemist is available for purchase from our store with free shipping in the USA or on Amazon using the link below! It’s been endorsed by chemistry teachers, chemistry professors, professional chemists and organic chemistry tutors from around the country. 

It’s designed to help you quickly and neatly draw chemical reactions for both homework and professional work while also providing references for fundamental equations, physical constants and unit conversions in every-day chemistry. The stencil will also help you draw boat conformations, benzene rings, carbon chains, cyclopropane, cyclobutance and cyclopentane!

Pocket Chemist molecule stencil

Step 3: Draw the axial bonds

The axial bonds should go first. They alternate up and down at each carbon as shown by the blue lines in the image below. If you had The Pocket Chemist facing down (showing the periodic table), start by drawing an “up” bond at the top right corner and a “down” bond on the bottom left corner, with the lines exactly vertical.

Use the straight edge of The Pocket Chemist to keep your lines straight and measure each line length to 5 mm to keep things proportional. Finish by filling in alternating “up” and “down” axial bonds moving around the cyclohexane ring. 

 chair conformation axial bonds

Step 4: Draw the equatorial bonds:

Now add equatorial bond lines in the opposite direction (up or down) of each axial bond. These should not be perfectly opposite the axial bonds nor at a perfect 90 degree angle, as shown by the red lines below.

chair conformation ring flip

The easiest way to draw equatorial bonds on the chair conformation is to make them parallel to the cyclohexane ring line that is the second line moving clockwise or counter-clockwise around the ring from the carbon you’re drawing the equatorial bond on (see the highlighted lines below).

how to draw a chair conformation ring flip

You can align the straight edge of The Pocket Chemist to one of the existing lines then slide it into position to make your equatorial bond perfectly parallel. This applies for all six equatorial bonds and in both cyclohexane ring flip variations!

Step 5: Draw a ring flip chair conformation

The ring flip chair conformation is mirrored across either a horizontal or vertical line on your paper. If you have The Pocket Chemist, simply flip it over. You don’t need to worry about the rotation since it has rotational symmetry. 

cyclohexane chair conformation ring flip

Remember the golden rule: Up bonds stay up and down bonds stay down, but axial bonds become equatorial bonds and equatorial bonds become axial.

Remember that axial bonds should be drawn vertically and equatorial should be neither vertical nor horizontal, parallel to the 2nd line clockwise or counter-clockwise from the carbon you’re drawing the bond on.

Step 6: Add your molecules to the cyclohexane chair conformation (if required)

When adding your molecules, it’s much easier to see details at the four corners. Avoid attaching complex molecules to the two middle carbons in the chair conformation. Remember that substituents larger than hydrogen begin to have steric crowding when they are axial on a chair conformation rather than equatorial. Substituted cyclohexanes will prefer more stable conformations where the larger substituents assume equatorial orientations.

Draw molecules faster and more clearly using The Pocket Chemist

We designed this popular tool specifically to help chemists and chemistry students get past the frustrating task of drawing molecular shapes and get on with the real work of studying the reactions. It fits in your wallet, purse or pocket right behind a credit card or ID so you can always have it ready.

We also took the liberty of packing the free space with a full laser-engraved periodic table, physical constants, fundamental equations, metric and imperial rulers and an angle measurement tool. The enamel-coated stainless steel will stand up to years of abuse.

To see the full list of functions including drawing the cyclohexane chair and boat conformations, benzene rings and other molecules, see our full guide on How to Use The Pocket Chemist.

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Pocket Chemist chair and boat conformation stencil

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