Lecture 1.5: Plotting operations and MATLAB graphics


Plotting of functions of one variable:


·         plot: outputs one vector versus the other vector, the vectors must be of the same structure and of the same length

 % plotting of explicit functions of one variables

x = 0 : 0.2 : 6; % bad resolution

y = exp(-x).*sin(pi*x); % y has the same structure and the length as the vector x

plot(x,y); % the graph is connected by solid line

x = 0 : 0.02 : 6; % better resolution

y = exp(-x).*sin(pi*x);

plot(x,y,'.'); % the graph consists of data points




% plotting of parametric curves (complex numbers)

  t = 0 : 0.01 : 8*pi;

  z = exp(-0.1*t).*(cos(t) + i*sin(2*t));

  plot(real(z),imag(z),'--'); % the graph is plotted by dashed line  



·         polar: plots a function in polar coordinates (radius versus angle)


t = 0 : 0.01 : 2*pi;

y = sin(3*t).*exp(-0.1*t);

polar(t,y); grid on;  







·         loglog: plots a function in logarithmic coordinates (log(y) versus log(x))


t = 0.1 : 0.1 : 10;

x = exp(2*t);

y = exp(sin(t));

loglog(x,y); grid on;  




·         semilogx,semilogy: plots a function in semi-logarithmic coordinates (log(y) versus x or y versus log(x))

t = 0.1 : 0.1 : 10;

semilogy(t,exp(2*t)); grid on;  






·         plot3: plots a curve in space of three dimensions

t = 0 : 0.1 : 10;

x = exp(-0.2*t).*cos(pi*t);

y = exp(-0.2*t).*sin(pi*t); plot3(x,y,t);  


Modifications of plots:


·         data marks (no connection by lines):

o        '.' – point

o        '+' – plus

o        '*' – star

o        'd' – diamont

o        'o' – circle

o        'p' – pentagon

o        's' – square

o        '^' – triangle

o        'x' – x-mark


·         line types (no individual points):

o        '-' – solid line (default)

o        '--' – dashed line

o        ':' – dotted line

o        '-.' – dash-dotted line


·         line colors:

o        'r' – red

o        'y' – yellow

o        'm' – magenta

o        'c' – cyan

o        'g' – green

o        'b' – blue

o        'w' – white

o        'k' – black

% combination of data marks, line types, and line colors

x = 0 : 0.05 : 5;

y = sin(x);

z = cos(x);


% check the output and compare with specification of graphs


% the line types and colors can be automatically selected for each curve by default







·         fill: draws filled polygons with a specified color, it can be called instead of "plot"




·         labels and titles:

o        xlabel('x-axis') – the string 'x-axis' is printed as a label for x-coordinate

o        ylabel('y-axis') – the string 'y-axis' is printed as a label for y-coordinate

o        title('The graph of y = f(x)') – the string 'The graph of y = f(x)' is printed as a title of the plot

o        legend('y = f(x)') – the string 'y = f(x)' is printed in a small sub-window showing the line type or data marks, used for plotting the function y = f(x)


·         font sizes and line widths:

o        plot(x,y,'—','linewidth',3) – the default line width is 0.5

o        xlabel('x-axis','fontsize',14) – the default font size is 12pt


·         texts:

o        text(x,y,'TextBody') – the string "TextBody" is printed on the figure, starting at the absolute coordinates (x,y) in pixels

o        num2str, int2str – conversions of a number to string and an integer to string, respectively

o        LATEX structure of the text:

§         Greek symbols: \alpha, \beta, \gamma, \epsilon

§         superscripts: x^2, y^{-2}

§         subscripts: x_n, y_{i,j}


    strPi = num2str(pi);

strText = ['The area of the circle, A = ',strPi,'*r^2']

% concatenation of three strings into the text


% setting the properties of the text on a current window  


     strText =

The area of the circle, A = 3.1416*r^2  


·         axes and grids

o        axis([x_min,x_max,y_min,y_max]) – set the maximum and minimum values for the coordinates of the graph (x_min <= x <= x_max; y_min <= y <= y_max)

§         the command "axis" must be used after the command "plot"

§         any line outside the limits will be clipped

o        axis off – the coordinate axes and tic marks are removed (default: axis on)

o        axis square – the figure is reshaped to a square form

o        grid on – a grid is added to the graph (default: grid off)

·         several plots on the same graph:

o        hold on – the command superposes several plots on the same graph, even if another script is executed (default: hold off)

o        hold off – it is recommended to use this command in the end of the script, if the command "hold on" has ever been used in the script


When several graphs are plotted, it is better to define the limits for coordinates in advance.  Otherwise, the limits will be the same as for the first curve. All specifications such as "axis" can be hold with the command "hold on" before the graphs are plotted on the figure.


  x = 0 : 0.01 : 5; y = sin(x); z = cos(x);

  axis([0,5,-1,1]); hold on;

  plot(x,y); hold on; plot(x,z); hold off;

  legend('y = sin(x)','z = cos(x)');

% the number of arguments correspond to the number of functions plotted

     xlabel('x'); ylabel('y and z'); title('Elementary trigonometric functions');




Operations with figures:

·         figure: opens a new graphic window that is numbered consecutively from the previous window

·         figure(n): make an existing graphic window (n) the current window; if the window (n) does not exist, the command opens a new graphic window numbered by (n) (NB: all graphic commands apply to the current window)

·         pause: holds up execution of the script and waits for the user to press any key

·         pause(s): holds up execution of the script for s seconds

·         close(n): closes the graphic window (n)

·         close all: closes all graphic windows

·         clf: clears everything inside the graphic window

·         cla: clears the plotted curves and redraws the axes

·         figure('Position',[pix,piy,pwx,pwy]): sets the size and shape of the current window

o        pix,piy – the horizontal and vertical coordinates of the left bottom corner of the window

o        pwx,pwy – the number of pixels in the width and height of the window

o        default: figure('Position',[232 258 560 420])

·         get(gcf): displays the properties of the current figure, such as size, location, color map, and many others

·         set(gcf,'PropertyName',PropertyArray): changes the property "PropertyName" of the current window according to the data in PropertyArray



set(gcf,'PaperPosition',[0.25 2.5 4 3]);  


·         Property Editor: all properties of the current figure can be edited interactively after drawing the graphs

·         print: sends the current figure to the default printer

·         print –dps filename: saves the current figure into a PostScript file "filename"

·         print –djpeg filename: saves the current figure into a JPEG file "filename"

·         Window Editor: more options for dissemination of research are available interactively

·         subplot(m,n,k): divide the window into a m by n array of subwindows and places the current plot into the k-th subwindow (k <= m*n)


x = 0 : 0.01 : 1;

subplot(2,3,1), plot(x,sin(pi*x));

subplot(2,3,2), plot(x,sin(2*pi*x));

subplot(2,3,3), plot(x,sin(3*pi*x));

subplot(2,3,4), plot(x,cos(pi*x));

subplot(2,3,5), plot(x,cos(2*pi*x));

subplot(2,3,6), plot(x,cos(3*pi*x));