# The bare minimum guide to Matplotlib If you want to work with arrays in Python, you use NumPy. If you want to work with tabular data, you use Pandas. The quintessential Python library for data visualization is Matplotlib. It’s easy to use, flexible, and a lot of other visualization libraries build on the shoulders of Matplotlib. This means that learning Matplotlib will make it easier to understand and work with some of the more fancy visualization libraries.

### Getting started

You’ll need to install the Matplotlib library. Assuming you have some terminal at your disposal and you have pip installed, you can install Matplotlib with the following commaned: pip install matplotlib. You can read more about the installation in Matplotlib’s installation guide.

### Two approaches

We’ll begin by making a simple scatter plot in two different ways: the ‘naive’ way and the object-oriented way. Both approaches have their pros and cons. Generally, we can say that the object-oriented approach is best when you need multiple plots next to each other.I almost always use the object-oriented approach though, even when I don’t need to make multiple plots.

#### ‘Naive’

To start with we have to import matplotlib though. The plt framework is what we’ll use for Python plotting.

We also import numpy, so we can easily generate points to plot! Let’s pick some points on the sine function. We choose some x-values and then calculate the y-values with np.sin.

Now that we’ve generated our points, we can make our scatter plot! We use the scatter function from the plt framework to make the plot, and we use show to visualize our plot.

By running these $6$ lines, a window with the following plot should appear. If we don’t want a scatter plot but a line plot, we can switch out scatter for plot.

This gives us the following plot. However, this line is very jagged. We can make it more smooth by generating more points. #### Object-oriented

Now that we know how to make and visualize a plot, let’s look at the object-oriented way of producing the same plot. However, why would we want to know this? Simply because the object-oriented way is more powerful and allows for more complicated plots, as will be evident when we want to make multiple plots.

If we want to replicate the previous plot, we start by making a Figure object and an Axes object.We assume, we have generated our data.

We can think of the Figure object as the frame, we want to put plots into, and the Axes object is an actual plot in our frame. We then add the line plot to the Axes object and use show again to visualize the plot.

This generates the same plot as before.

### Line plots

Here are examples of colours that we can use. We can specify colours in many different ways; hex code, RGB, plain old names. There are also many predefined linestyles that we can use. Note that without defining colours, Matplotlib will automatically choose some distinct default colors for our lines. We can also adjust the width of our lines! ### Scatter plots

For scatter plots, we can change the markers and their size. Here’s an example We can also combine line and scatter plots using the ax.plot function by changing the fmt parameter. The fmt parameter consists of a part for marker, line, and color: fmt = [marker][line][color]. If fmt = "s--m", then we have square markers, a dashed line, and they’ll be coloured magenta. ### Histograms

We can make histograms easily using the ax.hist function. We can change a lot of things in the histogram to make it nicer - we can even add multiple! ### Legends

Naturally, we’ll want to add a legend to our plot. This is simply done with the ax.legend function. Matplotlib will automatically try and find the best position for the legend on your plot, but we can change it by providing an argument for the loc parameter. Also, a common preference is to not have a frame around the legend, and we can disable it by setting the frameon parameter to False. Additionally, Matplotlib lists the elements of the legend in one column, but we can provide the number of columns to use in the ncol parameter. ### Final tips

There are so many quirks and different things you can do with Matplotlib, and unfortunately I cannot provide them all here. However, a few guidelines to get you started:

1. You save figures with the plt.savefig() function.
2. There are a bunch of libraries that build on the shoulders of Matplotlib that could be beneficial to the specific plot you’re trying to create, e.g. Seaborn, Bokeh, Plotly, and many more.
3. Look at the gallery. Please, please, look at the gallery! Don’t waste 3 hours working on a plot, if someone has already made it.