Unleash Your Matplotlib Skills: Easily Create Custom Legends with These Code Examples

Table of content

  1. Introduction
  2. Getting Started with Matplotlib
  3. Understanding Legends in Matplotlib
  4. Basic Legend Customization
  5. Advanced Legend Customization
  6. Code Examples for Creating Custom Legends
  7. Conclusion
  8. Further Resources


Matplotlib is a popular Python library for data visualization and plotting. One of the most powerful features of Matplotlib is its ability to create fully-customizable legends. Legends are used to create labels for our plots, making it easy to identify different data series or categories. In this article, we will explore how to unleash your Matplotlib skills and easily create custom legends for your plots. We will provide code examples to help you understand the concepts and apply them to your own data visualizations. Whether you are a beginner or an experienced data analyst, this article will help you take your Matplotlib skills to the next level. So, let's dive in and explore the world of custom legends in Matplotlib!

Getting Started with Matplotlib

Matplotlib is a data visualization library that is widely used in the scientific computing community. It can be used to create a wide variety of plots, ranging from simple line and bar charts to more complex visualizations like 3D plots and heatmaps. If you are new to Matplotlib, here are some basic steps to get started:

  1. Install Matplotlib: Before you can use Matplotlib, you need to install it on your computer. You can do this with pip, the Python package manager, by running the following command:
pip install matplotlib
  1. Import Matplotlib: Once Matplotlib is installed, you can import it into your Python code with the following command:
import matplotlib.pyplot as plt
  1. Create a Plot: To create a plot with Matplotlib, you can use the plot function. Here is a basic example of how to create a simple line plot:
x = [1, 2, 3, 4, 5]
y = [2, 4, 6, 8, 10]

plt.plot(x, y)
  1. Customize the Plot: Matplotlib offers a wide variety of customization options, allowing you to create a plot that meets your specific needs. Here are some common ways to customize a plot:
  • Adding titles and labels: You can add a title to the plot with the title function and labels to the x and y axes with the xlabel and ylabel functions.
plt.title("Simple Line Plot")
plt.xlabel("X Axis")
plt.ylabel("Y Axis")
  • Changing the plot style: You can change the style of the plot with the style parameter, which can be set to a variety of different options, including "ggplot", "seaborn", and "bmh".
  • Adding a legend: You can add a legend to the plot with the legend function. Here is an example of how to create a legend for the previous line plot:
plt.plot(x, y, label="Line")

These are just a few examples of what you can do with Matplotlib. With practice, you can create a wide variety of plots with different styles, colors, and formats to suit your needs.

Understanding Legends in Matplotlib

In Matplotlib, a legend is a key that explains the contents of a plot. It identifies the data represented by various colors, line styles or marker styles used in the plot. Legends can be added to a plot using the legend() function, which takes various arguments to control where the legend is placed, what text is displayed and how it is displayed. Legends can be customized by changing font size, font style, border, background color, and other properties.

The legend() function can be called with the following arguments:

  • loc: this controls the location of the legend in the plot. It can take values like "upper right", "lower left", "center" etc.
  • title: the title of the legend.
  • bbox_to_anchor: this controls the placement of the legend relative to the axes. It takes a tuple of 2 values: x and y.
  • ncol: number of columns in the legend.
  • fontsize: the font size of the legend text.

It's important to note that a legend should only be added once to a given axis. If more than one legend is added, only the last one will be displayed.

In the following code example, we create a simple bar plot and add a legend to it:

import matplotlib.pyplot as plt

data = [63, 72, 89, 78, 55]
labels = ['A', 'B', 'C', 'D', 'E']

plt.bar(labels, data, color='orange')
plt.title('Test Scores')



This code will generate a bar chart with a legend showing the label "Scores".

Understanding the basics of plotting legends in Matplotlib is essential for creating clear and visually informative plots, and it's an important skill to have for any data scientist or visualizer.

Basic Legend Customization

Matplotlib is known for its customization capabilities, and legends are no exception. The default legend in Matplotlib is generated based on the artist labels. However, there are many situations where you may want to customize the legend to better suit your needs.

One of the most straightforward ways to customize a legend is to change its position or size. For example, you can use the loc parameter to specify the location of the legend (e.g., loc='upper left'). Additionally, you can adjust the size of the legend using the fontsize parameter.

Another common customization is to change the labels of the legend. You can do this by passing a list of string labels to the labels parameter, or by using the set_label method on the artist itself.

Finally, you may want to change the formatting of the legend items. For example, you can use the handler_map parameter to specify a custom handler for each artist. This is useful when you have multiple artists of different types in the same plot, as the default legend may not always display them correctly.

Overall, customizing legends in Matplotlib is a powerful tool that can help you better communicate your data to your audience. With a few simple tweaks, you can create legends that are both informative and visually appealing.

Advanced Legend Customization

in Matplotlib allows users to create highly customized legends that can be used to add valuable information to data visualizations. Some code examples that showcase include the use of legend handles and labels, legend location and spacing, setting legend font properties and creating multi-column legends.

One way to customize legends in Matplotlib is by using legend handles and labels. This involves assigning a label to each plot using the 'label' argument and then creating a legend object using the 'legend()' function. The labels can then be customized using the 'set_text()' function.

Another aspect of in Matplotlib is the ability to control the location and spacing of the legend on the plot using the 'loc' and ' bbox_to_anchor' arguments. This allows users to place the legend in a specific position on the plot, such as outside of the plot area, to avoid overlap with data points.

Additionally, users can customize the font properties of the legend by using the 'prop' argument. This can be used to change font size, color, weight and other properties of the text within the legend.

Lastly, multi-column legends can be created using the 'ncol' argument. This allows users to display the legend in a grid format with multiple columns to fit more information.

In summary, in Matplotlib offers users a range of tools to create customized legends that are tailored to their data visualization needs. By utilizing these tools, users can add valuable information to their plots and make them more informative and easy to interpret.

Code Examples for Creating Custom Legends


Matplotlib is a powerful data visualization library that allows users to create professional-looking graphs and charts. One of the most important features of Matplotlib is its ability to create customizable legends that provide additional information about the plotted data. Here are some examples of code snippets that can help users create custom legends in their plots:

  1. Adding Symbols to Legends
import matplotlib.pyplot as plt
import numpy as np

x = np.linspace(0, 10, 100)
y = np.sin(x)

plt.plot(x, y, '-g', lw=2, label='sine')

plt.legend(loc='upper left', bbox_to_anchor=(1,1), ncol=2)

In this example, the legend is created using the legend() function. The loc parameter determines where the legend will be placed in the plot, and the bbox_to_anchor parameter adjusts the position of the legend. The ncol parameter specifies the number of columns in the legend. The -g argument specifies the line style and color, and the lw parameter sets the line width.

  1. Changing Legend Labels
import matplotlib.pyplot as plt
import numpy as np

x = np.linspace(0, 10, 100)
y1 = np.sin(x)
y2 = np.cos(x)

plt.plot(x, y1, '-g', lw=2, label='sine')
plt.plot(x, y2, '-b', lw=2, label='cosine')

plt.legend(loc='upper left', bbox_to_anchor=(1,1), ncol=2)


In this example, two plots are shown with different line styles and colors. The legend labels are set using the label parameter in the plot() function. The loc, bbox_to_anchor, and ncol parameters are used to adjust the position and format of the legend.

  1. Customizing Legend Symbols
import matplotlib.pyplot as plt
import numpy as np

x = np.linspace(0, 10, 100)
y = np.sin(x)

line, = plt.plot(x, y, '-g', lw=2)

plt.legend([line], ['sine'], loc='upper left', bbox_to_anchor=(1,1), ncol=2)


In this example, a line plot is created and stored in the line variable. This variable is then passed to the legend() function along with a list of custom labels. This allows users to customize the legend symbols and labels according to their preferences.

Overall, these code examples demonstrate how Matplotlib can be used to create custom legends that provide additional information about plotted data. By using these examples as a starting point, users can customize their plots to meet their specific needs and create professional-looking graphs and charts.


In , customizing legends in matplotlib can make your data visualization more informative and engaging. By incorporating examples from different disciplines such as finance, biology, and meteorology, you can tailor your legends to fit your specific needs. Whether you need to highlight certain trends, differentiate between categories, or explain complex information, matplotlib can help you achieve your goals. By using the code snippets provided in this article, you can easily create custom legends and enhance your data visualization with ease. Remember that customizing legends is just one aspect of matplotlib, and there are many other tools and techniques you can use to create stunning visualizations. With practice and experimentation, you can unleash your matplotlib skills and create powerful data visualizations that communicate your message effectively.

Further Resources


If you're interested in learning more about Matplotlib and customizing your visualizations, here are a few resources to check out:

  1. Matplotlib documentation – The official documentation for Matplotlib is a great resource to learn about all of the available customization options, including legends.

  2. Practical Data Science Cookbook – This book by Tony Ojeda, Sean Patrick Murphy, and Benjamin Bengfort includes a chapter on creating custom legends in Matplotlib.

  3. Data Visualization with Python and Matplotlib – This course on Udemy covers the basics of Matplotlib and includes a section on creating custom legends.

  4. Python Plotting with Matplotlib – This tutorial series by Justin Bois from the California Institute of Technology covers a range of Matplotlib topics, including legends.

By exploring these resources, you can gain a deeper understanding of Matplotlib and how to create custom visualizations that best suit your needs. With practice, you can unleash your Matplotlib skills and create beautiful and informative data visualizations that effectively communicate information to your audience.

As a developer, I have experience in full-stack web application development, and I'm passionate about utilizing innovative design strategies and cutting-edge technologies to develop distributed web applications and services. My areas of interest extend to IoT, Blockchain, Cloud, and Virtualization technologies, and I have a proficiency in building efficient Cloud Native Big Data applications. Throughout my academic projects and industry experiences, I have worked with various programming languages such as Go, Python, Ruby, and Elixir/Erlang. My diverse skillset allows me to approach problems from different angles and implement effective solutions. Above all, I value the opportunity to learn and grow in a dynamic environment. I believe that the eagerness to learn is crucial in developing oneself, and I strive to work with the best in order to bring out the best in myself.
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