Han-Kwang Nienhuys Han-Kwang Nienhuys - 5 months ago 9
Python Question

How to get colorbar ticks at multiples of 1, 2, 5, 10, 20 in Matplotlib

Consider the following Python script:

import matplotlib.pyplot as plt
import numpy as np
x, y = np.meshgrid(np.arange(10), np.arange(10))
z = x**2-y**2+718
fig, ax = plt.subplots(1)
im = ax.pcolormesh(x*130./9+650, y, z, vmin=650, vmax=780)
raw_input("Press ENTER to quit.")

This produces a colormap plot with the x-axis from 650 to 780, with ticks at 660, 680, 700, and so on. The colorbar has the same range, but it has ticks at 660, 675, 690, 705, at integer multiples of 15.

Some experimentation shows that ticks can appear at multiples of 10, 15, 20, 25, 40, 50, and 80. This does not happen with the x axis, which is always in multiples of 10, 20, or 50 (add or remove zeros as applicable). Is it possible to make the colorbar behave the same way? I find it difficult to read values from the colorbar when the ticks have such an odd spacing, without multiples of 100 unless they happen to be divisible by 300.

I'm aware that I can control the ticks by supplying an array of tick values, but that requires that I know the data range beforehand. So that's not where I want to go.

Note: using Python 2.7.5, Matplotlib 1.3.1.


The way that mpl locates the ticks is through the use of a Locator objects attached to the Axes object (see ticker docs)

The default for most axes is to use AutoLocator, but for whatever reason, the colorbar uses a MaxNLocator. Via the ticks kwarg fig.colorbar you can pass in a Locator instance, thus to get the same behavior as the x and y axis,

import matplotlib.ticker as mticker

cb = fig.colorbar(im, ticks=mticker.AutoLocator())

or to specify a specific step size

cb = fig.colorbar(im, ticks=mticker.MultipleLocator(25))

PR #6375 makes using AutoLocator the default behavior