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Customizing axes tick labels

Posted By Yair Altman On January 24, 2018 | __5 Comments__

In last week’s post ^{[1]}, I discussed various ways to customize bar/histogram plots, including customization of the tick labels. While some of the customizations that I discussed indeed rely on undocumented properties/features, many Matlab users are not aware that tick labels can be individually customized, and that this is a fully documented/supported functionality ^{[2]}. This relies on the fact that the default axes **TickLabelInterpreter** property value is `'tex'`

, which supports a wide range of font customizations, individually for each label. This includes any combination of symbols, superscript, subscript, bold, italic, slanted, face-name, font-size and color – even intermixed within a single label. Since tex is the default interpreter, we don’t need any special preparation – simply set the relevant **X/Y/ZTickLabel** string to include the relevant tex markup.

To illustrate this, have a look at the following excellent answer ^{[3]} by user Ubi on Stack Overflow:

```
plot(1:10, rand(1,10))
ax = gca;
% Simply color an XTickLabel
ax.XTickLabel{3} = ['\color{red}' ax.XTickLabel{3}];
% Use TeX symbols
ax.XTickLabel{4} = '\color{blue} \uparrow';
% Use multiple colors in one XTickLabel
ax.XTickLabel{5} = '\color[rgb]{0,1,0}green\color{orange}?';
% Color YTickLabels with colormap
nColors = numel(ax.YTickLabel);
cm = jet(nColors);
for i = 1:nColors
ax.YTickLabel{i} = sprintf('\color[rgb]{%f,%f,%f}%s', cm(i,:), ax.YTickLabel{i});
end
```

In addition to `'tex'`

, we can also set the axes object’s **TickLabelInterpreter** to `'latex'`

for a Latex interpreter, or `'none'`

if we want to use no string interpretation at all.

As I showed in last week’s post ^{[1]}, we can control the gap between the tick labels and the axle line, using the Ruler object’s undocumented **TickLabelGapOffset, TickLabelGapMultiplier** properties.

Also, as I explained in other posts (here ^{[4]} and here ^{[5]}), we can also control the display of the secondary axle label (typically exponent or units) using the Ruler’s similarly-undocumented **SecondaryLabel** property. Note that the related Ruler’s **Exponent** property is documented/supported ^{[6]}, but simply sets a basic exponent label (e.g., `'\times10^{6}'`

when **Exponent**==6) – to set a custom label string (e.g., `'\it\color{gray}Millions'`

), or to modify its other properties (position, alignment etc.), we should use **SecondaryLabel**.

Categories: Handle graphics, Low risk of breaking in future versions, Stock Matlab function

5 Comments (Open | Close)

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URL to article: **https://undocumentedmatlab.com/articles/customizing-axes-tick-labels**

URLs in this post:

[1] last week’s post: **http://undocumentedmatlab.com/blog/customizing-histogram-plots**

[2] fully documented/supported functionality: **https://www.mathworks.com/help/matlab/ref/matlab.graphics.axis.axes-properties.html#property_d119e51283**

[3] excellent answer: **https://stackoverflow.com/a/46181211/233829**

[4] here: **http://undocumentedmatlab.com/blog/customizing-axes-part-5-origin-crossover-and-labels**

[5] here: **http://undocumentedmatlab.com/blog/customizing-axes-rulers#Exponent**

[6] documented/supported: **https://www.mathworks.com/help/matlab/ref/matlab.graphics.axis.decorator.numericruler-properties.html**

[7] Setting axes tick labels format : **https://undocumentedmatlab.com/articles/setting-axes-tick-labels-format**

[8] Customizing axes part 5 – origin crossover and labels : **https://undocumentedmatlab.com/articles/customizing-axes-part-5-origin-crossover-and-labels**

[9] Customizing axes rulers : **https://undocumentedmatlab.com/articles/customizing-axes-rulers**

[10] Customizing axes part 2 : **https://undocumentedmatlab.com/articles/customizing-axes-part-2**

[11] Customizing axes part 3 – Backdrop : **https://undocumentedmatlab.com/articles/customizing-axes-part-3-backdrop**

[12] Customizing axes part 4 – additional properties : **https://undocumentedmatlab.com/articles/customizing-axes-part-4-additional-properties**

[13] : **https://www.mathworks.com/matlabcentral/fileexchange/7401-scalable-vector-graphics--svg--export-of-figures**

[14] : **https://github.com/jschwizer99/plot2svg**

[15] : **https://github.com/kupiqu/plot2svg**

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Copyright © Yair Altman - Undocumented Matlab. All rights reserved.

5 Comments To "Customizing axes tick labels"

#1 CommentByEvgeniiOn January 30, 2018 @ 12:23I try to save my graphics like scalable vector graphics but the Tex or LaTex string doesn’t look right. Can you help me?

#2 CommentByYair AltmanOn January 30, 2018 @ 20:10@Evgenii – this is a bug in Matlab. Please report it to MathWorks. Until the bug is fixed, you can use the plot2svg utility, which generates nice-looking results without the bug.

Note: the version of plot2svg

^{[13]}is relatively old (2012) compared to the^{[14]}(2015).While this version of plot2svg was last updated in 2015, a more recent version (fork) can be found in

^{[15]}, and unlike the original version this one seems to be actively maintained.#3 CommentByEvgeniiOn February 1, 2018 @ 12:46plot2svg show the symbol pi but it’s unpleasant.

I reported about the bug to MathWorks but the response wouldn’t be fast.

#4 CommentByEvgeniiOn March 25, 2018 @ 12:09The problem was gone in r2018a.

#5 CommentByStefanOn June 12, 2018 @ 15:49No,

`saveas(gcf,'filename.svg')`

still yields axis ticks not formatted with latex. Or what are you referring to?