Figure module

Size and file names of a figure.

Importing the figure module modifies the matplotlib functions plt.figure(), plt.subplots(), fig.savefig(), and plt.savefig().

import matplotlib.pyplot as plt
import plottools.figure

Then the following features are available:

Figure size

The figure size can be specified in centimeters instead of inches via the cmsize argument to plt.figure() and plt.subplots(). Like this:

fig = plt.figure(cmsize=(12, 8))  # in centimeters


fig, axs = plt.subplots(3, 2, cmsize=(12, 8))  # in centimeters

A set_size_cm() function is also provided:

fig = plt.figure()
fig.set_size_cm(12, 8)  # in centimeters

Default file name

It is good practice to have a python script save a figure under the same name as the script (see our plotting guidline). That way it is easy to figure out, which script generated that figure, whithout the need to use cool command line tools like grep. To simplify this, the figure module patches the fig.savefig() function to use the name of the script as the name of the outpt file, when called without argument.

If you have a python script producing a figure and saving it like this:

fig, axs = plt.subplots(2, 3)
# some fancy plots ...

The plot is saved in a file named myplot.pdf.

When only providing a path, the name of the script is appended:

fig.savefig('../')    # -> ../myplot.pdf

A string to be added to the name of the script is indicated by a initial '+':

fig.savefig('+-example')    # -> myplot-example.pdf

When saving a figure multiple times (for example when needed for a LaTeX beamer talk), then you may want to use the '@' character in the file name. This character in the file name is replaced by 'A', 'B', 'C', ... according to how often fig.savefig() is called from within the same figure. If the '@' is the first character of the file name, it is added to the name of the main script. So in '' we can write


This prints to the console


and generates the respective files.

Strip fonts from a pdf figure

When using full LaTeX based typesetting in your figures, the resulting files are quite large, because the LaTeX fonts are stored in the files. When you then include these files in a LaTeX document, then the resulting document can be really large, because for each included figure the fonts are stored again and again in the pdf of the document. The best solution I figured out to remove the excessive font descriptions is to run the pdfs of the figures through the ps2ps shell command (from Ghostscript). Then the standalone figure file may look not that nice, but included into the LaTeX docuement it looks the same as before and the resulting pdf is much smaller. To simplify this post-processing step the figure module adds a stripfont argument to fig.savefig(). When set True, then after the figure has been saved to a pdf file it is run through ps2ps in order to remove the fonts.