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legend

Add legend to axes

Description

example

legend creates a legend with descriptive labels for each plotted data series. For the labels, the legend uses the text from the DisplayName properties of the data series. If the DisplayName property is empty, then the legend uses a label of the form 'dataN'. The legend automatically updates when you add or delete data series from the axes. This command creates a legend in the current axes, which is returned by the gca command. If the current axes is empty, then the legend is empty. If no axes exist, then legend creates a Cartesian axes.

example

legend(label1,...,labelN) sets the legend labels. Specify the labels as a list of character vectors or strings, such as legend('Jan','Feb','Mar').

legend(labels) sets the labels using a cell array of character vectors, a string array, or a character matrix, such as legend({'Jan','Feb','Mar'}).

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legend(subset,___) only includes items in the legend for the data series listed in subset. Specify subset as a vector of graphics objects. You can specify subset before specifying the labels or with no other input arguments.

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legend(target,___) uses the axes or standalone visualization specified by target instead of the current axes. Specify the target as the first input argument.

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legend(___,'Location',lcn) sets the legend location. For example, 'Location','northeast' positions the legend in the upper right corner of the axes. Specify the location after other input arguments.

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legend(___,'Orientation',ornt), where ornt is 'horizontal', displays the legend items side-by-side. The default for ornt is 'vertical', which stacks the items vertically.

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legend(___,Name,Value) sets legend properties using one or more name-value pair arguments.

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legend(bkgd), where bkgd is 'boxoff', removes the legend background and outline. The default for bkgd is 'boxon', which displays the legend background and outline.

lgd = legend(___) returns the Legend object. Use lgd to query and set properties of the legend after it is created. For a list of properties, see Legend Properties.

legend(vsbl) controls the visibility of the legend, where vsbl is 'hide', 'show', or 'toggle'.

legend('off') deletes the legend.

Examples

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Plot two lines and add a legend to the current axes. Specify the legend labels as input arguments to the legend function.

x = linspace(0,pi);
y1 = cos(x);
plot(x,y1)

hold on 
y2 = cos(2*x);
plot(x,y2)

legend('cos(x)','cos(2x)')

Figure contains an axes object. The axes object contains 2 objects of type line. These objects represent cos(x), cos(2x).

If you add or delete a data series from the axes, the legend updates accordingly. Control the label for the new data series by setting the DisplayName property as a name-value pair during creation. If you do not specify a label, then the legend uses a label of the form 'dataN'.

Note: If you do not want the legend to automatically update when data series are added to or removed from the axes, then set the AutoUpdate property of the legend to 'off'.

y3 = cos(3*x);
plot(x,y3,'DisplayName','cos(3x)')
hold off

Figure contains an axes object. The axes object contains 3 objects of type line. These objects represent cos(x), cos(2x), cos(3x).

Delete the legend.

legend('off')

Figure contains an axes object. The axes object contains 3 objects of type line. These objects represent cos(x), cos(2x), cos(3x).

Starting in R2019b, you can display a tiling of plots using the tiledlayout and nexttile functions. Call the tiledlayout function to create a 2-by-1 tiled chart layout. Call the nexttile function to create the axes objects ax1 and ax2. Plot random data in each axes. Add a legend to the upper plot by specifying ax1 as the first input argument to legend.

tiledlayout(2,1)
y1 = rand(3);
ax1 = nexttile; 
plot(y1)

y2 = rand(5);
ax2 = nexttile; 
plot(y2)

legend(ax1,{'Line 1','Line 2','Line 3'})

Figure contains 2 axes objects. Axes object 1 contains 3 objects of type line. These objects represent Line 1, Line 2, Line 3. Axes object 2 contains 5 objects of type line.

Plot two lines. Specify the legend labels during the plotting commands by setting the DisplayName property to the desired text. Then, add a legend.

x = linspace(0,pi);
y1 = cos(x);
plot(x,y1,'DisplayName','cos(x)')

hold on 
y2 = cos(2*x);
plot(x,y2,'DisplayName','cos(2x)')
hold off

legend

Figure contains an axes object. The axes object contains 2 objects of type line. These objects represent cos(x), cos(2x).

To exclude a line from the legend, specify its label as an empty character vector or string. For example, plot two sine waves, and add a dashed zero line by calling the yline function. Then create a legend, and exclude the zero line by specifying its label as ''.

x = 0:0.2:10;
plot(x,sin(x),x,sin(x+1));
hold on
yline(0,'--')
legend('sin(x)','sin(x+1)','')

Figure contains an axes object. The axes object contains 3 objects of type line, constantline. These objects represent sin(x), sin(x+1).

Plot four lines. Create a legend in the northwest area of the axes. Specify the number of legend columns using the NumColumns property.

x = linspace(0,pi);
y1 = cos(x);
plot(x,y1)

hold on
y2 = cos(2*x);
plot(x,y2)

y3 = cos(3*x);
plot(x,y3)

y4 = cos(4*x);
plot(x,y4)
hold off

legend({'cos(x)','cos(2x)','cos(3x)','cos(4x)'},...
    'Location','northwest','NumColumns',2)

Figure contains an axes object. The axes object contains 4 objects of type line. These objects represent cos(x), cos(2x), cos(3x), cos(4x).

By default, the legend orders the items from top to bottom along each column. To order the items from left to right along each row instead, set the Orientation property to 'horizontal'.

When you want to share a legend between two or more plots, you can display the legend in a separate tile of the layout. You can place the legend within the grid of tiles, or in an outer tile.

Create three plots in a tiled chart layout.

t = tiledlayout('flow','TileSpacing','compact');
nexttile
plot(rand(5))
nexttile
plot(rand(5))
nexttile
plot(rand(5))

Figure contains 3 axes objects. Axes object 1 contains 5 objects of type line. Axes object 2 contains 5 objects of type line. Axes object 3 contains 5 objects of type line.

Add a shared legend, and move it to the fourth tile.

lgd = legend;
lgd.Layout.Tile = 4;

Figure contains 3 axes objects. Axes object 1 contains 5 objects of type line. Axes object 2 contains 5 objects of type line. Axes object 3 contains 5 objects of type line.

Next, add a fourth plot and move the legend to the east tile.

nexttile
plot(rand(5))
lgd.Layout.Tile = 'east';

Figure contains 4 axes objects. Axes object 1 contains 5 objects of type line. Axes object 2 contains 5 objects of type line. Axes object 3 contains 5 objects of type line. Axes object 4 contains 5 objects of type line.

If you do not want to include all of the plotted graphics objects in the legend, then you can specify the graphics objects that you want to include.

Plot three lines and return the Line objects created. Create a legend that includes only two of the lines. Specify the first input argument as a vector of the Line objects to include.

x = linspace(0,pi);
y1 = cos(x);
p1 = plot(x,y1);

hold on
y2 = cos(2*x);
p2 = plot(x,y2);

y3 = cos(3*x);
p3 = plot(x,y3);
hold off

legend([p1 p3],{'First','Third'})

Figure contains an axes object. The axes object contains 3 objects of type line. These objects represent First, Third.

Create a plot, and add a legend with LaTeX markup by calling the legend function and setting the Interpreter property to 'latex'. Surround the markup with dollar signs ($).

x = 0:0.1:10;
y = sin(x);
dy = cos(x);
plot(x,y,x,dy);
legend('$sin(x)$','$\frac{d}{dx}sin(x)$','Interpreter','latex');

Figure contains an axes object. The axes object contains 2 objects of type line. These objects represent $sin(x)$, $\frac{d}{dx}sin(x)$.

Plot two lines and create a legend. Then, add a title to the legend.

x = linspace(0,pi);
y1 = cos(x);
plot(x,y1)

hold on
y2 = cos(2*x);
plot(x,y2)
hold off

lgd = legend('cos(x)','cos(2x)');
title(lgd,'My Legend Title')

Figure contains an axes object. The axes object contains 2 objects of type line. These objects represent cos(x), cos(2x).

Plot two lines and create a legend in the lower left corner of the axes. Then, remove the legend background and outline.

x = linspace(0,pi);
y1 = cos(x);
plot(x,y1)

hold on
y2 = cos(2*x);
plot(x,y2)
hold off

legend({'cos(x)','cos(2x)'},'Location','southwest')
legend('boxoff')

Figure contains an axes object. The axes object contains 2 objects of type line. These objects represent cos(x), cos(2x).

Modify the legend appearance by setting Legend properties. You can set properties when you create the legend using name-value pairs in the legend command. You also can set properties after you create the legend using the Legend object.

Plot four lines of random data. Create legend and assign the Legend object to the variable lgd. Set the FontSize and TextColor properties using name-value pairs.

rdm = rand(4);
plot(rdm)

lgd = legend({'Line 1','Line 2','Line 3','Line 4'},...
    'FontSize',12,'TextColor','blue');

Figure contains an axes object. The axes object contains 4 objects of type line. These objects represent Line 1, Line 2, Line 3, Line 4.

Modify the legend after it is created by referring to lgd. Set the NumColumns property using the object dot property name notation.

lgd.NumColumns = 2;

Figure contains an axes object. The axes object contains 4 objects of type line. These objects represent Line 1, Line 2, Line 3, Line 4.

Input Arguments

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Labels, specified as a comma-separated list of character vectors or strings.

To exclude an item from the legend, specify the corresponding label as an empty character vector or string.

To include special characters or Greek letters in the labels, use TeX or LaTeX markup. For a table of options, see the Interpreter property.

To specify labels that are keywords, such as 'Location' or 'off', use a cell array of character vectors, a string array, or a character array.

Example: legend('Sin Function','Cos Function')

Example: legend("Sin Function","Cos Function")

Example: legend("Sample A","","Sample C")

Example: legend('\gamma','\sigma')

Labels, specified as a cell array of character vectors, string array, or categorical array.

To exclude an item from the legend, specify the corresponding label as an empty character vector in the cell array, or as an empty string in the string array.

To include special characters or Greek letters in the labels, use TeX or LaTeX markup. For a table of options, see the Interpreter property.

Example: legend({'Sin Function','Cos Function'})

Example: legend(["Sin Function","Cos Function"])

Example: legend({'Sample A','','Sample C'})

Example: legend({'\gamma','\sigma'})

Example: legend(categorical({'Alabama','New York'}))

Data series to include in the legend, specified as a vector of graphics objects.

Target for legend, specified as an Axes object, a PolarAxes object, a GeographicAxes object, or a standalone visualization with a LegendVisible property, such as a GeographicBubbleChart object. If you do not specify the target, then the legend function uses the object returned by the gca command as the target.

Standalone visualizations do not support modifying the legend appearance, such as the location, or returning the Legend object as an output argument..

Legend location with respect to the axes, specified as one of the location values listed in this table.

ValueDescription
'north'Inside top of axes
'south'Inside bottom of axes
'east'Inside right of axes
'west'Inside left of axes
'northeast'Inside top-right of axes (default for 2-D axes)
'northwest'Inside top-left of axes
'southeast'Inside bottom-right of axes
'southwest'Inside bottom-left of axes
'northoutside'Above the axes
'southoutside'Below the axes
'eastoutside'To the right of the axes
'westoutside'To the left of the axes
'northeastoutside'Outside top-right corner of the axes (default for 3-D axes)
'northwestoutside'Outside top-left corner of the axes
'southeastoutside'Outside bottom-right corner of the axes
'southwestoutside'Outside bottom-left corner of the axes
'best'Inside axes where least conflict occurs with the plot data at the time that you create the legend. If the plot data changes, you might need to reset the location to 'best'.
'bestoutside'Outside top-right corner of the axes (when the legend has a vertical orientation) or below the axes (when the legend has a horizontal orientation)
'layout'A tile in a tiled chart layout. To move the legend to a different tile, set the Layout property of the legend.
'none'Determined by Position property. Use the Position property to display the legend in a custom location.

Example: legend('Location','northeastoutside')

Orientation, specified as one of these values:

  • 'vertical' — Stack the legend items vertically.

  • 'horizontal' — List the legend items side-by-side.

Example: legend('Orientation','horizontal')

Legend box display, specified as one of these values:

  • 'boxon' — Display the legend background and outline.

  • 'boxoff' — Do not display the legend background and outline.

Example: legend('boxoff')

Legend visibility, specified as one of these values:

  • 'hide' — Hide the legend.

  • 'Show' — Show the legend or create a legend if one does not exist.

  • 'toggle' — Toggle the legend visibility.

Example: legend('hide')

Name-Value Arguments

Specify optional comma-separated pairs of Name,Value arguments. Name is the argument name and Value is the corresponding value. Name must appear inside quotes. You can specify several name and value pair arguments in any order as Name1,Value1,...,NameN,ValueN.

Example: legend({'A','B'},'TextColor','blue','FontSize',12) creates a legend with blue, 12-point font.

Note

The properties listed here are only a subset. For a complete list, see Legend Properties.

Text color, specified as an RGB triplet, a hexadecimal color code, a color name, or a short name. The default color is black with a value of [0 0 0].

For a custom color, specify an RGB triplet or a hexadecimal color code.

  • An RGB triplet is a three-element row vector whose elements specify the intensities of the red, green, and blue components of the color. The intensities must be in the range [0,1]; for example, [0.4 0.6 0.7].

  • A hexadecimal color code is a character vector or a string scalar that starts with a hash symbol (#) followed by three or six hexadecimal digits, which can range from 0 to F. The values are not case sensitive. Thus, the color codes '#FF8800', '#ff8800', '#F80', and '#f80' are equivalent.

Alternatively, you can specify some common colors by name. This table lists the named color options, the equivalent RGB triplets, and hexadecimal color codes.

Color NameShort NameRGB TripletHexadecimal Color CodeAppearance
'red''r'[1 0 0]'#FF0000'

Sample of the color red

'green''g'[0 1 0]'#00FF00'

Sample of the color green

'blue''b'[0 0 1]'#0000FF'

Sample of the color blue

'cyan' 'c'[0 1 1]'#00FFFF'

Sample of the color cyan

'magenta''m'[1 0 1]'#FF00FF'

Sample of the color magenta

'yellow''y'[1 1 0]'#FFFF00'

Sample of the color yellow

'black''k'[0 0 0]'#000000'

Sample of the color black

'white''w'[1 1 1]'#FFFFFF'

Sample of the color white

'none'Not applicableNot applicableNot applicableNo color

Here are the RGB triplets and hexadecimal color codes for the default colors MATLAB® uses in many types of plots.

RGB TripletHexadecimal Color CodeAppearance
[0 0.4470 0.7410]'#0072BD'

Sample of RGB triplet [0 0.4470 0.7410], which appears as dark blue

[0.8500 0.3250 0.0980]'#D95319'

Sample of RGB triplet [0.8500 0.3250 0.0980], which appears as dark orange

[0.9290 0.6940 0.1250]'#EDB120'

Sample of RGB triplet [0.9290 0.6940 0.1250], which appears as dark yellow

[0.4940 0.1840 0.5560]'#7E2F8E'

Sample of RGB triplet [0.4940 0.1840 0.5560], which appears as dark purple

[0.4660 0.6740 0.1880]'#77AC30'

Sample of RGB triplet [0.4660 0.6740 0.1880], which appears as medium green

[0.3010 0.7450 0.9330]'#4DBEEE'

Sample of RGB triplet [0.3010 0.7450 0.9330], which appears as light blue

[0.6350 0.0780 0.1840]'#A2142F'

Sample of RGB triplet [0.6350 0.0780 0.1840], which appears as dark red

Example: [0 0 1]

Example: 'blue'

Example: '#0000FF'

Font size, specified as a scalar value greater than zero in point units. The default font size depends on the specific operating system and locale.

If you change the axes font size, then MATLAB automatically sets the font size of the colorbar to 90% of the axes font size. If you manually set the font size of the colorbar, then changing the axes font size does not affect the colorbar font.

Number of columns, specified as a positive integer. If there are not enough legend items to fill the specified number of columns, then the number of columns that appear might be fewer.

Use the Orientation property to control whether the legend items appear in order along each column or along each row.

Example: lgd.NumColumns = 3

Output Arguments

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Legend object. Use lgd to view or modify properties of the legend after it is created.

plot(rand(3))
lgd = legend('line1','line2','line3');
lgd.FontSize = 12;
lgd.FontWeight = 'bold';

Tips

  • To label more than 20 objects in the legend, specify a label for each object. Otherwise, legend depicts only the first 20 objects in the graph.

Algorithms

  • Recalling the legend function does not reset legend properties, such as the location or orientation. If a legend exists, then the legend function updates the existing legend. An Axes object can have only one legend.

  • The legend reflects the visibility of graphics objects in the axes. Graphics objects that have a Visible property set to 'off' appear as grayed out items in the legend.

Compatibility Considerations

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Behavior changed in R2021a

Behavior changed in R2018b

Behavior changed in R2017b

Behavior changed in R2017a

Not recommended starting in R2014b

See Also

Functions

Properties

Introduced before R2006a