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How to increase the size of the plot in matplotlib

Understanding the Basics of Plot Size in Matplotlib

When you're just getting started with programming and data visualization, you might find yourself using Matplotlib, a popular plotting library in Python. It's like a digital artist's palette that allows you to create a wide range of graphs and charts. But sometimes, the default size of the plots might not be suitable for your needs. Perhaps the details are too cramped, or you want a larger canvas for a presentation. This is where adjusting the plot size becomes essential.

Think of the plot size as the frame of a painting. If the frame is too small, you'll struggle to fit all the beautiful details of your painting inside it. Similarly, in Matplotlib, if the plot size is too small, your data visualization might look cluttered and hard to read.

Adjusting Plot Size with figure()

The size of a plot in Matplotlib is determined by the figure object. You can think of the figure as a blank canvas on which you draw your plots. To adjust the size of this canvas, you can use the figure() function, which allows you to specify the width and height of the figure in inches.

Here's a simple example:

import matplotlib.pyplot as plt

# Create a new figure with a specified size
plt.figure(figsize=(10, 5))  # Width: 10 inches, Height: 5 inches

# Now let's plot some data
plt.plot([1, 2, 3, 4], [1, 4, 9, 16])

# Show the plot

In the above code, figsize=(10, 5) sets the size of the plot to 10 inches wide and 5 inches tall. You can adjust these numbers to make the plot larger or smaller.

Using subplots() for More Control

Sometimes, you might want to create multiple plots in a single figure. This is where subplots() come in handy. It's like having several smaller canvases within your larger canvas, each one ready for a different painting.

The subplots() function not only allows you to create a grid of plots but also provides a way to specify the size of the entire grid.

Here's how you can use subplots() to create a single plot with a specific size:

import matplotlib.pyplot as plt

# Create a figure and a set of subplots with a specified size
fig, ax = plt.subplots(figsize=(10, 5))

# Plot some data on the axes
ax.plot([1, 2, 3, 4], [10, 20, 25, 30])

# Show the plot

In this code, figsize=(10, 5) still controls the size of the figure, but subplots() returns two values: fig (the figure object) and ax (the axes object on which you can plot your data).

Resizing Plots with rcParams

Imagine you're setting up your workspace before starting to paint. You adjust your chair, lay out your brushes, and choose the right size of canvas. In Matplotlib, you can set up your workspace using something called rcParams, which stands for "runtime configuration parameters". These are settings that define the default behavior of your plots, including their size.

You can set the default figure size for all your plots like this:

import matplotlib.pyplot as plt

# Set the default figure size
plt.rcParams['figure.figsize'] = [10, 5]  # Width: 10 inches, Height: 5 inches

# Now every plot you create will use this size unless specified otherwise
plt.plot([1, 2, 3, 4], [1, 4, 9, 16])

By setting figure.figsize in rcParams, you're telling Matplotlib, "Hey, I want all my canvases to be this size by default."

Adjusting Plot Size for Saving Figures

When you're done with your masterpiece, you might want to frame it or share it with friends. Similarly, after creating a plot, you might want to save it to a file. Matplotlib allows you to specify the size of the plot when saving it, which can be different from the size displayed on the screen.

Here's how you can save a plot with a specific size:

import matplotlib.pyplot as plt

# Create some data
plt.plot([1, 2, 3, 4], [1, 4, 9, 16])

# Save the figure with a specific size
plt.savefig('my_plot.png', figsize=(10, 5), dpi=300)

In the savefig() function, figsize sets the size of the figure, and dpi stands for "dots per inch", which is like the quality of the image. A higher dpi means a higher resolution image.

Intuition and Analogies for Plot Sizing

To truly grasp the concept of plot sizing in Matplotlib, let's use a real-world analogy. Imagine you're at a coffee shop with a small table. If you order a large meal with several dishes, you'll struggle to fit everything on the table, and it might feel cluttered. This is like having too much data on a small plot. But if you ask for a bigger table, you can comfortably fit all your dishes and enjoy your meal. Similarly, increasing the size of your plot allows your data to breathe and makes it easier for others to 'digest' the information.

Another analogy is resizing a photograph. When you zoom in on a digital photo, you're making the image larger, but you're also risking making it pixelated if you zoom in too much without the right resolution. In Matplotlib, making your plot larger without considering the resolution (dpi) might result in a blurry or low-quality image when saved.


In the world of data visualization, the size of your plot can make a huge difference in how your message is perceived. Just like a well-framed painting can capture the attention of an entire room, a well-sized plot can highlight the insights in your data. Adjusting the size of your plots in Matplotlib is a bit like finding the perfect frame for your artwork – it's about enhancing the presentation without distracting from the content.

Whether you're using figure(), subplots(), or rcParams, remember that you're the artist of your data story. You have the power to adjust the canvas to suit your narrative. With the simple tools and analogies we've explored, you're now equipped to create Matplotlib plots that are not only informative but also aesthetically pleasing. So go ahead, resize those plots, and let your data visualization masterpieces shine!