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How to move legend in matplotlib

Understanding the Basics of a Legend in Matplotlib

When you're creating a chart or graph, a legend is an essential tool that helps readers understand the data being presented. Think of it as a map key that explains the symbols, colors, or line styles used in your chart. In Matplotlib, which is a popular plotting library for Python, adding a legend is straightforward, but you might want to move it around to make your graph clearer or more aesthetically pleasing.

Adding a Legend to Your Plot

Before we dive into moving the legend, let's start by creating a simple plot and adding a legend to it. Here's a basic example:

import matplotlib.pyplot as plt

# Sample data
x = [1, 2, 3, 4]
y = [10, 20, 25, 30]

# Plotting the data
plt.plot(x, y, label='Growth')

# Adding a legend

# Display the plot

In this code, we're plotting a simple line graph with x as our horizontal axis and y as our vertical axis. The label='Growth' argument in the plt.plot() function is what we'll use to create our legend. When we call plt.legend(), Matplotlib automatically generates a legend using the labels provided.

Moving the Legend Around

Now, let's talk about moving the legend. By default, Matplotlib tries to find the best location for the legend that doesn't overlap with the data. However, you might want to place it somewhere specific. You can do this by passing the loc argument to the plt.legend() function.

Here's how you can specify different locations for the legend:

# Top right corner
plt.legend(loc='upper right')

# Top left corner
plt.legend(loc='upper left')

# Bottom right corner
plt.legend(loc='lower right')

# Bottom left corner
plt.legend(loc='lower left')

# Right side of the plot

# Center of the plot

Each of these loc values is self-explanatory and places the legend in the respective position on the plot.

Fine-Tuning the Legend's Position

Sometimes, the predefined locations aren't quite right for your plot. You might want to fine-tune the position of the legend. You can do this using the bbox_to_anchor argument. This argument takes a tuple of two or four numbers, which represent the coordinates for the legend's new location.

Here's an example of how to use bbox_to_anchor:

# Moving the legend outside of the plot
plt.legend(loc='upper left', bbox_to_anchor=(1, 1))

In this case, the first number in the tuple moves the legend along the x-axis, and the second number moves it along the y-axis. By setting both to 1, we've moved the legend outside of the plot, to the top-left corner.

Adjusting the Legend's Appearance

Beyond just moving the legend, you can also change its appearance. For instance, you can add a shadow, change the border color, or make the background semi-transparent. Here's how you can do that:

# Adding a shadow

# Changing the border color

# Making the background semi-transparent

Each of these arguments adds a bit of style to your legend, making your plot more appealing and easier to understand.

Using Legends with Multiple Lines

If your plot has multiple lines, you can add a legend for each one. Just give each line a label and call plt.legend() at the end. Here's an example:

# Second set of sample data
y2 = [15, 15, 15, 15]

# Plotting two lines
plt.plot(x, y, label='Growth')
plt.plot(x, y2, label='Steady')

# Adding a legend

Now, the legend will have two entries: one for 'Growth' and another for 'Steady'.

Intuition and Analogies

Think of your plot as a garden and the legend as a signpost. You wouldn't want the signpost to block the view of a beautiful flower, right? Similarly, you should position your legend such that it helps readers without covering important parts of your plot. By using loc and bbox_to_anchor, you're effectively planting your signpost in the best spot.


In the world of data visualization, clarity is king. A well-placed legend can make the difference between a good plot and a great one. With Matplotlib, you have the flexibility to move your legend to the perfect spot with just a few lines of code. It's like finding the right place for a piece of furniture in a room—it should fit naturally without getting in the way, enhancing the overall look and feel. So go ahead, experiment with your legends, and give your plots the polish they deserve. Happy plotting!