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Color coded 3D scatterplot

4.9 | 44 ratings Rate this file 77 Downloads (last 30 days) File Size: 5.91 KB File ID: #9519 Version: 1.8
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Color coded 3D scatterplot


Ken Garrard (view profile)


05 Jan 2006 (Updated )

Produces a 3D scatterplot of XYZ data with varying colors

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A 3D scatter plot of a Cartesian data set is drawn. The data points are sorted by color and plot3 is called once for each group of points that map to the same color. This reduces execution time significantly for large data sets. By default the points are colored according to their distance from the XY plane. This can changed with the 'ColorData' property. Additionally the upper and lower limits of the color range can be specified. This is useful for creating a series of plots with the same coloring.
The example plot is produced by the following code.

   [x,y,z] = peaks(101);
   c = gradient(z);
   k = hypot(x,y)<3;
   plot3k({x(k) y(k) z(k)}, ...
      'Plottype','stem','FontSize',12, ...
      'ColorData',c(k),'ColorRange',[-0.5 0.5],'Marker',{'o',2}, ...

Plot3k is based on plot3c by Uli Theune.


Plot3c inspired this file.

MATLAB release MATLAB 7.7 (R2008b)
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Comments and Ratings (54)
11 Jan 2017 Maximilian Kanig

Are there any known problems with this function under MATLAB R2016b (academic student use on Ubuntu 16.04 64bit), and if so, is there a newer version/other option for xyz-plotting?
In my case it refuses to plot the data, but scales, grid and number/position of subplots are OK.

Any advice is appreciated!


Comment only
27 Jul 2016 K E

K E (view profile)

Much better speed than scatter, thanks.

12 Jun 2016 Ken Garrard

Ken Garrard (view profile)

Before calling plot3k open a new figure using the colormap of your choice.
For example,

Comment only
11 Mar 2016 Sudharsana Iyengar

I am new in using this. I used this to plot a 3d data in Matlab 2015.
By defualt it is taking the color map as parula. is there a way to change it.
do I have to add the syntax
'color map','jet' (or anything elsewhere)
let me know thanks.
By the way it is in an excellent submission. Ken u rock.

25 Jun 2015 Bryant Svedin

28 Aug 2014 samfort

20 Aug 2014 Emre Kopanoglu

28 Feb 2014 Wei Liu

Great job Ken!

28 Feb 2014 Wei Liu

Great job Ken!

24 Feb 2014 Dylan

Dylan (view profile)

Would there be a quick way to plot each individual point by RGB color value? I know scatter3 has this capability but it is extremely slow.

19 Dec 2013 Jon

Jon (view profile)

I found the colorbar unnecessary for most of my 3-D arrays, but quite useful for plotting 4-D arrays. I added an element to the p structure called "ColorBar" which is checked before generating the colorbar. Then doing plot3k(...,'ColorBar',true,...) can be used to create the plot with the colorbar.

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19 Nov 2013 Simon

Simon (view profile)

Hi everyone,

I have a 4D dataset similar and want to use this commands. I am totally new to Matlab. I imported the data from excel and biuld a Matrix:
Points=[g psi microstrain f]:
Each letter has a column of datapoints. When I use the commands above I always get the error:
Undefined function for plot3k for input arguments of type cell.

I tried a lot and dont have a solution.
Can anyone help me?

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10 Sep 2013 Mike

Mike (view profile)

Hi Ken, I guess i'm just repeating previous comments but this is fantastic compared to scatter3. Any idea why it is so much faster? Is it because it plots multiple smaller series? With scatter3 plotting is a slow but working on the graph (rotating, editing properties, saving to jpeg) really brings my computer to its knees. Thanks again.

20 Aug 2013 Jon

Jon (view profile)

19 Aug 2013 Carlyle

Thanks a million Ken! :) I should have thought of that.

PS. I tried downloading the plot3k file again and its still the same version. I have added the necessary line on my end. Thanks!

19 Aug 2013 Carlyle

17 Aug 2013 Ken Garrard

Ken Garrard (view profile)

Carlyle, Points with a NaN color value can be excluded by setting the Z value for those points to NaN. For (x,y,z) data with color vector c, 'z(isnan(c))=NaN'. An updated plot3k has been submitted.

Comment only
17 Aug 2013 Carlyle

Hi Ken, I was just using this code and noticed that it does not ignore NaN values for the colour-coded points. Is there a way to make the code NOT plot the (x,y,z) point if the associated colour-value for that point is NaN?

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31 Jul 2013 Ken Garrard

Ken Garrard (view profile)

Jackson, Use either 'hold on' or 'axes(h)' before calling plot3k to plot into the current axes or the axes with handle 'h'.

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31 Jul 2013 Jackson Richards

Works great. One question, is it possible to place the plot on an existing set of axes?

26 Jun 2013 dberm22

dberm22 (view profile)

MUCH quicker than scatter3(). What a lifesaver!

13 Jun 2013 Huaxi Zheng

great! Thanks for sharing, Ken!

10 Jun 2013 Nicholas

This is brilliant. Thanks, Ken

12 Feb 2013 Nick

Nick (view profile)

23 Mar 2012 Amir

Amir (view profile)

works great!

08 Mar 2012 Ken Garrard

Ken Garrard (view profile)

Thanks for the suggestion Val. I'll update the submission.

Comment only
07 Mar 2012 Val Schmidt

Val Schmidt (view profile)

This is a fantastic utility - something that should be incorporated into MATLAB proper, as scatter3 is awful.

I do recommend one change however. Currently, plot3k calls "hold on" prior to plotting anything which means you'll always add to whatever figure window is active. Since this is not the default behavior of MATLAB I find it a hassle.

The fix is to move 'hold on' on line 164 so the plotting loop looks like this:

% plot data points in groups by color map index
s = 1; % index of 1st point in a color group
for k = 1:length(dLix) % loop over each non-empty color group
plot3(L(s:dLix(k),1), ... % call plot3 once for each color group
L(s:dLix(k),2), ...
L(s:dLix(k),3), ...
mark_ch, ...
'MarkerSize',mark_sz, ...
'MarkerEdgeColor',cmap(L(s,4),:), ... % same marker color from cmap
'MarkerFaceColor',cmap(L(s,4),:) ); % for all points in group
s = dLix(k)+1; % next group starts at next point
if k==1
hold on; % add points to one set of axes
hold off;

16 Aug 2011 Alexander Stepanov

Great code. One small improvement:
Change length(L) to size(L,1) on 96 and 141 lines. Otherwise, it's not working with one data point

13 Jun 2011 James

James (view profile)

12 Mar 2011 Navneet Viswan

Is it possible to use this code to scan images with laser stripe in it and plot out the 3D point cloud of the laser traced portion? with depth?

Kindly help me out

Comment only
10 Feb 2011 daniel

daniel (view profile)

After trying and failing to plot my data (3e6 points) using scatter3, this little guy did it for my lickety-split. Is a 4D set, so plotting first 3 dimensions as spatial, and fourth as color. Just had to make sure my nargs matched up via cells, so did {data(:,1) data(:,2) data(:,3)} as first arg to plot3k, and data(:,4) as second for color.

A+ rating from this matlab user.

24 Jan 2011 Joseph Miller

Simple, fast and clean. VERY good job! Thank you!

22 Jul 2010 Nathan

Nathan (view profile)

22 Jul 2010 Nathan

Nathan (view profile)

minor grid does not show up on Z-axis when Zscale is set to log
(i.e. set(gca,'zscale','log');

any idea why this is occuring?

06 May 2010 Peng Huang

I would suggest to change "length(L)" to "size(L,1)" since when points are too less (i.e. less than 3), error will happen. Besides that, it is great! Thanks:)

23 Feb 2010 V V

V V (view profile)

Very good - its way quicker than scatter3. Uses much less memory :)

09 Feb 2010 Alvaro Canivell

Very useful indeed !

Something I was missing in it:

- A label for the color bar, that could be passed in the 'strs' together with the title and the rest of the labels.

If somebody wants that, just tell me, I added that

Thanks again !

02 Sep 2009 Le

Le (view profile)

very good job! thank you!

Comment only
29 May 2009 aaaaa

aaaaa (view profile)

08 Dec 2008 Adam Pilchak

excellent file.
For those interested in additional functionality in terms of viewing contours and slices through 3d data, check out:

01 Dec 2008 Jveer

Jveer (view profile)

very nice indeed! any chance of further speed optimization?

03 Sep 2008 Shazux The Great

one that you should never miss!

30 May 2008 Abel Brown

Holy Jehosaphat!! worked outta the box! The funktion did exactly what i just spent the last hour trying to do! what a fantastic function for scientifik data! you're my hero!!!!

thanks x 10!

07 May 2008 Mike Ross

Exactly what I was looking for. Thank you.

22 Apr 2008 Esben Almkvist

I would add a:
if nargout>0
g = gcf;
That way you get a cleaner function if you don't need the output.

13 Feb 2008 Tim A

Thanks a lot, very useful

12 Dec 2007 Joseph Marks

It "rocks"; it allows a "surf"-like plot without the hassles and inaccuracies of preppoing the dating over a regular grid!
First-rate work.

13 Jul 2007 Eric DeGiuli

Great, does just what I wanted.

12 Jul 2007 Alexander K.

Very useful function

15 Feb 2007 Matteo Tajana

thank you, I've been looking for such a function for ages! ;-)

05 Jun 2006 sylvio berlusconi

your are a genious

10 May 2006 Josiah Yoder

Just what I was looking for - works great.

05 Apr 2006 Daniel B

Great function. Work well and is fast.

07 Feb 2006 oh kwoun

10 Nov 2008 1.1

The color range and markersize arguments have been added. The figure handle is not returned unless an output argument is given.

14 Oct 2011 1.3

Optional arguments are property,value pairs. Input data can be a cell array, vector or matrix.

14 Oct 2011 1.4

Bug fix for 'ColorData', 'ColorRange' properties.

09 Mar 2012 1.6

Updated treatment of NextPlot property as suggested by Val.

19 Aug 2013 1.7

This update excludes points with NaN color values from the plot.

25 Dec 2014 1.8

Added a stem3 style with colored lines from the xy plane
Updated for R2014b graphics

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