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version (165 KB) by Rob Campbell
Creates an attractive shaded error region rather than discrete bars.


Updated 27 Mar 2018

View License on GitHub

Editor's Note: This file was selected as MATLAB Central Pick of the Week

shadedErrorBar is a MATLAB function that creates a continuous shaded error region around a line rather than discrete bars. The error region can either be specified explicitly or calculated on the fly based upon function handles. The appearance of the plot can be modified via input argumets and/or the handles of the returned plot objects. You will need OpenGL to get transparency to work.
There are detailed examples along with example images on the GitHub page:

Comments and Ratings (115)

Has anyone found a way to keep the shading when using a semilog plot with
set(gca,'YScale','log') ?
Seems like something is wrong with the patching?!

Anyone who wants to plot RGB defined colors, can do it like this:
'lineprops', {'color', [0 0 1]}, which plots a blue line, and so on.

Rob Campbell

If you can supply it as a function handle, it should work.

Lief Fenno

Hello! This is great. Quick question: do you have a version or know of a quick change so that I can pass a curvefit/continuous equation to the parser and use the 95% confidence intervals as the error bars? Thank you :-)

Rob Campbell

You can set those values to NaNs via the returned plot object. See last example:

Thanks! Really useful. I have a problem though. I have a Vector that contains nans in the middle. I would like the function not to plot the errorbar on those NAN values. Is there a way to do it?

Jan Cagan

Alex Henderson

Wow, that's a top tip!

Rob Campbell

You need to save it as a vector file. Change the figure window "Renderers" property to "painters" and re-save it.

Britt Veldman

This is a very helpful function, thanks!
I saved the figure as an .eps file and am trying to edit it in Adobe Illustrator, but cannot access the elements like usually with .eps files. Do you have any suggestion as to how I can do this? Thanks.


prasad (view profile)


Henrik (view profile)

Gregory Canal

Rob Campbell

That's probably a mistake that crept in when I was testing something. It'll show up only if you try asymmetric error bars. I corrected it and added an example in the demo showing how the asymmetric error bars work.

Gregory Canal

I'm comparing to an older version of shadedErrorBar, and it seems the error bar calculation has been switched from




Was the definition of errBar negated in some release?

Ian Kim

This. Is. Great. Thank you

Rob Campbell

Yes, you can edit the plot objects after they are rendered. See the examples and here: and also for more general info here:


Mehdi (view profile)

Very helpful function. I wonder if 'lineProps' command only works with standard colors defined in Matlab (i.e. m,k, etc)? Is there a way to specify color outside of the base with user defined [R G B] style?

Rob Campbell

America. I will see if I have time next week to look into that. Never tried it with yy axis. Can you also either e-mail me a minimal example for producing that error (see my profile for contact details) or add the info here: I prefer not to these comments as this isn't a good place to handle support issues.

Ame ZL

Ame ZL (view profile)

Hey, thanks for the function, it works beautifly when you have only one y axis.
However, i'm trying to use it with two graphs using yyaxis and it's sending an error message, any clue on how can i fix it? thanks!

Error using
Children may only be set to a permutation of itself

Error in uistack (line 134)

Error in shadedErrorBar>makePlot (line 193)
uistack(H.mainLine,'top') % Bring the main line to the top

Error in shadedErrorBar (line 126)
H = makePlot(x,y,errBar,lineProps,transparent,patchSaturation);

I'd also like to make a horizontal shaded error plot. I see you discussed this in Nov (22, 24). Is there a way to do this with this tool?

Maksym Sich

Hi all. Is it possible to make invisible the shaded error bar when "errBar" is NaN? As it is right now, it seems to be linearly interpolating the shaded area from the last non-nan to the next one. Thanks!


f (view profile)

Rob Campbell

Matteo, can you give me an example of what you're trying to do? Do you just want to rotate the axes?

Matteo Lisi

nice solution but how can i plot 'horizontal' errobar?

Adam Danz

Very nice tool. In case anyone else was unclear, when 'errBar' is a vector, the shaded error is drawn symmetrically as +/- errBar rather than centering the error about y. This is demonstrated by: shadedErrorBar([1:.1:10],repmat(3,1,91), repmat(2,1,91)); ylim([0,6])

It would be nice to have the ability to plot error in the x axis rather than Y.


Rita (view profile)

Thanks! I have problem with legend of two plots that I used hold on for them but the legend just shown for the last plot.

Dirk Isbrandt

Thanks. Really appreciated!

Charles Lu

This function is very useful, thank you so much! My only issue is that I cannot plot multiple shadedErrorBars in app designer. It will pop up in another figure window and I can't figure out how to hold on using the function. Could someone help with this? Thanks!

Rob Campbell

Aditya - the code doesn't do that right now. It's a good suggestion. I'll implement it when I have time.

Rob Campbell

Istvan, did you try the last input argument that handles transparency?


Joe (view profile)

Istvan Kiss

Thanks for this but can you let me know how can I plot in such a way that two plots do not completely cover each other but rather come out as on your example?

Thanks a lot for this function!!

Thank you for the function! Is there any way to save the figure in such a way that it enables changing it in illustrator? saveas(figure,path,'epsc') doesn't work...

Vinil T C

Great function!

Guy Bouvier

Very useful function, thanks a lot!! It saved me much time and lines of code :)


Aditya (view profile)

Can you please provide a working example where we have asymmetric error bars?

Antonin Blot

Thanks for this great code!
I got some troubles using datenum values on the x-axis. I have data points every 0.5 seconds over 30 minutes, but I want to plot the actual time on x instead just a duration. With the duration from 0 to 30 minutes I got no problems, but with the datenum-values the error shades form triangular areas all over the plot. Did anybody experience something similar?


Robert (view profile)

Terrific function. Very ease to use. Thanks a huge lot!

Helen Smith

Great function, however, is there a way to use if for displaying x error bars?

Jack Williams

Great function!

I found that adding

if isdatetime(xP)
xP = datenum(xP);

at Line 144 meant that I could use datetime values as the x input.


orlyka (view profile)

Great function, thanks!
One question - the graphs I get are very heavy (6 MB and more when saved to PDF).
Any ideas on how to make them smaller?

My bad, I didn't clear my workspace and it influenced the x and y.

Rob Campbell

Evan, I updated the submission to a GitHub page that I think already has the change you mention. I think it's narginchk, not nargoutchk, that you mean.

Rob Campbell

I'll check out the 2016a issue.

Evan Smith

Fantastic! Thanks!

Only, note that with MATLAB2016a you need to change line 53 to error(nargoutchk(3,5,nargin))

Matlab User

Flexible suggestion for a legend:

for i = ...

h=shadedErrorBar(x_i, y_i, {@mean,@std});
h.mainLine.DisplayName = name_i;


legend(findobj(gca, '-regexp', 'DisplayName', '[^'']'));

Is there a way to specify line and shading color outside of the base? The 'color' line property when specified as the [R G B] style is not accepted (or I am doing it wrong)

Rob Campbell

People have reported a few issues recently that I haven't seen until now. I'll get around to updating stuff soon.

Mark Benoit

the left and bottom axes are a problem for me too. I just plotted a black line for the axes there. Not a great fix, but it works

Hey Philip thanks for your reply.

Yes I try with set(gca,'YScale','log') and I can see the lien but the shading is gone.

anyway to fix this?

Philip Cheney

The simplest way to change the plot to semilogy is to add
to the function. Unfortunately, it looks like the shading is lost in semilogy (though retained in semilogx), even though the error bounds are plotted. Is this an issue with patch?


I am trying to use this function but need to do it in a semilog plot (semilogy). Can you tell me if there is anyway to do so?


E. Cheynet

Hi Rob,
I was wondering if it is possible to add an option in your function allowing to flip the x and y axis ? Otherwise, that's a great function !

giacomo valle

giacomo valle


Out of memory. The likely cause is an
infinite recursion within the program.

Some suggested updates:
- use 'narginchk' instead of 'nargchk'
- use uistack(H.main_line,'top'); instead of deleting and re-plotting the line

My short version (with some removed functionality):

function H = shplot(x,y,e,varargin)
%% shplot(x,y,e,opt,varargin)
% Striped down version of shplot
% Based on a code by Rob Campbell
% Written by Marcin Konowalczyk
% Timmel Group @ Oxford University

x = x(:); y = y(:);
isheld = ishold; if ~isheld; cla; hold on; end;
H.main_line = plot(x,y,varargin{:});

eu = y + e; el = y - e;
col = 0.15*get(H.main_line,'color') + 0.85; ecol = 3*col-2;
H.patch = patch([x ;flipud(x)],[el ;flipud(eu)],1,'facecolor',col,'edgecolor','none','facealpha',1);
H.edge_u = plot(x,eu,'-','color',ecol);
H.edge_l = plot(x,el,'-','color',ecol);

if ~isheld; hold off; end;


Adam (view profile)

Luis Felipe



The lines and the shaded region are not the same color for me, as in the example.

Thanks for the helpful function. However, it seems like the shaded colors disappear when I go to logscale? Is there a way to fix this?


CDev (view profile)

Sorry I meant to say left and bottom axes lines rather than x axes.


CDev (view profile)

Thank you for this function! However when I set my shaded errors bars to be transparent the left and bottom x axes disappear. They reappear if I go set(gca, 'linewidth', 2) thereby making the axes thicker, but the right and top axes then are disproportionately think.

Has anyone figured out how to avoid the axes disappearing or bring them back once they've disappeared?


Matt (view profile)

Great, thanks!

Alberto Jr

Very new to Matlab and do not understand how to use this in my code? Can anyone explain step by step how to use it? I spent hours and I haven't succeeded in plotting one graph yet. Thank you


Diana (view profile)

YMusic: This is what I do to save the figure.
h=figure, shadedErrorBar(Ctrl(:,1), Ctrl(:,2),Std_Ctrl(:,2),'-k', 1)
hold on,
shadedErrorBar(T5(:,1), T5(:,2), Std_T5(:,2),'-y',1)


I hope it is useful for you.


YMusic (view profile)

Fantastic plots, BUT.... I can't get savefig or print to work... in your description you say to "plot2svg (FEX submission 7401) if you wish to get high quality printed files", but do you know somewhere that I could find an example of you doing this? I can't get it to work and it says that it can't save a struct. I tried changing it using num2cell and struct2table. I have ~200 shadederrorbars on one figure. Any guidance is appreciated. Thank you in advance!


korkam (view profile)


F A (view profile)

Rob Campbell

Mich: the command returns the handles to the plot objects so to increase line thickness you can modify the plot object properties:

Sergei P.


Mich (view profile)

I managed to add legend for my graph. I missed out one of Campbell's previous comment.

Here is it for those who might face the same pbl! :
hold on
>> A %This is what's in the handles

A =

mainLine: 174.0065
patch: 175.0050
edge: [176.0026 177.0026]



Mich (view profile)

Thank you so much for this code!! Helped me alot! :D
Can i check how should i add legend and increase the thickness of the main line? I tried reading the comments to get some help but i dont quite uds.

Rob Campbell

Sarah -- try the boundedline submission listed on the "This file inspired" bit in the File Information, above.

Sarah S.

Thank you for this function. How can I do the same thing if the shaded variable is the x and not y? (plot of altitude vs concentration for example, where the concentration has a range of values to be calculated with the shadederrorbar function)


Kay (view profile)

Very nice, very helpful.
I have added ",'HandleVisibility','off'" to the patch and the edge lines (code lines 146,150 and 151). In that way, one can use "legend" in a created plot, and only the main lines are listed.



Super awesome. Easy to use. Beautiful graphics.


Tihana (view profile)

very helpful! Thank you.

Irene Seco


Alex (view profile)

Rob Campbell


y=randn(30,80)+10; x=1:size(y,2);

Thanks for this code, it is a very nice way to represent standard errors. I just have an issue I can't solve: In one of my graphs, I would like to use a logarithmic scale for the x axis.. as soon as i change it from linear to log on the figure manager (or if i use set(gca,'xscale','log')), the axis change to log but the graph remains the same.. I have the feeling the function is not compatible to log graphs. do you have any idea how i could solve this problem? i tried to replace all "plot()" in your code with "semilogx()" but it also did not work.

Thanks in advance

Rob Campbell

Bernadette, set(gcf,'Renderer','Painters')


thanks for this nice code, unfortuntately i can't figure out this openGL thing.. you wrote that if it's saved as.eps then it will look like a raster, and that's what it does in my plot but I don't know how to change it?! can you help?


Stone (view profile)

Very powerful and convenient to use!


Slavi (view profile)

Now thank you very much, your second option works perfect. This is what I need. I wish I can give you 5 stars now :).
You should include this in the description. It's really helpful :).
Thank you one more time

Rob Campbell

Slavi, the behavior you see is is typical of functions such as this because each line is made up of multiple plot elements and the legend command doesn't know anything about that. There are two ways for you to proceed. Firstly, use the "axes" command in order to make a set of legend axes, then build your own legend within these axes. It'll be a bit of pain, but you get the most flexibility this way. Secondly, you can tell the legend command which plot elements to use:

hold on
>> A %This is what's in the handles

A =

mainLine: 174.0065
patch: 175.0050
edge: [176.0026 177.0026]



Slavi (view profile)

Very helpful :). But unfortunately I can't display only the Y-values in the legend. There are more additional data sets in the legend I can't delete.
Do you have any idea? :)


uncung fgv

what is shade error bar? i try to execute it but cannot.



Diego (view profile)


Very helpful function. Thanks!

Estella Liu



Provide "patchSaturation" optional input argument. Update demos.


github for questions

update description

move to GitHub

Verified to work with R2015a

Handles now only returned if the user requests them. Plot elements are re-ordered in a more elegant manner.

Improved error-checking of input args and revised some of the comments.

Correct bug that caused patch area not to be plotted when y contained NaNs and error bars were generated using the function handles approach.

MATLAB Release Compatibility
Created with R2015b
Compatible with any release
Platform Compatibility
Windows macOS Linux

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