Plotting columns in R with matplot and matlines functions

Sample data set

For this tutorial we are going to use the following sample data, which consists on ten realizations of a brownian motion. The corresponding data for each path is a column of the B matrix.

# Brownian motion

# Grid
t <- seq(0, 1, by = 0.001)
p <- length(t) - 1

# 10 paths
n <- 10
I <- matrix(rnorm(n * p, 0, 1 / sqrt(p)), n, p)

# Matrix
B <- apply(I, 1, cumsum)

matplot function

In order to create a line chart with all the columns of the data at the same time you can make use of matplot and setting type = "l". Note that B is a numeric matrix, but could also be a data frame or a vector and a matrix.

matplot(B, type = "l")

# Equivalent to:
matplot(, type = "l")

# Equivalent to:
matplot(matrix(t), rbind(rep(0, n), B), type = "l")

Plotting a data frame or a matrix in R with matplot

By default, the function uses colors 1 to 6, line width of 1 and line types 1 to 5 to create the lines, but his can be overridden with arguments col, lwd and lty, respectively.

# Colors
cols <- hcl.colors(10, "Temps")

matplot(B, type = "l",
        col = cols, # Colors
        lwd = 2,    # Line width
        lty = 1)    # Line type

matplot function customization

matlines function

Using the matlines function to highlight lines

The matlines function is to matplot the same as lines is to plot. It allows you adding more lines from a data frame or matrix to the previous plot. In the following example we are using it to highlight some paths of the brownian motion.

matplot(B, type = "l",
        col = "lightgray",
        lty = 1)

# Highlight the first three columns
# with a different color
matlines(B[, 1:3], type = "l",
         col = 2, lwd = 2,
         lty = 1)
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See also