Mathematica Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for users of Mathematica. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

I have a list of numbers and a matching list of labels. I want to plot a column of colored squares, with the color of each square matching (in some color scale) the value of the corresponding number. Moreover, each square should have its corresponding label printed on the side (left or right).

I also want to plot a row instead of a column. In this case, the labels should be printed above or below the row, and the text should be 90º degrees rotated.

How can I do this?

share|improve this question
You can use Grid in both cases. In order to rotate the text you can use Rotate as in Rotate["Text", Pi/2]. For colors you can scale your number from zero to one and use Graphics[{ColorData["Rainbow"]@number,Rectangle[]}]. – Pickett Aug 27 '14 at 20:16
@Pickett I tried what you said. It works, but it is very ugly. The squares are too large, and I can't eliminate the white space between one square and the next. There are many graphics related options that I don't know very well. Can someone post a complete answer? – becko Aug 27 '14 at 20:46
up vote 5 down vote accepted

My answer is based upon Öska's answer here. Credits go to him.

A simple example:

legend = {"a", "b", "c"};
values = Range@3;

MatrixPlot[List /@ values,
 ColorFunction -> "DarkRainbow",
 FrameTicks -> {{True , Thread[{values, legend}]}, {False , False }}]

enter image description here

 FrameTicks -> {{False , False}, {True , Thread[{values, legend}]}}]

enter image description here

Update 1

Rotated labels:

values = Range[30];
legend = Map[Rotate[#, Pi/2] &, "Box " <> # & /@ ToString /@ values];

 FrameTicks -> {{False, False}, {True, Thread[{values, legend}]}},
 ColorFunction -> "Rainbow",
 Mesh -> All,
 ImageSize -> 600]

enter image description here

Update 2

Based upon Becko's comment:

(a) You can control the size of the legend bar by replacing it with an ArrayPlot

(b) You can control the size of the squares by varying AspectRatio and ImageSize

For example:

p1 =
   FrameTicks -> {{False, False}, {Thread[{Range@Length@labels, Rotate[#, Pi/2] & /@ labels}], False}},
   Frame -> {{False, False}, {True, False}},
   PlotRangePadding -> None,
   AspectRatio -> 0.25,
   ImageSize -> 200];

p2 =
 ArrayPlot[{Range[Min[dat], Max[dat]]},
  AspectRatio -> 1/10,
  FrameTicks -> {{False, False}, {True, False}},
  ImageSize -> 200];

Grid[{{p1}, {p2}}]

enter image description here

share|improve this answer
The squares are too large. My list of numbers has about 100 elements, so I need small squares. Also, in your horizontal plot, the labels should be rotated. – becko Aug 28 '14 at 13:15
@becko see update – eldo Aug 28 '14 at 17:01

Here's another example.

horizontal[pairs_] := Grid[pairs]
vertical[pairs_] := Grid[MapAt[Rotate[#, Pi/2] &, Transpose@pairs, {2, All}]]

SwatchLegend[{Red, Green, Blue}, {"red", "green", "blue"}, LegendLayout -> horizontal]
SwatchLegend[{Red, Green, Blue}, {"red", "green", "blue"}, LegendLayout -> vertical]

Example 1

Example 2

Example of my first suggestion, in the comment:

colors = Table[ImageCrop@Graphics[{ColorData["Rainbow"]@RandomReal[], Rectangle[]}, ImageSize -> {16, 16}], {10}];
labels = Range[10];
 Transpose[{colors, labels}],
 Spacings -> {1, 0}

enter image description here

share|improve this answer
I like this, but how can I remove the spacing between elements? The squares should be adjacent. – becko Aug 28 '14 at 13:15
@becko I would prefer to do this the way I suggested at first. I suspect you haven't played with it enough to give it a fair chance. I also have to tell you that I am not happy with how you wrote this question, it was very much "give me tha codez" and the description was so vague it's impossible to say what you are looking for. You should have drawn a picture, and you should have attempted to do it yourself first and your attempt should have been a part of the question. I'm saying this not to be rude but as feedback so that you can write better questions in the future. – Pickett Aug 28 '14 at 15:43
That's ok. I attempted to do it myself at first, but it was too ugly and I thought it wasn't worth it to add it to the question. Now, in part thanks to ideas in the answers here, I have a better code that better displays what I want. I'm posting an answer with my latest code. I will not accept my own answer, but leave it there so that what I want is better understood. – becko Aug 28 '14 at 18:07

I have something like this in mind: I am posting this answer so that others can see what I have done. I have no intention of accepting this. Surely others will come up with better ideas.

dat = {1, 4, 3, 7, 8, 9, 10};
labels = {"john", "mary", "rusty", "pi", "euler", "leonard", "rupert"};

  FrameTicks -> {{False, False}, {Thread[{Range@Length@labels, 
    Rotate[#, Pi/2] & /@ labels}], False}}, 
  Frame -> {{False, False}, {True, False}}, 
  PlotRangePadding -> None, 
  PlotLegends -> Placed[Automatic, Below]]����

enter image description here

share|improve this answer
I got a flag that this is "not an answer"... I understand that you did not intend for it to be one and I agree that it's good to share your incomplete progress/thoughts so far if it'll be of help to others. So, how about making it an edit to the question? :) – R. M. Aug 28 '14 at 20:22
@becko Maybe you should delete your question before misusing our time. But yes ! Please accept your own answer :) – eldo Aug 28 '14 at 20:22
@rm-rf sure. I'll edit it into the question. But tomorrow, now I have to go home. – becko Aug 28 '14 at 20:27
@eldo I hope I didn't misuse your time. All I wanted was to show what I wanted to get. I'm not satisfied with my own approach yet, I think it is still ugly. Your answer was very helpful to me. In fact, what I had before reading the answers here was even worse, that's why I didn't post it. :) – becko Aug 28 '14 at 20:29
@becko I don't feel that your solution is "ugly". Why should it be so ??? – eldo Aug 28 '14 at 20:39

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.