I have the following picture (one of several hundred):

enter image description here

I want to basically read out every y-value for every year on the x-axis from this graphic and create a data table from it. For example, I want to read the value that corresponds to the year 2000, 2001, 2002 asf. I'm not quite sure how to approach this (although doing it by hand would be fairly easy), but I have the following ideas:

  • Fit some high-order polynomial to the data somehow and adjust the scale on the y-axis to match the scale in the picture
  • In order to estimate one "time-unit", the time-intervals on the x-axis need to be split based on the distance between years shown, e.g. distance between 2005 and 2000 is a given so the interval can be split into 5 parts (2001,2002,2003,2004,2005) and then the corresponding y-values could be derviced

I'm way out of my league here and don't even know if this can be done with Mathematica. But some insights and help how to start would be nice!

I have Mathematica 12.1

  • 7
    $\begingroup$ There is a ResourceFunction["ExtractPlotImageData"][picture] which extracts points from an image. $\endgroup$ May 13, 2022 at 6:49
  • $\begingroup$ @Ulrich Neumann While that resource function is great, it doesn't scale the points to the axes of the graph which is what I believe holistic was asking for. On its own that resource function doesn't do too much more than the built in function PixelValuePositions[] $\endgroup$ May 17, 2022 at 2:02
  • $\begingroup$ @PartialScience Sure, you have to provide the scaling of the image by hand. $\endgroup$ May 17, 2022 at 6:16
  • $\begingroup$ @PartialScience Perhaps Recovering data points from an image is of interest! $\endgroup$ May 17, 2022 at 6:24

1 Answer 1


This function should do the trick:

GraphToFunction[img_] := Block[{words, centers, xmain, ymain, xwords, ywords, pts, f},
    (*Find where all the words (ie axis numbers) are in the image and store them in a list of the form {{word,bounding rectangle}...}*)
      words = TextRecognize[img, "Word", {"Text", "BoundingBox"}];
    (*Replace rectangles with their center points*)
      words = {ToExpression[words\[Transpose][[1]]],RegionCentroid[#] & /@ (words\[Transpose][[2]])}\[Transpose];
    (*Next split words into the x and y axis labels*)
    {xmain, ymain} =Commonest[#, 1] & /@ (words\[Transpose][[2]]\[Transpose]);
      xwords = Select[words, #[[2, 2]] == ymain[[1]] &];ywords = Select[words, #[[2, 1]] == xmain[[1]] &];
    (*Next convert the plot into a list of points using based on their \color*)
      pts = PixelValuePositions[img, RGBColor["#4682B4"]];
      pts = DeleteDuplicates[Mean[#] & /@ (Cases[pts, {#, _}] & /@ (pts\[Transpose][[1]]))];
    (*Then rescale the points based on the values and positions of the \previosuly found words*)
      pts = {(xwords[[2, 1]] - xwords[[1, 1]])/(xwords[[2, 2, 1]] -xwords[[1, 2, 1]]) (#[[1]] - xwords[[1, 2, 1]]) +xwords[[1,1]], (ywords[[2, 1]] - ywords[[1, 1]])/(ywords[[2, 2, 2]] -ywords[[1, 2, 2]]) (#[[2]] - ywords[[1, 2, 2]]) +ywords[[1, 1]]} & /@ pts;
    (*Finally sort points by x value and return an interpolating \function going through all the rescaled points*)
      Interpolation[SortBy[pts, #[[1]] &]]

Here's how it works. The first step is to automatically detect the axis labels so we can automatically scale the points later. This can be achieved using the TextRecognize[] function in Mathematica to simultaneously find the values of the axis labels and also rectangles that bound their locations. We can then compute the centers of these rectangles so that we have a list of axis labels and their corresponding pixel positions. Next we need to figure out which labels are on the x and y axis which we can quickly do by finding the most common x and y values and grouping the points by them. Next we need to convert the graph itself into a list of points. Assuming all your graphs are of the same form (ie have the same color) we can simply use the PixelValuePositions[] function to do this. This causes a slight issue though, because the line has width and will result in a few y values for every x value. We can get around this by simply averaging all the y values of duplicate points. Then we can take two of the points from the x-axis labels and two from the y-axis to rescale these pixel position points to their actual coordinates. And finally we can bundle up our output into a nice interpolating function so that you can simply pull any value from the graph you want.

Here is a simple example using this function to get the values at all the x-axis points (Note, in all these examples img is a variable referencing your image):

In[722]:= Evaluate[GraphToFunction[img]]/@{2000,2005,2010,2015,2020}
Out[722]= {265/44,35/8,355/88,185/88,455/528}

And here is a super cool example where we re-create the graph showing that every single point was properly found:

Plot[%[x], {x, 1998, 2022}, PlotRange -> All]

Recreated plot output

And finally it's also worth noting that becuase the output is an interpolating function we can do anything we could with a standard function in Mathematica, like take its integral, derivative, etc.

In[724]:= Integrate[Evaluate[GraphToFunction[img]][x],{x,2005,2010}]//N
Out[724]= 6.1132
  • $\begingroup$ Thank you very much :) $\endgroup$
    – holistic
    May 19, 2022 at 6:57

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