I use the following code to draw Arrows on Axes in 2D graphics:


But such code doesn't work with Plot3D[…] and 3D graphics.

Is there any way to get Axes with Arrows on 3D graphics?

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ See this math.se question for a way to plot axes with arrows in 3D plots. I'm not posting this as an answer, because I don't think it sufficiently addresses the larger issue at hand — that of being able to conveniently use arrows while at the same time retaining all the functionality of individual axes styling, automatic tick marks, etc. that the *Style functions provide. $\endgroup$
    – rm -rf
    Commented Mar 10, 2012 at 18:35

2 Answers 2


Here is a simple way to do this:

arrowAxes[arrowLength_] :=
  Map[{Apply[RGBColor, #], Arrow[Tube[{{0, 0, 0}, #}]]} &, 
   arrowLength IdentityMatrix[3]]

This function draws three axes with arrows. To apply it:

Graphics3D[{Sphere[], arrowAxes[3]}]

Sphere with axes

This doesn't have axis labels, though.

To add labels by leveraging the built-in axes, one compromise (to save the work of making all labels by hand) would be to do the following:

Graphics3D[{Sphere[{1, 1, 1}], arrowAxes[3]}, Axes -> True, 
 Boxed -> False, AxesOrigin -> {0, 0, 0}, AxesStyle -> Opacity[0], 
 TicksStyle -> Opacity[1]]

Image with axis labels

Edit In my attempt at a labeled set of axes above, I deliberately set the axes to be invisible but left the ticks visible. You may find it more visually consistent to keep the default axes visible, together with the new 3D arrow-axes. For this, one could replace AxesStyle above with this: AxesStyle -> MapThread[RGBColor, IdentityMatrix[3]].

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ The ticks and labels are shining through the sphere... $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 10, 2012 at 18:53
  • $\begingroup$ They would with the standard axes, too. It's the default... I don't like it, either. Actually, one could say that this compromise is also an "improvement" over the default because at least the axes aren't shining through, so the viewer still has the numerical information about the ticks but also gets better visual cues as to the perspective. Anyway, the other option would be to go all the way and do the labels by hand, I guess. $\endgroup$
    – Jens
    Commented Mar 10, 2012 at 18:55
  • $\begingroup$ Is it really necessary to hide the axes? $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 10, 2012 at 19:01
  • $\begingroup$ No, of course that's a matter of taste. I edited my answer to take your suggestion into account. $\endgroup$
    – Jens
    Commented Mar 10, 2012 at 19:07

Jens's answer is great, and shows how to add arrow axes to a Graphics3D object, but I feel like we still need a general-purpose plotting function. Here is the straightforward implimentation:

threeDArrowPlot[func_, var1_, var2_, plotopts : OptionsPattern[]] := 
  Module[{plot, arrows, lengths},
   plot = 
    Plot3D[func, var1, var2, Boxed -> False, AxesOrigin -> {0, 0, 0}, 
     Evaluate[FilterRules[{plotopts}, Options[Plot3D]]]];
   lengths = 
    DiagonalMatrix[(Charting`get3DPlotRange@plot)[[All, 2]] // 
   arrows = {RGBColor @@ #, Arrow[Tube[{{0, 0, 0}, #}]]} & /@ 
   Show[plot, Graphics3D@arrows]

You can add any option that normally goes to Plot3D,

   threeDArrowPlot[Sin[x y], {x, -2, 2}, {y, -3, 3}], 
   threeDArrowPlot[Sin[x y], {x, -2, 2}, {y, -3, 3}, 
    ViewCenter -> {0.5, 0.5, 0.5}, ViewPoint -> {2.14, 2.2, 1.4}, 
    ViewVertical -> {0, 0, 1}, AxesStyle -> Opacity[0], 
    TicksStyle -> Opacity[1], BoxRatios -> {2, 2, 1}, 
    ImageSize -> 500]}}]

enter image description here

But it isn't as general-purpose as I would like. In particular, it fails when the axes ranges are different orders of magnitude. Consider the following plots,

threeDArrowPlot[# Exp[-x^2 - 2 y^2] Sin[x y], {x, -2, 2}, {y, -3, 3}, 
   PlotRange -> All, Mesh -> None, ImageSize -> 500] & /@ {1, 10, 100}

enter image description here

I tried to add arguments to the function that explicitly give the arrow tube radius and arrowhead size in the code pasted here but the results were no good. Any help would be appreciated.


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