This question came to me when I read How convert list of numbers to list of points on x-axis?

@Mr.W suggested Interlacing a single number into a long list for the question. @Artes provides a very fast way to generate the coordinates for plotting. All these remind me a widely used graph in R, which is called rug representation. I find Mathematica seems do not provide an equivalent command.

Following are three rug plots generated in R. The basic idea of rug is that project the data points onto an axes and represent it as thin lines beside the axes. Usually, the points will be jittered a bit off the position to avoid tiles. Using function like Line or ListLinePlot can somehow implement this function, but I do not know what is the fastest way to implement this function. Is Line with @Artes's solution the best choice?




More info about rug representation

Sorry for replying messages so late! Here is more information about rug representation.

rug representation is not a density plot, it projects each point to the axes with a thin line. Thus, there is not bandwidth in rug representation. For dataset with tiles, the lines will be overlapped. There are two methods to get rid of this problem. One is using opacity to show how many lines are overlap; the other is jitter the coordinate a bit off the original position, then all lines are visible. The second option are used more widely. The jitter of coordinate can be set to RandomReal[{Min[x], Max[x]},Length@x]/50.

For the sample data, two well-known datasets from R: mtcars and iris can be used. The sample figure are plot of wt vs mpg in mtcars.

The start codes for the figure can be

mtcars = Import["mtcars.csv"];
x = Drop[mtcars[[All, 7]], 1];
y = Drop[mtcars[[All, 2]], 1];
ListPlot[Thread[List[x, y]]]
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    $\begingroup$ It seems to me that this is better done by modifying the setting of Ticks/FrameTicks appropriately. I notice that the thickness of each "fiber" in the rug depends on how many points have the same abscissa or ordinate; Tally[] should be useful here in conjunction with Thickness[] or AbsoluteThickness[]. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 22, 2015 at 15:25
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    $\begingroup$ Closely related: One-dimensional heatmap $\endgroup$
    – Jens
    Commented Jun 22, 2015 at 17:12
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    $\begingroup$ Well, the overall effect of thickening would be the same as jittering, I think; the jittered lines overlap and end up looking like a single thickened line. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 23, 2015 at 2:41
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    $\begingroup$ The iris dataset is built-in: ExampleData[{"Statistics", "FisherIris"}]. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 23, 2015 at 3:25
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    $\begingroup$ Why go through the effort of recreating R functionality - use R-Link and call it from Mathematica... $\endgroup$
    – ciao
    Commented Jun 23, 2015 at 6:58

5 Answers 5


Let's generate some data to play with:

Round@RandomVariate[UniformDistribution[{0, 20}], 35];
data = {#, 50 - 3 # + RandomReal[{-10, 10}]} & /@ %;
ListPlot[data, PlotRange -> All]

Here is a function that calculates the size and position of the plot "piles" and constructs the plot explicitly from graphics primitives:

rugplot[data_] := Module[
  {plotpoints, piles, listplot, plotrange, padding, ystart, yend},
  plotpoints = {PointSize[0.015], Point[data]};
  plotrange = {Min[#], Max[#]} & /@ Transpose[data];
  ystart = plotrange[[2, 1]];
  yend = (plotrange[[2, 2]] - plotrange[[2, 1]])/15 + ystart;
  piles = {
      Thickness[#2/400], CapForm["Butt"],
      Line[{{#1, ystart}, {#1, yend}}]
      } & @@@ Tally[data[[All, 1]]];
   {plotpoints, piles},
   PlotRange -> plotrange, PlotRangePadding -> None, 
   AspectRatio -> 0.8, Frame -> True, Axes -> False

We can try this out with the sample data generated above:


Mathematica graphics

This is almost there, but it still needs some cosmetic adjustments to the final plot range to add some padding and more space for the bars at the bottom. Unfortunately I have to go now, so I won't be able to make the adjustments straight away, but hopefully this will help for now.

  • $\begingroup$ This implementation is very elegant! So the best way to do this is to use Line function. Am I right? $\endgroup$
    – Kattern
    Commented Jun 23, 2015 at 2:39

Just to illustrate the point I made in the comment, let's take a data set where the points stack up vertically, and verify what it looks like if we visualize their density by means of a color gradient as in the question One-dimensional heatmap. You first have to copy the definition of heatMap from the second code block in my answer, and then execute this:

iris = ExampleData[{"Statistics", "FisherIris"}][[All, 1 ;; 2]];

h = Show[heatMap[Map[{#, 0} &, iris[[All, 1]]], 
    "Points" -> 2 Length[iris], "Radius" -> {1, .01}, 
    PlotRange -> {{4, 8}, {0, .1}}, PlotRangePadding -> 0, 
    FrameLabel -> None, 
    ColorFunction -> (ColorData["SiennaTones"][1 - #] &)], 
   Frame -> None, PlotRangePadding -> None, ImagePadding -> None, 
   AspectRatio -> Full];

ListPlot[iris, Prolog -> Inset[h, {4, 0}, {4, 0}, 4], 
 PlotRange -> {{4, 8}, {0, 4.5}}, Frame -> True]


This replacement rug is made with a color gradient (SiennaTones) that indicates clustering of data points by darker shading. I didn't automate the choice of plot parameters yet, but it could be done if you think it's useful. The example shows that bandwidth is not a problem because I use a Gaussian filter where the radius can simply be chosen to be as small as needed to achieve the maximal resolution.


Here is another example, where the data are distributed more irregularly:

mtcars = Import["mtcars.csv"];
x = Drop[mtcars[[All, 7]], 1];
y = Drop[mtcars[[All, 2]], 1];

h2 = Show[
   heatMap[Map[{#, 0} &, x], "Points" -> 10 Length[x], 
    "Radius" -> {1, .01}, PlotRange -> {{1.5, 4.5}, {0, .1}}, 
    PlotRangePadding -> 0, FrameLabel -> None, 
    ColorFunction -> (ColorData["SiennaTones"][1 - #] &)], 
   Frame -> None, PlotRangePadding -> None, ImagePadding -> None, 
   AspectRatio -> Full];

ListPlot[Thread[List[x, y]], 
 Prolog -> Inset[h2, {1.5, 0}, {1.5, 0}, 3], 
 PlotRange -> {{1.5, 4.5}, {0, 40}}, Frame -> True]


Here, I had to use more sampling points (option "Points") because the data are more closely spaced in some places.

  • $\begingroup$ thank you for introducing me to your heat map function +1 :) $\endgroup$
    – ubpdqn
    Commented Jun 23, 2015 at 5:09
  • $\begingroup$ This one is good. Can you illustrate this with mtcars dataset as well? $\endgroup$
    – Kattern
    Commented Jun 23, 2015 at 5:14
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    $\begingroup$ @Kattern OK, I'll add that, too. The heatMap function I was using for convenience can probably be trimmed down and adapted to this particular task some more. $\endgroup$
    – Jens
    Commented Jun 23, 2015 at 5:29
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks, I think this heatMap is pretty good. I will definitely use it for representing density estimation. Maybe I am too familiar with rug, I am more comfortable with reading one line as one sample. -_-. BTW, the rightmost three points are missing. $\endgroup$
    – Kattern
    Commented Jun 23, 2015 at 5:50
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    $\begingroup$ @Kattern OK - I guess I cut off the plot range too soon - but it was only meant as a proof of concept... $\endgroup$
    – Jens
    Commented Jun 23, 2015 at 6:08

"DistributionAxes" -> "Lines"

You can use DensityHistogram with suboption "DistributionAxes" -> "Lines" and ListPlot of the data as Epilog:

dt = RandomReal[1, {50, 2}];

DensityHistogram[dt, Method -> {"DistributionAxes" -> "Lines"}, 
 BaseStyle -> FaceForm[], 
 Epilog -> ListPlot[dt, PlotStyle -> {Red, PointSize[Large]}][[1]]]

enter image description here

Alternatively, with sufficiently many equal-sized bins or sufficiently small bin widths, we can use ChartElementFunction -> "Point" in DensityHistogram to get a ListPlot of data without using Epilog:

DensityHistogram[dt, {100, 100}, 
 Method -> {"DistributionAxes" -> "Lines"}, ColorFunction -> (Red &), 
 ChartBaseStyle -> PointSize[Large], ChartElementFunction -> "Point"]

enter image description here

Another example:

dist1 = BinormalDistribution[{1, 1}, {1, 1}, 1/2];
dist2 = BinormalDistribution[{5, 5}, {1, 1}, -1/2]; dt2 = 
 RandomVariate[MixtureDistribution[{3, 2}, {dist1, dist2}], 300];
DensityHistogram[dt2, Method -> {"DistributionAxes" -> "Lines"}, 
 BaseStyle -> FaceForm[], 
 Epilog -> ListPlot[dt2, PlotStyle -> {Red, PointSize[Large]}][[1]]]

enter image description here


Statistics`DataDistributionUtilities`UnivariateDataRug[dt[[All, 1]]]

enter image description here

With some processing (to remove arrows and to change orientation), the output of Statistics`DataDistributionUtilities`UnivariateDataRug can be used to construct data rugs for the vertical and horizontal axes.

rugF[dir : ("horizontal" | "vertical") : "horizontal"] := 
  Module[{rule = If[dir === "horizontal", 
       Thread[{{x_, 0}, {x_, 1}} :> {{x, -.025}, {x, -.075}}], 
       Thread[{{x_, 0}, {x_, 1}} :> {{-.025, x}, {-.075, x}}]]}, 
    Statistics`DataDistributionUtilities`UnivariateDataRug[#] /. 
      Arrow[x_] :> {CapForm["Butt"], Line[x]} /. rule ] &;

Show[ListPlot[dt, PlotStyle -> PointSize[Large]], 
 rugF["vertical"][dt[[All, 2]]], rugF[][dt[[All, 1]]], 
 AspectRatio -> 1, Frame -> True, AxesOrigin -> {0, 0}, 
 PlotRangePadding -> {{.1, Scaled[.02]}, {.1, Scaled[.02]}}]

enter image description here


Here is a possible implementation of rug representation using ListPlot. Maybe implementation from @MarcoB is more efficient.

jitter function

Here is a implementation of jitter function:

jitter[x_] := Module[{r, z, xx, d}, r = {Min[x], Max[x]};
  z = First@Differences[r];
  z = If[z == 0, Abs[r], z];
  z = If[z == 0, 1, z];
  xx = DeleteDuplicates@Sort@Round[x, 10^(-3 + Floor@Log10[z])];
  d = Differences[xx];
  d = If[Length@d > 0, Min@d, If[xx != 0, xx/10, z/10]];
  x + RandomReal[{-Abs[d]/5, Abs[d]/5}, Length@x]

Based on this, rug plot can be implemented as

ListPlot[{Thread@{x, y}, Tuples@{jitter@x, {1.5}}}, 
 PlotMarkers -> {{}, {"|", 6}}, PlotStyle -> Black]


Density plot vs. rug

@Jens thinks density plot is more informative. I agree with the idea that density plot are easy to read, but rug provides more details of the data than density estimation. Most of the time, this is a bad thing, because we do not want to represent to much information in one graph. However, I think there are cases, rug is more suitable. Following is density estimation and is rug representation of wt in mtcars dataset. I think it is not so bad to have a rug representation near the axes.

  ListPlot[Tuples@{jitter@x, {0.02}}, PlotMarkers -> {"|", 8}]}] 



The solutions above don't really achieve the idea of a rug plot as it is commonly used by statisticians. Clearly there are cases when it is not appropriate (such as on scatter plots with lots of overlapping data points), but then there are other cases (esp histograms and smooth histograms) where it is insightful (and expected by journal publishers). But "whether to use" and "how to make" are different questions.

A standard rug plot can be achieved by using Line with Scaled offset coordinates in an Epilog, and setting your PlotRangePadding accordingly.

Basic Histogram with Rug Plot

First, here are two random datasets.

Data1 = RandomVariate[NormalDistribution[0.35, 0.05], 200];
Data2 = RandomVariate[NormalDistribution[0.55, 0.05], 60];
DataPoints = Flatten[{Data1, Data2}];

To get the rug plot you just add some extra padding to the bottom of the histogram and draw your lines in the extra space using Epilog.


Using this method will scale the location and heights of the plot and lines regardless of the y-scale (e.g., whether it is a PDF or a histogram of counts). It is also easy to stack multiple sets of lines of different colors to represent multiple distributions. You can also easily adjust the line appearance according to your preferences.


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