5 Best Ways to Specify Values on Y-Axis in Python Matplotlib

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πŸ’‘ Problem Formulation: When visualizing data with Python’s Matplotlib library, it’s essential to have precise control over the Y-axis values for clear and accurate representation. Whether you’re looking to set custom range limits, tick values, or dynamically adjust the scale, this article describes how to specify values on the Y-axis. An example of a problem could be setting the Y-axis range from 0 to 10 with intervals of 0.5 in a line plot.

Method 1: Using ylim() to Set Y-Axis Limits

One of the fundamental ways to specify values on the Y-axis in Matplotlib is by setting the range of the axis using ylim(). This function allows you to define the lower and upper bounds of the Y-axis, giving you basic but essential control over the plotted data’s Y-axis scale.

Here’s an example:

import matplotlib.pyplot as plt

plt.plot([1, 2, 3, 4], [1, 4, 9, 16])
plt.ylim(0, 20)  # Set the limits for the Y-axis here

The output is a line graph where the Y-axis starts at 0 and goes up to 20.

The code snippet creates a line graph with the X-values [1, 2, 3, 4] and the Y-values [1, 4, 9, 16]. The ylim() function specifies that the Y-axis should display a range from 0 to 20, providing a clear view of all the data points.

Method 2: Using yticks() to Set Y-Axis Tick Marks

The yticks() function is used to explicitly set the tick marks on the Y-axis. You can define a list of values where you want ticks to appear, which can be particularly useful for categorical variables or when you want specific intervals for numerical data.

Here’s an example:

import matplotlib.pyplot as plt

plt.plot([0, 1, 2, 3], [10, 20, 25, 30])
plt.yticks(range(10, 35, 5))  # Set custom ticks for the Y-axis

The output is a line graph that has custom Y-axis tick marks at intervals of 5, starting from 10 up to 30.

The example demonstrates how to use yticks() to choose where the Y-axis tick marks should be placed. By passing a range from 10 to 35 with a step of 5, the ticks are set at these specific intervals, enhancing the readability of the graph.

Method 3: Changing Y-Axis Scale with yscale()

Matplotlib allows different scaling options for axes, including linear, logarithmic, and more. The yscale() function changes the scale of the Y-axis, allowing for more appropriate visual representation of data that varies in magnitude.

Here’s an example:

import matplotlib.pyplot as plt

plt.plot([1, 2, 3, 4], [10, 100, 1000, 10000])
plt.yscale('log')  # Set Y-axis to logarithmic scale

The output is a line graph with a logarithmic Y-axis, effectively visualizing a wide range of Y-values.

Here, a set of exponentially increasing Y-values is plotted, and the logarithmic scale imposed by the yscale() function allows for a more digestible and meaningful visualization, avoiding the squashing of smaller values that typically occurs in a linear scale.

Method 4: Tweaking Y-Axis Appearance with tick_params()

The tick_params() function in Matplotlib allows for detailed customization of the tick properties, such as color, size, and tick direction. This is useful for making graphs that are easier to read and look more professional.

Here’s an example:

import matplotlib.pyplot as plt

plt.plot([0, 1, 2, 3], [2, 3, 5, 10])
plt.tick_params(axis='y', direction='inout', length=10)

The output is a line graph with Y-axis ticks that extend both inside and outside the plot area, with an increased tick length for better visibility.

This code snippet produces a simple line plot with customized Y-axis ticks. Using tick_params(), the direction is set to ‘inout’, indicating that the ticks will be drawn both inside and outside the plot area, and the length is increased for a clearer presentation.

Bonus One-Liner Method 5: Inline Labeling with set_yticklabels()

Inline labeling of the Y-axis is achievable with the set_yticklabels() function, allowing you to replace existing tick labels with custom text. This method is powerful when you need to label the ticks with specific names or formats.

Here’s an example:

import matplotlib.pyplot as plt

fig, ax = plt.subplots()
ax.plot([0, 1, 2, 3], [1, 2, 4, 8])
ax.set_yticklabels(['Low', 'Medium', 'High', 'Very high'])

The output is a line graph with the Y-axis tick labels set to subjective categories instead of numerical values.

By utilizing set_yticklabels(), custom labels like ‘Low’, ‘Medium’, ‘High’, and ‘Very high’ replace the default numerical labels on the Y-axis. This could be especially useful for categorical data or when presenting data to a non-technical audience.


  • Method 1: ylim(). Straightforward method for setting Y-axis limits. Limits flexibility with fixed numerical range.
  • Method 2: yticks(). Fine control over tick mark placement. Could be cumbersome for large datasets with many ticks.
  • Method 3: yscale(). Enables appropriate scale like logarithmic for data of varying magnitude. Choice of scale is critical and can mislead if done improperly.
  • Method 4: tick_params(). Detailed customization of ticks’ appearance. Aesthetic changes may not suit all data types and can clutter the graph if overused.
  • Method 5: set_yticklabels(). Easy inline text replacement for ticks. May lead to ambiguity if not appropriately used as it detaches labels from their actual values.