5 Best Ways to Use TensorFlow to Plot Results Using Python

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πŸ’‘ Problem Formulation: TensorFlow users often need to visualize data or model outputs to better understand patterns, results, and diagnostics. This article discusses how one can leverage TensorFlow in conjunction with plotting libraries in Python, such as Matplotlib, Seaborn, or TensorFlow’s own visualization tools, to plot results effectively. Whether you’re working with raw data or complex neural network predictions, these methods will illustrate how to go from data tensors to insightful visual representations.

Method 1: Utilizing Matplotlib for Basic Plots

Matplotlib is a widely-used Python library for creating static, interactive, and animated visualizations. TensorFlow’s integration with Matplotlib allows users to plot tensors directly after evaluating their contents with a TensorFlow session. This method is efficient for quickly visualizing data structures or model outputs stored as TensorFlow tensors.

Here’s an example:

import matplotlib.pyplot as plt
import tensorflow as tf

# Assume 'data' is a TensorFlow tensor containing the data to be plotted
data = tf.constant([1, 2, 3, 4, 5])

# Evaluate the tensor and plot using Matplotlib
with tf.compat.v1.Session() as sess:
    evaluated_data = sess.run(data)

The output is a simple line plot of the numbers 1 through 5.

This code snippet first imports the necessary libraries, defines a tensor, evaluates it within a TensorFlow session, and then uses Matplotlib’s plot function to generate and display a line plot.

Method 2: Using Seaborn for Statistical Plots

Seaborn is a Python visualization library based on Matplotlib that offers a higher-level interface for drawing attractive and informative statistical graphics. This method is beneficial when you need to create more complex plots from TensorFlow data, such as heatmaps, violin plots, or pair plots.

Here’s an example:

import seaborn as sns
import tensorflow as tf
import numpy as np
from matplotlib import pyplot as plt

# Create a sample covariance matrix
covariance_matrix = tf.eye(10)

with tf.compat.v1.Session() as sess:
    cov_matrix_evaluated = sess.run(covariance_matrix)

# Use Seaborn to create a heatmap
sns.heatmap(cov_matrix_evaluated, annot=True)

The output is a heatmap representing the evaluated TensorFlow covariance matrix.

This snippet creates a TensorFlow identity matrix, evaluates it, and then uses Seaborn’s heatmap function to create a graphical representation of the data. It’s an effective way to visualize data matrices and correlations.

Method 3: TensorFlow’s Built-In Visualization with TensorBoard

TensorBoard is TensorFlow’s visualization toolkit, which allows users to visualize various aspects of machine learning workflows like metrics, model graphs, and more. It also serves as a powerful tool for understanding and debugging TensorFlow programs. This method stands out for its tight integration with TensorFlow, making it a versatile choice for model developers.

Here’s an example:

import tensorflow as tf

# Assume 'summary_writer' is a TensorBoard summary writer and 'loss' is a tensor representing the loss function
loss = tf.reduce_sum(tf.square([1.0, 2.0]))

# Write the loss to TensorBoard
with tf.compat.v1.Session() as sess:
    summary_writer = tf.compat.v1.summary.FileWriter('logs', sess.graph)
    loss_val = sess.run(loss)
    summary = tf.compat.v1.summary.scalar('loss', loss_val)
    summary_writer.add_summary(sess.run(summary), 0)

The output is a TensorBoard dashboard element tracking the scalar value of the loss over time.

This code uses TensorFlow to log a scalar summary of a tensor (representing a loss value) for visualization in TensorBoard. It’s an excellent way for tracking and visualizing metrics over time, especially during model training.

Method 4: Plotting with Pandas Visualization Tools

Pandas is an open-source data analysis and manipulation tool built on top of the Python programming language. Although not designed specifically for plotting, Pandas incorporates plotting functions that utilize Matplotlib under the hood. This method is most convenient when dealing with DataFrame structures, allowing quick and easy plotting.

Here’s an example:

import pandas as pd
import tensorflow as tf

# Create a DataFrame from TensorFlow data
data = tf.constant([1, 2, 3, 4, 5])
data_np = tf.make_ndarray(data.numpy())

df = pd.DataFrame(data_np, columns=['Values'])

# Use the DataFrame's built-in plot function

The output is a bar chart of the values in the DataFrame, derived from the TensorFlow tensor.

This example demonstrates how to convert TensorFlow tensor data to a NumPy array, which is then used to create a Pandas DataFrame. The DataFrame’s plot function is then employed to produce a bar chart.

Bonus One-Liner Method 5: Using Matplotlib’s Pyplot in a Lambda Function

Sometimes, all you need is a quick, one-line plotting command without the overhead of sessions or detailed configurations. This method utilizes a lambda function to directly plot TensorFlow data using Matplotlib’s pyplot.

Here’s an example:

import tensorflow as tf
import matplotlib.pyplot as plt

# Use a lambda function to plot data immediately
(tf.constant([1, 2, 3, 4]), lambda x: plt.plot(x.numpy()) or plt.show()) and None

The output is a simple line plot of the numbers 1 through 4.

This concise piece of code utilizes TensorFlow’s eager execution mode to run operations immediately, bypassing the need for sessions. A lambda function is employed to convert the tensor data to a numpy array which is then plotted using Matplotlib’s pyplot.


  • Method 1: Matplotlib Basic Plots. Strengths: Simple integration, wide adoption. Weaknesses: May require session management for TensorFlow 1.x.
  • Method 2: Seaborn Statistical Plots. Strengths: Advanced plotting features, attractive visuals. Weaknesses: Overhead of an additional library if not already in use.
  • Method 3: TensorBoard Visualization. Strengths: Deep integration with TensorFlow, useful for training monitoring. Weaknesses: May have a steeper learning curve for new users.
  • Method 4: Pandas Plotting. Strengths: Convenient for DataFrame users, easy-to-use syntax. Weaknesses: Indirect use of TensorFlow data requiring conversion.
  • Method 5: Pyplot Lambda Shortcut. Strengths: Quick and straightforward. Weaknesses: Limited functionality, no support for detailed customizations.