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Convert Matplotlib to Plotly: A Comprehensive Tutorial


Matplotlib and Plotly are both popular Python libraries used for data visualization. While Matplotlib has been a go-to library for many years, Plotly provides interactive and dynamic visualizations that can be easily shared and embedded. In this tutorial, we will explore how to convert Matplotlib plots to Plotly to take advantage of its advanced features. We will cover the following topics:

  1. Installing the necessary libraries.
  2. Creating a basic Matplotlib plot.
  3. Converting a Matplotlib plot to a Plotly figure.
  4. Enhancing the Plotly figure with interactive elements.
  5. Embedding the Plotly figure in a web application.

Throughout the tutorial, we will also address common questions related to the compatibility between Matplotlib and Plotly, the benefits of using Plotly over Matplotlib, the usage of Matplotlib in Dash, and whether Plotly is deprecated. Let’s begin!


Before we dive into the tutorial, make sure you have the following libraries installed:

  • Matplotlib (pip install matplotlib)
  • Plotly (pip install plotly)

Creating a Basic Matplotlib Plot

Start by importing the necessary libraries:

import matplotlib.pyplot as plt
import numpy as np

Now, let’s create a basic Matplotlib plot:

x = np.linspace(0, 10, 100)
y = np.sin(x)
plt.plot(x, y)
plt.title('Sinusoidal Function')

The code above generates a simple line plot of a sinusoidal function using Matplotlib.

Converting a Matplotlib Plot to a Plotly Figure

To convert the Matplotlib plot to a Plotly figure, we need to use the plotly.graph_objects module:

import plotly.graph_objects as go
fig = go.Figure()
fig.add_trace(go.Scatter(x=x, y=y, mode='lines'))
fig.update_layout(xaxis_title='x', yaxis_title='y', title='Sinusoidal Function')

In this example, we create a Plotly figure and add a scatter trace to it. We then update the layout to include axis titles and a plot title. Finally, we use the show() method to display the Plotly figure.

Enhancing the Plotly Figure with Interactive Elements

One of the key advantages of Plotly is its interactivity. Let’s enhance the previous Plotly figure by adding hover effects and a zoom feature:

fig = go.Figure()
fig.add_trace(go.Scatter(x=x, y=y, mode='lines'))
fig.update_layout(xaxis_title='x', yaxis_title='y', title='Sinusoidal Function')
fig.update_traces(hovertemplate='x: %{x}<br>y: %{y}')
fig.update_layout(xaxis=dict(type='linear', autorange=True), yaxis=dict(type='linear', autorange=True))

In this modified version, we use the update_traces() method to specify the hover labels for the scatter plot. We also update the layout to enable zooming by setting the xaxis and yaxis types to ‘linear’ and autorange to ‘True’. Finally, we set the hovermode to ‘closest’ to display the hover labels closest to the mouse position.

Embedding the Plotly Figure in a Web Application

Plotly figures can be easily embedded in web applications using the Plotly JavaScript library. Here’s an example of embedding the previous Plotly figure in an HTML page:

<!DOCTYPE html>
<script src=""></script>
<div id="plot"></div>
var data = [{
x: [0, 0.1, 0.2, 0.3, 0.4, 0.5, 0.6, 0.7, 0.8, 0.9, 1.0],
y: [0, 0.0998, 0.1987, 0.2955, 0.3894, 0.4794, 0.5646, 0.6442, 0.7174, 0.7833, 0.8415],
mode: 'lines'
var layout = {
xaxis: {
title: 'x'
yaxis: {
title: 'y'
title: 'Sinusoidal Function'
Plotly.newPlot('plot', data, layout);

In this example, we include the Plotly JavaScript library from a CDN and then use the Plotly.newPlot() function to create the plot inside a div element with the id ‘plot’. We define the data and layout in JavaScript and pass them as parameters to the newPlot() function.

Answering Common Questions

  1. Is Plotly compatible with Matplotlib? Plotly is compatible with Matplotlib. You can easily convert Matplotlib plots to Plotly figures, as demonstrated in this tutorial.

  2. Why use Plotly instead of Matplotlib? Plotly provides interactivity, allowing users to zoom, pan, and hover over data points. Plotly figures are also easily shareable and can be embedded in web applications.

  3. Can you use Matplotlib in Dash? Yes, you can use Matplotlib in Dash. Dash allows you to create interactive web applications in Python, and Matplotlib can be used for data visualization within Dash apps.

  4. Is Plotly deprecated? No, Plotly is not deprecated. It is actively maintained and frequently updated with new features and improvements.


In this tutorial, we learned how to convert Matplotlib plots to Plotly figures. We covered the step-by-step process of converting a basic Matplotlib plot to Plotly, enhancing the Plotly figure with interactive elements, and embedding the figure in a web application. Additionally, we addressed common questions about the compatibility and usage of Plotly and Matplotlib. Now you can take advantage of Plotly’s advanced features and interactive visualizations in your Python projects. Happy coding!