I'm trying to use pgfplots to create a 2D plot with 3 variables, the third one being plotted as a color gradient.

\begin{axis}[xlabel=Selta,ylabel={Hitastig $[\si{\celsius}]$},colorbar,colormap/greenyellow]
\addplot[mesh,ultra thick]
    table[x=S,y=POT_T,z=DB, col sep=semicolon]{287.csv};
\legend{Stöð 287}

I've been looking all over in the pgfplots manual, but I have somehow overlooked how to plot the z variable as the color gradient, this code automatically assumes the y variable is to be plotted.

It always seems problems like these are something incredibly easy that was overlooked, so I hope this will be solved in no time.

Thanks in advance :).


Although I found the answer to this specific problem, there is another very related matter I'd like an answer to, mods correct me if this should be a separate question.

I'd like to reverse the colorbar, and have found the code to do so is to put colorbar style={z dir=reverse} into the axis options. But as per the previous answer I can't use z as the variable name (or can I?) and pgfplots doesn't accept colorbar style={point meta dir=reverse}.

How would this be achieved, or how to answer the previous question in a way that lets you reverse the colorbar?

3 Answers 3


Adding to your answer: You can "fake" the reversed colorbar by rotating it and putting the labels on the other side. A colorbar is essentially another axis, so all the styles you get with normal axes can be used.



  colorbar style={xshift=1cm,
    yticklabel pos=left,
    yticklabel style={anchor=west},
\addplot[scatter,point meta=explicit,ultra thick,point meta min={1}, point meta max={700}]
    table[x=S,y=POT_T, meta=DB, col sep=semicolon]{


axis with pseudo-reversed colorbar


Concerning the reversed color bar: Jakes answer is quite good here, but you can also use the same argument with a more "built-in" key: You can also supply colorbar style={y dir=reverse} -- and it should automatically adjust all the remaining stuff. Perhaps the more intuitive key point meta dir=reverse should be added.

Keep in mind that this requires \pgfplotsset{compat=1.3} or newer.

  • Would you mind taking a look at this question about column charts in pgfplots to see whether you can come up with a more elegant solution than I did? tex.stackexchange.com/q/13627/2552 (Sorry for abusing the site's comment function, but I didn't know how else to contact you)
    – Jake
    Commented May 2, 2011 at 19:57
  • 1
    @Jake I'll take a note on my todo list for that item, thanks for the hint Commented May 10, 2011 at 20:59

This answers the original part of the question:

I finally found out what I have to do. Seems like I have to name the third variable meta and add meta point=explicit to the addplot options. I also see that it's possible to add your own range to the colorbar by adding point meta min={value} and point meta max={value} and get something like this code

\begin{axis}[xlabel=Selta,ylabel={Hitastig $[\si{\celsius}]$},colorbar,colormap/cool]
\addplot[scatter,point meta=explicit,ultra thick,point meta min={1}, point meta max={700}]
    table[x=S,y=POT_T, meta=DB, col sep=semicolon]{287.csv};
\legend{Stöð 287}

P.S. Is it ok to answer your own question like this when you finally find the answer?

  • 1
    Yes, it's perfectly reasonable to answer your own question, and even to accept it, I think, though I imagine you don't get the points... Commented Mar 27, 2011 at 16:00
  • It is even encouraged that you accept your own answer if you get no better answers. However, you'll have to wait 48 hours to accept. (And no, it won't give you reputation.) Commented Mar 27, 2011 at 16:09
  • @Hendrik Vogt. I found my answer to be incomplete, I edited the question to reflect what I feel is missing, but should I let the answer stay, as it is incomplete?
    – Jóhann
    Commented Mar 27, 2011 at 16:22
  • You can edit your answer to tell which part of the question it addresses. Commented Mar 27, 2011 at 16:40

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