How to achieve this kind of axis with pgfplot ? Image taken from Szymon Beczkowski's awesome PhD thesis design (thesis link)

Credit to Beczkowski, Szymon

I may provide you with some data to play with.


\begin{axis}[xlabel={$L$ [H]},ylabel={$\hat{I}_{DM}$ [A]},axis lines*=left,grid,xtick=data]
  \addplot coordinates {(948e-6,1.61981) (1.5e-3,1.02377) (2e-3,0.769047) (2.5e-3,0.614994) (3e-3,0.503511)};

3 Answers 3


You can shift your axes, ticks and labels to obtain the axis effect. Adjusting the color of the plot and the size of the marks, gets you closer to the general style. Labels may be added via nodes referencing points in the data coordinate system.

I have updated my previous answer to include new features of pgfplots and placed much of the code in a single tuftelike style. Many thanks to Christian Feuersänger for his continued work on the pgfplots package.

Sample output



  tick style={major tick length=4pt,semithick,black},
  separate axis lines,
  axis x line*=bottom,
  axis x line shift=10pt,
  xlabel shift=10pt,
  axis y line*=left,
  axis y line shift=10pt,
  ylabel shift=10pt}}


\begin{tikzpicture}[every pin/.style={red!50!black,font=\small\sffamily}]
    xlabel={$L$ [H]},
    ylabel={$\hat{I}_{DM}$ [A]},
    enlarge x limits=false,
    \addplot[black,mark=*,mark size=1.5pt]
    coordinates{(948e-6,1.61981) (1.5e-3,1.02377) (2e-3,0.769047)
    (2.5e-3,0.614994) (3e-3,0.503511)};
    \node[coordinate,pin=above right:{2007}] at (axis cs:1.5e-3,1.02377) {};


The form of the axis is obtained by using separate axis lines and the axis ... line* styles. Axis shifting is obtained via the axis ... line shift and ...label shift commands. These could be issued as one common command, but I have kept the x and y variants visible should you need to change them individually. Adjustment of tick styling and color is from the semithick and the tick style.

(The last ytick value is 1.801 instead of 1.8 because of rounding problems in the internal arithmetic.)

The code

[every pin/.style={red!50!black,font=\small\sffamily}]

provides the style for the label of the given point on the graph.

  • Any option to get the "tick lines" same as the axis lines ?
    – s__C
    Commented Jan 21, 2014 at 16:00
  • @s__C Code added at end. Commented Jan 22, 2014 at 20:12
  • I think if you test it with scaled y ticks=base 10:2 you'll see the 10^-2 is badly positioned. Any fix?
    – s__C
    Commented Jan 24, 2014 at 9:29
  • @s__C You can add every y tick scale label/.append style={xshift=-#1} to the definition of the y axis shift left/.style. Commented Jan 26, 2014 at 13:09
  • 1
    Note that you can use a new pgfplots feature in order to shift lines with all ticks and descriptions: axis line shift=15pt. Commented Aug 12, 2016 at 18:43

In addition to shifting the axis, you can go one step further and create what Tufte calls "range frames", where the axis lines only cover the range of the data. One way of doing this is described in Creating Tufte-style bar charts and scatterplots using PGFPlots in TUGBoat issue 34 :



    range frame/.style={
        tick align=outside,
        axis line style={opacity=0},
        after end axis/.code={
            \draw ({rel axis cs:0,0}-|{axis cs:\pgfplotsdataxmin,0}) -- ({rel axis cs:0,0}-|{axis cs:\pgfplotsdataxmax,0});
            \draw ({rel axis cs:0,0}|-{axis cs:0,\pgfplotsdataymin}) -- ({rel axis cs:0,0}|-{axis cs:0,\pgfplotsdataymax});

    range frame,
    xlabel={$L$ [H]},
    ylabel={$\hat{I}_{DM}$ [A]},
    axis lines*=left,
    xtick=data, ymin=0.41
  \addplot +[black, mark options=fill=black] coordinates {(948e-6,1.61981) (1.5e-3,1.02377) (2e-3,0.769047) (2.5e-3,0.614994) (3e-3,0.503511)};
  • 1
    In my code, if you just specify enlarge y limits=false instead of yticks, ymax, ymin you get the same output. Commented Jan 21, 2014 at 14:25
  • @AndrewSwann: Good point!
    – Jake
    Commented Jan 21, 2014 at 14:31
  • I tried to use all the solutions. This one is working except for one point: the axis line style={opacity=0} seems to have no effect, therefore masking the frame. Commented Sep 14, 2014 at 8:27
  • @AlessandroCuttin: What version of TikZ and PGFPlots are you using?
    – Jake
    Commented Sep 14, 2014 at 10:38
  • Package: tikz 2013/12/13 v3.0.0 (rcs-revision 1.142) Package: pgfplots 2014/02/28 v1.10 Data Visualization (1.10-2-gb39fe75) I recently updated to TeXlive 2014 Commented Sep 14, 2014 at 10:49

Pgfplots allows a very fine axis customization thanks to options like:

  • x/y/z axis line style
  • x/y/ztick style
  • x/yt/zticklabel style

Basically, if you shift elements in a proper manner, you can achieve something similar. An humble attempt intended as proof of concept:


\begin{axis}[extra description/.code={% to place xlabel and ylabel more arbitrarily
  \node[below=7pt] at ([xshift=1.5cm]xticklabel* cs:1){$L$ [H]};
  \node at ([xshift=-1.5cm]yticklabel* cs:0.5){$\hat{I}_{DM}$ [A]};
  axis x line=left,
  axis y line=left,
  y axis line style={xshift=-6pt,-},
  x axis line style={yshift=-6pt,-},
  xtick style={yshift=-4pt,black}, % black to override the default style
  ytick style={xshift=-4pt,black}, % black to override the default style
  xticklabel style={yshift=-5pt},
  yticklabel style={xshift=-5pt},  
  scaled ticks=false,
  \addplot coordinates {(948e-6,1.61981) (1.5e-3,1.02377) (2e-3,0.769047) (2.5e-3,0.614994) (3e-3,0.503511)};

The result:

enter image description here

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