I'm new to TikZ plotting. :)

I want to plot data from a CSV with pgfplots in an axis environment. The data has a quite large range, for which a linear y-axis isn't very appropriate. In Python's matplotlib is a scaling called symlog (for symmetric log: A mirrored log scale around the x-axis), which also allows negative values (e.g., a range from -(10^5) to 10^5) Since ymode=symlog doesn't work, is there any other way to create symlog-like plots?

My code is equivalent to (works only for the positive values):

    xlabel=$f$ (Hz),
    ylabel=$T$ (-),
    title={Measured transfer function of analogue filter},
    minor grid style={gray!25},
    major grid style={gray!25},
    no marks]
\addplot[line width=1pt,solid,color=blue] %
    coordinates {(0,-1000) (1,-100) (2,-10) (3,-1) (4,0) (5,1) (6,10) (7,100) (8,1000)};
\addlegendentry{Transfer function};

Source: https://olivierpieters.be/blog/2015/10/23/latex-plotting-from-file.html


The result is:

enter image description here

But for coordinates {(0,-1000) (1,-100) (2,-10) (3,-1) (4,0) (5,1) (6,10) (7,100) (8,1000)}; the plot should look like (the scaling between -1 and +1 is linear):

enter image description here

  • Welcome to TeX.SX! What should the resulting plot look like? Do you have an example image from Python?
    – strpeter
    Jan 16, 2017 at 16:53
  • Your pyplot example is wrong! The values after ..., -(10^1), -(10^0) should be -(10^-1), -(10^2).... Jan 19, 2017 at 5:55
  • 2
    No, that's what I want to achieve. I want to display large data ranges ( big negative numbers to +2), for which linear isn't appropriate, because it's beginning to get interesting around zero. Symlog stands for symmetric log. So it's a mirrored log scale around the x-axis
    – psyruhi
    Jan 20, 2017 at 9:08
  • 1
    This is not implemented out of the box by pgfplots. I think what you need is possible thanks to the y coord trafo feature detailed in the pgfplots manual, section 4.21 Symbolic Coordinates and User Transformations See also this answer, in a more simple situation (for x -> x^2 scaling).
    – marsupilam
    Jan 20, 2017 at 10:18
  • 1
    As marsupilam already stated that is not supported yet. In fact, there is already a feature request for that in the PGFPlots Tracker. Jan 20, 2017 at 10:34

1 Answer 1


Here we go, using the y coord trafo key from pgfplots.

The symlog function is defined using the tikzmath.

It is the function enter image description here

For some reason, I can't seem to be able to plot a tikzmath function including if conditionals with pgfplots, hence the clumsiness of the symlog internals.

We also define the inverse transform symexp and feed it to the y coord inv trafo key, to be able to use the axis coordinate system.

It is the function enter image description here

The code

producing the following output :

enter image description here

  function symlog(\x,\a){
    \yLarge = ((\x>\a) - (\x<-\a)) * (ln(max(abs(\x/\a),1)) + 1);
    \ySmall = (\x >= -\a) * (\x <= \a) * \x / \a ;
    return \yLarge + \ySmall ;
  function symexp(\y,\a){
    \xLarge = ((\y>1) - (\y<-1)) * \a * exp(abs(\y) - 1) ;
    \xSmall = (\y>=-1) * (\y<=1) * \a * \y ;
    return \xLarge + \xSmall ;
    y coord trafo/.code={\pgfmathparse{symlog(#1,\basis)}\pgfmathresult},
    y coord inv trafo/.code={\pgfmathparse{symexp(#1,\basis)}\pgfmathresult},
    yticklabel style={/pgf/number format/.cd,int detect,precision=2},
      legend pos=north west,
      scaled ticks = base 10:0,
      domain = -5:5.5,
      ytick = {-100,-10, -1,0,1,10,100},
      minor ytick = {-90,-80,...,-20,-9,-8,...,-2,-.9,-.8,...,.9,2,3,...,9,20,30,...,90},
      tick label style = {fill=white, fill opacity=.7},
      yminorgrids = true,
      ymajorgrids = true,
      xmajorgrids = true,
      axis lines=center,
    \addplot+ [mark=none] {x} ;
    \addplot+ [mark=none] {exp(x)} ;
    \addplot+ [mark=none] {-exp(-x)} ;
    \legend {$x$,$e^x$,$-e^{-x}$}


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