I have tried without success to plot the curve of the chi-squared distribution. Is there a generous soul who can come to my rescue.

  • 15
    Show what you've tried so far in form of a minimal example and add this to your question. Jan 12, 2012 at 20:33
  • Thanks for the gnuplot and PSTricks based solution. But I am still looking for a TikZ based solution. Anyone to help?
    – hmhsl
    Jun 29, 2015 at 6:40
  • This is trivial using either pgfplots or even the plot option in tikz. I don't have access to a computer right now, but since you have the function to be plotted in closed form, using pgfplots (which uses tikz), it would require an \addplot[samples=200,domain=0.001:5]{function goes here}; or something like that.
    – JPi
    Jun 29, 2015 at 7:07

5 Answers 5


If you can access gnuplot, you can try this. This is an adapted version of a gnuplot demo file.

enter image description here

    xlabel = $x$,
    ylabel = {Probability density},
    samples = 200,
    restrict y to domain = 0:0.5,
    domain = 0.01:15]
    \foreach \k in {1,...,8} {%
      \addplot+[mark={}] gnuplot[raw gnuplot] {%
        isint(x) = (int(x)==x);
        log2 = 0.693147180559945;
        set xrange [1.00000e-5:15.0000];
        set yrange [0.00000:0.500000];
        plot chisq(x,\k)};
    \addlegendentryexpanded{$k = \k$}}
  • To see a solution with LuaLaTeX, see here.
    – Azoun
    Jan 15, 2012 at 1:07
  • 1
    The curve for the case $k=0$ is missing.This isn't exactly a surprise, because the chi-squared distribution isn't defined properly for $k=0$... I suggest you update the plot to drop the case $k=0$ from the legend.
    – Mico
    Jan 14, 2015 at 8:28

if you can use PSTricks, then it is easy. Run the example with xelatex


\psaxes[Dy=0.1,ticksize=0 3pt]{->}(0,0)(9.5,.6)


enter image description here

  • Thanks for taking the time to answer my request but when I run the code I have this message of error: ! Package xkeyval Error: plotpoints' undefined in families ,pstricks,pst-grad ,pst-slpe,pst-node,pst-fun'. See the xkeyval package documentation for explanation. Type H <return> for immediate help. ... l.5 \psset{xunit=1.2cm,yunit=10cm,plotpoints=200} ? x Any help would be appreciated. Sincerly.
    – Zbigniew
    Jan 18, 2012 at 20:10
  • best result with texlive Unlike MiKTteX. Thank you to everyone.
    – Zbigniew
    Jan 18, 2012 at 20:21
  • You may have an outdated version of pstricks. Since you're using TeX Live, call tlmgr update --self --all from your terminal (command prompt).
    – Werner
    Jan 18, 2012 at 20:46
  • add \usepackage{pst-plot} to the preamble
    – user2478
    Jan 18, 2012 at 20:57

Here is a sketch of pure TikZ solution. The idea is that Gamma function is not available in tikz (tex), but the values of Gamma(k/2) for k=1,...,8 are simple. So we can "hardcode" them.

If somebody wants to put axes and legend, feel free to edit this answer ;)

    \clip (-1,-1) rectangle (15,10);
      \g in {sqrt(pi),1,sqrt(pi)/2,1,3/4*sqrt(pi),2,15/8*sqrt(pi),6}
        \draw[color=blue!\c!red,yscale=30] \z 
          plot (\x,{exp(ln(\x/2)*\k/2-ln(\x)-\x/2-ln(\g))});

enter image description here


Here is my "lazy" solution:

  1. generate the curve using Octave/MATLAB, then save the points in a CSV file:

    x = .1:.1:8;
    pdf1 = chi2pdf(x,1);
    pdf2 = chi2pdf(x,2);
    m = [x' pdf1' pdf2' pdf3' pdf4' pdf5' pdf6' pdf7' pdf8'];
    csvwrite ('chisquare.csv', m);
  2. import the data in LaTeX:

    `\pgfplotstableread[col sep=comma]{chisquare.csv}\dataChiSquare`
  3. Draw the plots:

     \addplot table[x = x, y = pdf#1] from \dataChiSquare;

You can find the full working code and the already-generated .csv file in this question.


There is a nice solution of the Gamma distribution by User 22986

The Chi-squared pdf is a particular case of the gamma pdf with $\theta=2$, and $k \to k/2$.

Here is a modification of that script from the gamma PDF to to the chi-squared pdf.


    declare function={gamma(\z)=
    (2.506628274631*sqrt(1/\z) + 0.20888568*(1/\z)^(1.5) + 0.00870357*(1/\z)^(2.5) - (174.2106599*(1/\z)^(3.5))/25920 - (715.6423511*(1/\z)^(4.5))/1244160)*exp((-ln(1/\z)-1)*\z);},
    declare function={gammapdf(\x,\k,\theta) = \x^(\k-1)*exp(-\x/\theta) / (\theta^\k*gamma(\k));}

    axis lines=left,
    legend entries={$k=2$,$k=4$,$k=6$,$k=8$}
\addplot [smooth, domain=0:20,line width=1] {gammapdf(x,1,2)};
\addplot [smooth, domain=0:20, red, line width=1 ] {gammapdf(x,2,2)};
\addplot [smooth, domain=0:20, green, line width=1] {gammapdf(x,3,2)};
\addplot [smooth, domain=0:20, blue, line width=1] {gammapdf(x,4,2)};


Here the result: enter image description here

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