# Print zeroes in a sparse matrix in a lighter color

For a report I need to print some sparse matrices as full matrices, so that means that there are a lot of zeroes. If I print them in the same color as the meaningful entries, it doesn't look very organized. And when I don't print the zeroes at all, it also doesn't look that good. So I'd like to print the zeroes in a lighter color.

Of course I could define a color (e.g. \definecolor{lightgrey}{RGB}{200,200,200}, and then for each 0 write \textcolor{lightgrey}{0}. But this is not very efficient. It is also possible to define a new command, preferably with a short name, that just inserts the grey colored 0. But I wonder, is there another, cleaner way to accomplish this?

MWE for a relatively small matrix:

\documentclass[10pt,a4paper]{article}
\usepackage[latin1]{inputenc}
\usepackage{amsmath}
\usepackage{amsfonts}
\usepackage{amssymb}
\begin{document}

\begin{align}
\left(\begin{array}{ccccccccc}
1 & 0 & 0 & 0 & 0 & 0 & 0 & 0 & 0\\
0 & 1 & 0 & 0 & 0 & 0 & 0 & 0 & 0\\
0 & \frac{1}{2} & \frac{1}{2} & 0 & 0 & 0 & 0 & 0 & 0\\
0 & 0 & 0 & 1 & 0 & 0 & 0 & 0 & 0\\
0 & 0 & 0 & 0 & 1 & 0 & 0 & 0 & 0\\
0 & 0 & 0 & 0 & \frac{1}{2} & \frac{1}{2} & 0 & 0 & 0\\
0 & 0 & 0 & \frac{1}{2} & 0 & 0 & \frac{1}{2} & 0 & 0\\
0 & 0 & 0 & 0 & \frac{1}{2} & 0 & 0 & \frac{1}{2} & 0\\
0 & 0 & 0 & 0 & \frac{1}{4} & \frac{1}{4} & 0 & \frac{1}{4} & \frac{1}{4}
\end{array}\right)
\end{align}

\end{document}

• \newcommand{\0}{\textcolor{lightgrey}{0}} and then \0 for the matrix entry you want in grey. – egreg Apr 24 '12 at 10:17
• A separate hint: since you're already loading the amsmath package, you can replace \left(\begin{array}{ccccccccc} with \begin{pmatrix} and \end{array}\right) with \end{pmatrix}. Besides simplifying the input code, you get better spacing of the parentheses surrounding the array. – Mico Apr 24 '12 at 10:34
• Thanks @Mico, I abstained from using it because some time ago I read something about a maximum number of columns. – Ailurus Apr 24 '12 at 11:53
• @Ailurus: amsmath has the counter parameter MaxMatrixCols, whose default value is 10. (The matrix in your example has 9 columns.) If need be, this parameter can be reset rather easily to a larger number, e.g., \setcounter{MaxMatrixCols}{30}. – Mico Apr 24 '12 at 11:59

I basically type too many matrices with lots of figures etc. so it's kind of natural to me to use TikZ for this, but understandably, you might not want to use this. However, there is a particular option in matrix library that you can decide on what to do when a particular entry is empty. Here is an example

\documentclass{article}
\usepackage{tikz}
\usetikzlibrary{matrix}
\begin{document}

I like lower triangular matrices so does Gauss while eliminating.
$\begin{tikzpicture}[baseline=(current bounding box.center)]% To center the matrix in the equation \matrix[matrix of math nodes,execute at empty cell={\node[black!20]{0};},%Node color and text "0" every left delimiter/.style={xshift=1ex},%tighter delimiter spacing every right delimiter/.style={xshift=-1ex}, left delimiter={(},right delimiter={)} ] { 1 & & & & & & & & \\ & 1 & & & & & & & \\ & \frac{1}{2} & \frac{1}{2} & & & & & & \\ & & & 1 & & & & & \\ & & & & 1 & & & & \\ & & & & \frac{1}{2} & \frac{1}{2} & & &\\ & & & \frac{1}{2} & & & \frac{1}{2} & & \\ & & & & \frac{1}{2} & & & \frac{1}{2} & \\ & & & & \frac{1}{4} & \frac{1}{4} & & \frac{1}{4} & \frac{1}{4} \\ }; \end{tikzpicture}$
\end{document} • That's a great use of execute at empty cell to do the zeros. Not only makes the output clearer but makes the input clearer as well. – Andrew Stacey Apr 24 '12 at 10:40
• Very nice, I never thought of using TikZ for matrices. You really can do everything with it! Can I just make a new environment out of this (e.g. \sparsematrix{}), having a single argument for the actual matrix? – Ailurus Apr 24 '12 at 12:03
• @Ailurus You can but actually you might not want to do that. You can define a new style such as \tikzset{sparsematrix/.style={ all those stuff here} } and put in the preamble. Then you need to type \tikz[baseline=...] \matrix[sparsematrix] {....};. – percusse Apr 24 '12 at 12:25
• @Ailurus Or alternatively you change the column seperator & character to something else by ampersand replacement= option. and use something that doesn't upset TeX engine. I would still go with the first option. – percusse Apr 24 '12 at 12:26

If you want to avoid recoding your document, then you can use array package to drop in the colour change: \documentclass[10pt,a4paper]{article}
\usepackage[latin1]{inputenc}
\usepackage{amsmath}
\usepackage{amsfonts}
\usepackage{amssymb}
\usepackage{color,array}
\def\zerotest{0}
\newcommand\greytest{%
\def\test{#2}%
\ifx\test\zerotest
\def\next{\textcolor[gray]{0.7}{0}}%
\else
\def\next{#1#2}%
\fi
\next}

\begin{document}

\begin{align}
\left(\begin{array}{*{9}{>{\greytest}c}}
1 & 0 & 0 & 0 & 0 & 0 & 0 & 0 & 0\\
0 & 1 & 0 & 0 & 0 & 0 & 0 & 0 & 0\\
0 & \frac{1}{2} & \frac{1}{2} & 0 & 0 & 0 & 0 & 0 & 0\\
0 & 0 & 0 & 1 & 0 & 0 & 0 & 0 & 0\\
0 & 0 & 0 & 0 & 1 & 0 & 0 & 0 & 0\\
0 & 0 & 0 & 0 & \frac{1}{2} & \frac{1}{2} & 0 & 0 & 0\\
0 & 0 & 0 & \frac{1}{2} & 0 & 0 & \frac{1}{2} & 0 & 0\\
0 & 0 & 0 & 0 & \frac{1}{2} & 0 & 0 & \frac{1}{2} & 0\\
0 & 0 & 0 & 0 & \frac{1}{4} & \frac{1}{4} & 0 & \frac{1}{4} & \frac{1}{4}
\end{array}\right)
\end{align}

\end{document}

• Also a very nice solution, it seems to be a little bit faster than the other one. Thanks! – Ailurus Apr 25 '12 at 7:06