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A backend for matplotlib drawing Pgf pictures for use with xelatex.
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The PGF backend is now in matplotlib >= v1.2

This repository was the previous home of backend_pgf and won't be used for development or bugtracking anymore.

About backend_pgf

Using the pgf backend, matplotlib can export figures as pgf drawing commands that can be processed with pdflatex, xelatex or lualatex. XeLaTeX and LuaLaTeX have full unicode support and can use any fonts installed in the operating system, making use of advanced typographic features of OpenType, AAT and Graphite. Pgf pictures created by plt.savefig('figure.pgf') can be embedded as raw commands in LaTeX documents. Figures can also be directly compiled and saved to PDF with plt.savefig('figure.pdf').

  • See the demo document for a comparison with the PDF+usetex backend.
  • The scipts in the examples folder show how to use the backend and how font selection is handled.

Example Image


The only requirement is an installed TeX distribution that includes xelatex and the pgf package (both found in TeX Live for example). The xelatex command must be in the system's path.

How to use it

Right at the beginning of your plotting script, activate the backend.

import matplotlib as mpl

XeLaTeX, and thus this backend as well, can use any font that is known by the operating system. However, LaTeX documents use the Computer Modern font family. For creating figures with the same font family it is recommended to use the unicode variant of Computer Modern since it provides extended glyph coverage. You can also use the standard fonts of your installed LaTeX system by setting empty lists for "font.serif", "font.sans-serif" and "font.monospace". The examples show how font selection is handled by the backend:

rc_cmufonts = {
    "": "serif"
    "font.serif": ["CMU Serif"],
    "font.sans-serif": ["CMU Sans Serif"],
    "font.monospace": [], # fallback to the default LaTeX monospace font

With the backend activated you can save figures as PDF file, produced by XeLaTeX, or save the drawing commands to a textfile for inclusion in LaTeX documents. If pdftocairo or ghostscript is installed, the figure can be converted to png as well.

import pylab as p

The LaTeX document for creating the figures can be fully customized by adding your own commands to the preamble. Use the pgf.preamble rc parameter if you want to configure the math fonts or for loading additional packages. Also, if you want to do the font configuration yourself instead of using the fonts specified in the rc parameters, make sure to disable pgf.rcfonts:

rc_custom_preamble = {
    "pgf.rcfonts": False,   # do not setup fonts from the mpl rc params
    "pgf.preamble": [
       r"\usepackage{siunitx}",      # use additional packages
       r"\usepackage{unicode-math}", # configure math fonts
       r"\setmathfont{XITS Math}",
       r"\setmainfont{Gentium}",     # manually setting the main font
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