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par {graphics}R Documentation

Set or Query Graphical Parameters


par can be used to set or query graphical parameters.Parameters can be set by specifying them as arguments to par intag = value form, or by passing them as a list of taggedvalues.

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arguments in tag = value form, or a list of taggedvalues. The tags must come from the names of graphical parametersdescribed in the ‘Graphical Parameters’ section.


logical; if TRUE and there are no otherarguments, only parameters are returned which can be set by asubsequent par() call on the same device.


Each device has its own set of graphical parameters. If the currentdevice is the null device, par will open a new device beforequerying/setting parameters. (What device is controlled byoptions('device').)

Parameters are queried by giving one or more character vectors ofparameter names to par.

par() (no arguments) or par(no.readonly = TRUE) is used toget all the graphical parameters (as a named list). Theirnames are currently taken from the unexported variablegraphics:::.Pars.

R.O. indicates read-only arguments: Thesemay only be used in queries and cannot be set. ('cin','cra', 'csi', 'cxy', 'din' and'page' are always read-only.)

Several parameters can only be set by a call to par():

  • 'ask',

  • 'fig', 'fin',

  • 'lheight',

  • 'mai', 'mar', 'mex','mfcol', 'mfrow', 'mfg',

  • 'new',

  • 'oma', 'omd', 'omi',

  • 'pin', 'plt', 'ps', 'pty',

  • 'usr',

  • 'xlog', 'ylog',

  • 'ylbias'

The remaining parameters can also be set as arguments (often via...) to high-level plot functions such asplot.default, plot.window,points, lines, abline,axis, title, text,mtext, segments, symbols,arrows, polygon, rect,box, contour, filled.contourand image. Such settings will be active during theexecution of the function, only. However, see the comments onbg, cex, col, lty, lwd andpch which may be taken as arguments to certain plotfunctions rather than as graphical parameters.

The meaning of ‘character size’ is not well-defined: this isset up for the device taking pointsize into account but oftennot the actual font family in use. Internally the corresponding pars(cra, cin, cxy and csi) are used only toset the inter-line spacing used to convert mar and omato physical margins. (The same inter-line spacing multiplied bylheight is used for multi-line strings in text andstrheight.)

Note that graphical parameters are suggestions: plotting functions anddevices need not make use of them (and this is particularly true ofnon-default methods for e.g. plot).


When parameters are set, their previous values are returned in aninvisible named list. Such a list can be passed as an argument topar to restore the parameter values. Use par(no.readonly = TRUE) for the full list of parameters that can be restored.However, restoring all of these is not wise: see the ‘Note’section.

When just one parameter is queried, the value of that parameteris returned as (atomic) vector. When two or more parameters arequeried, their values are returned in a list, with the list namesgiving the parameters.

Note the inconsistency: setting one parameter returns a list, butquerying one parameter returns a vector.

Graphical Parameters


The value of adj determines the way inwhich text strings are justified in text,mtext and title. A value of 0 producesleft-justified text, 0.5 (the default) centered text and 1right-justified text. (Any value in [0, 1] is allowed, andon most devices values outside that interval will also work.)

Note that the adjargument of text alsoallows adj = c(x, y) for different adjustment in x- and y-directions. Note that whereas for text it refers topositioning of text about a point, for mtext andtitle it controls placement within the plot or device region.


If set to FALSE, high-level plottingfunctions calling plot.default do not annotate theplots they produce with axis titles and overall titles. Thedefault is to do annotation.


logical. If TRUE (and the R session isinteractive) the user is asked for input, before a new figure isdrawn. As this applies to the device, it also affects output bypackages grid and lattice. It can be set even onnon-screen devices but may have no effect there.

This not really a graphics parameter, and its use is deprecated infavour of devAskNewPage.


The color to be used for the background of thedevice region. When called from par() it also setsnew = FALSE. See section ‘Color Specification’ forsuitable values. For many devices the initial value is set fromthe bg argument of the device, and for the rest it isnormally 'white'.

Note that some graphics functions such asplot.default and points have anargument of this name with a different meaning.


A character string which determined the type ofbox which is drawn about plots. If bty isone of 'o' (the default), 'l', '7','c', 'u', or ']' the resulting box resemblesthe corresponding upper case letter. A value of 'n'suppresses the box.


A numerical value giving the amount by whichplotting text and symbols should be magnified relative to thedefault. This starts as 1 when a device is opened, and isreset when the layout is changed, e.g. by setting mfrow.

Note that some graphics functions such asplot.default have an argument of this namewhich multiplies this graphical parameter, and somefunctions such as points and textaccept a vector of values which are recycled.


The magnification to be used for axisannotation relative to the current setting of cex.


The magnification to be used for x and ylabels relative to the current setting of cex.


The magnification to be used for main titlesrelative to the current setting of cex.


The magnification to be used for sub-titlesrelative to the current setting of cex.


R.O.; character size(width, height) in inches. These are the same measurementsas cra, expressed in different units.


A specification for the default plotting color. Seesection ‘Color Specification’.

Some functions such as lines and textaccept a vector of values which are recycled and may beinterpreted slightly differently.


The color to be used for axisannotation. Defaults to 'black'.


The color to be used for x and y labels.Defaults to 'black'.


The color to be used for plot main titles.Defaults to 'black'.


The color to be used for plot sub-titles.Defaults to 'black'.


R.O.; size of default character(width, height) in ‘rasters’ (pixels). Some deviceshave no concept of pixels and so assume an arbitrary pixel size,usually 1/72 inch. These are the same measurementsas cin, expressed in different units.


A numerical value specifying (in degrees) howsingle characters should be rotated. It is unwise to expectvalues other than multiples of 90 to work. Compare withsrt which does string rotation.


R.O.; height of (default-sized)characters in inches. The same as par('cin')[2].


R.O.; size of default character(width, height) in user coordinate units.par('cxy') is par('cin')/par('pin') scaled to usercoordinates.Note that c(strwidth(ch), strheight(ch)) fora given string ch is usually much more precise.


R.O.; the device dimensions,(width, height), in inches. See alsodev.size, which is updated immediately when anon-screen device windows is re-sized.


(Unimplemented; R is silent when pointsoutside the plot region are not plotted.)The degree of error reporting desired.


The name of a font family for drawing text.The maximum allowed length is 200 bytes.This name gets mapped by each graphics device to a device-specificfont description. The default value is ' which means thatthe default device fonts will be used (and what those are shouldbe listed on the help page for the device). Standard values are'serif', 'sans' and 'mono', and theHershey font families are also available. (Devices maydefine others, and some devices will ignore this settingcompletely. Names starting with 'Hershey' are treatedspecially and should only be used for the built-in Hershey fontfamilies.) This can be specified inline for text.


The color to be used for the foreground of plots.This is the default color used for things like axes and boxesaround plots. When called from par() this also setsparameter col to the same value. See section ‘ColorSpecification’. A few devices have an argument to set theinitial value, which is otherwise 'black'.


A numerical vector of the form c(x1, x2, y1, y2) which gives the (NDC) coordinates of the figure region inthe display region of the device. If you set this, unlike S, youstart a new plot, so to add to an existing plot usenew = TRUE as well.


The figure region dimensions,(width, height), in inches. If you set this, unlike S, youstart a new plot.


An integer which specifies which font to use fortext. If possible, device drivers arrange so that 1 correspondsto plain text (the default), 2 to bold face, 3 to italic and 4 tobold italic. Also, font 5 is expected to be the symbol font, inAdobe symbol encoding. On some devices font families can beselected by family to choose different sets of 5 fonts.


The font to be used for axis annotation.


The font to be used for x and y labels.


The font to be used for plot main titles.

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The font to be used for plot sub-titles.


A numerical vector of the form c(x, y, len)which modifies the default way that axes are annotated. The values ofx and y give the (approximate) number of tickmarkson the x and y axes and len specifies the label length. Thedefault is c(5, 5, 7). Note that this only affects the waythe parameters xaxp and yaxp are set when the usercoordinate system is set up, and is not consulted when axes are drawn.lenis unimplemented in R.


numeric in {0,1,2,3}; the style of axis labels.


always parallel to the axis [default],


always horizontal,


always perpendicular to the axis,


always vertical.

Also supported by mtext. Note thatstring/character rotation via argument srt to pardoes not affect the axis labels.


The line end style. This can be specified as aninteger or string:


and 'round' mean rounded line caps[default];


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and 'butt' mean butt line caps;


and 'square' mean square line caps.


The line height multiplier.The height of a line of text (used to vertically spacemulti-line text) is found by multiplying the character heightboth by the current character expansion and by theline height multiplier. Default value is 1. Used intext and strheight.


The line join style.This can be specified as an integer or string:


and 'round' mean rounded line joins[default];


and 'mitre' mean mitred line joins;


and 'bevel' mean bevelled line joins.


The line mitre limit. This controls whenmitred line joins are automatically converted into bevelled linejoins. The value must be larger than 1 and the default is 10.Not all devices will honour this setting.


The line type.Line types can either be specified as an integer (0=blank, 1=solid(default), 2=dashed, 3=dotted, 4=dotdash, 5=longdash, 6=twodash)or as one of the character strings 'blank', 'solid','dashed', 'dotted', 'dotdash','longdash', or 'twodash', where 'blank' uses‘invisible lines’ (i.e., does not draw them).

Alternatively, a string of up to 8 characters (from c(1:9, 'A':'F')) may be given, giving the length of line segmentswhich are alternatively drawn and skipped. See section‘Line Type Specification’.

Functions such as lines and segmentsaccept a vector of values which are recycled.


The line width, a positive number,defaulting to 1. The interpretation is device-specific,and some devices do not implement line widths less than one.(See the help on the device for details of the interpretation.)

Functions such as lines and segmentsaccept a vector of values which are recycled: in such uses linescorresponding to values NA or NaN are omitted. Theinterpretation of 0 is device-specific.


A numerical vector of the form c(bottom, left, top, right) which gives the margin size specified ininches.


A numerical vector of the form c(bottom, left, top, right) which gives the number of lines of margin to bespecified on the four sides of the plot.The default is c(5, 4, 4, 2) + 0.1.


mex is a character size expansion factor which is used todescribe coordinates in the margins of plots. Note that this doesnot change the font size, rather specifies the size of font (as amultiple of csi) used to convert between mar andmai, and between oma and omi.

This starts as 1 when the device is opened, and is resetwhen the layout is changed (alongside resetting cex).

mfcol, mfrow

A vector of the form c(nr, nc).Subsequent figures will be drawn in an nr-by-ncarray on the device by columns (mfcol), orrows (mfrow), respectively.

In a layout with exactly two rows and columns the base value of'cex' is reduced by a factor of 0.83: if there are three ormore of either rows or columns, the reduction factor is 0.66.

Setting a layout resets the base value of cex and that ofmex to 1.

If either of these is queried it will give the current layout, soquerying cannot tell you the order in which the array will be filled.

Consider the alternatives, layout andsplit.screen.


A numerical vector of the form c(i, j)where i and j indicate which figure in an array offigures is to be drawn next (if setting) or is being drawn (ifenquiring). The array must already have been set by mfcolor mfrow.

For compatibility with S, the form c(i, j, nr, nc) is alsoaccepted, when nr and nc should be the currentnumber of rows and number of columns. Mismatches will be ignored,with a warning.


The margin line (in mex units) for the axistitle, axis labels and axis line. Note that mgp[1] affectstitle whereas mgp[2:3] affect axis.The default is c(3, 1, 0).


The height in inches of symbols to be drawn whenthe value of pch is an integer. Completely ignored in R.


logical, defaulting to FALSE. If set toTRUE, the next high-level plotting command ( should not clean the frame beforedrawing as if it were on a new device. It isan error (ignored with a warning) to try to use new = TRUEon a device that does not currently contain a high-level plot.


A vector of the form c(bottom, left, top, right) giving the size of the outer margins in lines of text.


A vector of the form c(x1, x2, y1, y2)giving the region inside outer margins in NDC (=normalized device coordinates), i.e., as a fraction (in [0, 1])of the device region.


A vector of the form c(bottom, left, top, right) giving the size of the outer margins in inches.


R.O.; A boolean value indicatingwhether the next call to is goingto start a new page. This value may be FALSE if thereare multiple figures on the page.


Either an integer specifying a symbol or a singlecharacter to be used as the default in plotting points. Seepoints for possible values and their interpretation.Note that only integers and single-character strings canbe set as a graphics parameter (and not NA nor NULL).

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Some functions such as points accept a vector of valueswhich are recycled.


The current plot dimensions, (width, height),in inches.


A vector of the form c(x1, x2, y1, y2)giving the coordinates of the plot region as fractions of thecurrent figure region.


integer; the point size of text (but not symbols). Unlikethe pointsize argument of most devices, this does not changethe relationship between mar and mai (nor omaand omi).

What is meant by ‘point size’ is device-specific, but mostdevices mean a multiple of 1bp, that is 1/72 of an inch.


A character specifying the type of plot region tobe used; 's' generates a square plotting region and'm' generates the maximal plotting region.


(Unimplemented) a value which indicates howsmooth circles and circular arcs should be.


The string rotation in degrees. See the commentabout crt. Only supported by text.


The length of tick marks as a fraction of thesmaller of the width or height of the plotting region.If tck >= 0.5 it is interpreted as a fraction of therelevant side, so if tck = 1 grid lines are drawn. Thedefault setting (tck = NA) is to use tcl = -0.5.


The length of tick marks as a fraction of theheight of a line of text. The default value is -0.5;setting tcl = NA sets tck = -0.01 which is S' default.


A vector of the form c(x1, x2, y1, y2)giving the extremes of the user coordinates of the plottingregion. When a logarithmic scale is in use (i.e.,par('xlog') is true, see below), then the x-limits will be10 ^ par('usr')[1:2]. Similarly for the y-axis.


A vector of the form c(x1, x2, n) givingthe coordinates of the extreme tick marks and the number ofintervals between tick-marks when par('xlog') is false.Otherwise, when log coordinates are active, the threevalues have a different meaning: For a small range, n isnegative, and the ticks are as in the linear case,otherwise, n is in 1:3, specifying a case number,and x1 and x2 are the lowest and highest power of 10inside the user coordinates, 10 ^ par('usr')[1:2]. (The'usr' coordinates are log10-transformed here!)

n = 1

will produce tick marks at 10^j for integer j,

n = 2

gives marks k 10^j withk in {1,5},

n = 3

gives marks k 10^j withk in {1,2,5}.

See axTicks() for a pure R implementation of this.

This parameter is reset when a user coordinate system is set up,for example by starting a new page or by callingplot.window or setting par('usr'): nis taken from par('lab'). It affects the default behaviourof subsequent calls to axis for sides 1 or 3.

It is only relevant to default numeric axis systems, and not forexample to dates.


The style of axis interval calculation to be usedfor the x-axis. Possible values are 'r', 'i','e', 's', 'd'. The styles are generallycontrolled by the range of data or xlim, if given.
Style 'r' (regular) first extends the data range by 4percent at each end and then finds an axis with pretty labelsthat fits within the extended range.
Style 'i' (internal) just finds an axis with pretty labelsthat fits within the original data range.
Style 's' (standard) finds an axis with pretty labelswithin which the original data range fits.
Style 'e' (extended) is like style 's', except thatit is also ensures that there is room for plotting symbols withinthe bounding box.
Style 'd' (direct) specifies that the current axis shouldbe used on subsequent plots.
(Only 'r' and 'i' styles have beenimplemented in R.)


A character which specifies the x axis type.Specifying 'n' suppresses plotting of the axis. Thestandard value is 's': for compatibility with S values'l' and 't' are accepted but are equivalent to's': any value other than 'n' implies plotting.


A logical value (see log inplot.default). If TRUE, a logarithmic scaleis in use (e.g., after plot(*, log = 'x')).For a new device, it defaults to FALSE, i.e., linear scale.


A logical value or NA.If FALSE, all plotting is clipped to the plot region, ifTRUE, all plotting is clipped to the figure region, and ifNA, all plotting is clipped to the device region. See alsoclip.


A vector of the form c(y1, y2, n) givingthe coordinates of the extreme tick marks and the number ofintervals between tick-marks unless for log coordinates, seexaxp above.


The style of axis interval calculation to be usedfor the y-axis. See xaxs above.


A character which specifies the y axis type.Specifying 'n' suppresses plotting.


A positive real value used in the positioningof text in the margins by axis andmtext. The default is in principle device-specific,but currently 0.2 for all of R's own devices. Set this to0.2 for compatibility with R < 2.14.0 on x11 andwindows() devices.


A logical value; see xlog above.

Color Specification

Colors can be specified in several different ways. The simplest way iswith a character string giving the color name (e.g., 'red'). Alist of the possible colors can be obtained with the functioncolors. Alternatively, colors can be specified directlyin terms of their RGB components with a string of the form'#RRGGBB' where each of the pairs RR, GG,BB consist of two hexadecimal digits giving a value in therange 00 to FF. Colors can also be specified by givingan index into a small table of colors, the palette:indices wrap round so with the default palette of size 8, 10 isthe same as 2. This provides compatibility with S. Index0 corresponds to the background color. Note that the palette(apart from 0 which is per-device) is a per-session setting.

Negative integer colours are errors.

Additionally, 'transparent' is transparent, useful forfilled areas (such as the background!), and just invisible for thingslike lines or text. In most circumstances (integer) NAis equivalent to 'transparent' (but not fortext and mtext).

Semi-transparent colors are available for use on devices that supportthem.

The functions rgb, hsv, hcl,gray and rainbow provide additional waysof generating colors.

Line Type Specification

Line types can either be specified by giving an index into a smallbuilt-in table of line types (1 = solid, 2 = dashed, etc, seelty above) or directly as the lengths of on/off stretches ofline. This is done with a string of an even number (up to eight)of characters, namely non-zero(hexadecimal) digits which give the lengths in consecutive positionsin the string. For example, the string '33' specifies threeunits on followed by three off and '3313' specifies three unitson followed by three off followed by one on and finally three off.The ‘units’ here are (on most devices) proportional tolwd, and with lwd = 1 are in pixels or points or 1/96inch.

The five standard dash-dot line types (lty = 2:6) correspond toc('44', '13', '1343', '73', '2262').

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Note that NA is not a valid value for lty.


The effect of restoring all the (settable) graphics parameters asin the examples is hard to predict if the device has been resized.Several of them are attempting to set the same things in differentways, and those last in the alphabet will win. In particular, thesettings of mai, mar, pin, plt andpty interact, as do the outer margin settings, the figurelayout and figure region size.


Becker, R. A., Chambers, J. M. and Wilks, A. R. (1988)The New S Language.Wadsworth & Brooks/Cole.

Murrell, P. (2005) R Graphics. Chapman & Hall/CRC Press.

See Also

plot.default for some high-level plotting parameters;colors; clip;options for other setup parameters;graphic devices x11, postscript andsetting up device regions by layout andsplit.screen.