Writing mathematical expressions#

Matplotlib implements a lightweight TeX expression parser and layout engine and Mathtext is the subset of Tex markup that this engine supports. Note that Matplotlib can also render all text directly using TeX if rcParams["text.usetex"] (default: False) is True; see Text rendering with LaTeX for more details. Mathtext support is available if rcParams["text.usetex"] (default: False) is False.

Any string can be processed as Mathtext by placing the string inside a pair of dollar signs '$'. Mathtext often contains many backslashes '\'; so that the backslashes do not need to be escaped, Mathtext is often written using raw strings. For example:

import matplotlib.pyplot as plt

fig = plt.figure(figsize=(3, 3), linewidth=1, edgecolor='black')
fig.text(.2, .7, "plain text: alpha > beta")
fig.text(.2, .5, "Mathtext: $\\alpha > \\beta$")
fig.text(.2, .3, r"raw string Mathtext: $\alpha > \beta$")

See also

Mathtext example

TeX does not need to be installed to use Mathtext because Matplotlib ships with the Mathtext parser and engine. The Mathtext layout engine is a fairly direct adaptation of the layout algorithms in Donald Knuth's TeX. To render mathematical text using a different TeX engine, see Text rendering with LaTeX.


To generate html output in documentation that will exactly match the output generated by mathtext, use the matplotlib.sphinxext.mathmpl Sphinx extension.

Special characters#

Mathtext must be placed between a pair of (US) dollar signs '$'. A literal dollar symbol '$' in a string containing Mathtext must be escaped using a backslash: '\$'. A string may contain multiple pairs of dollar signs, resulting in multiple Mathtext expressions. Strings with an odd number of dollar signs are rendered solely as plain text.

fig = plt.figure(figsize=(3, 3), linewidth=1, edgecolor='black')
fig.suptitle("Number of unescaped $")
fig.text(.1, .7, r"odd: $ \alpha $ = $1")
fig.text(.1, .5, r"even: $ \beta $= $ 2 $")
fig.text(.1, .3, r'odd: $ \gamma $= \$3 $')
fig.text(.1, .1, r'even: $ \delta $ = $ \$4 $')
Number of unescaped $

While Mathtext aims for compatibility with regular TeX, it diverges on when special characters need to be escaped. In TeX the dollar sign must be escaped '\$' in non-math text, while in Matplotlib the dollar sign must be escaped when writing Mathtext.

These other special characters are also escaped in non-math TeX, while in Matplotlib their behavior is dependent on how rcParams["text.usetex"] (default: False) is set:

# $ % & ~ _ ^ \ { } \( \) \[ \]

See the usetex tutorial for more information.

Subscripts and superscripts#

To make subscripts and superscripts, use the '_' and '^' symbols:

r'$\alpha_i > \beta_i$'
\[\alpha_i > \beta_i\]

To display multi-letter subscripts or superscripts correctly, you should put them in curly braces {...}:

r'$\alpha^{ic} > \beta_{ic}$'
\[\alpha^{ic} > \beta_{ic}\]

Some symbols automatically put their sub/superscripts under and over the operator. For example, to write the sum of from to , you could do:

r'$\sum_{i=0}^\infty x_i$'
\[\sum_{i=0}^\infty x_i\]

Fractions, binomials, and stacked numbers#

Fractions, binomials, and stacked numbers can be created with the \frac{}{}, \binom{}{} and \genfrac{}{}{}{}{}{} commands, respectively:

r'$\frac{3}{4} \binom{3}{4} \genfrac{}{}{0}{}{3}{4}$'


\[\frac{3}{4} \binom{3}{4} \genfrac{}{}{0pt}{}{3}{4}\]

Fractions can be arbitrarily nested:

r'$\frac{5 - \frac{1}{x}}{4}$'


\[\frac{5 - \frac{1}{x}}{4}\]

Note that special care needs to be taken to place parentheses and brackets around fractions. Doing things the obvious way produces brackets that are too small:

r'$(\frac{5 - \frac{1}{x}}{4})$'
\[(\frac{5 - \frac{1}{x}}{4})\]

The solution is to precede the bracket with \left and \right to inform the parser that those brackets encompass the entire object.:

r'$\left(\frac{5 - \frac{1}{x}}{4}\right)$'
\[\left(\frac{5 - \frac{1}{x}}{4}\right)\]


Radicals can be produced with the \sqrt[]{} command. For example:


Any base can (optionally) be provided inside square brackets. Note that the base must be a simple expression, and cannot contain layout commands such as fractions or sub/superscripts:



The default font is italics for mathematical symbols.

This default can be changed using rcParams["mathtext.default"] (default: 'it'). For setting rcParams, see Customizing Matplotlib with style sheets and rcParams. For example, setting the default to regular allows you to use the same font for math text and regular non-math text.

To change fonts, e.g., to write "sin" in a Roman font, enclose the text in a font command:

r'$s(t) = \mathcal{A}\mathrm{sin}(2 \omega t)$'
\[s(t) = \mathcal{A}\mathrm{sin}(2 \omega t)\]

More conveniently, many commonly used function names that are typeset in a Roman font have shortcuts. So the expression above could be written as follows:

r'$s(t) = \mathcal{A}\sin(2 \omega t)$'
\[s(t) = \mathcal{A}\sin(2 \omega t)\]

Here "s" and "t" are variable in italics font (default), "sin" is in Roman font, and the amplitude "A" is in calligraphy font. Note in the example above the calligraphy A is squished into the sin. You can use a spacing command to add a little whitespace between them:

r's(t) = \mathcal{A}\/\sin(2 \omega t)'
\[s(t) = \mathcal{A}\,\sin(2 \omega t)\]

Mathtext can use DejaVu Sans (default), DejaVu Serif, Computer Modern fonts from (La)TeX, STIX fonts which are designed to blend well with Times, or a Unicode font that you provide. The Mathtext font can be selected via rcParams["mathtext.fontset"] (default: 'dejavusans').

The choices available with all fonts are:







When using the STIX fonts, you also have the choice of:









There are also five global "font sets" to choose from, which are selected using the mathtext.fontset parameter in matplotlibrc.

dejavusans: DejaVu Sans
dejavuserif: DejaVu Serif
cm: Computer Modern (TeX)
stix: STIX (designed to blend well with Times)
stixsans: STIX sans-serif

Additionally, you can use \mathdefault{...} or its alias \mathregular{...} to use the font used for regular text outside of Mathtext. There are a number of limitations to this approach, most notably that far fewer symbols will be available, but it can be useful to make math expressions blend well with other text in the plot.

For compatibility with popular packages, \text{...} is available and uses the \mathrm{...} font, but otherwise retains spaces and renders - as a dash (not minus).

Custom fonts#

Mathtext also provides a way to use custom fonts for math. This method is fairly tricky to use, and should be considered an experimental feature for patient users only. By setting rcParams["mathtext.fontset"] (default: 'dejavusans') to custom, you can then set the following parameters, which control which font file to use for a particular set of math characters.


Corresponds to


\mathit{} or default italic


\mathrm{} Roman (upright)


\mathtt{} Typewriter (monospace)


\mathbf{} bold


\mathbfit{} bold italic


\mathcal{} calligraphic


\mathsf{} sans-serif

Each parameter should be set to a fontconfig font descriptor, as defined in Fonts in Matplotlib. The fonts used should have a Unicode mapping in order to find any non-Latin characters, such as Greek. If you want to use a math symbol that is not contained in your custom fonts, you can set rcParams["mathtext.fallback"] (default: 'cm') to either 'cm', 'stix' or 'stixsans' which will cause the Mathtext system to use characters from an alternative font whenever a particular character cannot be found in the custom font.

Note that the math glyphs specified in Unicode have evolved over time, and many fonts may not have glyphs in the correct place for Mathtext.


An accent command may precede any symbol to add an accent above it. There are long and short forms for some of them.



\acute a or \'a

\bar a

\breve a

\dot a or \.a

\ddot a or \''a

\dddot a

\ddddot a

\grave a or \`a

\hat a or \^a

\tilde a or \~a

\vec a


In addition, there are two special accents that automatically adjust to the width of the symbols below:





Care should be taken when putting accents on lower-case i's and j's. Note that in the following \imath is used to avoid the extra dot over the i:

r"$\hat i\ \ \hat \imath$"
\[\hat i\ \ \hat \imath\]


You can also use a large number of the TeX symbols, as in \infty, \leftarrow, \sum, \int.

Lower-case Greek

α \alpha

β \beta

γ \gamma

δ \delta

ε \epsilon

ε \varepsilon

ζ \zeta

η \eta

θ \theta

ϑ \vartheta

ι \iota

κ \kappa

ϰ \varkappa

λ \lambda

μ \mu

ν \nu

ξ \xi

π \pi

ϖ \varpi

ρ \rho

ϱ \varrho

σ \sigma

ς \varsigma

τ \tau

υ \upsilon

χ \chi

ψ \psi

ω \omega

ϕ \phi

φ \varphi

ϝ \digamma

Upper-case Greek

Γ \Gamma

Δ \Delta

Θ \Theta

Λ \Lambda

Ξ \Xi

Π \Pi

Σ \Sigma

Υ \Upsilon

Φ \Phi

Ψ \Psi

Ω \Omega






Latin named characters




Ø \O

Þ \Thorn

ß \ss

å \aa

æ \ae

ð \eth

ð \dh

ø \o

þ \thorn


œ \oe


( (

( \leftparen

) \rightparen

) )

. .

/ /

< <

> >

[ [

[ \lbrack

\ \backslash

| \vert

| |

] \rbrack

] ]

{ \{

{ \lbrace

{ \leftbrace

} \rightbrace

} \}

} \rbrace

















Big symbols




















Standard function names

Pr \Pr

arccos \arccos

arcsin \arcsin

arctan \arctan

arg \arg

cos \cos

cosh \cosh

cot \cot

coth \coth

csc \csc

deg \deg

det \det

dim \dim

exp \exp

gcd \gcd

hom \hom

inf \inf

ker \ker

lg \lg

lim \lim

liminf \liminf

limsup \limsup

ln \ln

log \log

max \max

min \min

sec \sec

sin \sin

sinh \sinh

sup \sup

tan \tan

tanh \tanh

Binary operation symbols

* *

+ +

- -

± \pm

× \times

÷ \div




























































⨿ \amalg


Relation symbols

: :

< <

= =

= \equal

> >

϶ \backepsilon






































































































































































































Arrow symbols




























































































Dot symbols









Black-board characters







Script characters












Fraktur characters



Miscellaneous symbols

$ \$

¢ \cent

£ \sterling

¥ \yen

§ \S

© \copyright

¬ \neg

® \circledR

° \degree


ħ \hbar

ı \imath

ı \i

Ł \L

ł \l

ƛ \lambdabar

ȷ \jmath


















































If a particular symbol does not have a name (as is true of many of the more obscure symbols in the STIX fonts), Unicode characters can also be used:


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