Use colorbar by specifying the mappable object (here the AxesImage returned by imshow) and the axes to attach the colorbar to.

import numpy as np
import matplotlib.pyplot as plt

# setup some generic data
N = 37
x, y = np.mgrid[:N, :N]
Z = (np.cos(x*0.2) + np.sin(y*0.3))

# mask out the negative and positive values, respectively
Zpos =, 0)
Zneg =, 0)

fig, (ax1, ax2, ax3) = plt.subplots(figsize=(13, 3), ncols=3)

# plot just the positive data and save the
# color "mappable" object returned by ax1.imshow
pos = ax1.imshow(Zpos, cmap='Blues', interpolation='none')

# add the colorbar using the figure's method,
# telling which mappable we're talking about and
# which axes object it should be near
fig.colorbar(pos, ax=ax1)

# repeat everything above for the negative data
# you can specify location, anchor and shrink the colorbar
neg = ax2.imshow(Zneg, cmap='Reds_r', interpolation='none')
fig.colorbar(neg, ax=ax2, location='right', anchor=(0, 0.3), shrink=0.7)

# Plot both positive and negative values between +/- 1.2
pos_neg_clipped = ax3.imshow(Z, cmap='RdBu', vmin=-1.2, vmax=1.2,
# Add minorticks on the colorbar to make it easy to read the
# values off the colorbar.
cbar = fig.colorbar(pos_neg_clipped, ax=ax3, extend='both')
colorbar basics

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