How do I skip items in a legend?

5,442 views (last 30 days)
How do I skip items in legend? Say I have 6 plots with 3 actual values and 3 interpolated curves. I only want to label the actual value curves so
doesn't really work because the interpolated curve still shows.
Greg Vieira
Greg Vieira on 4 Sep 2021
How can you do this for multiple plots? For example, I have 1001 data sets plotted and only want the legend to show 1 of the first 1000 plots and the last plot. It is not reasonable for me to place 999 ' ' placeholders.
Kaveh Vejdani
Kaveh Vejdani on 10 Jun 2023
First plot data1, then data1001, the set L.AutoUpdate = 'off'; % L=Legend

Sign in to comment.

Accepted Answer

Kenneth Eaton
Kenneth Eaton on 29 Aug 2023
Edited: MathWorks Support Team on 10 Jan 2022
Starting in R2021a, you can leave an item out of a legend by setting the corresponding label to an empty character vector. For example, plot three lines. Then call the legend function and specify the second legend label as an empty character vector. The corresponding line is omitted from the legend.
plot(rand(3)); legend('Line 1','','Line 3')
Note that this strategy works when you specify just the labels, and not when you specify a set of objects to include in the legend.
For previous releases, you can specify the objects that you want to include as the first input argument to the “legend” function.  
For example, plot three lines and return the “Line” objects as array “p”. Include only the first and third lines in the legend by specifying “p(1)” and “p(3)” as the first input argument to “legend”. 
 p = plot(rand(3)); 
 legend([p(1) p(3)],'plot 1','plot 3') 
Alternatively, you can set the “IconDisplayStyle” to “off” for the object that you do not want to include in the legend. For example, exclude the second “Line” object, “p(2)”. 
 p = plot(rand(3)); 
 legend('plot 1','plot 3') 
DGM on 18 Oct 2022
Edited: DGM on 18 Oct 2022
I was responding to @Dan Houck who was asking specifically for a means to avoid the implicit item removal that happens in R2021a. Leaving the unlabeled marker was the goal.
As to whether what Dan asked for is visually objectionable, you're free to tell him.
Kaveh Vejdani
Kaveh Vejdani on 10 Jun 2023
L = legend;
L.AutoUpdate = 'off';

Sign in to comment.

More Answers (11)

Matt Lobo
Matt Lobo on 1 Nov 2021
Edited: Matt Lobo on 30 Nov 2021
Essentially set the 'HandleVisibility' attribute to 'off' when plotting something, as such:
This has some implications concerning interacting with that handle in other ways, but if you don't plan on using the handle, this is a great dynamic way to not include certain plots in your legend. It works especially well when you're plotting iteratively, and don't want to store handles and then hard-code the legend to fit your exact plot.
Sebastian Lopez
Sebastian Lopez on 27 May 2022
Really helpful. Thanks!

Sign in to comment.

Walter Roberson
Walter Roberson on 25 Jan 2011
Edited: Rik on 5 Apr 2022
You can set the IconDisplayStyle to off for the items you do not wish a legend for. See this documentation.
Edit by @Rik (2022/04/05):
The link above was valid for the documentation from R2012a. The equivalent page in R2022a suggests a different strategy (i.e. only providing the handles to legend for the objects you wish to include). In the current release IconDisplayStyle is documentated under the properties of the graphics primitives (e.g. line objects or patch objects).
Documentation pages from specific releases will remain online for 5 years.
Tanya Meyer
Tanya Meyer on 5 Apr 2022
Yes - broken link :(

Sign in to comment.

Junette Hsin
Junette Hsin on 21 Mar 2019
Edited: Junette Hsin on 21 Mar 2019
I ran into this problem and I have not seen this method suggested yet, but I solved it by changing the order of my plotted lines which affects what the legend displays (I am using MATLAB R2017b).
Let's say you plot 2 lines first, and then create a legend. Then you plot a 3rd line. That 3rd line will be added to your legend as 'data 1'.
Instead plot 3 lines, and then in your legend, label just the first 2 lines. The 3rd line will be omitted from the legend.
Hope this helps.
Brent F
Brent F on 22 Jun 2021
Edited: Brent F on 10 Aug 2021
@Jim Tonti Yes! Upvote his solution: legend({'A','B'},'AutoUpdate','off')
Gabriela Belicova
Gabriela Belicova on 13 May 2022
Both very helpful, thank you so much !!!

Sign in to comment.

Yasin Zamani
Yasin Zamani on 25 Sep 2019
Edited: Yasin Zamani on 25 Sep 2019
For example, suppose you want to skip the name of the first plot in the legend:
x = linspace(0, 2 * pi);
% sin(x)
h = plot(x, sin(x));
% the following line skip the name of the previous plot from the legend
h.Annotation.LegendInformation.IconDisplayStyle = 'off';
% cos(x)
plot(x, cos(x));
% legend
Carl Witthoft
Carl Witthoft on 8 Sep 2021
doesn't seem to work for a "fill" object

Sign in to comment.

Boris Blagojevic
Boris Blagojevic on 23 Jun 2021
An alternative approach: Prevent the legend from updating
First, plot the lines that you want to have labeled. Then, specify the legend and set
then, plot the remaining lines

the cyclist
the cyclist on 25 Jan 2011
Each curve has a handle, which can be obtained from the properties. Use the form of legend that takes two arguments (handle and legend), and only use the handles of those curves that you want to show.

Dilshad Raihan
Dilshad Raihan on 26 Oct 2015
Edited: Dilshad Raihan on 26 Oct 2015
You can do this by first plotting the curves in an order so that the lines you don't want to be displayed in the legend comes in the end. That is, suppose you have N lines to be plotted but you dont want to display m of these in the legend. Then first plot the required N-m lines and then the remaining m. After that, turn the legend on, click on the legend and the "legend property editor" will be displayed. Go to the "more properties" option. You can see an entry titled "String" specified as a "1xN cell array". Click on the cell array icon and set the size as "1xN-m". Now, only the first N-m curves will be displayed in Legend.

Diaa on 17 Nov 2020
Edited: Diaa on 17 Nov 2020
You can simply delete the last undesired entry by the following:
% assume you plotted some curves before this line and all of them are desired to be shown in the legend
hleg = legend('show');
plot(x,y) % you don't need this plot in the legend
hleg.String(end) = []; % delete the last legend entry of the very last plot
% continue plotting while copy and paste the previous line immediately after any plot you don't need in the legend
  1 Comment
Amir Semnani
Amir Semnani on 9 Jun 2021
Thanks. That worked for me (MATLAB 2017b) and it's very simple. Let's assume we have 8 datasets and we want to plot all of them, but only want to see the legend for dataset with even number.
x=ones(100,1)*(1:8); plot(x);ylim([0 9]); hleg = legend ('show'); hleg.String(1:2:end)=[];

Sign in to comment.

Akshay Ravindran
Akshay Ravindran on 26 Nov 2015
Why is it that this error keeps coming up?
Ajith Tom George
Ajith Tom George on 17 Nov 2016
If z,x,c etc are the handles, then remove the commas:
i.e. [z w c ...] and you are good to go!
Walter Roberson
Walter Roberson on 17 Nov 2016
No, in each case where z w c etc are expressions that have no spaces in them, [z w c ...] is the same as [z, w, c, ...]
Spaces in expressions sometimes trigger parsing as if there were multiple expressions. For example:
[1 -2*x]
is considered two expressions, 1 and -2*x

Sign in to comment.

Luke Marsden
Luke Marsden on 2 Feb 2017
I am trying to do a similar thing using this line of code:
leg = legend([p4 RETU_Average activity1 Vulcanian1], 'Tilt', 'RETU Mean Amplitude', 'Activity', '"Vulcanian" Explosions', 'Location', 'northeast');
I am getting this error:
Error using
Cannot convert double value 23 to a handle
Error in p1_zoom_plot (line 93)
leg = legend([p4 RETU_Average, activity1 Vulcanian1], 'Tilt', 'RETU Mean Amplitude', 'Activity', '"Vulcanian" Explosions', 'Location', 'northeast');
Brent F
Brent F on 10 Aug 2021
Have you gotten this method of generating a legend using plot handles to work within a subplot?
Rik on 11 Aug 2021
@Brent F A subplot is simply a new axes object, so any method should work. You should be careful when using gca or when not supplying a handle at all, as the last axes with user interaction will be the target of your calls.

Sign in to comment.

Juan Carlos de Luna
Juan Carlos de Luna on 6 Apr 2020
Select line in Plot Browser and type


No tags entered yet.

Community Treasure Hunt

Find the treasures in MATLAB Central and discover how the community can help you!

Start Hunting!