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Recipes allow you to extend Makie with your own custom types and plotting commands.


If you're a package developer, it's possible to add recipes without adding all of Makie.jl as a dependency. Instead, you can use the MakieCore package, which is a lightweight package which provides all the necessary elements to create a recipe, such as the @recipe macro, convert_arguments and convert_attribute functions, and even some basic plot type definitions.

There are two types of recipes:

  • Type recipes define a simple mapping from a user defined type to an existing plot type

  • Full recipes define new custom plotting functions.

Type recipes

Type recipes are mostly just conversions from one type or set of input argument types, yet unknown to Makie, to another which Makie can handle already.

This is the sequential logic by which conversions in Makie are attempted:

  • Dispatch on convert_arguments(::PlotType, args...)

  • If no matching method is found, determine a conversion trait via conversion_trait(::PlotType)

  • Dispatch on convert_arguments(::ConversionTrait, args...)

  • If no matching method is found, try to convert each single argument recursively with convert_single_argument until each type doesn't change anymore

  • Dispatch on convert_arguments(::PlotType, converted_args...)

  • Fail if no method was found

Multiple Argument Conversion with convert_arguments

Plotting of a Circle for example can be defined via a conversion into a vector of points for any existing plot type:

Makie.convert_arguments(::Type{<: AbstractPlot}, x::Circle) = (decompose(Point2f, x),)

# or if you picked up MakieCore as a light-weight recipe system dependency
MakieCore.convert_arguments(::Type{<: AbstractPlot}, x::Circle) = (decompose(Point2f, x),)


convert_arguments must always return a Tuple.

Defining a conversion for every plot type likely won't make sense, so one can restrict the conversion to a subset of plot types, like only for scatter plots:

Makie.convert_arguments(P::Type{<:Scatter}, ::MyType) = convert_arguments(P, rand(10))

Conversion traits make it easier to define behavior for a group of plot types that share the same trait. PointBased for example applies to Scatter, Lines, etc. The predefined traits are NoConversion, PointBased, CellGrid <: GridBased, VertexGrid <: GridBased, ImageLike, VolumeLike and SampleBased. They all inherit from ConversionTrait, sometimes indirectly.

Makie.convert_arguments(::PointBased, ::MyType) = ...

It is also possible to convert multiple arguments together.

Makie.convert_arguments(::Type{<:Scatter}, x::MyType, y::MyOtherType) = ...

Optionally you may define the default plot type so that plot(x::MyType) will always plot as e.g. a surface plot:

plottype(::MyType) = Surface

Single Argument Conversion with convert_single_argument

Some types which are unknown to Makie can be converted to other types, for which convert_arguments methods are available. This is done with convert_single_argument.

For example, AbstractArrays with Reals and missings can usually be safely converted to Float32 arrays with NaNs instead of missings.

The difference between convert_single_argument and convert_arguments with a single argument is that the former can be applied to any argument of any signature, while the latter only matches one-argument signatures.

Full recipes with the @recipe macro

A full recipe comes in two parts. First is the plot type name, for example MyPlot, and then arguments and theme definition which are defined using the @recipe macro.

Second is at least one custom plot! method for MyPlot which creates an actual visualization using other existing plotting functions.

We use an example to show how this works:

@recipe(MyPlot, x, y, z) do scene
        plot_color = :red

This macro expands to several things. Firstly a type definition:

const MyPlot{ArgTypes} = Plot{myplot, ArgTypes}

The type parameter of Plot contains the function myplot instead of e.g. a symbol MyPlot. This way the mapping from MyPlot to myplot is safer and simpler. The following signatures are automatically defined to make MyPlot nice to use:

myplot(args...; kw_args...) = ...
myplot!(args...; kw_args...) = ...

A specialization of argument_names is emitted if you have an argument list (x,y,z) provided to the recipe macro:

argument_names(::Type{<: MyPlot}) = (:x, :y, :z)

This is optional but it will allow the use of plot_object.x to fetch the first argument from the call plot_object = myplot(rand(10), rand(10), rand(10)), for example.

Alternatively you can always fetch the ith argument using plot_object[i], and if you leave out the (x,y,z), the default version of argument_names will provide plot_object.arg1 etc.

The theme given in the body of the @recipe invocation is inserted into a specialization of default_theme which inserts the theme into any scene that plots MyPlot:

function default_theme(scene, ::MyPlot)
        plot_color => :red

As the second part of defining MyPlot, you should implement the actual plotting of the MyPlot object by specializing plot!:

function Makie.plot!(myplot::MyPlot)
    # normal plotting code, building on any previously defined recipes
    # or atomic plotting operations, and adding to the combined `myplot`:
    lines!(myplot, rand(10), color = myplot.plot_color)
    plot!(myplot, myplot.x, myplot.y)

It's possible to add specializations here, depending on the argument types supplied to myplot. For example, to specialize the behavior of myplot(a) when a is a 3D array of floating point numbers:

const MyVolume = MyPlot{Tuple{<:AbstractArray{<: AbstractFloat, 3}}}
argument_names(::Type{<: MyVolume}) = (:volume,) # again, optional
function plot!(plot::MyVolume)
    # plot a volume with a colormap going from fully transparent to plot_color
    volume!(plot, plot[:volume], colormap = :transparent => plot[:plot_color])

Example: Stock Chart

Let's say we want to visualize stock values with the classic open / close and low / high combinations. In this example, we will create a special type to hold this information, and a recipe that can plot this type.

First, we make a struct to hold the stock's values for a given day:

using CairoMakie

struct StockValue{T<:Real}

Now we create a new plot type called StockChart. The do scene closure is just a function that returns our default attributes, in this case they color stocks going down red, and stocks going up green.

@recipe(StockChart) do scene
        downcolor = :red,
        upcolor = :green,

Then we get to the meat of the recipe, which is actually creating a plot method. We need to overload a specific method of Makie.plot! which as its argument has a subtype of our new StockChart plot type. The type parameter of that type is a Tuple describing the argument types for which this method should work.

Note that the input arguments we receive inside the plot! method, which we can extract by indexing into the StockChart, are automatically converted to Observables by Makie.

This means that we must construct our plotting function in a dynamic way so that it will update itself whenever the input observables change. This can be a bit trickier than recipes you might know from other plotting packages which produce mostly static plots.

function Makie.plot!(
        sc::StockChart{<:Tuple{AbstractVector{<:Real}, AbstractVector{<:StockValue}}})

    # our first argument is an observable of parametric type AbstractVector{<:Real}
    times = sc[1]
    # our second argument is an observable of parametric type AbstractVector{<:StockValue}}
    stockvalues = sc[2]

    # we predefine a couple of observables for the linesegments
    # and barplots we need to draw
    # this is necessary because in Makie we want every recipe to be interactively updateable
    # and therefore need to connect the observable machinery to do so
    linesegs = Observable(Point2f[])
    bar_froms = Observable(Float32[])
    bar_tos = Observable(Float32[])
    colors = Observable(Bool[])

    # this helper function will update our observables
    # whenever `times` or `stockvalues` change
    function update_plot(times, stockvalues)

        # clear the vectors inside the observables

        # then refill them with our updated values
        for (t, s) in zip(times, stockvalues)
            push!(linesegs[], Point2f(t, s.low))
            push!(linesegs[], Point2f(t, s.high))
            push!(bar_tos[], s.close)
        append!(colors[], [x.close > for x in stockvalues])
        colors[] = colors[]

    # connect `update_plot` so that it is called whenever `times`
    # or `stockvalues` change
    Makie.Observables.onany(update_plot, times, stockvalues)

    # then call it once manually with the first `times` and `stockvalues`
    # contents so we prepopulate all observables with correct values
    update_plot(times[], stockvalues[])

    # for the colors we just use a vector of booleans or 0s and 1s, which are
    # colored according to a 2-element colormap
    # we build this colormap out of our `downcolor` and `upcolor`
    # we give the observable element type `Any` so it will not error when we change
    # a color from a symbol like :red to a different type like RGBf(1, 0, 1)
    colormap = Observable{Any}()
    map!(colormap, sc.downcolor, sc.upcolor) do dc, uc
        [dc, uc]

    # in the last step we plot into our `sc` StockChart object, which means
    # that our new plot is just made out of two simpler recipes layered on
    # top of each other
    linesegments!(sc, linesegs, color = colors, colormap = colormap)
    barplot!(sc, times, bar_froms, fillto = bar_tos, color = colors, strokewidth = 0, colormap = colormap)

    # lastly we return the new StockChart

Finally, let's try it out and plot some stocks:

timestamps = 1:100

# we create some fake stock values in a way that looks pleasing later
startvalue = StockValue(0.0, 0.0, 0.0, 0.0)
stockvalues = foldl(timestamps[2:end], init = [startvalue]) do values, t
    open = last(values).close + 0.3 * randn()
    close = open + randn()
    high = max(open, close) + rand()
    low = min(open, close) - rand()
    push!(values, StockValue(
        open, close, high, low

# now we can use our new recipe
f = Figure()

stockchart(f[1, 1], timestamps, stockvalues)

# and let's try one where we change our default attributes
stockchart(f[2, 1], timestamps, stockvalues,
    downcolor = :purple, upcolor = :orange)

As a last example, lets pretend our stock data is coming in dynamically, and we want to create an animation out of it. This is easy if we use observables as input arguments which we then update frame by frame:

timestamps = Observable(collect(1:100))
stocknode = Observable(stockvalues)

fig, ax, sc = stockchart(timestamps, stocknode)

record(fig, "stockchart_animation.mp4", 101:200,
        framerate = 30) do t
    # push a new timestamp without triggering the observable
    push!(timestamps[], t)

    # push a new StockValue without triggering the observable
    old = last(stocknode[])
    open = old.close + 0.3 * randn()
    close = open + randn()
    high = max(open, close) + rand()
    low = min(open, close) - rand()
    new = StockValue(open, close, high, low)
    push!(stocknode[], new)

    # now both timestamps and stocknode are synchronized
    # again and we can trigger one of them by assigning it to itself
    # to update the whole stockcharts plot for the new frame
    stocknode[] = stocknode[]
    # let's also update the axis limits because the plot will grow
    # to the right

Makie Package Extension

For a simple example of a package extension for Makie, see The following documentation explains the basics of the implementation in the linked example.

Set up your package extension to have Makie as a dependency, not MakieCore or any of the Makie backends.

You'll have to define and export your full recipe functions in your main package, for example:

module SomePackage

export someplot
export someplot!

# functions with no methods
function someplot end
function someplot! end

end # module

and then your Makie extension package will add methods to someplot!.

module MakieExtension

using SomePackage
import SomePackage: someplot, someplot!

Makie.convert_single_argument(v::SomeVector) = v.v

@recipe(SomePlot) do scene

function Makie.plot!(p::SomePlot)
    lines!(p, p[1])
    scatter!(p, p[1])
    return p

end # module

See the linked example above for more functionalities such as accommodating for both extensions and Requires.jl, or providing error hints for plotting functions that don't yet have methods, or setting up your Project.toml.