Basic plottting

Creating and displaying a plot

In this example we will learn how to create and display K3D plots.

The main object is the plot, which can be created using the plot() fuction from the k3d module.

To show the plot below a Jupyter cell, we call its display() method.

import k3d
plot = k3d.plot()

# here you would normally create objects to display
# and add them to the plot


If K3D-jupyter is installed properly, after executing the above snippet you should see something like this:

Empty K3D plot

An empty plot

In the next example we will learn how to display objects on the plot.


In the above example we had a Plot and added objects to it. It is however possible to automatically generate a plot for a created object, like:

import k3d

k3d.points([0, 0, 0])

This is, however not a good practice, because a Plot object is created behind the scenes. If there are many of them, showing complex objects, a lot of your browser’s memory will be used.

Adding objects to plot

The main idea is that plot objects (e.g. lines, meshed wtc) are interactively added to the plot.

To draw the triangle we will use the mesh() method from the k3d module. This method creates a Mesh object, which can be added to a K3D Plot.

import k3d
plot = k3d.plot()

vertices = [[0, 0, 0], [1, 0, 0], [0, 0, 1]]
indices = [[0, 1, 2]]

mesh = k3d.mesh(vertices, indices)

plot += mesh

An isosceles triangle in the y=0 plane

An isosceles triangle in the y=0 plane

The arguments we passed to the mesh() function are a vertex array (a list or NumPy’s ndarray is OK) which is composed of \((x, y, z)\) coordinates and an array of index triplets (ints). Each triplet refers to the vertex array, defining one triangle.

We can of course add objects directly to the plot, without creating variables:

plot += k3d.mesh([0, 1, 1,
                 1, 1, 0,
                 1, 1, 1,

                 1, 2, 2,
                 1, 1, 1,
                 2, 1, 1], [0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5], color=0x00ff00)

An isosceles triangle in the y=0 plane

One blue and two green triangles

This is a plot of two meshes. Please note – in the second case we didn’t nest the triplets - the numbers run continuously in a flat list. We also used an optional argument, color to specify the color of the second object. K3D objects have many attributes, which we can find out about from the docstrings and from other examples, dedicated to the specific object type.

Back to the main topic. The plot keeps track of the objects that it contains:


We have 2 displays of the plot in the notebook, associated with 2 different cell outputs. However, they are the same plot - you should see the same scene (3 triangles) on both of them. Each view of the plot can be adjusted separately using the mouse.

When the plot becomes too cluttered with objects, we may want to remove some of them. This is easily done with the -= operator. This is the place, where having named our objects beforehand comes in handy:

plot -= mesh

Having variables is also convenient when we want to modify the objects already shown.

GUI Basics

The plot scene contains in the right top corner a foldable menu. It provides access to most usefull plot options and list all objects which have beed added to the scene.

View / camera position adjustment

The plot can be adjusted using mouse actions which can be in one of three modes: “Trackball/Orbit/Fly”. The default Trackball mode works as following: - mouse wheel / scroll controls the zooming in or out - dragging with left mouse button rotates the plot (all directions) - dragging with right mouse button translates the plot (all directions) - dragging with wheel / both mose buttons: zooms in or out (only vertical)

To return to the default camera position, press the “Camera reset” icon from the top-right toolbar

Fullscreen mode and detachted mode

It is possible to switch the plot to fullscreen mode using the “Fullscreen” icon from the toolbar. To exit fullscreen mode press the Esc key (there should be a notification from your browser).

Especially in multiple monitor setups it may be useful to detach the plot to a dedicated window. This is achieved by clicking the “Detach widget” icon.

Screenshots and snapshots

To save a screenshot of the current view, press the “Save screenshot” icon from the toolbar. It provides better resolution, which can be controlled by plot.screenshot_scale parameter.

The filename will be generated as “K3D-”, then a string of digits (technically: decimal timestamp) and then “.png”.

Screenshots can be made programatically by:


The “.png” file is contained in the plot.screenshot attribute, however its synchronization might be a little bit delayed (it relies on asynchronous traitlets mechanism internally)

Snapshot is a “live” version of a screne in the form of stand-alone html file. Similarily to snapshots it can be done programatically via:

  • on the javascript side plot.fetch_snapshot(), note that fetching might take some time, and plot.snapshot

  • on the python side plot.get_snapshot()

In this case one has to write HTML code to a file:

with open('../_static/points.html','w') as fp:

Plot options

The plot() function in k3d module creates a Plot object. There are a several options, which control the behavior and apperance of the plot, for example:

  • height - vertical size of the plot widget

  • antialias - enables antialiasing in the WebGL renderer, its effect depends on the WebGL implementation and browser settings. On by default.

  • background_color - RGB value of the backgound color packed into a single integer.

For example to change the background we have to do:

plot.background_color = 0x00ffff

where 0x00ffff stands for RGB value in hex.