Set or Query Graphical Parameters

par can be used to set or query graphical parameters. Parameters can be set by specifying them as arguments to par in tag = value form, or by passing them as a list of tagged values.

dplot, environment, iplot
par(..., no.readonly = FALSE)

(..., = )

arguments in tag = value form, or a list of tagged values. The tags must come from the names of graphical parameters described in the Graphical Parameters section.
logical; if TRUE and there are no other arguments, only parameters are returned which can be set by a subsequent par() call on the same device.

Each device has its own set of graphical parameters. If the current device is the null device, par will open a new device before querying/setting parameters. (What device is controlled by options("device").)

Parameters are queried by giving one or more character vectors of parameter names to par.

par() (no arguments) or par(no.readonly = TRUE) is used to get all the graphical parameters (as a named list). Their names are currently taken from the unexported variable graphics:::.Pars.

R.O. indicates read-only arguments: These may only be used in queries and cannot be set. ("cin", "cra", "csi", "cxy", "din" and "page" are always read-only.)

Several parameters can only be set by a call to par():

  • "ask",
  • "fig","fin",
  • "lheight",
  • "mai","mar","mex","mfcol","mfrow","mfg",
  • "new",
  • "oma","omd","omi",
  • "pin","plt","ps","pty",
  • "usr",
  • "xlog","ylog",
  • "ylbias"
The remaining parameters can also be set as arguments (often via ...) to high-level plot functions such as plot.default, plot.window, points, lines, abline, axis, title, text, mtext, segments, symbols, arrows, polygon, rect, box, contour, filled.contour and image. Such settings will be active during the execution of the function, only. However, see the comments on bg, cex, col, lty, lwd and pch which may be taken as arguments to certain plot functions rather than as graphical parameters.

The meaning of character size is not well-defined: this is set up for the device taking pointsize into account but often not the actual font family in use. Internally the corresponding pars (cra, cin, cxy and csi) are used only to set the inter-line spacing used to convert mar and oma to physical margins. (The same inter-line spacing multiplied by lheight is used for multi-line strings in text and strheight.)

Note that graphical parameters are suggestions: plotting functions and devices need not make use of them (and this is particularly true of non-default methods for e.g.plot).


  • When parameters are set, their previous values are returned in an invisible named list. Such a list can be passed as an argument to par to restore the parameter values. Use par(no.readonly = TRUE) for the full list of parameters that can be restored. However, restoring all of these is not wise: see the Note section.

    When just one parameter is queried, the value of that parameter is returned as (atomic) vector. When two or more parameters are queried, their values are returned in a list, with the list names giving the parameters.

    Note the inconsistency: setting one parameter returns a list, but querying one parameter returns a vector.


The effect of restoring all the (settable) graphics parameters as in the examples is hard to predict if the device has been resized. Several of them are attempting to set the same things in different ways, and those last in the alphabet will win. In particular, the settings of mai, mar, pin, plt and pty interact, as do the outer margin settings, the figure layout and figure region size.


  • adj
  • ann
  • ask
  • bg
  • bty
  • cex.axis
  • cex.lab
  • cex.main
  • cex.sub
  • cex
  • cin
  • col.axis
  • col.lab
  • col.main
  • col.sub
  • col
  • cra
  • crt
  • csi
  • cxy
  • din
  • err
  • family
  • fg
  • fig
  • fin
  • font.axis
  • font.lab
  • font.main
  • font.sub
  • font
  • lab
  • las
  • lend
  • lheight
  • ljoin
  • lmitre
  • lty
  • lwd
  • mai
  • mar
  • mex
  • mfcol
  • mfg
  • mfrow
  • mgp
  • mkh
  • new
  • oma
  • omd
  • omi
  • page
  • pch
  • pin
  • plt
  • ps
  • pty
  • smo
  • srt
  • tck
  • tcl
  • usr
  • xaxp
  • xaxs
  • xaxt
  • xlog
  • xpd
  • yaxp
  • yaxs
  • yaxt
  • ylog
  • color
  • colour

Color Specification

Colors can be specified in several different ways. The simplest way is with a character string giving the color name (e.g., "red"). A list of the possible colors can be obtained with the function colors. Alternatively, colors can be specified directly in terms of their RGB components with a string of the form "#RRGGBB" where each of the pairs RR, GG, BB consist of two hexadecimal digits giving a value in the range 00 to FF. Colors can also be specified by giving an index into a small table of colors, the palette: indices wrap round so with the default palette of size 8, 10 is the same as 2. This provides compatibility with S. Index 0 corresponds to the background color. Note that the palette (apart from 0 which is per-device) is a per-session setting.

Negative integer colours are errors.

Additionally, "transparent" is transparent, useful for filled areas (such as the background!), and just invisible for things like lines or text. In most circumstances (integer) NA is equivalent to "transparent" (but not for text and mtext).

Semi-transparent colors are available for use on devices that support them.

The functions rgb, hsv, hcl, gray and rainbow provide additional ways of generating colors.

Line Type Specification

Line types can either be specified by giving an index into a small built-in table of line types (1 = solid, 2 = dashed, etc, see lty above) or directly as the lengths of on/off stretches of line. This is done with a string of an even number (up to eight) of characters, namely non-zero (hexadecimal) digits which give the lengths in consecutive positions in the string. For example, the string "33" specifies three units on followed by three off and "3313" specifies three units on followed by three off followed by one on and finally three off. The units here are (on most devices) proportional to lwd, and with lwd = 1 are in pixels or points or 1/96 inch.

The five standard dash-dot line types (lty = 2:6) correspond to c("44", "13", "1343", "73", "2262").

Note that NA is not a valid value for lty.


Becker, R. A., Chambers, J. M. and Wilks, A. R. (1988) The New S Language. Wadsworth & Brooks/Cole.

Murrell, P. (2005) R Graphics. Chapman & Hall/CRC Press.

See Also

plot.default for some high-level plotting parameters; colors; clip; options for other setup parameters; graphic devices x11, postscript and setting up device regions by layout and split.screen.

  • par
  • .Pars
  • graphical parameter
  • graphical parameters
library(graphics) op <- par(mfrow = c(2, 2), # 2 x 2 pictures on one plot pty = "s") # square plotting region, # independent of device size ## At end of plotting, reset to previous settings: par(op) ## Alternatively, op <- par(no.readonly = TRUE) # the whole list of settable par's. ## do lots of plotting and par(.) calls, then reset: par(op) ## Note this is not in general good practice par("ylog") # FALSE plot(1 : 12, log = "y") par("ylog") # TRUE plot(1:2, xaxs = "i") # 'inner axis' w/o extra space par(c("usr", "xaxp")) ( <- c(prof.pilots = 16, lawyers = 11, farmers = 10, salesmen = 9, physicians = 9, mechanics = 6, policemen = 6, managers = 6, engineers = 5, teachers = 4, housewives = 3, students = 3, armed.forces = 1)) par(las = 3) barplot(rbind( # R 0.63.2: shows alignment problem par(las = 0) # reset to default require(grDevices) # for gray ## 'fg' use: plot(1:12, type = "b", main = "'fg' : axes, ticks and box in gray", fg = gray(0.7), bty = "7" , sub = R.version.string) ex <- function() { old.par <- par(no.readonly = TRUE) # all par settings which # could be changed. on.exit(par(old.par)) ## ... ## ... do lots of par() settings and plots ## ... invisible() #-- now, par(old.par) will be executed } ex() ## Line types showLty <- function(ltys, xoff = 0, ...) { stopifnot((n <- length(ltys)) >= 1) op <- par(mar = rep(.5,4)); on.exit(par(op)) plot(0:1, 0:1, type = "n", axes = FALSE, ann = FALSE) y <- (n:1)/(n+1) clty <- as.character(ltys) mytext <- function(x, y, txt) text(x, y, txt, adj = c(0, -.3), cex = 0.8, ...) abline(h = y, lty = ltys, ...); mytext(xoff, y, clty) y <- y - 1/(3*(n+1)) abline(h = y, lty = ltys, lwd = 2, ...) mytext(1/8+xoff, y, paste(clty,"lwd = 2")) } showLty(c("solid", "dashed", "dotted", "dotdash", "longdash", "twodash")) par(new = TRUE) # the same: showLty(c("solid", "44", "13", "1343", "73", "2262"), xoff = .2, col = 2) showLty(c("11", "22", "33", "44", "12", "13", "14", "21", "31"))
Documentation reproduced from package graphics, version 3.3, License: Part of R 3.3

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