Add Points to a Plot

points is a generic function to draw a sequence of points at the specified coordinates. The specified character(s) are plotted, centered at the coordinates.

points(x, …)

# S3 method for default points(x, y = NULL, type = "p", …)

x, y

coordinate vectors of points to plot.


character indicating the type of plotting; actually any of the types as in plot.default.

Further graphical parameters may also be supplied as arguments. See ‘Details’.


The coordinates can be passed in a plotting structure (a list with x and y components), a two-column matrix, a time series, …. See xy.coords. If supplied separately, they must be of the same length.

Graphical parameters commonly used are


plotting ‘character’, i.e., symbol to use. This can either be a single character or an integer code for one of a set of graphics symbols. The full set of S symbols is available with pch = 0:18, see the examples below. (NB: R uses circles instead of the octagons used in S.)

Value pch = "." (equivalently pch = 46) is handled specially. It is a rectangle of side 0.01 inch (scaled by cex). In addition, if cex = 1 (the default), each side is at least one pixel (1/72 inch on the pdf, postscript and xfig devices).

For other text symbols, cex = 1 corresponds to the default fontsize of the device, often specified by an argument pointsize. For pch in 0:25 the default size is about 75% of the character height (see par("cin")).


color code or name, see par.


background (fill) color for the open plot symbols given by pch = 21:25.


character (or symbol) expansion: a numerical vector. This works as a multiple of par("cex").


line width for drawing symbols see par.

Others less commonly used are lty and lwd for types such as "b" and "l".

The graphical parameters pch, col, bg, cex and lwd can be vectors (which will be recycled as needed) giving a value for each point plotted. If lines are to be plotted (e.g., for type = "b") the first element of lwd is used.

Points whose x, y, pch, col or cex value is NA are omitted from the plot.


A single-byte encoding may include the characters in pch = 128:255, and if it does, a font may not include all (or even any) of them.

Not all negative numbers are valid as Unicode code points, and no check is done. A display device is likely to use a rectangle for (or omit) Unicode code points which are invalid or for which it does not have a glyph in the font used.

What happens for very small or zero values of cex is device-dependent: symbols or characters may become invisible or they may be plotted at a fixed minimum size. Circles of zero radius will not be plotted.

'pch' values

Values of pch are stored internally as integers. The interpretation is

  • NA_integer_: no symbol.

  • 0:18: S-compatible vector symbols.

  • 19:25: further R vector symbols.

  • 26:31: unused (and ignored).

  • 32:127: ASCII characters.

  • 128:255 native characters only in a single-byte locale and for the symbol font. (128:159 are only used on Windows.)

  • -32 … Unicode code point (where supported).

Note that unlike S (which uses octagons), symbols 1, 10, 13 and 16 use circles. The filled shapes 15:18 do not include a border.

Illustration of pch = 0:25

The following R plotting symbols are can be obtained with pch = 19:25: those with 21:25 can be colored and filled with different colors: col gives the border color and bg the background color (which is "grey" in the figure)

  • pch = 19: solid circle,

  • pch = 20: bullet (smaller solid circle, 2/3 the size of 19),

  • pch = 21: filled circle,

  • pch = 22: filled square,

  • pch = 23: filled diamond,

  • pch = 24: filled triangle point-up,

  • pch = 25: filled triangle point down.

Note that all of these both fill the shape and draw a border. Some care in interpretation is needed when semi-transparent colours are used for both fill and border (and the result might be device-specific and even viewer-specific for pdf).

The difference between pch = 16 and pch = 19 is that the latter uses a border and so is perceptibly larger when lwd is large relative to cex.

Values pch = 26:31 are currently unused and pch = 32:127 give the ASCII characters. In a single-byte locale pch = 128:255 give the corresponding character (if any) in the locale's character set. Where supported by the OS, negative values specify a Unicode code point, so e.g.-0x2642L is a ‘male sign’ and -0x20ACL is the Euro.

A character string consisting of a single character is converted to an integer: 32:127 for ASCII characters, and usually to the Unicode code point otherwise. (In non-Latin-1 single-byte locales, 128:255 will be used for 8-bit characters.)

If pch supplied is a logical, integer or character NA or an empty character string the point is omitted from the plot.

If pch is NULL or otherwise of length 0, par("pch") is used.

If the symbol font (par(font = 5)) is used, numerical values should be used for pch: the range is c(32:126, 160:254) in all locales (but 240 is not defined (used for ‘apple’ on macOS) and 160, Euro, may not be present).


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

See Also

points.formula for the formula method; plot, lines, and the underlying workhorse function plot.xy.

  • points
  • points.default
  • pch
library(graphics) require(stats) # for rnorm plot(-4:4, -4:4, type = "n") # setting up coord. system points(rnorm(200), rnorm(200), col = "red") points(rnorm(100)/2, rnorm(100)/2, col = "blue", cex = 1.5) op <- par(bg = "light blue") x <- seq(0, 2*pi, len = 51) ## something "between type='b' and type='o'": plot(x, sin(x), type = "o", pch = 21, bg = par("bg"), col = "blue", cex = .6, main = 'plot(..., type="o", pch=21, bg=par("bg"))') par(op) ## The figure was produced by calls like png("pch.png", height = 0.7, width = 7, res = 100, units = "in") par(mar = rep(0,4)) plot(c(-1, 26), 0:1, type = "n", axes = FALSE) text(0:25, 0.6, 0:25, cex = 0.5) points(0:25, rep(0.3, 26), pch = 0:25, bg = "grey") ##-------- Showing all the extra & some char graphics symbols --------- pchShow <- function(extras = c("*",".", "o","O","0","+","-","|","%","#"), cex = 3, ## good for both .Device=="postscript" and "x11" col = "red3", bg = "gold", coltext = "brown", cextext = 1.2, main = paste("plot symbols : points (... pch = *, cex =", cex,")")) { nex <- length(extras) np <- 26 + nex ipch <- 0:(np-1) k <- floor(sqrt(np)) dd <- c(-1,1)/2 rx <- dd + range(ix <- ipch %/% k) ry <- dd + range(iy <- 3 + (k-1)- ipch %% k) pch <- as.list(ipch) # list with integers & strings if(nex > 0) pch[26+ 1:nex] <- as.list(extras) plot(rx, ry, type = "n", axes = FALSE, xlab = "", ylab = "", main = main) abline(v = ix, h = iy, col = "lightgray", lty = "dotted") for(i in 1:np) { pc <- pch[[i]] ## 'col' symbols with a 'bg'-colored interior (where available) : points(ix[i], iy[i], pch = pc, col = col, bg = bg, cex = cex) if(cextext > 0) text(ix[i] - 0.3, iy[i], pc, col = coltext, cex = cextext) } } pchShow() pchShow(c("o","O","0"), cex = 2.5) pchShow(NULL, cex = 4, cextext = 0, main = NULL) ## ------------ test code for various pch specifications ------------- # Try this in various font families (including Hershey) # and locales. Use sign = -1 asserts we want Latin-1. # Standard cases in a MBCS locale will not plot the top half. TestChars <- function(sign = 1, font = 1, ...) { MB <- l10n_info()$MBCS r <- if(font == 5) { sign <- 1; c(32:126, 160:254) } else if(MB) 32:126 else 32:255 if (sign == -1) r <- c(32:126, 160:255) par(pty = "s") plot(c(-1,16), c(-1,16), type = "n", xlab = "", ylab = "", xaxs = "i", yaxs = "i", main = sprintf("sign = %d, font = %d", sign, font)) grid(17, 17, lty = 1) ; mtext(paste("MBCS:", MB)) for(i in r) try(points(i%%16, i%/%16, pch = sign*i, font = font,...)) } TestChars() try(TestChars(sign = -1)) TestChars(font = 5) # Euro might be at 160 (0+10*16). # macOS has apple at 240 (0+15*16). try(TestChars(-1, font = 2)) # bold
Documentation reproduced from package graphics, version 3.4.0, License: Part of R 3.4.0

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