graphics (version 3.6.2)

persp: Perspective Plots


This function draws perspective plots of a surface over the x--y plane. persp is a generic function.


persp(x, …)

# S3 method for default persp(x = seq(0, 1, length.out = nrow(z)), y = seq(0, 1, length.out = ncol(z)), z, xlim = range(x), ylim = range(y), zlim = range(z, na.rm = TRUE), xlab = NULL, ylab = NULL, zlab = NULL, main = NULL, sub = NULL, theta = 0, phi = 15, r = sqrt(3), d = 1, scale = TRUE, expand = 1, col = "white", border = NULL, ltheta = -135, lphi = 0, shade = NA, box = TRUE, axes = TRUE, nticks = 5, ticktype = "simple", …)


x, y

locations of grid lines at which the values in z are measured. These must be in ascending order. By default, equally spaced values from 0 to 1 are used. If x is a list, its components x$x and x$y are used for x and y, respectively.


a matrix containing the values to be plotted (NAs are allowed). Note that x can be used instead of z for convenience.

xlim, ylim, zlim

x-, y- and z-limits. These should be chosen to cover the range of values of the surface: see ‘Details’.

xlab, ylab, zlab

titles for the axes. N.B. These must be character strings; expressions are not accepted. Numbers will be coerced to character strings.

main, sub

main and sub title, as for title.

theta, phi

angles defining the viewing direction. theta gives the azimuthal direction and phi the colatitude.


the distance of the eyepoint from the centre of the plotting box.


a value which can be used to vary the strength of the perspective transformation. Values of d greater than 1 will lessen the perspective effect and values less and 1 will exaggerate it.


before viewing the x, y and z coordinates of the points defining the surface are transformed to the interval [0,1]. If scale is TRUE the x, y and z coordinates are transformed separately. If scale is FALSE the coordinates are scaled so that aspect ratios are retained. This is useful for rendering things like DEM information.


a expansion factor applied to the z coordinates. Often used with 0 < expand < 1 to shrink the plotting box in the z direction.


the color(s) of the surface facets. Transparent colours are ignored. This is recycled to the \((nx-1)(ny-1)\) facets.


the color of the line drawn around the surface facets. The default, NULL, corresponds to par("fg"). A value of NA will disable the drawing of borders: this is sometimes useful when the surface is shaded.

ltheta, lphi

if finite values are specified for ltheta and lphi, the surface is shaded as though it was being illuminated from the direction specified by azimuth ltheta and colatitude lphi.


the shade at a surface facet is computed as ((1+d)/2)^shade, where d is the dot product of a unit vector normal to the facet and a unit vector in the direction of a light source. Values of shade close to one yield shading similar to a point light source model and values close to zero produce no shading. Values in the range 0.5 to 0.75 provide an approximation to daylight illumination.


should the bounding box for the surface be displayed. The default is TRUE.


should ticks and labels be added to the box. The default is TRUE. If box is FALSE then no ticks or labels are drawn.


character: "simple" draws just an arrow parallel to the axis to indicate direction of increase; "detailed" draws normal ticks as per 2D plots.


the (approximate) number of tick marks to draw on the axes. Has no effect if ticktype is "simple".

additional graphical parameters (see par).


persp() returns the viewing transformation matrix, say VT, a \(4 \times 4\) matrix suitable for projecting 3D coordinates \((x,y,z)\) into the 2D plane using homogeneous 4D coordinates \((x,y,z,t)\). It can be used to superimpose additional graphical elements on the 3D plot, by lines() or points(), using the function trans3d().


The plots are produced by first transforming the (x,y,z) coordinates to the interval [0,1] using the limits supplied or computed from the range of the data. The surface is then viewed by looking at the origin from a direction defined by theta and phi. If theta and phi are both zero the viewing direction is directly down the negative y axis. Changing theta will vary the azimuth and changing phi the colatitude.

There is a hook called "persp" (see setHook) called after the plot is completed, which is used in the testing code to annotate the plot page. The hook function(s) are called with no argument.

Notice that persp interprets the z matrix as a table of f(x[i], y[j]) values, so that the x axis corresponds to row number and the y axis to column number, with column 1 at the bottom, so that with the standard rotation angles, the top left corner of the matrix is displayed at the left hand side, closest to the user.

The sizes and fonts of the axis labels and the annotations for ticktype = "detailed" are controlled by graphics parameters "cex.lab"/"font.lab" and "cex.axis"/"font.axis" respectively.

The bounding box is drawn with edges of faces facing away from the viewer (and hence at the back of the box) with solid lines and other edges dashed and on top of the surface. This (and the plotting of the axes) assumes that the axis limits are chosen so that the surface is within the box, and the function will warn if this is not the case.


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

See Also

contour and image; trans3d.

Rotatable 3D plots can be produced by package rgl: other ways to produce static perspective plots are available in packages lattice and scatterplot3d.


Run this code
require(grDevices) # for trans3d
## More examples in  demo(persp) !!
##                   -----------

# (1) The Obligatory Mathematical surface.
#     Rotated sinc function.

x <- seq(-10, 10, length= 30)
y <- x
f <- function(x, y) { r <- sqrt(x^2+y^2); 10 * sin(r)/r }
z <- outer(x, y, f)
z[] <- 1
op <- par(bg = "white")
persp(x, y, z, theta = 30, phi = 30, expand = 0.5, col = "lightblue")
persp(x, y, z, theta = 30, phi = 30, expand = 0.5, col = "lightblue",
      ltheta = 120, shade = 0.75, ticktype = "detailed",
      xlab = "X", ylab = "Y", zlab = "Sinc( r )"
) -> res
round(res, 3)

# (2) Add to existing persp plot - using trans3d() :

xE <- c(-10,10); xy <- expand.grid(xE, xE)
points(trans3d(xy[,1], xy[,2], 6, pmat = res), col = 2, pch = 16)
lines (trans3d(x, y = 10, z = 6 + sin(x), pmat = res), col = 3)

phi <- seq(0, 2*pi, len = 201)
r1 <- 7.725 # radius of 2nd maximum
xr <- r1 * cos(phi)
yr <- r1 * sin(phi)
lines(trans3d(xr,yr, f(xr,yr), res), col = "pink", lwd = 2)
## (no hidden lines)

# (3) Visualizing a simple DEM model

z <- 2 * volcano        # Exaggerate the relief
x <- 10 * (1:nrow(z))   # 10 meter spacing (S to N)
y <- 10 * (1:ncol(z))   # 10 meter spacing (E to W)
## Don't draw the grid lines :  border = NA
par(bg = "slategray")
persp(x, y, z, theta = 135, phi = 30, col = "green3", scale = FALSE,
      ltheta = -120, shade = 0.75, border = NA, box = FALSE)

# (4) Surface colours corresponding to z-values

par(bg = "white")
x <- seq(-1.95, 1.95, length = 30)
y <- seq(-1.95, 1.95, length = 35)
z <- outer(x, y, function(a, b) a*b^2)
nrz <- nrow(z)
ncz <- ncol(z)
# Create a function interpolating colors in the range of specified colors
jet.colors <- colorRampPalette( c("blue", "green") )
# Generate the desired number of colors from this palette
nbcol <- 100
color <- jet.colors(nbcol)
# Compute the z-value at the facet centres
zfacet <- z[-1, -1] + z[-1, -ncz] + z[-nrz, -1] + z[-nrz, -ncz]
# Recode facet z-values into color indices
facetcol <- cut(zfacet, nbcol)
persp(x, y, z, col = color[facetcol], phi = 30, theta = -30)

# }

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