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Contour Plots

A contour plot is a two-dimensional representation of a three-dimensional surface graph where ranges of Z values are displayed on an XY grid using contour lines. A color fill option may also be employed between each contour line, or equipotential line, with the colors determined by a color map.

In topography, a contour graph can be used to create a topographic map which portrays relief using lines connecting points of equal elevation. These contour lines are sometimes referred to as isolines.


Contour Plot Examples

Origin offers three built-in contour plot templates:

Contour Color Fill Plot
A contour plot that uses a color map for the color fill and fills to the contour lines (Fig. 1)

Contour B/W Lines + Labels Plot
A black and white contour plot that includes contour Lines and contour labels (i.e no color fill) (Fig. 2)

Contour Gray Scale Map
A contour color fill plot that uses a gray color mapping for the color fill and fills to the XY grid (Fig. 3)

You can also create your own customized contour graph template.

Example plots from our Graph Gallery.

[Click on the image to see original graph]

Contour Plot

Figure 1
: Contour Color Fill Plot with Scatter Plot overlay and Color Scale legend.

Contour Graph

  Contour Plots

Figure 2: Black and white Contour plot with contour lines and contour labels



Figure 3: Contour Gray Scale Map with grayscale color fill to the contour lines and log scale Z values

Contour Plot Customizations to Suit Your Needs

To create your own customized contour plot template, Origin includes the ability to modify every aspect of the contour diagram:

Contour Levels

  • set min/max
  • specify level interval or number of levels
  • use log scale for Z data
  • manually edit individual level values including min/max
  • manually add/delete contour levels
  • establish missing value display criteria

Contour Fill Color/Pattern

  • limit mixing to two colors or introduce other colors into the mix
  • specify starting and ending color, pattern, pattern color, and pattern width
  • manually edit individual level fill color, pattern, pattern color, and pattern width settings

Contour Lines

  • show all, hide all or keep current
  • edit line color/style/width for all or individual contour line(s)

Contour Labels

  • show all, hide all or keep current
  • control numeric format
  • include prefix/suffix
  • change font/color/point size
  • enable white out under all labels

Basic Data Plot Properties

The color fill, pattern fill and contour line properties for contour diagrams are the same as those for many of Origin's basic plots (e.g. line plots, area fill plots, column/bar plots). To learn more about these basic data plot properties click on the appropriate link below:

  • Line Properties: style, width, and color (more...*)
  • Fill Properties: color, pattern (more...*)
  • Pattern Properties: border style, width, and color; pattern width and color (details are the same as those for Line Properties)

All of these properties can be updated quickly and easily through Origin's Plot Details dialog, an intuitive tab-based dialog.

* Javascript must be enabled and pop-up windows must be allowed in order to view the details of a specific graph type.


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