Recipes Syntax

The syntax in the @recipe macro is best explained using an example. Suppose, we have a custom type storing the results of a simulation x and y and a measure ε for the maximum error in y.

struct Result

If we want to plot the x and y values of such a result with an error band given by ε, we could run something like

res = Result(1:10, cumsum(rand(10)), cumsum(rand(10)) / 5)

using Plots

# plot the error band as invisible line with fillrange
    res.y .+ res.ε,
    xlabel = "x",
    ylabel = "y",
    fill = (res.y .- res.ε, :lightgray, 0.5),
    linecolor = nothing,
    primary = false, # no legend entry

# add the data to the plots
plot!(res.x, res.y, marker = :diamond)

Instead of typing this plot command over and over for different results we can define a user recipe to tell Plots what to do with input of the type Result. Here is an example for such a user recipe with the additional feature to highlight datapoints with a maximal error above a certain threshold ε_max.

@recipe function f(r::Result; ε_max = 0.5)
    # set a default value for an attribute with `-->`
    xlabel --> "x"
    yguide --> "y"
    markershape --> :diamond
    # add a series for an error band
    @series begin
        # force an argument with `:=`
        seriestype := :path
        # ignore series in legend and color cycling
        primary := false
        linecolor := nothing
        fillcolor := :lightgray
        fillalpha := 0.5
        fillrange := r.y .- r.ε
        # ensure no markers are shown for the error band
        markershape := :none
        # return series data
        r.x, r.y .+ r.ε
    # get the seriescolor passed by the user
    c = get(plotattributes, :seriescolor, :auto)
    # highlight big errors, otherwise use the user-defined color
    markercolor := ifelse.(r.ε .> ε_max, :red, c)
    # return data
    r.x, r.y

Let's walk through this recipe step by step. First, the function signature in the recipe definition determines the recipe type, in this case a user recipe. The function name f in is irrelevant and can be replaced by any other function name. @recipe does not use it. In the recipe body we can set default values for Plots attributes.

attr --> val

This will set attr to val unless it is specified otherwise by the user in the plot command.

plot(args...; kw..., attr = otherval)

Similarly we can force an attribute value with :=.

attr := val

This overwrites whatever the user passed to plot for attr and sets it to val.


It is strongly recommended to avoid using attribute aliases in recipes as this might lead to unexpected behavior in some cases. In the recipe above xlabel is used as aliases for xguide. When the recipe is used Plots will show a warning and hint to the default attribute name. They can also be found in the attribute tables under

We use the @series macro to add a new series for the error band to the plot. Within an @series block we can use the same syntax as above to force or set default values for attributes.

In @recipe we have access to plotattributes. This is an AbstractDict storing the attributes that have been already processed at the current stage in the Plots pipeline. For user recipes, which are called early in the pipeline, this mostly contains the keyword arguments provided by the user in the plot command. In our example we want to highlight data points with an error above a certain threshold by changing the marker color. For all other data points we set the marker color to whatever is the default or has been provided as keyword argument. We can do this by getting the seriescolor from plotattributes and defaulting to auto if it has not been specified by the user.

Finally, in both, @recipes and @series blocks we return the data we wish to pass on to Plots (or the next recipe).


With RecipesBase 1.0 the return statement is allowed in @recipe and @series.

With the recipe above we can now plot Results with just



scatter(res, ε_max = 0.7, color = :green, marker = :star)