ROOT provides powerful graphics capabilities for displaying and interacting with graphical object like plots, histograms, 2D and 3D graphical objects, etc. Here the basic functions and principles are presented, which can be applied to graphs (→ see Graphs) and histograms (→ see Histograms).

The basic whiteboard on which an object is drawn is called in ROOT a canvas (class TCanvas ). A canvas is an area mapped to a window directly under the control of the display manager.

A canvas contains one or more independent graphical areas: the pads (class TPad ). A pad is graphical entity that contains graphical objects. A pad can contain other pads (unlimited pad hierarchy). A pad is a linked list of primitives of any type (graphs, histograms, shapes, tracks, etc.).

Adding an element to a pad is done by the Draw() method of each class.

Painting a pad is done by the Paint() method of each object in the list of primitives.

→ Graphics tutorials

Graphic classes

ROOT provides numerous graphic classes, of which the following are among the most used:

Working with graphics

ROOT offers many possibilities to work with graphics, for example:

Drawing objects

The TObject class has the virtual method Draw() by which objects can be “drawn”. The object is “drawn” on a canvas (TCanvas class) that contain one or more pads (TPad class). When an object is drawn, you can interact with it.

  • Use the Draw() method to draw an object.


A one-dimensional sine function shall be drawn.

Use the TF1 class to create an object that is a one-dimensional function defined between a lower and upper limit.

   TF1 f1("func1","sin(x)",0,10)

The function is displayed in a canvas.

Figure: Canvas (point to the bottom left light blue square or right-click on the image to interact with the object).

Drawing objects with special characters in its name

In general, avoid using objects that containing special character like \, /, # etc. in the objects names. Also object names starting with a number might be not accessible from the ROOT command line. / is the separator for the directory level in a ROOT file therefore an object having a / in its name cannot be accessed from the command line.

Nevertheless, some objects may be named in this way and saved in a ROOT file. The following macro shows how to access such an object in a ROOT file.

#include "Riostream.h"
#include "TFile.h"
#include "TList.h"
#include "TKey.h"

void draw_object(const char *file_name = "myfile.root", const char *obj_name = "name")
// Open the ROOT file.
   TFile *file = TFile::Open(file_name);
   if (!file || file->IsZombie()) {
      std::cout << "Cannot open " << file_name << "! Aborting..." << std::endl;

// Get the list of keys.
   TList *list = (TList *)file->GetListOfKeys();
   if (!list) {
      std::cout << "Cannot get the list of TKeys! Aborting..." << std::endl;

// Try to find the proper key by its object name.
   TKey *key = (TKey *)list->FindObject(obj_name);
   if (!key) {
      std::cout << "Cannot find a TKey named" << obj_name << "! Aborting..." << std::endl;

// Read the object itself.
   TObject *obj = ((TKey *)key)->ReadObj();
   if (!obj) {
      std::cout << "Cannot read the object named " << obj_name << "! Aborting..." << std::endl;

// Draw the object.

Using the context menu for manipulating objects

Right-click on the function to display the context menu.

Figure: Context menu for manipulating objects.

Here you can change many properties of the object like title, name, range, line and fill attributes etc. For example, you can change the range by clicking SetRange.

Figure: SetRange dialog window.

Select a range, for example 5, 25.

Figure: Range 5, 25 for sin(x).

Using the Graphics Editor for objects

You can edit an existing object in a canvas by right-clicking the object or by using the Graphics Editor.

  • Click View and then select Editor.

Figure: Editor for setting attributes interactively.

You can draw and edit basic primitives starting from an empty canvas or on top of a picture. There is a toolbar that you can use to draw objects.

  • Click View and then select Toolbar.

Figure: Toolbar providing more options.

You can create the following graphical objects:

  • Arc of circle
  • Arrow
  • Diamond
  • Ellipse
  • Pad
  • PaveLabel
  • PaveText or PavesText
  • PolyLine
  • Text string

Graphical objects

The following sections introduce some of the graphical objects that ROOT provides. Usually, one defines these graphical objects with their constructor and draws them with their Draw() method.

The following graphical objects are presented:


  • Use the TLine constructor to create a line.
   TLine(Double_t x1,Double_t y1,Double_t x2,Double_t y2)

x1, y1, x2, y2 are the coordinates of the first and the second point.


   root[] l = new TLine(0.2,0.2,0.8,0.3)
   root[] l->Draw()


  • Use the TArrow constructor to create an arrow.
   TArrow(Double_t x1, Double_t y1, Double_t x2, Double_t y2, Float_t arrowsize, Option_t *option)

The arrow is defined between points x1,y1 and x2,y2. option defines the direction of the arrow like >, <, <>, ><, etc.


   TCanvas *c1 = new TCanvas("c1");

   TArrow *ar1 = new TArrow(0.1,0.1,0.1,0.7);

   TArrow *ar2 = new TArrow(0.2,0.1,0.2,0.7,0.05,"|>");

   TArrow *ar3 = new TArrow(0.3,0.1,0.3,0.7,0.05,"<|>");

   TArrow *ar4 = new TArrow(0.46,0.7,0.82,0.42,0.07,"|>");

   TArrow *ar5 = new TArrow(0.4,0.25,0.95,0.25,0.15,"<|>");

Figure: Examples of various arrow formats.


A polyline is a set of joint segments. It is defined by a set of N points in a 2D-space.

  • Use the TPolyLine constructor to create a polyline.
   TPolyLine(Int_t n,Double_t* x,Double_t* y,Option_t* option)

n is the number of points, and x and y are arrays of n elements with the coordinates of the points.


   Double_t x[5] = {.3,.7,.6,.24,.2};
   Double_t y[5] = {.6,.1,.9,.8,.7};
   TPolyLine *pline = new TPolyLine(5,x,y);

Figure: Example for a polyline.


  • Use the TEllipse constructor to create an ellipse.

You can truncate and rotate an ellipse. An ellipse is defined by its center (x1,y1) and two radii r1 and r2. A minimum and maximum angle may be specified (phimin, phimax). The ellipse may be rotated with an angle theta (all in degrees).


   TCanvas *c42 = new TCanvas("c42");

   TEllipse *el1 = new TEllipse(0.25,0.25,.1,.2);

   TEllipse *el2 = new TEllipse(0.25,0.6,.2,.1);

   TEllipse *el3 = new TEllipse(0.75,0.6,.2,.1,45,315);

   TEllipse *el4 = new TEllipse(0.75,0.25,.2,.15,45,315,62);

Figure: Examples for a ellipses.


  • Use the TBox constructor to create a rectangle/box.

A TWbox is a rectangle (TBox ) with a border size and a border mode.
The bottom left coordinates x1, y1 and the top right coordinates x2, y2 define a box.


// A TBox:
   tb = new TBox(0.2,0.2,0.8,0.3)

// A TWbox:
   TWbox *twb = new TWbox(.1,.1,.9,.9,kRed+2,5,1);


  • Use the TMarker constructor to create a marker.
   TMarker(Double_t x,Double_t y,Int_t marker)

The parameters x and y are the marker coordinates and marker is the marker type.

  • Use the TPolyMarker to create an array on N points in a 2D space.

At each point x[i], y[i] a marker is drawn.

  • Use the TAttMarker class to change the attributes color, style and size of a marker.


  • Use the TAttMarker::SetMarkerSize(size) method to set the size of a marker.

Curly lines and arcs

Curly lines and the curly arcs are special kinds of lines that are used to draw Feynman diagrams.

  • Use the TCurlyLine and the TCurlyArc constructors to create curly lines and arcs for Feynman diagrams.
   TCurlyLine(Double_t x1, Double_t y1, Double_t x2, Double_t y2, Double_t wavelength, Double_t amplitude)

   TCurlyArc(Double_t x1, Double_t y1, Double_t rad, Double_t phimin, Double_t phimax, Double_t wavelength, Double_t amplitude)

Both classes directly inherit from TPolyLine .


Refer to the $ROOTSYS/tutorials/graphics/feynman.C tutorial for creating a Feynman diagram.

Figure: Feynman diagram.

Text and Latex

Text that is displayed in a pad is embedded in a box, called pave (TPaveLabel , TPaveText and TPavesText ) . All text displayed in ROOT graphics is an object of the TText class.


   root[] pl = new TPaveLabel(-50,0,50,200,"Some text")
   root[] pl->SetBorderSize(0)
   root[] pl->Draw()

A TPaveLabel can contain only one line of text. A TPaveText can contain several lines of text. A TPavesText is a stack of text panels.


Latex (TLatex ) can be used as text, especially to draw mathematical formulas or equations. The syntax of TLatex is very similar to the Latex in mathematical mode.


   TCanvas *c1 = new TCanvas("c1","test",600,700);
// Write formulas.
   TLatex l;
   l.DrawLatex(0.1,0.9,"1)   C(x) = d #sqrt{#frac{2}{#lambdaD}}\
   l.DrawLatex(0.1,0.7,"2)   C(x) = d #sqrt{#frac{2}{#lambdaD}}\
   l.DrawLatex(0.1,0.5,"3)   R = |A|^{2} = #frac{1}{2}#left(#[]{#frac{1}{2}+\
   l.DrawLatex(0.1,0.3, "4)   F(t) = #sum_{i=-#infty}^{#infty}A(i)cos#[]{#frac{i}{t+i}}");
   l.DrawLatex(0.1,0.1,"5)   {}_{3}^{7}Li");

Figure: Latex in a pad.

Graphical objects attributes and styles

There are the following classes for changing the attributes of graphical objects:

  • TAttFill
    Used for filling an area with color and a style.
  • TAttLine
    Used for setting the color, width and style of a line.
  • TAttMarker
    Used for setting the styles for a marker.
  • TAttText
    Used for setting text attributes like alignment, color, size, font etc.

Creating and modifying a style

When objects are created, their default attributes (taken from TAttFill , TAttLine , TAttMarker , TAttText ) are taken from the current style. The current style is an object of the TStyle class and can be referenced via the global variable gStyle (→ see ROOT classes, data types and global variables).

ROOT provides two styles:

  • Default

  • Plain

Creating the Default style

The Default style is created by:

   auto default = new TStyle("Default","Default Style");

Creating the Plain style

The Plain style is useful if you, for example, are working on a monochrome display.

auto plain  = new TStyle("Plain","Plain Style (no colors/fill areas)");


Setting the current style

  • Use the SetStyle() method, to set the current style.

You can get a pointer to an existing style with:

   auto style = gROOT->GetStyle(style_name);


When an object is created, its attributes are taken from the current style. For example, you may have created an histogram in a previous session and saved it in a ROOT file. Meanwhile, if you have changed the style, the histogram will be drawn with the old attributes. You can force the current style attributes to be set when you read an object from a file by:


Creating additional styles

  • Use the TStyle constructor to create additional styles.
TStyle *st1 = new TStyle("st1","my style");
   st1->cd();  This becomes now the current style.

Getting the attributes of the current style

You can force objects (in a canvas or pad) to get the attributes of the current style.



Axis are automatically built in by various high level objects such as histograms or graphs. TAxis manages the axis and is referenced by TH1 and TGraph . To make a graphical representation of an histogram axis, TAxis references the TGaxis class.

  • Use the GetXaxis(), GetYaxis() or GetZaxis() methods to get the axis for an histogram or graph.


   TAxis *axis = histo->GetXaxis()

Setting the axis title

  • Use the SetTitle() method to set the tile of an axis.


   axis->SetTitle("My axis title");

If the axis is embedded into a histogram or a graph, you first have to extract the axis object.


   histo->GetXaxis()->SetTitle("My axis title")

Setting axis options and characteristics

The available axis options are listed in the following example.


   TAxis *axis = histo->GetXaxis();
   axis->SetAxisColor(Color_t color = 1);
   axis->SetLabelColor(Color_t color = 1);
   axis->SetLabelFont(Style_t font = 62);
   axis->SetLabelOffset(Float_t offset = 0.005);
   axis->SetLabelSize(Float_t size = 0.04);
   axis->SetNdivisions(Int_t n = 510, Bool_t optim = kTRUE);
   axis->SetNoExponent(Bool_t noExponent = kTRUE);
   axis->SetTickLength(Float_t length = 0.03);
   axis->SetTitleOffset(Float_t offset = 1);
   axis->SetTitleSize(Float_t size = 0.02)

Setting the number of divisions

  • Use the TAxis::SetNdivisions(ndiv,optim) method to set the number of divisions for an axis.

ndiv and optim are defined as follows:

  • ndiv = N1 + 100*N2 + 10000*N3, with: N1 = number of first division, N2 = number of secondary divisions, N3 = number of tertiary divisions.
  • optim = kTRUE (default): The divisions’ number will be optimized around the specified value.
  • optim = kFALSE, or n < 0: The axis will be forced to use exactly n divisions.


ndiv = 0: no tick marks.
ndiv = 2: 2 divisions, one tick mark in the middle of the axis.
ndiv = 510: 10 primary divisions, 5 secondary divisions.
ndiv = -10: exactly 10 primary divisions.

Zooming the axis

The SetRange() method parameters are bin numbers. For example if a histogram plots the values from 0 to 500 and has 100 bins, SetRange(0,10) will cover the values 0 to 50.

The SetRangeUser() method parameters are user coordinates. If the start or end is in the middle of a bin the resulting range is approximation. It finds the low edge bin for the start and the high edge bin for the high.

Setting time units for axis

  • Use the SetTimeDisplay() method to set an axis as a time axis.


For a histogram histo, the x-axis is set as time axis.


For a time axis, you can set the

Time formats

The time format defines the format of the labels along the time axis. It can be changed using the TAxis::SetTimeFormat() method. The time format used if from the C function strftime(). It is a string containing the following formatting characters,
for date:
%a: abbreviated weekday name
%b: abbreviated month name
%d: day of the month (01-31)
%m: month (01-12)
%y: year without century
%Y: year with century

for time:
%H: hour (24-hour clock)
%I: hour (12-hour clock)
%p: local equivalent of AM or PM
%M: minute (00-59)
%S: seconds (00-61)
%%: %

The other characters are output as is. For example to have a format like dd/mm/yyyy, use:

~~~ .cpp h->GetXaxis()->SetTimeFormat("%d/%m/%Y"); ~~~

Time offset

The time is a time in seconds in the UNIX standard UTC format (this is an universal time, not the local time), defining the starting date of an histogram axis. This date should be greater than 01/01/95 and is given in seconds.
There are the three ways to define the time offset:

  • Setting the global default time offset.


   TDatime da(2003,02,28,12,00,00);

Notice the usage of TDateTime to translate an explicit date into the time in seconds required by SetTimeFormat.

If no time offset is defined for a particular axis, the default time offset will be used.

  • Setting a time offset to a particular axis.


   TDatime dh(2001,09,23,15,00,00);
  • Using SetTimeFormat together with the time format

The time offset can be specified using the control character %F after the normal time format. %F is followed by the date in the format: yyyy-mm-dd hh:mm:ss.


   histo->GetXaxis()->SetTimeFormat("%d\/%m\/%y%F2000-02-28 13:00:01");

Notice that this date format is the same used by the TDateString function AsSQLString. If needed, this function can be used to translate a time in seconds into a character string which can be appended after %F. If the time format is not specified (before %F), the automatic one will be used.

If a time axis has no specified time offset, the global time offset will be stored in the axis data structure.


   TDatime da(2003,02,28,12,00,00);

   auto ct = new TCanvas("ct","Time on axis",0,0,600,600);

   auto ht1 = new TH1F("ht1","ht1",30000,0.,200000.);
   auto ht2 = new TH1F("ht2","ht2",30000,0.,200000.);
   auto ht3 = new TH1F("ht3","ht3",30000,0.,200000.);
   for (Int_t i=1;i<30000;i++) {
      auto noise = gRandom->Gaus(0,120);

   ht1->GetXaxis()->SetTimeFormat("%d/%m/%y%F2000-02-28 13:00:01");


   TDatime dh(2019,12,4,15,00,00);

Figure: Time axis.

Drawing an axis independently of a graph/histogram

  • Use the TGaxis class to draw an axis independently of a graph or a histogram.

This may be useful if you want to draw a supplementary axis for a graph.


  • Use the TLegend class to add a legend to graph.

A TLegend is a panel with several entries (TLegendEntry class).

A legend is defined with default coordinates, border size and option. The legend coordinates (NDC) in the current pad are x1, y1, x2, y2. The default text attributes for the legend are:

  • Alignment = 12 left adjusted and vertically centered
  • Angle = 0 (degrees)
  • Color = 1 (black)
  • Size = calculate when number of entries is known
  • Font = helvetica-medium-r-normal scalable font = 42, and bold = 62 for title

The title is a regular entry and supports TLatex . The default is no title (header = 0).

  • Use the AddEntry() method to a add a new entry to a legend.

The parameters are:

  • *objis a pointer to an object having a marker, a line, or a fill attributes (a histogram, or a graph).
  • label is the label to be associated to the object.
  • option:
    • L”: Draws a line associated with line attributes of obj, if obj inherits from TAttLine .
    • P”: Draw a poly-marker associated with marker attributes of obj, if obj inherits TAttMarker .
    • F”: Draws a box with fill associated with fill attributes of obj, if obj inherits TAttFill .


The following legend contains a histogram, a function and a graph. The histogram is put in the legend using its reference pointer whereas the graph and the function are added using their names. Because TGraph constructors do not have the TGraph name as parameter, the graph name should be specified using the SetName() method.

   auto c1 = new TCanvas("c1","c1",600,500);

// Histogram:
   auto h1 = new TH1F("h1","TLegend Example",200,-10,10);

// Function:
   auto f1=new TF1("f1","1000*TMath::Abs(sin(x)/x)",-10,10);
   const Int_t n = 20;
   Double_t x[n], y[n], ex[n], ey[n];
   for (Int_t i=0;i<n;i++) {
      x[i]  = i*0.1;
      y[i]  = 1000*sin(x[i]+0.2);
      x[i]  = 17.8*x[i]-8.9;
      ex[i] = 1.0;
      ey[i] = 10.*i;

// Graph:
   auto gr = new TGraphErrors(n,x,y,ex,ey);

// Creating a legend.
   auto legend = new TLegend(0.1,0.7,0.48,0.9);
   legend->SetHeader("The Legend Title","C"); // option "C" allows to center the header
   legend->AddEntry(h1,"Histogram filled with random numbers","f");
   legend->AddEntry("f1","Function abs(#frac{sin(x)}{x})","l");
   legend->AddEntry("gr","Graph with error bars","lep");

Figure: Legend containing a histogram, a function and a graph.

Canvas and pad

A canvas (TCanvas ) is a graphical entity that contains graphical objects that are called pads (TPad ). A pad is a graphical container that contains other graphical objects like histograms and arrows. It also can contain other pads, called sub-pads. When an object is drawn, it is always in the so-called active pad.

Accessing the active pad

  • Use the global variable gPad to access the active pad.

For more information on global variables, → see ROOT classes, data types and global variables.


If you want to change the fill color of the active pad to blue, but you do not know the name of the active pad, you can use gPad.


Accessing an object in an active pad


   root[] obj = gPad->GetPrimitive("myobjectname")
   (class TObject*)0x1063cba8

A pointer to the object myobjectname is returned and put into the obj variable.
The type of the returned pointer is a TObject* that has a name.

Hiding an object in a pad

You can hide an object in a pad by removing it from the list of objects owned by that pad.

  • Use the TPad::GetListOfPrimitives() method to list is accessible objects of a pad.

  • Use the Remove() method to remove the object from the list.


First, a pointer to the object is needed.
Second, a point to the list of objects owned by the pad is needed.
Then you can remove the object from the list, i.e. pad.
The object disappears as soon as the pas is updated.

   root[1] obj = gPad->GetPrimitive("myobjectname")
   root[2] li = gPad->GetListOfPrimitives()
   root[3] li->Remove(obj)

Updating a pad

For performance reasons, a pad is not updated with every change. Instead, the pad has a “bit-modified” that triggers a redraw.
The “bit-modified” is automatically set by:

  • touching the pad with the mouse, for example by resizing it with the mouse,

  • finishing the execution of a script,

  • adding or modifying primitives, for example the name and title of an object.

You can set the “bit-modified” by using the Modified() method.


// The pad has changed.
   root[] pad1->Modified()

// Recursively updating all modified pads:
   root[] c1->Update()

A subsequent call to TCanvas::Update() scans the list of sub-pads and repaints the pads.

Dividing a pad into sub-pads

To draw multiple objects on a canvas (TCanvas ), you can divide pad (TPad ) into sub-pads.
There are two ways to divide a pad into sub-pads:

Creating a single sub-pad

To build sub-pads in a pad, you must indicate the size and the position of the sub-pads.


A sub-pad is to be built into the active pad (pointed by gPad). First, the sub-pad is build the TPad constructor.

   root[] spad1 = new TPad("spad1","The first subpad",.1,.1,.5,.5)

The NDC (normalized coordinate system) coordinates are specified for the lower left point (0.1, 0.1) and for the upper right point (0.5, 0.5).
Then the sub-pad is drawn.

   root[] spad1->Draw()

For building more sub-pads, repeat this procedure as many times as necessary.

Dividing a pad into sub-pads

Coordinate systems of a pad

For a TPad the following coordinate systems are available:

You can convert from one system of coordinates to another.

User coordinate system

Most methods of TPad use the user coordinate system, and all graphic primitives have their parameters defined in terms of user coordinates. By default, when an empty pad is drawn, the user coordinates are set to a range from 0 to 1 starting at the lower left corner.


Both coordinates go from -100 to 100, with the center of the pad at (0,0).

   TCanvas MyCanvas ("MyCanvas")

Normalized coordinate system (NDC)

Normalized coordinates are independent of the window size and of the user system. The coordinates range from 0 to 1 and (0, 0) correspond to the bottom-left corner of the pad.

Pixel coordinate system

The pixel coordinate system is used by functions such as DistanceToPrimitive() and ExecuteEvent(). Its primary use is for cursor position, which is always given in pixel coordinates. If (px,py) is the cursor position, px=0 and py=0 corresponds to the top-left corner of the pad, which is the standard convention in windowing systems.

Converting between coordinate systems

TPad provides some methods to convert from one system of coordinates to another.

In the following table, a point is defined by:

  • (px,py) in pixel coordinates,
  • (ux,uy) in user coordinates,
  • (ndcx,ndcy) in normalized coordinates,
  • (apx, apy) in absolute pixel coordinates.
Conversion Methods (from TPad) Returns
NDC to pixel UtoPixel(ndcx) Int_t
  VtoPixel(ndcy) Int_t
Pixel to user PixeltoX(px) Double_t
  PixeltoY(py) Double_t
  PixeltoXY(px,py,&ux,&uy) Double_t ux,uy
User to pixel XtoPixel(ux) Int_t
  YtoPixel(uy) Int_t
  XYtoPixel(ux,uy,&px,&py) Int_t px,py
User to absolute pixel XtoAbsPixel(ux) Int_t
  YtoAbsPixel(uy) Int_t
  XYtoAbsPixel(ux,uy,&apx,&apy) Int_t apx,apy
Absolute pixel to user AbsPixeltoX(apx) Double_t
  AbsPixeltoY(apy) Double_t
  AbsPixeltoXY(apx,apy,&ux,&uy) Double_t ux,uy


All the pixel conversion functions along the Y axis consider that py=0 is at the top of the pad except PixeltoY(), which assumes that the position py=0 is at the bottom of the pad. To make PixeltoY() converting the same way as the other conversion functions, it should be used the following way (p is a pointer to a TPad ):

p->PixeltoY(py - p->GetWh());

Copying a canvas

You can also use the TObject:DrawClone() method, to draw a clone of this object in the current selected pad.