Get next plot color

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David C
David C on 11 Jul 2011
When using the function plot with hold set to 'all', each call to plot uses the successive entry in the ColorOrder property of the current axes. Is there a way to find out what is the color the next call to plot will use, if it is not known how many calls to plot have already been executed?
In other words, here is an example to clarify my question: plot(x,bob) hold all plot(x,garry) ... (unknown number of calls to plot)
What will be the color of the next plot?
Thanks, David
David C
David C on 13 Jul 2011
Thank you for the input everyone.

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Accepted Answer

Daniel Shub
Daniel Shub on 11 Jul 2011
I think the number of children should equal the number of calls to plot. You need to use mod to loop through the colors (i.e if the number of plots is greater than the number of colors).
colorOrder = get(gca, 'ColorOrder');
plot(1:10, 'Color', colorOrder(mod(length(get(gca, 'Children')), size(colorOrder, 1))+1, :))
David C
David C on 13 Jul 2011
Your code works well with plot(), which is what I'm using. I like how your code handles the corner cases with mod perfectly.

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More Answers (5)

Jan on 11 Jul 2011
What about trying it:
lineH = plot(1,1);
color = get(lineH, 'Color');
[EDITED]: Walter's comment pointed me to the fact, that the intermediate creation of a PLOT line changes the next color. This is not working
Alexandra Gallyas Sanhueza
I was actually searching how to advance to the next color and this works :)

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Teja Muppirala
Teja Muppirala on 13 Jul 2011
This seems to work ok:
hold all;
h = plot(nan,nan);
nextcolor = get(h,'color')
h = plot(nan(2,size(get(gca,'colororder'),1)-1)); %Loop back
plot(rand(1,10)) %<-- This line's color is "nextcolor"
Jan on 13 Jul 2011
If the LineStyleOrder is not scalar, it should be considered also.

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John Barber
John Barber on 14 Jul 2011
The next color to be used by a call to plot is stored as an index into the list of colors in the axes' ColorOrder property. You can access this index using:
NextColor = getappdata(hAx,'PlotColorIndex')
where hAx is the handle of the axes of interest. This is an undocumented feature, so it may not work in all MATLAB versions (I'm using R2010a / 7.10)

Jim Hokanson
Jim Hokanson on 9 Jan 2017
Edited: Jim Hokanson on 9 Jan 2017
In newer versions of Matlab the state is stored in the axes as 'ColorOrderIndex'. In 2016b, this wraps, and you can get values from 1 to (n_colors+1) which after (n_colors+1) goes back to 2 (you only see 1 at the start of a plot, at least in this version).
So the next color is:
colors = get(gca,'ColorOrder');
index = get(gca,'ColorOrderIndex');
n_colors = size(colors,1);
if index > n_colors
index = 1;
next_color = colors(index,:);
  1 Comment
J. Alex Lee
J. Alex Lee on 10 Apr 2020
Update in 2020 (not sure about previous versions), but it is now an exposed property in the axes:
ax = gca;
Works for uiaxes() as well

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Mauro on 18 Aug 2014
to get the colour from the 1th to the 20th lineplot, type
cm = lines(20);
after the 7th line it starts again with blue [0 0 1]
ist the same as
cm = lines(10)
hold on
for k = 1:10


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