MATLAB Function Reference    

Create surface object



surface is the low-level function for creating surface graphics objects. surfaces are plots of matrix data created using the row and column indices of each element as the x- and y-coordinates and the value of each element as the z-coordinate.

surface(Z) plots the surface specified by the matrix Z. Here, Z is a single-valued function, defined over a geometrically rectangular grid.

surface(Z,C) plots the surface specified by Z and colors it according to the data in C (see "Examples").

surface(X,Y,Z) uses C = Z, so color is proportional to surface height above the x-y plane.

surface(X,Y,Z,C) plots the parametric surface specified by X, Y and Z, with color specified by C.

surface(x,y,Z), surface(x,y,Z,C) replaces the first two matrix arguments with vectors and must have length(x) = n and length(y) = m where [m,n] = size(Z). In this case, the vertices of the surface facets are the triples (x(j),y(i),Z(i,j)). Note that x corresponds to the columns of Z and y corresponds to the rows of Z. For a complete discussion of parametric surfaces, see the surf function.

surface(...'PropertyName',PropertyValue,...) follows the X, Y, Z, and C arguments with property name/property value pairs to specify additional surface properties. These properties are described in the "Surface Properties" section.

h = surface(...) returns a handle to the created surface object.


Unlike high-level area creation functions, such as surf or mesh, surface does not respect the settings of the figure and axes NextPlot properties. It simply adds the surface object to the current axes.

If you do not specify separate color data (C), MATLAB uses the matrix (Z) to determine the coloring of the surface. In this case, color is proportional to values of Z. You can specify a separate matrix to color the surface independently of the data defining the area of the surface.

You can specify properties as property name/property value pairs, structure arrays, and cell arrays (see set and get for examples of how to specify these data types).

surface provides convenience forms that allow you to omit the property name for the XData, YData, ZData, and CData properties. For example,

is equivalent to:

When you specify only a single matrix input argument,

MATLAB assigns the data properties as if you specified,

The axis, caxis, colormap, hold, shading, and view commands set graphics properties that affect surfaces. You can also set and query surface property values after creating them using the set and get commands.


This example creates a surface using the peaks M-file to generate the data, and colors it using the clown image. The ZData is a 49-by-49 element matrix, while the CData is a 200-by-320 matrix. You must set the surface's FaceColor to texturemap to use ZData and CData of different dimensions.

Note the use of the surface(Z,C) convenience form combined with property name/property value pairs.

Since the clown data (X) is typically viewed with the image command, which MATLAB normally displays with 'ij' axis numbering and direct CDataMapping, this example reverses the data in the vertical direction using flipud and sets the CDataMapping property to direct.

See Also

ColorSpec, mesh, patch, pcolor, surf

Properties for surface graphics objects

Creating Surfaces and Meshes and Object Creation Functions for related functions

Object Hierarchy

Setting Default Properties

You can set default surface properties on the axes, figure, and root levels.

Where Property is the name of the surface property whose default value you want to set and PropertyValue is the value you are specifying. Use set and get to access the surface properties.

Property List

The following table lists all surface properties and provides a brief description of each. The property name links take you to an expanded description of the properties.

Property Name
Property Description
Property Value
Data Defining the Object
The x-coordinates of the vertices of the surface
Values: vector or matrix
The y-coordinates of the vertices of the surface
Values: vector or matrix
The z-coordinates of the vertices of the surface
Values: matrix
Specifying Color
Color data
Values: scalar, vector, or matrix
Default: [] empty matrix
Controls mapping of CData to colormap
Values: scaled, direct
Default: scaled
Color of face edges
Values: ColorSpec, none, flat, interp
Default: ColorSpec
Color of face
Values: ColorSpec, none, flat, interp
Default: ColorSpec
Color of marker or the edge color for filled markers
Values: ColorSpec, none, auto
Default: auto
Fill color for markers that are closed shapes
Values: ColorSpec, none, auto
Default: none
Specifying Transparency

The transparency data
m-by-n matrix of double or uint8
Transparency mapping method
none, direct, scaled
Default: scaled
Transparency of the edges of patch faces
scalar, flat, interp
Default: 1 (opaque)
Transparency of the patch face
scalar, flat, interp, texture
Default: 1 (opaque)
Controlling the Effects of Lights
Intensity of the ambient light
Values: scalar >=0 and <=1
Default: 0.3
Controls lighting of faces pointing away from camera
Values: unlit, lit, reverselit
Default: reverselit
Intensity of diffuse light
Values: scalar >=0 and <=1
Default: 0.6
Method used to light edges
Values: none, flat, gouraud, phong
Default: none
Method used to light edges
Values: none, flat, gouraud, phong
Default: none
MATLAB-generated or user-specified normal vectors
Values: auto, manual
Default: auto
Composite color of specularly reflected light
Values: scalar 0 to 1
Default: 1
Harshness of specular reflection
Values: scalar >= 1
Default: 10
Intensity of specular light
Values: scalar >=0 and <=1
Default: 0.9
Vertex normal vectors
Values: matrix
Defining Edges and Markers
Linestyle of the edge. Select from five line styles.
Values: -, --, :, -., none
Default: -
The width of the edge in points
Values: scalar
Default: 0.5 points
Marker symbol to plot at data points
Values: see Marker property
Default: none
Size of marker in points
Values: size in points
Default: 6
Controlling the Appearance
Clipping to axes rectangle
Values: on, off
Default: on
Method of drawing and erasing the surface (useful for animation)
Values: normal, none, xor, background
Default: normal
Specifies whether to draw all edge lines or just row or column edge lines
Values: both, row, column
Defaults: both
Highlight surface when selected (Selected property set to on)
Values: on, off
Default: on
Make the surface visible or invisible
Values: on, off
Default: on
Controlling Access to Objects
Determines if and when the surface's handle is visible to other functions
Values: on, callback, off
Default: on
Determines if the surface can become the current object (see the figure CurrentObject property)
Values: on, off
Default: on
Properties Related to Callback Routine Execution
Specifies how to handle callback routine interruption
Values: cancel, queue
Default: queue
Defines a callback routine that executes when a mouse button is pressed on over the surface
Values: string or function handle
Default: '' (empty string)
Defines a callback routine that executes when an surface is created
Values: string or function handle
Default: '' (empty string)
Defines a callback routine that executes when the surface is deleted (via close or delete)
Values: string or function handle
Default: '' (empty string)
Determines if callback routine can be interrupted
Values: on, off
Default: on (can be interrupted)
Associates a context menu with the surface
Values: handle of a uicontextmenu
General Information About the Surface
Surface objects have no children
Values: [] (empty matrix)
The parent of a surface object is always an axes object
Value: axes handle
Indicates whether the surface is in a "selected" state.
Values: on, off
Default: on
User-specified label
Value: any string
Default: '' (empty string)
The type of graphics object (read only)
Value: the string 'surface'
User-specified data
Values: any matrix
Default: [] (empty matrix)

  surf2patch Surface Properties