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Surface Properties

Surface properties

Creating Surface Objects

Use surface to create surface objects.

Modifying Properties

You can set and query graphics object properties in two ways:

  • Property Editor is an interactive tool that enables you to see and change object property values.

  • The set and get commands enable you to set and query the values of properties.

To change the default values of properties, see Setting Default Property Values.

See Core Graphics Objects for general information about this type of object.

Surface Property Descriptions

This section provides a description of properties. Curly braces { } enclose default values.

AlphaData

m-by-n matrix of double or uint8

Transparency data. A matrix of non-NaN values specifying the transparency of each face or vertex of the object. The AlphaData can be of class double or uint8.

MATLAB® software determines the transparency in one of the following ways:

  • Using the elements of AlphaData as transparency values (AlphaDataMapping set to none)

  • Using the elements of AlphaData as indices into the current alphamap (AlphaDataMapping set to direct)

  • Scaling the elements of AlphaData to range between the minimum and maximum values of the axes ALim property (AlphaDataMapping set to scaled, the default)

AlphaDataMapping

none | direct | {scaled}

Transparency mapping method. Determines how MATLAB interprets indexed alpha data.

  • none — The transparency values of AlphaData are between 0 and 1 or are clamped to this range (the default).

  • scaled — Transform the AlphaData to span the portion of the alphamap indicated by the axes ALim property, linearly mapping data values to alpha values.

  • direct — Use the AlphaData as indices directly into the alphamap. When not scaled, the data are usually integer values ranging from 1 to length(alphamap). MATLAB maps values less than 1 to the first alpha value in the alphamap, and values greater than length(alphamap) to the last alpha value in the alphamap. Values with a decimal portion are fixed to the nearest lower integer. If AlphaData is an array of uint8 integers, then the indexing begins at 0 (that is, MATLAB maps a value of 0 to the first alpha value in the alphamap).

AmbientStrength

scalar >= 0 and <= 1

Strength of ambient light. Sets the strength of the ambient light, which is a nondirectional light source that illuminates the entire scene. You must have at least one visible light object in the axes for the ambient light to be visible. The axes AmbientLightColor property sets the color of the ambient light, which is therefore the same on all objects in the axes.

You can also set the strength of the diffuse and specular contribution of light objects. See the surface DiffuseStrength and SpecularStrength properties.

Annotation

hg.Annotation object (read-only)

Handle of Annotation object. The Annotation property enables you to specify whether this surface object is represented in a figure legend.

Querying the Annotation property returns the handle of an hg.Annotation object. The hg.Annotation object has a property called LegendInformation, which contains an hg.LegendEntry object.

Once you have obtained the hg.LegendEntry object, you can set its IconDisplayStyle property to control whether the surface object is displayed in a figure legend:

IconDisplayStyle ValuePurpose
onRepresent this surface object in a legend (default)
offDo not include this surface object in a legend
childrenSame as on because surface objects do not have children

Setting the IconDisplayStyle property

Set the IconDisplayStyle of a graphics object with handle hobj to off:

hAnnotation = get(hobj,'Annotation');
hLegendEntry = get(hAnnotation,'LegendInformation');
set(hLegendEntry,'IconDisplayStyle','off')

Using the IconDisplayStyle property

See Control Legend Content for more information and examples.

BackFaceLighting

unlit | lit | {reverselit}

Face lighting control. Determines how faces are lit when their vertex normals point away from the camera.

  • unlit — Face not lit.

  • lit — Face lit in normal way.

  • reverselit — Face lit as if the vertex pointed towards the camera.

Use this property to discriminate between the internal and external surfaces of an object. See Back Face Lighting for an example.

BeingDeleted

on | {off} (read-only)

This object is being deleted. Mechanism to determine if objects are in the process of being deleted. MATLAB sets the BeingDeleted property to on when the object's delete function callback is called (see the DeleteFcn property). It remains set to on while the delete function executes, after which the object no longer exists.

For example, an object's delete function calls other functions that act on a number of different objects. If a function does not need to perform an action on an about-be-deleted object, it can check the object's BeingDeleted property before acting.

BusyAction

cancel | {queue}

Callback queuing

Determines how MATLAB handles the execution of interrupting callbacks.

A running callback is the currently executing callback. The interrupting callback is the callback that tries to interrupt the running callback. The BusyAction property of the interrupting callback determines how MATLAB handles its execution. When the BusyAction property is set to:

  • 'queue' — Puts the interrupting callback in a queue to be processed after the running callback finishes execution.

  • 'cancel' — Discards the interrupting callback as MATLAB finishes execution.

For information about how the Interruptible property of the callback controls whether other callbacks can interrupt the running callback, see the Interruptible property description.

ButtonDownFcn

function handle | cell array containing function handle and additional arguments | string (not recommended)

Button press callback function. Executes whenever you press a mouse button while the pointer is over the surface object.

See the figure's SelectionType property to determine if modifier keys were also pressed.

Set this property to a function handle that references the callback. The function must define at least two input arguments (handle of object associated with the button down event and an event structure, which is empty for this property).

The following example shows how to access the callback object's handle as well as the handle of the figure that contains the object from the callback function.

function button_down(src,evnt)
% src - the object that is the source of the event
% evnt - empty for this property
   sel_typ = get(gcbf,'SelectionType')
   switch sel_typ 
      case 'normal'
         disp('User clicked left-mouse button')
         set(src,'Selected','on')
      case 'extend'
         disp('User did a shift-click')
         set(src,'Selected','on')
      case 'alt'
         disp('User did a control-click')
         set(src,'Selected','on')
         set(src,'SelectionHighlight','off')
   end
end

Suppose h is the handle of a surface object and the button_down function is on your MATLAB path. The following statement assigns the button_down function to the ButtonDownFcn property:

set(h,'ButtonDownFcn',@button_down)

For information on the syntax of callback functions, see Function Handle Callbacks.

CData

matrix (of type double)

Vertex colors. Values that specify the color at every point in ZData.

Mapping CData to a Colormap

You can specify color as indexed values or true color. Indexed color data specifies a single value for each vertex. These values are either scaled to map linearly into the current colormap (see caxis) or interpreted directly as indices into the colormap, depending on the setting of the CDataMapping property.

CData as True Color

True color defines an RGB value for each vertex. If the coordinate data (XData, for example) are contained in m-by-n matrices, then CData must be an m-by-n-by-3 array. The first page contains the red components, the second the green components, and the third the blue components of the colors.

Texturemapping the Surface FaceColor

If you set the FaceColor property to texturemap, CData does not need to be the same size as ZData, but must be of type double or uint8. In this case, MATLAB maps CData to conform to the surface defined by ZData.

CDataMapping

{scaled} | direct

Direct or scaled color mapping. Determines how MATLAB interprets indexed color data used to color the surface. (If you use true color specification for CData, this property has no effect.)

  • scaled — Transform the color data to span the portion of the colormap indicated by the axes CLim property, linearly mapping data values to colors. See the caxis reference page for more information on this mapping.

  • direct — Use the color data as indices directly into the colormap. The color data should then be integer values ranging from 1 to length(colormap). MATLAB maps values less than 1 to the first color in the colormap, and values greater than length(colormap) to the last color in the colormap. Values with a decimal portion are fixed to the nearest lower integer.

Children

matrix of handles

Always the empty matrix; surface objects have no children.

Clipping

{on} | off

Clipping to axes rectangle. When Clipping is on, MATLAB does not display any portion of the surface that is outside the axes rectangle.

CreateFcn

function handle | cell array containing function handle and additional arguments | string (not recommended)

Callback function executed during object creation. Executes when MATLAB creates a surface object. You must define this property as a default value for surfaces or set the CreateFcn property during object creation.

For example, the following statement creates a surface (assuming x, y, z, and c are defined), and executes the function referenced by the function handle @myCreateFcn.

surface(x,y,z,c,'CreateFcn',@myCreateFcn)

MATLAB executes this routine after setting all surface properties. Setting this property on an existing surface object has no effect.

The handle of the object whose CreateFcn is being executed is passed by MATLAB as the first argument to the callback function and is also accessible through the root CallbackObject property, which you can query using gcbo.

For information on the syntax of callback functions, see Function Handle Callbacks.

DeleteFcn

function handle | cell array containing function handle and additional arguments | string (not recommended)

Delete surface callback function. Executes when you delete the surface object (for example, when you issue a delete command or clear the axes cla or figure clf).

For example, the following function displays object property data before the object is deleted.

function delete_fcn(src,evnt)
% src - the object that is the source of the event 
% evnt - empty for this property
   obj_tp = get(src,'Type');
   disp([obj_tp, ' object deleted'])
   disp('Its user data is:')
   disp(get(src,'UserData'))
end

MATLAB executes the function before deleting the object's properties so these values are available to the callback function. The function must define at least two input arguments (handle of object being deleted and an event structure, which is empty for this property).

The handle of the object whose DeleteFcn is being executed is passed by MATLAB as the first argument to the callback function and is also accessible through the root CallbackObject property, which you can query using gcbo.

For information on the syntax of callback functions, see Function Handle Callbacks.

DiffuseStrength

scalar >= 0 and <= 1

Intensity of diffuse light. Sets the intensity of the diffuse component of the light falling on the surface. Diffuse light comes from light objects in the axes. Default value is 0.6.

You can also set the intensity of the ambient and specular components of the light on the object. See the AmbientStrength and SpecularStrength properties.

DisplayName

string

String used by legend. The legend function uses the DisplayName property to label the surface object in the legend. The default is an empty string.

  • If you specify string arguments with the legend function, MATLAB set DisplayName to the corresponding string and uses that string for the legend.

  • If DisplayName is empty, legend creates a string of the form, ['data' n], where n is the number assigned to the object based on its location in the list of legend entries. However, legend does not set DisplayName to this string.

  • If you edit the string directly in an existing legend, MATLAB set DisplayName to the edited string.

  • If you specify a string for the DisplayName property and create the legend using the figure toolbar, then MATLAB uses the string defined by DisplayName.

  • To add a legend programmatically that uses the DisplayName string, call legend with the toggle or show option.

See Control Legend Content for more information and examples.

EdgeAlpha

{scalar = 1} | flat | interp

Transparency of the surface edges.

  • scalar — A single non-NaN scalar value between 0 and 1 that controls the transparency of all the edges of the object. 1 (the default) means fully opaque and 0 means completely transparent.

  • flat — The alpha data (AlphaData) value for the first vertex of the face determines the transparency of the edges.

  • interp — Linear interpolation of the alpha data (AlphaData) values at each vertex determines the transparency of the edge.

Note that you must specify AlphaData as a matrix equal in size to ZData to use flat or interp EdgeAlpha.

EdgeColor

{ColorSpec} | none | flat | interp

Color of the surface edge. Determines how MATLAB colors the edges of the individual faces that make up the surface.

  • ColorSpec — A three-element RGB vector or one of the MATLAB predefined names, specifying a single color for edges. The default value is [0 0 0] (black). See ColorSpec for more information on specifying color.

  • none — Edges not drawn.

  • flat — The CData value of the first vertex for a face determines the color of each edge.

  • interp — Linear interpolation of the CData values at the face vertices determines the edge color.

EdgeLighting

{none} | flat | gouraud | phong

Algorithm used for lighting calculations. Selects the algorithm used to calculate the effect of light objects on surface edges.

  • none — Lights do not affect the edges of this object.

  • flat — The effect of light objects is uniform across each edge of the surface.

  • gouraud — The effect of light objects is calculated at the vertices and then linearly interpolated across the edge lines.

  • phong — The effect of light objects is determined by interpolating the vertex normals across each edge line and calculating the reflectance at each pixel. Phong lighting generally produces better results than Gouraud lighting, but takes longer to render.

EraseMode

{normal} | none | xor | background

Erase mode. Controls the technique MATLAB uses to draw and erase surface objects. Alternative erase modes are useful for creating animated sequences, where control of the way individual objects are redrawn is necessary to improve performance and obtain the desired effect.

  • normal — Redraw the affected region of the display, performing the three-dimensional analysis necessary to ensure that all objects are rendered correctly. This mode produces the most accurate picture, but is the slowest. The other modes are faster, but do not perform a complete redraw and are therefore less accurate.

  • none — Do not erase the surface when it is moved or destroyed. While the object is still visible on the screen after erasing with EraseMode none, you cannot print it because MATLAB stores no information about its former location.

  • xor — Draw and erase the surface by performing an exclusive OR (XOR) with each pixel index of the screen behind it. Erasing the surface does not damage the color of the objects behind it. However, surface color depends on the color of the screen behind it and is correctly colored only when over the axes background Color, or the figure background Color if the axes Color is none.

  • background — Erase the surface by drawing it in the axes background Color, or the figure background Color if the axes Color is set to none. This damages objects that are behind the erased object, but surface objects are always properly colored.

Printing with Nonnormal Erase Modes

MATLAB always prints figures as if the EraseMode of all objects is normal. This means graphics objects created with EraseMode set to none, xor, or background can look different on screen than on paper. On screen, MATLAB mathematically combines layers of colors (for example, performing an XOR on a pixel color with that of the pixel behind it) and ignore three-dimensional sorting to obtain greater rendering speed. However, these techniques are not applied to the printed output.

You can use the getframe command or other screen capture applications to create an image of a figure containing nonnormal mode objects.

FaceAlpha

{scalar = 1} | flat | interp | texturemap

Transparency of the surface faces.

  • scalar — A single non-NaN scalar value between 0 and 1 that controls the transparency of all the faces of the object. 1 (the default) means fully opaque and 0 means completely transparent (invisible).

  • flat — The values of the alpha data (AlphaData) determine the transparency for each face. The alpha data at the first vertex determine the transparency of the entire face.

  • interp — Bilinear interpolation of the alpha data (AlphaData) at each vertex determines the transparency of each face.

  • texturemap — Use transparency for the texture map.

Note that you must specify AlphaData as a matrix equal in size to ZData to use flat or interp FaceAlpha.

FaceColor

ColorSpec | none | {flat} | interp | texturemap

Color of the surface face.

  • ColorSpec — A three-element RGB vector or one of the MATLAB predefined names, specifying a single color for faces. See the ColorSpec reference page for more information on specifying color.

  • none — Do not draw faces. Note that edges are drawn independently of faces.

  • flat — The values of CData determine the color for each face of the surface. The color data at the first vertex determine the color of the entire face.

  • interp — Bilinear interpolation of the values at each vertex (the CData) determines the coloring of each face.

  • texturemap — Texture map the CData to the surface. MATLAB transforms the color data so that it conforms to the surface. (See the texture mapping example.)

FaceLighting

none | {flat} | gouraud | phong

Algorithm used for lighting calculations. Selects the algorithm used to calculate the effect of light objects on the surface.

  • none — Lights do not affect the faces of this object.

  • flat — The effect of light objects is uniform across the faces of the surface. Select this choice to view faceted objects.

  • gouraud — The effect of light objects is calculated at the vertices and then linearly interpolated across the faces. Select this choice to view curved surfaces.

  • phong — The effect of light objects is determined by interpolating the vertex normals across each face and calculating the reflectance at each pixel. Select this choice to view curved surfaces. Phong lighting generally produces better results than Gouraud lighting, but takes longer to render.

, HandleVisibility

{on} | callback | off

Control access to object's handle. Determines when an object's handle is visible in its parent's list of children. This property is useful for preventing command-line users from accidentally drawing into or deleting a figure that contains only user interface devices (such as a dialog box).

  • on — Handles are always visible.

  • callback — Handles are visible from within callback routines or functions invoked by callback routines, but not from within functions invoked from the command line. This provides a means to protect GUIs from command-line users, while allowing callback routines to have access to object handles.

  • off — Handles are invisible at all times. Use this option when a callback invokes a function that could damage the GUI (such as evaluating a user-typed string). This option temporarily hides its own handles during the execution of that function.

When a handle is not visible in its parent's list of children, it cannot be returned by functions that obtain handles by searching the object hierarchy or querying handle properties. This includes get, findobj, gca, gcf, gco, newplot, cla, clf, and close.

When a handle's visibility is restricted using callback or off, the object's handle does not appear in its parent's Children property, figures do not appear in the root's CurrentFigure property, objects do not appear in the root's CallbackObject property or in the figure's CurrentObject property, and axes do not appear in their parent's CurrentAxes property.

You can set the root ShowHiddenHandles property to on to make all handles visible, regardless of their HandleVisibility settings (this does not affect the values of the HandleVisibility properties).

Handles that are hidden are still valid. If you know an object's handle, you can set and get its properties, and pass it to any function that operates on handles.

HitTest

{on} | off

Selectable by mouse click. Determines if the surface can become the current object (as returned by the gco command and the figure CurrentObject property) as a result of a mouse click on the surface. If HitTest is off, clicking on the surface selects the object below it (which might be the axes containing it).

Interruptible

off | {on}

Callback routine interruption

Controls whether MATLAB can interrupt an object's callback function when subsequent callbacks attempt to interrupt it.

For Graphics objects, the Interruptible property affects only the callbacks for theButtonDownFcn property. A running callback is the currently executing callback. The interrupting callback is the callback that tries to interrupt the running callback. MATLAB handles both the callbacks based on the Interruptible property of the object of the running callback.

When the Interruptible property is set to:

  • 'off', MATLAB finishes execution of the running callback without any interruptions

  • 'on', these conditions apply:

    • If there is a drawnow, figure, getframe, waitfor, or pause command in the running callback, then MATLAB executes the interrupting callbacks which are already in the queue and returns to finish execution of the current callback.

    • If one of the above functions is not in the running callback, then MATLAB finishes execution of the current callback without any interruption.

BusyAction property of the object of interrupting callback determines whether the callback should be ignored or should be put in the queue.

Setting Interruptible property to on (default), allows a callback from other graphics objects to interrupt callback functions originating from this object.

    Note:   MATLAB does not save the state of properties or the display when an interruption occurs. For example, the handle returned by the gca or gcf command may be changed as another callback is executed.

After the function that interrupts a callback completes, the callback resumes execution where it halted when interrupted. For more information, see Control Callback Execution and Interruption.

LineStyle

{-} | -- | : | -. | none

Line style of surface edges.

 Line Style Specifiers Table

LineWidth

size in points

Edge line width. The width of the lines in points used to draw surface edges. The default width is 0.5 points. 1 point = 1/72 inch.

Marker

character (see table)

Marker symbol. Specifies symbols that are displayed at vertices. You can set values for the Marker property independently from the LineStyle property. For a list of supported marker symbols, see the following table.

 Marker Specifiers Table

MarkerEdgeColor

none | {auto} | flat | ColorSpec

Marker edge color. The color of the marker or the edge color for filled markers (circle, square, diamond, pentagram, hexagram, and the four triangles).

  • none — Specifies no color, which makes nonfilled markers invisible.

  • auto — Uses same color as the EdgeColor property.

  • flat — Uses the CData value of the vertex to determine the color of the marker edge.

  • ColorSpec — Defines color to use.

MarkerFaceColor

{none} | auto | flat | ColorSpec

Marker face color. The fill color for markers that are closed shapes (circle, square, diamond, pentagram, hexagram, and the four triangles).

  • none — Makes the interior of the marker transparent, allowing the background to show through.

  • auto — Uses the axes Color for the marker face color.

  • flat — Uses the CData value of the vertex to determine the color of the face.

  • ColorSpec — Defines a single color to use for all markers on the surface.

MarkerSize

scalar

Marker size. Size of the marker in points. The default value is 6.

    Note:   MATLAB draws the point marker (specified by the '.' symbol) at one-third the specified size.

MeshStyle

{both} | row | column

Row and column lines. Specifies whether to draw all edge lines or just row or column edge lines.

  • both — Draws edges for both rows and columns.

  • row — Draws row edges only.

  • column — Draws column edges only.

NormalMode

{auto} | manual

MATLAB generated or user-specified normal vectors.

  • auto — MATLAB calculates vertex normals based on the coordinate data

  • manual — If you specify your own vertex normals, MATLAB sets this property to manual and does not generate its own data.

See also the VertexNormals property.

Parent

handle of axes, hggroup, or hgtransform

Parent of surface object. Contains the handle of the surface object's parent. The parent of a surface object is the axes, hggroup, or hgtransform object that contains it.

Selected

on | {off}

Is object selected? When this property is on, MATLAB displays a dashed bounding box around the surface if the SelectionHighlight property is also on. You can, for example, define the ButtonDownFcn to set this property, allowing users to select the object with the mouse.

SelectionHighlight

{on} | off

Objects are highlighted when selected. When the Selected property is on, MATLAB indicates the selected state by drawing a dashed bounding box around the surface. When SelectionHighlight is off, MATLAB does not draw the box.

SpecularColorReflectance

scalar in the range 0 to 1

Color of specularly-reflected light. When this property is 0, the color of the specularly-reflected light depends on both the color of the object from which it reflects and the color of the light source. When set to 1, the color of the specularly-reflected light depends only on the color or the light source (that is, the light object Color property). The proportions vary linearly for values in between.

SpecularExponent

scalar >= 1

Harshness of specular reflection. Controls the size of the specular spot. Most materials have exponents in the range of 5 to 20.

SpecularStrength

scalar >= 0 and <= 1

Intensity of specular light. Sets the intensity of the specular component of the light falling on the surface. Specular light comes from light objects in the axes.

You can also set the intensity of the ambient and diffuse components of the light on the surface object. See the AmbientStrength and DiffuseStrength properties. Also see the material function.

Tag

string

User-specified object label. Provides a means to identify graphics objects with a user-specified label. The default is an empty string.

Use the Tag property and the findobj function to manipulate specific objects within a plotting hierarchy.

Type

string (read-only)

Class of the graphics object. String that identifies the class of the graphics object. Use this property to find all objects of a given type within a plotting hierarchy. For surface objects, Type is always 'surface'.

UIContextMenu

handle of uicontextmenu object

Associate a context menu with the surface. Assign this property the handle of a uicontextmenu object created in the same figure as the surface. Use the uicontextmenu function to create the context menu. MATLAB displays the context menu whenever you right-click over the surface.

UserData

matrix

User-specified data. Data you want to associate with the surface object. The default value is an empty array. MATLAB does not use this data, but you can access it using the set and get commands.

VertexNormals

vector | matrix

Surface normal vectors. The vertex normals for the surface. MATLAB generates this data to perform lighting calculations. You can supply your own vertex normal data, even if it does not match the coordinate data. This can be useful to produce interesting lighting effects.

Visible

{on} | off

Surface object visibility. By default, all surfaces are visible. When set to off, the surface is not visible, but still exists, and you can query and set its properties.

XData

vector | matrix

X-coordinates. The x-position of the surface points. If you specify a row vector, surface replicates the row internally until it has the same number of columns as ZData.

YData

vector | matrix

Y-coordinates. The y-position of the surface points. If you specify a row vector, surface replicates the row internally until it has the same number of rows as ZData.

ZData

matrix

Z-coordinates. The z-position of the surface data points. See the Description section for more information.

See Also

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