Styling Plotly Figures in R in R

How to customize figures with Plotly for R.

New to Plotly?

Plotly is a free and open-source graphing library for R. We recommend you read our Getting Started guide for the latest installation or upgrade instructions, then move on to our Plotly Fundamentals tutorials or dive straight in to some Basic Charts tutorials.

Styling Figures made with Plotly

Plotly's R graphing library makes it easy to create interactive, publication-quality graphs.

More specifically, here are the 3 ways you can style and customize figures made with Plotly:

  1. Control common parameters like titles, labeling and colors using built-in Plotly function arguments
  2. Updating the plotly figure attributes
  3. Using ggplot2's template via theme attribute.

Built-in Plotly Styling Arguments

Many common styling options can be set directly. Every Plotly function accepts the following arguments:

  • title to set the figure title
  • labels to override the default axis and legend labels behaviour, which is to use the data frame column name if available, and otherwise to use the label name itself like "x", "y", "color" etc. labels accepts list whose values are the desired labels. These labels appear in axis labels, legend and color bar titles, and in hover labels.
  • category_orders to override the default category ordering behaviour, which is to use the order in which the data appears in the input. category_orders accepts an array whose values are a list of values in the desired order. These orderings apply everywhere categories appear: in legends, on axes, in bar stacks, in the order of facets, in the order of animation frames etc.
  • hoverformat and hoverinfo to control which attributes appear in the hover label and how they are formatted.
  • Various color-related attributes such as color, colors, colorbar and colorRampPalette set the colors used in the figure.

To illustrate each of these, here is a simple, default figure made with Plotly. Note the default orderings for the x-axis categories.



fig1 <- plot_ly(tips, x = ~day, y = ~total_bill, type = 'bar', color = ~sex) %>%
  layout( barmode = 'stack')
options(warn = -1)

Here is the same figure, restyled by adding some extra parameters to the initial Plotly function call:



xform <- list(title = 'Day of Week',
              categoryorder = "array",
              categoryarray = c("Thur",

fig2 <- plot_ly(tips, x = ~day, y = ~total_bill, type = 'bar', color = ~sex, colors = c("#3399FF", "#FF6666")) %>%
  layout( barmode = 'stack', xaxis = xform, yaxis = list(title = 'Sum of Receipts'), title = "Receipts by Payer Gender and Day of Week",
          legend=list(title=list(text='<b> Payer Gender </b>')))

Updating or Modifying Figures made with Plotly

Here is the same figure as above, with some additional customizations to the axes and legend.



xform <- list(title = 'Day of Week',
              categoryorder = "array",
              categoryarray = c("Thur",

# add a text callout with arrow
a <- list(
  x = 'Fri',
  y = 400,
  text = 'Below Target !',
  showarrow = TRUE,
  arrowhead = 1,
  ax = 20,
  ay = -40
# the y-axis prefix given as dollars
fig <- plot_ly(tips, x = ~day, y = ~total_bill, type = 'bar', color = ~sex, colors = c("#3399FF", "#FF6666")) %>%
  layout( barmode = 'stack', xaxis = xform, yaxis = list(title = 'Sum of Receipts', tickprefix = '$'), title = "Receipts by Payer Gender and Day of Week")
# customie legend orientation & position
fig <- fig %>% layout(legend = list(x = 0.2, y = 1, orientation = 'h'))
# add a horizontal "target" line
fig <- fig %>% add_segments(x = 'Thur', xend = 0, y = 950, yend = 950,
                            line = list(dash = "dash", color = 'black'),inherit = FALSE, showlegend = FALSE)
fig <- fig %>% layout(annotations = a)
# customize font
fig <- fig %>% layout(font = list(family = "Rockwell"))

How ggplot2 Express Works with Templates

In this example, we will be using a template for the color palette.



base <- ggplot(mpg, aes(cty, hwy, color = factor(cyl))) +
  geom_jitter() +
  geom_abline(colour = "grey50", size = 2)

labelled <- base +
    x = "City mileage/gallon",
    y = "Highway mileage/gallon",
    colour = "Cylinders",
    title = "Highway and city mileage are highly correlated"
  ) +
  scale_colour_brewer(type = "seq", palette = "Spectral")

fig <- ggplotly(labelled)


What About Dash?

Dash for R is an open-source framework for building analytical applications, with no Javascript required, and it is tightly integrated with the Plotly graphing library.

Learn about how to install Dash for R at

Everywhere in this page that you see fig, you can display the same figure in a Dash for R application by passing it to the figure argument of the Graph component from the built-in dashCoreComponents package like this:


fig <- plot_ly() 
# fig <- fig %>% add_trace( ... )
# fig <- fig %>% layout( ... ) 


app <- Dash$new()

app$run_server(debug=TRUE, dev_tools_hot_reload=FALSE)