Arrowheads for axis in Matplotlib

This is a short demo showing how to make abstract plots in matplotlib that have arrows pointing in the x and y direction as axis.

arrow_axis

The idea is to remove the default axis completely and insert arrows with the correct dimensions as substitute axis:

import pylab as pl

fig = pl.figure()
ax = fig.add_subplot(111)

x = pl.arange(-5,5,0.1)
ax.plot(x, x**2-8.8)

xmin, xmax = ax.get_xlim() 
ymin, ymax = ax.get_ylim()

# removing the default axis on all sides:
for side in ['bottom','right','top','left']:
    ax.spines[side].set_visible(False)

# removing the axis ticks
pl.xticks([]) # labels 
pl.yticks([])
ax.xaxis.set_ticks_position('none') # tick markers
ax.yaxis.set_ticks_position('none')

# wider figure for demonstration
fig.set_size_inches(4,2.2)

# get width and height of axes object to compute 
# matching arrowhead length and width
dps = fig.dpi_scale_trans.inverted()
bbox = ax.get_window_extent().transformed(dps)
width, height = bbox.width, bbox.height

# manual arrowhead width and length
hw = 1./20.*(ymax-ymin) 
hl = 1./20.*(xmax-xmin)
lw = 1. # axis line width
ohg = 0.3 # arrow overhang

# compute matching arrowhead length and width
yhw = hw/(ymax-ymin)*(xmax-xmin)* height/width 
yhl = hl/(xmax-xmin)*(ymax-ymin)* width/height

# draw x and y axis
ax.arrow(xmin, 0, xmax-xmin, 0., fc='k', ec='k', lw = lw, 
         head_width=hw, head_length=hl, overhang = ohg, 
         length_includes_head= True, clip_on = False) 

ax.arrow(0, ymin, 0., ymax-ymin, fc='k', ec='k', lw = lw, 
         head_width=yhw, head_length=yhl, overhang = ohg, 
         length_includes_head= True, clip_on = False) 

# clip_on = False if only positive x or y values.

pl.savefig('arrow_axis.png', dpi = 300)

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