Plotting Bar/Column Graphs with Indexed Patterns


Colorful graphs make it easy to differentiate between sets of data, but low contrasting tones can often be problematic when many academic and professional journals are published in grayscale or black & white printing. Origin 2016 features a new indexed fill feature, allowing users to easily adjust the appearances of data series by colors and patterns. One simple way to keep graphs of grouped sets of data legible in black and white is to make use of patterned fills rather than colors.


Here we have a grouped bar plot with three sets of data across five weeks. Our series of data are easily differentiated from one another, making our graph simple and straightforward.


Below we see the same graph reprinted as grayscale and black & white images. While these graphs are identical to the original, the lack of contrast between the data series make their differences between each category less clear.


To remedy this, let’s replace our colored gradients with some patterns. In addition to its new color chooser, Origin 2016 also supports indexed patterns through a similar interface. To try with the procedures below, choose File: Open Sample Projects: 2D and Contour Graphs. In Project Explorer, go to Column, Bar folder -> Grouped Column Plot with Error Bars and Data Labels subfolder.

1. To enable indexed patterns let’s begin by double-clicking on our graph to open the Plot Details dialog and selecting the Pattern tab.

2. Set Gradient Fill>Mode>None. Set Fill>Color>White. Set Pattern>Indexing>Col(F) to enable pattern indexing based on each of our three different sets of data.



3. Once this is selected, click Apply button, and the graph will appear something like the below figure. Although this graph now displays in patterns rather than colors, our symbology could still show greater contrast between the three data sets. To customize this further, go to the Pattern List tab.



4. Check off the “Use custom increment list” checkbox to trigger the pattern list. Since this graph only contains three sets of data, the first three patterns are the ones that will need to be changed. In order to raise increase the contrast between these three, let’s set one to a “dense” pattern, another to “sparse“, and the third to “none“.



Once the custom pattern list has been applied, the graph should look exactly as it does in the left image below. Whereas our color graph was almost illegible in black & white, in the right image we can see that with a pattern fill it remains as legible as its grey counterpart.


4 Comments on “Plotting Bar/Column Graphs with Indexed Patterns”

  1. do you have a detailed instruction of this example ? thank you!
    I have been working on it several days , and I still can’t make it !

    1. Hello,

      Could you let us know which version of Origin you are using.
      See the blog mentioned “File: Open Sample Projects: 2D and Contour Graphs. In Project Explorer, go to Column, Bar folder -> Grouped Column Plot with Error Bars and Data Labels subfolder.”

      If you are using newer versions such as Origin 2018b or Origin 2018, you can choose Help: Origin Central of press F11. Select Graph Samples tab.
      Then choose Column and Bar Charts from the dropdown list. The 4th graph actually uses patterns indexed from another column. You can double column plot and check the Pattern setting on Pattern tab of Plot Details dialog.

      Thanks, Snow

    1. Hello, error bars stay with its corresponding data.

      There is Plot: Multi-Y submenu to plot plots into different layers with its own Y axis. If your data is organized as XYYErrYYError…, it will automatically plot the y data and y error in corresponding layer.

      If your graph is already made, you can also choose Graph: Plot Setup… And then select each layer in bottom panel, and modify plot and error bars.

      Thanks, Snow

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