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pytest plugin to help with testing figures output from Matplotlib

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This is a plugin to facilitate image comparison for Matplotlib figures in pytest.

For each figure to test, the reference image is subtracted from the generated image, and the RMS of the residual is compared to a user-specified tolerance. If the residual is too large, the test will fail (this is implemented using helper functions from matplotlib.testing).

For more information on how to write tests to do this, see the Using section below.


This plugin is compatible with Python 2.7, and 3.5 and later, and requires pytest and matplotlib <> to be installed.

To install, you can do:

pip install pytest-mpl

You can check that the plugin is registered with pytest by doing:

pytest --version

which will show a list of plugins:

This is pytest version 2.7.1, imported from ...
setuptools registered plugins:
  pytest-mpl-0.1 at ...


With Baseline Images

To use, you simply need to mark the function where you want to compare images using @pytest.mark.mpl_image_compare, and make sure that the function returns a Matplotlib figure (or any figure object that has a savefig method):

import pytest
import matplotlib.pyplot as plt

def test_succeeds():
    fig = plt.figure()
    ax = fig.add_subplot(1,1,1)
    return fig

To generate the baseline images, run the tests with the --mpl-generate-path option with the name of the directory where the generated images should be placed:

pytest --mpl-generate-path=baseline

If the directory does not exist, it will be created. The directory will be interpreted as being relative to where you are running pytest. Once you are happy with the generated images, you should move them to a sub-directory called baseline relative to the test files (this name is configurable, see below). You can also generate the baseline image directly in the right directory.

With a Hash Library

Instead of comparing to baseline images, you can instead compare against a json library of sha256 hashes. This has the advantage of not having to check baseline images into the repository with the tests, or download them from a remote source.

The hash library can be generated with --mpl-generate-hash-library=path_to_file.json. The hash library to be used can either be specified via the --mpl-hash-library= command line argument, or via the hash_library= keyword argument to the @pytest.mark.mpl_image_comapre decorator.

Hybrid Mode: Hashes and Images

It is possible to configure both hashes and baseline images. In this scenario the hashes will be compared first, and the baseline images used if the hash comparison fails.

This is especially useful if the baseline images are external to the repository with the tests in, and can be accessed remotely. In this situation if the hashes match the baseline images wont be retrieved, saving time and bandwidth. Also it allows the tests to be modified and the hashes updated to reflect the changes without having to modify the external images.

Running Tests

Once tests are written with either baseline images or a hash library to compare against, the tests can be run with:

pytest --mpl

and the tests will pass if the images are the same. If you omit the --mpl option, the tests will run but will only check that the code runs without checking the output images.

Generating a Failure Summary

By specifying the --mpl-generate-summary=html CLI argument a HTML summary page will be generated showing the baseline, diff and result image for each failing test. If no baseline images are configured, just the result images will be displayed.



The RMS tolerance for the image comparison (which defaults to 2) can be specified in the mpl_image_compare decorator with the tolerance argument:

def test_image():

Savefig options

You can pass keyword arguments to savefig by using savefig_kwargs in the mpl_image_compare decorator:

def test_image():

Baseline images

The baseline directory (which defaults to baseline ) and the filename of the plot (which defaults to the name of the test with a .png suffix) can be customized with the baseline_dir and filename arguments in the mpl_image_compare decorator:

def test_image():

The baseline directory in the decorator above will be interpreted as being relative to the test file. Note that the baseline directory can also be a URL (which should start with http:// or https:// and end in a slash). If you want to specify mirrors, set baseline_dir to a comma-separated list of URLs (real commas in the URL should be encoded as %2C).

Finally, you can also set a custom baseline directory globally when running tests by running pytest with:

pytest --mpl --mpl-baseline-path=baseline_images

This directory will be interpreted as being relative to where the tests are run. In addition, if both this option and the baseline_dir option in the mpl_image_compare decorator are used, the one in the decorator takes precedence.

Base style

By default, tests will be run using the Matplotlib ‘classic’ style (ignoring any locally defined RC parameters). This can be overridden by using the style argument:

def test_image():

Package version dependencies

Different versions of Matplotlib and FreeType may result in slightly different images. When testing on multiple platforms or as part of a pipeline, it is important to ensure that the versions of these packages match the versions used to generate the images used for comparison. It can be useful to pin versions of Matplotlib and FreeType so as to avoid automatic updates that fail tests.

Removing text

If you are running a test for which you are not interested in comparing the text labels, you can use the remove_text argument to the decorator:

def test_image():

This will make the test insensitive to changes in e.g. the freetype library.

Test failure example

If the images produced by the tests are correct, then the test will pass, but if they are not, the test will fail with a message similar to the following:

E               Exception: Error: Image files did not match.
E                 RMS Value: 142.2287807767823
E                 Expected:
E                   /var/folders/zy/t1l3sx310d3d6p0kyxqzlrnr0000gr/T/tmp4h4oxr7y/baseline-coords_overlay_auto_coord_meta.png
E                 Actual:
E                   /var/folders/zy/t1l3sx310d3d6p0kyxqzlrnr0000gr/T/tmp4h4oxr7y/coords_overlay_auto_coord_meta.png
E                 Difference:
E                   /var/folders/zy/t1l3sx310d3d6p0kyxqzlrnr0000gr/T/tmp4h4oxr7y/coords_overlay_auto_coord_meta-failed-diff.png
E                 Tolerance:
E                   10

The image paths included in the exception are then available for inspection:

Expected Actual Difference
expected actual diff

In this case, the differences are very clear, while in some cases it may be necessary to use the difference image, or blink the expected and actual images, in order to see what changed.

The default tolerance is 2, which is very strict. In some cases, you may want to relax this to account for differences in fonts across different systems.

By default, the expected, actual and difference files are written to a temporary directory with a non-deterministic path. If you want to instead write them to a specific directory, you can use:

pytest --mpl --mpl-results-path=results

The results directory will then contain one sub-directory per test, and each sub-directory will contain the three files mentioned above. If you are using a continuous integration service, you can then use the option to upload artifacts to upload these results to somewhere where you can view them. For more information, see:

Running the tests for pytest-mpl

If you are contributing some changes and want to run the tests, first install the latest version of the plugin then do:

cd tests
pytest --mpl

The reason for having to install the plugin first is to ensure that the plugin is correctly loaded as part of the test suite.

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