Efficiently Plotting a Circle in MATLAB with Code Samples and Explanation

In this comprehensive article, we will discuss how to create and manipulate circles using the popular programming language MATLAB. We’ll explore various methods that can be employed to plot circles ef …

Updated October 21, 2023

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In this comprehensive article, we will discuss how to create and manipulate circles using the popular programming language MATLAB. We’ll explore various methods that can be employed to plot circles efficiently, understanding the underlying techniques involved, and diving deeper into their usage in real-world scenarios such as Computer Vision, Image Processing, Data Visualization, and more.


MATLAB is a powerful environment that supports advanced scientific computing and has been widely used across various domains including engineering, mathematics, computer vision, and data science. One of the essential tasks that often arise in these fields are related to plotting geometric shapes such as circles. Plots are critical in communicating information effectively by presenting raw data visually.

In this tutorial, we will provide a detailed guide on how to efficiently create a circle using MATLAB. We’ll discuss various methods for plotting circles and their practical applications, covering everything from the basic syntax to more advanced concepts like coloring and positioning a circle. The primary focus of this article will be on the programming aspect with emphasis placed on the MATLAB language.

Basic Syntax to Plot a Circle in MATLAB

To plot circles in MATLAB, we can leverage the built-in ‘plot’ function along with the ‘circle’ method. The ‘circle’ method generates a circle using polar coordinates (r, θ) which are transformed into cartesian coordinates (x, y). Here is an example code snippet to plot a simple circle:

N = 100; % Number of points on the circle
theta = linspace(0, 2*pi, N); % Generate equispaced angles from 0 to 2pi
r = 5; % Radius of the circle
[x, y] = polar2cart(theta, r); % Transform polar coordinates (theta, r) into cartesian coordinates
plot(x, y) % Plot the points generated in cartesian space as a curve

In this code example:

  1. The variable ‘N’ specifies the number of points to be used on the circle. Increasing the value of N will result in a more accurate representation of the circle but will also increase computational time.
  2. We generate equally spaced angles from 0 to 2π using ‘linspace’, which is stored in the variable ‘theta’. These angles are typically evenly distributed around the circumference of the circle.
  3. The circle’s radius is assigned as ‘r’, and we define its value as 5 here. This determines the size of our circle.
  4. We transform polar coordinates into cartesian coordinates using MATLAB’s ‘polar2cart’ function. This transformation is essential for visualizing the shape in Cartesian space. The two resulting arrays are stored in variables x and y, containing x-coordinates and y-coordinates respectively.
  5. Finally, we plot the generated points with the ‘plot’ command. It draws a curve connecting these points which visually represents our circle on the screen.

Manipulating Circle Properties in MATLAB

The previous example showed how to create a basic circle using polar coordinates and the ‘circle’ method in MATLAB. However, there are often occasions where we need more precise control over the plot’s properties like color, fill, edge, position on the screen, etc. In this section, we will explore how to manipulate these attributes:

  1. Color of the Circle - To change the color of the circle in MATLAB, we use the ‘color’ parameter while calling the ‘plot’ function. The color should be specified as a string enclosed within single or double quotes. For example: plot(x, y, 'r') will draw a red circle on your screen.
  2. Filled Circle - We can fill our circle using the ‘fill’ parameter in the ‘plot’ function. The syntax is similar to specifying the color, as shown below: plot(x, y, 'r-', 'filled'). In this example, we draw a red line (represented by the ‘-’ symbol) but also fill it with the specified color.
  3. Positioning of the Circle on the Screen - To position the circle at a specific location in your workspace, you can use MATLAB’s ‘axes’ function to create an axes object. After creating this object, set its ‘position’ property using the following syntax: axes(left, bottom, width, height). The left, bottom values refer to the position of the lower-left corner while width and height are the dimensions of the new axes (in pixels). For example: new_axes = axes([0.1 0.1 0.4 0.4]); places an axes object with a size of 0.3*0.3 in the bottom left corner of the screen.

Advanced Techniques and Applications of Circles in MATLAB

Circle plots, as versatile visualization tools, can be used across various domains to demonstrate complex concepts or provide insights into data sets. Here are some potential uses of circle plotting techniques in different fields:

  1. Data Visualization: In data analysis and visualization, circles might be employed for representing discrete values or attributes related to a specific event or phenomenon. For example, we can create a chart with multiple circles, each representing the number of occurrences or the distribution of a particular characteristic in the dataset.
  2. Computer Vision: Circles are an essential shape when working with 2D geometric shapes and detecting patterns within images. In image segmentation, circles help determine object boundaries for effective image processing tasks like object recognition and feature extraction.
  3. Simulation Modelling: Simulations in engineering or science can involve creating various geometric shapes to represent objects of interest. Circles might be utilized to denote a sphere’s surface area, centrifugal forces, or even as components within more complex structures such as gear teeth, turbine blades, etc.
  4. Data Mining and Machine Learning: In data mining and machine learning applications, circles can be employed for clustering algorithms to group similar data points based on their distance from the center of the circle. This is useful when performing unsupervised learning tasks or identifying patterns in large datasets.


Plotting circles efficiently using MATLAB allows engineers and scientists to easily visualize concepts related to geometric shapes, data analysis, computer vision, and more. The ‘plot’ function with the ‘circle’ method serves as a powerful tool for quickly creating accurate representations of circles with customizable properties such as color, positioning, and fill options. Additionally, by understanding how to manipulate circle attributes, we can integrate these visualization techniques into various practical applications and solve real-world problems.