cairo: Cairographics-based SVG, PDF and PostScript Graphics Devices

Description Usage Arguments Details Value Anti-aliasing Conventions Note See Also


Graphics devices for SVG, PDF and PostScript graphics files using the cairo graphics API.


svg(filename = if(onefile) "Rplots.svg" else "Rplot%03d.svg",
    width = 7, height = 7, pointsize = 12,
    onefile = FALSE, family = "sans", bg = "white",
    antialias = c("default", "none", "gray", "subpixel"))

cairo_pdf(filename = if(onefile) "Rplots.pdf" else "Rplot%03d.pdf",
          width = 7, height = 7, pointsize = 12,
          onefile = FALSE, family = "sans", bg = "white",
          antialias = c("default", "none", "gray", "subpixel"),
          fallback_resolution = 300)

cairo_ps(filename = if(onefile) "" else "",
         width = 7, height = 7, pointsize = 12,
         onefile = FALSE, family = "sans", bg = "white",
         antialias = c("default", "none", "gray", "subpixel"),
         fallback_resolution = 300)



the name of the output file. The page number is substituted if a C integer format is included in the character string, as in the default. (The result must be less than PATH_MAX characters long, and may be truncated if not. See postscript for further details.) Tilde expansion is performed where supported by the platform.


the width of the device in inches.


the height of the device in inches.


the default pointsize of plotted text (in big points).


should all plots appear in one file or in separate files?


one of the device-independent font families, "sans", "serif" and "mono", or a character string specify a font family to be searched for in a system-dependent way. See, the ‘Cairo fonts’ section in the help for X11.


the initial background colour: can be overridden by setting par("bg").


string, the type of anti-aliasing (if any) to be used; defaults to "default".


numeric: the resolution in dpi used when falling back to bitmap output. Prior to R 3.3.0 this depended on the cairo implementation but was commonly 300.


SVG (Scalar Vector Graphics) is a W3C standard for vector graphics. See The output from svg is SVG version 1.1 for onefile = FALSE (the default), otherwise SVG 1.2. (Few SVG viewers are capable of displaying multi-page SVG files.)

Note that unlike postscript and pdf, cairo_pdf and cairo_ps sometimes record bitmaps and not vector graphics. On the other hand, they can (on suitable platforms) include a much wider range of UTF-8 glyphs, and embed the fonts used.

The output produced by cairo_ps(onefile = FALSE) will be encapsulated postscript on a platform with cairo >= 1.6.

R can be compiled without support for any of these devices: this will be reported if you attempt to use them on a system where they are not supported. They all require cairo version 1.2 (from 2006) or later.

If you plot more than one page on one of these devices and do not include something like %d for the sequence number in file (or set onefile = TRUE) the file will contain the last page plotted.

There is full support of semi-transparency, but using this is one of the things liable to trigger bitmap output (and will always do so for cairo_ps).


A plot device is opened: nothing is returned to the R interpreter.


Anti-aliasing is applied to both graphics and fonts. It is generally preferable for lines and text, but can lead to undesirable effects for fills, e.g. for image plots, and so is never used for fills.

antialias = "default" is in principle platform-dependent, but seems most often equivalent to antialias = "gray".


This section describes the implementation of the conventions for graphics devices set out in the “R Internals Manual”.

  • The default device size is in pixels (svg) or inches.

  • Font sizes are in big points.

  • The default font family is Helvetica.

  • Line widths are multiples of 1/96 inch.

  • Circle radii have a minimum of 1/72 inch.

  • Colours are interpreted by the viewing application.


Cairo 1.2.4 (seen in Centos/RHEL 5) is known to give incorrect SVG output.

In principle these devices are independent of X11 (as is seen by their presence on Windows). But on a Unix-alike the cairo libraries may be distributed as part of the X11 system and hence that (on macOS, XQuartz) may need to be installed.

See Also

Devices, dev.print, pdf, postscript

capabilities to see if cairo is supported.

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