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Set figure properties for printing axesm-based map at map scale


[paperXdim,paperYdim] = paperscale(...)


paperscale(paperdist,punits,surfdist,sunits) sets the figure paper position to print the map in the current axes at the desired scale. The scale is described by the geographic distance that corresponds to a paper distance. For example, a scale of 1 inch = 10 kilometers is specified as degrees(1,'inch',10,'km'). See below for an alternate method of specifying the map scale. The surface distance units sunits can be any unit recognized by unitsratio. The paper units punits can be any dimensional units recognized for the figure PaperUnits property.

paperscale(paperdist,punits,surfdist,sunits,lat,long) sets the paper position so that the scale is correct at the specified geographic location. If omitted, the default is the center of the map limits.

paperscale(paperdist,punits,surfdist,sunits,lat,long,az) also specifies the direction along which the scale is correct. If omitted, 90 degrees (east) is assumed.

paperscale(paperdist,punits,surfdist,sunits,lat,long,az,gunits) also specifies the units in which the geographic position and direction are given. If omitted, 'degrees' is assumed.

uses the last input to determine the radius of the sphere. radius can be one of the values supported by km2deg, or it can be the (numerical) radius of the desired sphere in zunits. If omitted, the default radius of the Earth is used..

paperscale(scale,...), where the numeric scale replaces the two property/value pairs, specifies the scale as a ratio between distance on the sphere and on paper. This is commonly notated on maps as 1:scale (e.g. 1:100 000, or 1:1 000 000). For example, paperscale(100000) or paperscale(100000,lat,long).

[paperXdim,paperYdim] = paperscale(...) returns the computed paper dimensions. The dimensions are in the paper units specified. For the scale calling form, the returned dimensions are in centimeters.


Maps are usually printed at a size that allows an easy comparison of distances measured on paper to distances on the Earth. The linear ratio between the mapped size of objects to the real size of objects is called the map scale. It is usually expressed as a ratio, such as 1 to 100,000 or 1:100,000 or 1 cm = 1 km. Another way of specifying scale is to call out the printed and real lengths, for example "1 inch = 1 mile."

To ensure your map can be printed correctly, you can specify the printed scale using the paperscale function. It modifies the size of the printed area on the page to match the scale. If the resulting dimensions are larger than your paper, you can reduce the amount of empty space around the map using tightmap or zoom, and by changing the axes position to fill the figure. This also reduces the amount of memory needed to print with the zbuffer (raster image) renderer. Be sure to set the paper scale last. For example,

set(gca,'Units','Normalized','Position',[0 0 1 1])
paperscale(1,'in', 5,'miles')

The paperscale function also can take a scale denominator as its first and only argument. If you want the map to be printed at 1:20,000,000, type


To check the size and extent of text and the relative position of axes, use previewmap, which resizes the figure to the printed size.


For more information on printing, see Printing and Saving.


The small circle measures 10 cm across when printed.

axesm mercator
[lat,lon] = scircle1(0,0,km2deg(5));
[x,y] = paperscale(1,'centimeter',1,'km'); [x y]

ans =
       13.154       12.509

set(gca,'pos', [ 0 0 1 1])
[x,y] = paperscale(1,'centimeter',1,'km'); [x y]

ans =
       10.195       10.195


The relationship between the paper and geographic coordinates holds only as long as there are no changes to the display that affect the axes limits or the relationship between geographic coordinates and projected coordinates. Changes of this type include the ellipsoid or scale factor properties of the axesm-based map, or adding elements to the display that cause MATLAB® to modify the axes autoscaling. To be sure that the scale is correct, execute paperscale just before printing.

Version History

Introduced before R2006a