How to install matplotlib using virtualenv on Ubuntu

25 Jul 2015, by Pang Yan Han

System Requirements

This was done on a system with the following specifications:

  • Lubuntu 14.04 (which is pretty much Ubuntu 14.04 underneath)
  • Python 2.7.6

You’ll probably do fine following the instructions below if you’re using a system with similar specifications.


We’ll be installing matplotlib 1.4.3 .

We assume that there is the following folder hierarchy somewhere on your system:

|--- requirements.txt
|--- venv


  • your_repo is a folder that you have some Python code using matplotlib
  • venv is a folder created using virtualenv venv; you’ll activate the virtualenv in the your_repo folder using the . venv/bin/activate command
  • requirements.txt contains a line to install matplotlib. For me, this line is matplotlib==1.4.3

Commands to run

sudo apt-get -y build-dep matplotlib
cd your_repo
. venv/bin/activate
pip install -r requirements.txt

The magic is in the sudo apt-get -y build-dep matplotlib line, which will install all the build dependencies for matplotlib.

Check that matplotlib has been installed properly

Save the following code into in the your_repo folder:

import matplotlib.pyplot as pyplot
pyplot.pie([1, 2, 3])

Activate the virtualenv if you have not, and run python You should see something like this:

And voila, there you have it =)


Based on this answer on Stack Overflow by HiddenGhost.


Was reading Section 2.5 of Think Stats, wanted to install matplotlib on a virtualenv but nothing showed up when I ran the example code in the book. Googled around, tried several answers on Stack Overflow which didn’t work or suggested doing a system-wide installation, but didn’t want to. I have no idea why I tried part of Hidden Ghost’s answer eventually, but then things worked out, so yea =)

And I noticed that I’ve posted 5 entries (including this one) since June, with 3 entries (including this one) in July. Might I be posting too much? Haha… there’s like 1 or 2 more entries in the pipeline.

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