What Is the Difference Between Mesh and Surf MATLAB?


When it comes to visualizing data in MATLAB, two commonly used functions are mesh and surf. These functions allow you to create three-dimensional plots, providing a visual representation of your data in a more comprehensive manner.

While both mesh and surf can be used for similar purposes, there are some key differences between the two. In this tutorial, we will explore these differences and understand when to use mesh or surf in MATLAB.

The Basics

Before diving into the differences, let’s briefly understand what mesh and surf actually do.

The Mesh Function

The mesh function creates a wireframe representation of a surface. It connects adjacent points with lines to form a network of triangles, giving the illusion of a solid surface. This function is particularly useful when you want to visualize irregularly spaced data or analyze the shape of your data points.

The Surf Function

In contrast, the surf function creates a shaded surface plot. It uses interpolated colors to represent the height or intensity of your data points. This function is commonly used when you want to visualize continuous data on a regular grid or analyze the variations across different regions.

Differences Between Mesh and Surf

Listed below are some key differences between mesh and surf:

  • Data Representation: Mesh represents data as a wireframe structure while surf represents data as a shaded surface plot.
  • Line vs. Surface: Mesh displays lines connecting adjacent points while surf displays smooth surfaces.
  • Data Point Density: Mesh can handle irregularly spaced data points, whereas surf requires data points to be on a regular grid.
  • Visual Appearance: Mesh provides a more detailed view of the underlying data structure, while surf emphasizes smoothness and continuity.

When to Use Mesh or Surf?

The choice between using mesh or surf depends on the nature of your data and the type of visualization you want to achieve. Here are some scenarios where one function may be more suitable than the other:

  • Mesh:
    • Visualizing irregularly spaced data points.
    • Analyzing the shape or structure of the data.
    • Emphasizing the connectivity between adjacent points.
  • Surf:
    • Visualizing continuous data on a regular grid.
    • Analyzing variations in intensity or height across different regions.
    • Highlighting smoothness and continuity in the data.


In summary, both mesh and surf are powerful functions in MATLAB for visualizing three-dimensional data. While mesh provides a wireframe representation with detailed connectivity information, surf offers a shaded surface plot that highlights smoothness and continuity.

Choosing between mesh and surf depends on your specific requirements and the nature of your data. Experimenting with both functions will help you determine which one best suits your needs. Happy plotting!

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Lindsay Collins