Once you’ve exported from matplotlib, you can open up your PDF in Illustrator.

Step 1: Ignore the font warning

The very first thing that will happen is a warning:

The document uses fonts that are currently not available on your computer.

Missing fonts(1)


Default font substituted for missing font

This is because matplotlib uses the BitstreamVeraSans-Roman font which isn’t installed on your computer in a place where Illustrator can get to it. This doesn’t really matter because you’re going to change the font anyway!

Ignore it and click Close.

Tip: You could also check the Don’t show on Document open box so you won’t see this again.

Step 2: Remove clipping masks

When you first open your image in Illustrator, you won’t be able to edit it: it’s covered in something called clipping masks. Let’s remove these clipping masks!

  1. Click something on your image - some text, a circle, a line, etc. You just want your graphic selected (a blue box will show up around it).
  2. Go to the Object menu, then Clipping Mask, then Release
  3. Keep doing Object > Clipping Mask > Release until you can’t select Release any more - all of the clipping masks are gone!

If you like shortcut keys, you can use Command+A to select everything, then push Command+Alt+7 again and again to remove the clipping masks.

Note: This is going to cause some issues if you’ve customized your plot in certain ways (start point of bars going offscreen, etc). Unfortunately I don’t have a solution other than “just resize your bars to where they should go.” It mostly works fine, though.

Step 3: Do whatever you want

You’re good to go now.