Black Lives Matter. Please consider donating to Black Girls Code today.

WARNING: No exporting of true vector graphics! And could I please get a subscription refund?

I work in an academic data science lab, and for an article submission, I needed to make high quality 3D scatter plots. I often work in R and was unsatisfied with the results I got using some other R packages, so after doing some research on the options, I decided to try plotly, via R. I spent more than a day day learning the syntax and making some plots I am really happy with. It’s great to have the 3d capabilities, but for an article, I also need 2d figures.

Then comes the frustrating part: it is simply not possible to export my beautiful plots in high-quality vector graphics! Why would plotly not enable this?

The plotly website claims that a paid subscription enables the export of images as pdf or svg, so my advisor actually paid for my subscription today. But, the fact is that the exports in pdf or svg formats are not actual true vector graphic representations of the plot! As I now see that a few other users noted, the exports are essentially just low-quality png images converted to a vector graphic format. This means that the plot components, such as individual points, axes, and text, cannot be directly edited in a vector graphic editor (such as Adobe Illustrator) as one would expect to be able to do after working for years with R and other plotting software (and as one typically needs to be able to do to create publishable figures).

I tried the exporting both via orca from R and after first uploading my plot to the plotly server. The former approach completely failed (first, I got an error about needing a Mapbox token even though I wasn’t using Mapbox at all; then, once I got the token, I got a less comprehensible error about too many arguments, though there weren’t, as far as I could tell). I did manage to export the plot directly from the plotly website, both as pdf and as svg, but in either case, the export was not a true vector graphic representation.

My plotly subscription, though it costs actual money, apparently does not come with actual support, so I cannot figure out how to contact anyone to ask for a refund.

So, hello, if anyone from plotly reads this:
(1) Could I please have a refund of the subscription I bought earlier today? If I simply wanted to convert a png into a low-quality pdf, I could use Preview on my laptop for free. What I need is a true vector graphic export. If plotly doesn’t have that, I don’t have a reason for the subscription purchase.

(2) I would strongly suggest that plotly clarify this lack of capability on its website (e.g., the tutorials, guides, references) because not knowing this made me waste a LOT of time and spend money that I didn’t need to spend.

(3) I would also strongly suggest that plotly add this capability for 3d scatter plots or discuss why it isn’t present. I work in a huge lab, and I think many lab members would potentially be interested in using plotly but maybe not without the possibility to export true vector graphic representations of their plots.


Hi there,

At this time we do not offer vector graphic export for WebGL rendered graphs (this includes 3D). Our accounts team would be happy to assist you via regarding the cancelation and refund of your subscription.