Creating Heatmap Using Python Seaborn

8 min read

By Udisha Alok and Milind Paradkar

In this blog, we will learn to use the Seaborn Python package to create heatmaps that can be used by traders for tracking markets.

Our roadmap for this blog is:

In our previous blog, we talked about Data Visualization in Python using Bokeh. We now turn our eye towards another cool data visualization package in Python.

Seaborn for Python data visualization

Seaborn is a data visualization library based on Matplotlib. It provides a high-level interface for drawing attractive statistical graphs.

Seaborn is built on top of Matplotlib, and its graphics can be further tweaked using Matplotlib tools and rendered with any of the Matplotlib backends to generate publication-quality figures.

The types of plots that can be created using Seaborn include:

  • Distribution plots
  • Regression plots
  • Categorical plots
  • Matrix plots
  • Time series plots
  • Heatmaps

The plotting functions operate on Python data frames and arrays containing a whole dataset and internally perform the necessary aggregation and statistical model-fitting to produce informative plots. Some examples can be found here.

Examples of the different types of plot created using Seaborn

What is a heatmap?

A heatmap is a two-dimensional graphical representation of data where the individual values that are contained in a matrix are represented as colours.

The Seaborn package allows the creation of annotated heatmaps which can be tweaked using Matplotlib tools as per the creator’s requirement.

heatmaps using seaborn python packages
Annotated Heatmap: Source

Use cases for heatmaps in finance

As discussed earlier, a heatmap is a matrix representation of the variables, which is coloured based on the intensity of the value. Hence, it provides an excellent visual tool for comparing various entities.

It is easy to create and customize, and intuitive to interpret. So it is used extensively when dealing with multiple assets in finance.

Some of the important use-cases where heatmaps provide powerful visualization are:

  • Comparing the price changes, returns, etc. of various assets
  • Checking the correlation among multiple stocks

Since heatmaps provide us with an easy tool to understand the correlation between two entities, they can be used to visualize the correlation among the features of a machine learning model. This may help in feature selection by eliminating highly correlated features.

Step-by-step Python code for creating heatmaps

Let us now look at a couple of these use cases and see how we can create Python code for them.

Display the single-day percentage price changes of stocks

We will create a Seaborn heatmap for a group of 30 pharmaceutical company stocks listed on the National Stock Exchange of India Ltd (NSE). The Seaborn heatmap will display the stock symbols and their respective single-day percentage price change.

We collate the required market data on pharma stocks and construct a comma-separated value (CSV) file comprising of the stock symbols and their respective percentage price change in the first two columns of the CSV file.

Since we have 30 pharma companies on our list, we will create a heatmap matrix of 6 rows and 5 columns. Further, we want our Seaborn heatmap to display the percentage price change for the stocks in descending order.

To that effect, we arrange the stocks in descending order in the CSV file and add two more columns that indicate the position of each stock on the X & Y axis of our heatmap.

Step 1 - Import the required Python packages

We import the following Python packages:

Step 2 - Load the dataset

We read the dataset using the read_csv function from pandas and visualize the first ten rows using the print statement.

    Symbol  Change Yrows Xcols
0   BIOCON   3.18    1     1
1   SYNINT   2.45    1     2
2   DRREDD   1.80    1     3
3   TORPHA   1.48    1     4
4      FDC   @.75    1     s
5    DRLAL   @.56    2     1
6   INDREM   @.26    2     2
7   ABBIND   6.04    2     3
8   GRANUL   6.00    2     4
9   GLAPHA  -@.44    2     5

Step - 3 Create a Python Numpy array

Since we want to construct a 6 x 5 matrix, we create an n-dimensional array of the same shape for “Symbol” and the “Change” columns.

[[ 3.18  2.45  1.8   1.48  0.75]
 [ 0.56  0.2   0.04  0.   -0.04]
 [-0.05 -0.11 -0.12 -0.22 -0.3 ]
 [-0.31 -0.43 -0.49 -0.52 -0.53]
 [-0.63 -0.85 -0.89 -0.91 -0.93]
 [-1.12 -1.24 -1.8  -1.94 -3.2 ]]

Step 4 - Create a Pivot in Python

The pivot function is used to create a new derived table from the given data frame object “df”. The function takes three arguments; index, columns, and values. The cell values of the new table are taken from the column given as the values parameter, which in our case is the “Change” column.

Xcols   1    2     3     4     5
  1   3.18  2.45  1.86  1.48  0.75
  2   0.56  0.20  0.04  6.40 -0.04
  3  -0.05 -0.11 -0.12 -0.22 -0.30
  4  -0.31 -0.43 -0.49 -0.52 -0.53
  5  -0.63 -0.85 -0.89 -0.91 -0.93
  6  -1.12 -1.24 -1.80 -1.94 -3.20

Step 5 - Create an array to annotate the heatmap

In this step, we create an array that will be used to annotate the Seaborn heatmap. We call the flatten method on the “symbol” and “percentage” arrays to flatten a Python list of lists in one line.

The zip function which returns an iterator zips a list in Python. We run a Python For loop and by using the format function; we format the stock symbol and the percentage price change value as per our requirement.

Step 6 - Create the Matplotlib figure and define the plot

We create an empty Matplotlib plot and define the figure size. We also add the title to the plot and set the title’s font size, and its distance from the plot using the set_position method.

We wish to display only the stock symbols and their respective single-day percentage price change. Hence, we hide the ticks for the X & Y axis, and also remove both the axes from the heatmap plot.

Step 7 - Create the heatmap

In the final step, we create the heatmap using the heatmap function from the Seaborn package. The heatmap function takes the following arguments:

  • data – a 2D dataset that can be coerced into a ndarray. If a Pandas DataFrame is provided, the index/column information will be used to label the columns and rows.
  • annot – an array of the same shape as data which is used to annotate the heatmap.
  • cmap – a matplotlib colormap name or object. This maps the data values to the color space.
  • fmt – string formatting code to use when adding annotations.
  • linewidths – sets the width of the lines that will divide each cell.
heatmap created from seaborn python package

Here’s our final output of the Seaborn heatmap for the chosen group of pharmaceutical companies. Looks pretty neat and clean, doesn’t it? A quick glance at this heatmap and one can easily make out how the market is faring for the period.

Display the correlation among the stocks

We have created a heatmap of the changes in the prices of various pharma stocks to see at a glance how they are doing. But, can we also check out if some stocks seem to be moving together and are correlated?

This would be useful in building a portfolio. Let us see how we can do this in Python using the Seaborn library.

Step 1 - Import the packages
Let us begin by importing the libraries that we need to use.

Step 2 - Setting the parameters
We now define the parameters required for us to pull the data from Yahoo, and the size of the plot, in case we want something different than the default.

Step 3 - Pulling the data
We now define a function to pull the data from Yahoo. Thereafter, we pass a list of the tickers for which we want to check correlation. Remember, if you pass a list of ‘n’ stocks, you will get a heatmap of ‘n X n’ dimensions. Hence, it is best to pass a limited number of tickers so that the heatmap does not become cluttered and difficult to read.

We will fetch only the adjusted close prices of these stocks.

Step 4 - Calculate the percentage returns of the stocks
We now calculate the percentage change in the adjusted close prices of the stocks.

Step 5 - Plot the correlation heatmap
We will now plot the correlation among the percentage returns of these stocks using the Seaborn library. As earlier, we define the color map we want to use for our plot, and set the annotations to True.

Here is our heatmap. As you can see, stocks belonging to the same sector are correlated. Are there any other interesting observations that you can make from this plot? Do let us know!

correlation heatmap

Other Python libraries for plotting heatmaps

Now that we have explored using the Seaborn library for plotting heatmaps, we are sure you want to explore this further.

Python has many libraries that provide us with the functionality to plot heatmaps, with different levels of ease and different visual appeal.

Here’s a list for you to sample:

  1. Matplotlib
  2. Plotnine
  3. Plotly
  4. Cufflinks
  5. Bokeh

Do let us know if you would like to read more about using these (and maybe other) libraries for plotting heatmaps on our blog.


As we’ve shown, Seaborn is an easy-to-use library that provides us with powerful tools for better and more aesthetic visualizations.

One can tweak the Seaborn plots to suit one’s requirement and make heatmaps using Python for various use cases. You can refer to the documentation of Seaborn for creating other impressive charts.

We have created a course for individuals who want to start their journey and get introduced to data science or want to gain hands-on knowledge. You get to learn all the important steps like data remediation, exploratory data analysis, data modelling, and communicating results. Do check it out now for FREE!

Downloadable files

Readers can download the entire Seaborn Python code plus the excel file using the download button provided below and create their own custom heatmaps.

A little tweak in the Python code and you can create Seaborn Python heatmaps of any size, for any market index, or for any period using this Python code. The Seaborn heatmap can be used in live markets by connecting the real-time data feed to the excel file that is read in the Python code.

Files in the download:

  • Pharma Heatmap using Seaborn - Python code
  • Pharma Heatmap - Data excel file
  • Correlation between stocks - Python notebook

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