How to assign a plot to a variable and use the variable as the return value in a Python function

You can define your plotting functions like

import numpy as np
import matplotlib.pyplot as plt

# an example graph type
def fig_barh(ylabels, xvalues, title=''):
    # create a new figure
    fig = plt.figure()

    # plot to it
    yvalues = 0.1 + np.arange(len(ylabels))
    plt.barh(yvalues, xvalues, figure=fig)
    yvalues += 0.4
    plt.yticks(yvalues, ylabels, figure=fig)
    if title:
        plt.title(title, figure=fig)

    # return it
    return fig

then use them like

from matplotlib.backends.backend_pdf import PdfPages

def write_pdf(fname, figures):
    doc = PdfPages(fname)
    for fig in figures:
        fig.savefig(doc, format='pdf')

def main():
    a = fig_barh(['a','b','c'], [1, 2, 3], 'Test #1')
    b = fig_barh(['x','y','z'], [5, 3, 1], 'Test #2')
    write_pdf('test.pdf', [a, b])

if __name__=="__main__":