Which components should use for plotting in a PCA analysis? Should it be component 1 versus component 2, or any combination that shows clustering is okay to use?

Also, I have seen that in a few cases the axis labels mention the variance that is shown (e.g. it says "Principal component 1 (Var. 58.09%)"). Does this mean that in these plots only a part of the corresponding axis is shown (i.e. is it zoomed-in)?

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    $\begingroup$ Your questions bely a fundamental lack of knowledge of what PCA does. I strongly recommend you read the following article. If you feel comfortable with linear algebra and basic statistics, you can skip to page 13. The meat of the discussion is only 7 pages with graphics, and is the most accessible explanation of PCA I've encountered: cs.otago.ac.nz/cosc453/student_tutorials/… . I also suggest you avoid the temptation to use tools you don't understand in general, since you probably won't interpret their output correctly. $\endgroup$
    – David Marx
    Nov 15, 2013 at 16:17
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for the link, David! I'll definitely have a look. $\endgroup$
    – panos
    Nov 18, 2013 at 10:48

1 Answer 1


You do not need to show any at all. You should show those that are instrumental for the argument you are making/pieces of evidence you are interested in.

The "var" indicates that the component plotted accounts for so-and-so many % of the variance among variables included.


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