[R] Suggested color schemes for points, not regions?

Martin Maechler maechler at stat.math.ethz.ch
Thu Nov 4 10:39:13 CET 2004

>>>>> "KevinW" == Kevin Wright <kwright at eskimo.com>
>>>>>     on Wed, 3 Nov 2004 08:06:59 -0800 (PST) writes:

    KevinW> I have seen a couple of posts about color schemes like those at the
    KevinW> ColorBrewer site.  Most recently:
    KevinW> http://geography.uoregon.edu/datagraphics/color_scales.htm

    KevinW> These color schemes can work very well for regions (bars, polygons,
    KevinW> images, etc.) but are not very suitable for points and/or lines.

Are you sure?

Currently, for R users, the most accessible of the "new" schemes is the
ColorBrewer (http://colorbrewer.org) one, since Erich Neuwirth
and others have been providing the RColorBrewer package on CRAN.

 example(brewer.pal) # a 'show'

not only has schemes to be used for images/maps,
but also "Set"s of (pairwise well distinguishable) colors well
suited for scatter plots.   In Cynthia Brewer's terminology
these are the "qualitative" schemes.  

    KevinW> Is anyone aware of research/suggestions for a color
    KevinW> scheme to use for scatter plots?  I've looked at
    KevinW> great length and have found little on this topic.

    KevinW> My current scheme of choice is a set of fairly
    KevinW> saturated colors along the lines of:

    KevinW> navy
    KevinW> brown/orange
    KevinW> black
    KevinW> purple
    KevinW> red
    KevinW> medium green

    KevinW> This is similar to the 'paired' color scheme, but
    KevinW> using only the saturated colors and substituting
    KevinW> black for yellow.  Depending on circumstances, I
    KevinW> sometimes use a different glyph for each color.  The
    KevinW> hard part about all this is to make sure that each
    KevinW> color/glyph combination has the same
    KevinW> 'attention-getting' power.

hmm, from the above I tend to read that you've already looked at
(e.g.) 'Set1' or 'Dark2' colors from ColorBrewer but didn't like

Something that hasn't been properly considered by statisticians
AFAIK is the situation for color blind people, or at least the
most common one. This has just been brought up here two days
ago, see e.g.
which mentions new "color ramp" facilities in the future 
R 2.1.0 (2005-04-0x).
Cynthia Brewer and many others also mention and recommend
http://www.vischeck/com/ which allows checking your image/drawing.
There's a simulator trying show how a given picture is seen by
(even different kinds of) color deficient persons.

The colorbrewer.org site has a very nice tool (based on flash 5
plugin), which shows you the pros and cons of a color scheme you
chose (interactively).  She (Cynthia Brewer) uses 6 criteria
(with 3 levels  "ok", "doubtful/unknown", "not ok"):

 1) Color blind friendly   [the "red-green" deficiency]
 2) Photocopy friendly	   [for B&W photocopying: are differences preserved?]
 3) LCD Projector friendly [pastel colors may be problematic]
 4) Laptop (LCD) friendly
 5) CRT-(screen) friendly
 6) Color Printing friendly

>From the 8 qualitative schemes, 
- 5 (of 8) were "not ok" for color blinded.
- each had at least one "not ok";
  i.e., there's no "optimal color scheme" that works everywhere,
  but you have to change color schemes depending on the intended

    KevinW> Any discussion or comments are welcome.

I'm pretty sure Ross Ihaka will also chime in here.
(http://www.stat.auckland.ac.nz/~ihaka/colour/ is a first start).

As you see, I'm quite interested also.
Martin Maechler <maechler at stat.math.ethz.ch>	http://stat.ethz.ch/~maechler/
Seminar fuer Statistik, ETH-Zentrum  LEO C16	Leonhardstr. 27
ETH (Federal Inst. Technology)	8092 Zurich	SWITZERLAND
phone: x-41-1-632-3408		fax: ...-1228			<><

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