Picking a colour scale for scientific graphics

Better Figures

Here are some recommendations for making scientific graphics which help your audience understand your data as easily as possible. Your graphics should be striking, readily understandable, should avoid distorting the data (unless you really mean to), and be safe for those who are colourblind. Remember, there are no really “right” or “wrong” palettes (OK, maybe a few wrong ones), but studying a few simple rules and examples will help you communicate only what you intend.

What kind of palettes for maps?

For maps of quantitative data that has an order, use an ordered palette. If data is sequential and is continually increasing or decreasing then use a brightness ramp (e.g. light to dark shades of grey, blue or red) or a hue ramp (e.g. cycling from light yellow to dark blue). In general, people interpret darker colours as representing “more”. These colour palettes can be downloaded from Color…

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