Choosing effective colours for data visualization


C. G. Healey
Proceedings IEEE Visualization '96, 1996, pp. 263-270

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Healey, C. G. (1996). Choosing effective colours for data visualization (pp. 263–270).

Healey, C. G. “Choosing Effective Colours for Data Visualization.” In , 263–270, 1996.

Healey, C. G. Choosing Effective Colours for Data Visualization. 1996, pp. 263–70.


We describe a technique for choosing multiple colours for use during data visualization. Our goal is a systematic method for maximizing the total number of colours available for use, while still allowing an observer to rapidly and accurately search a display for any one of the given colours. Previous research suggests that we need to consider three separate effects during colour selection: colour distance, linear separation, and colour category. We describe a simple method for measuring and controlling all of these effects. Our method was tested by performing a set of target identification studies; we analysed the ability of thirty eight observers to find a colour target in displays that contained differently coloured background elements. Results showed our method can be used to select a group of colours that will provide good differentiation between data elements during data visualization.