Technical Reports

The ICICS/CS Reading Room

UBC CS TR-96-10 Summary

Choosing Effective Colours for Data Visualization, June 1996 Christopher G. Healey, 10 pages

Choosing Effective Colours for Data Visualization Christopher G. Healey

In this paper 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 that our method can be used to select a group of colours that will provide good differentiation between data elements during visualization.

If you have any questions or comments regarding this page please send mail to