Color Map Advice for Scientific Visualization

Kenneth Moreland:

This page provides advice for using colors in scientific visualization. More specifically, this page provides color maps that you can use while using pseudocoloring of a scalar field. The color maps are organized by how and where they are best used. Each color map shows some example usage and provides color tables in CSV format so that they can readily be used in rendering system textures or entered into visualization software. For simplicity, the color tables are provided in many different lengths and with colors expressed in both bytes (integers between 0 and 255) and floats (decimals between 0.0 and 1.0). Each color map also has instructions on getting these colors in the ParaView visualization application. Where applicable, Jupyter Python notebooks containing details about how each color map is generated. You can either run the code directly with the appropriate software or copy/paste scripts into your own interpreter. Each color map below is demonstrated on a 2D heat map and 3D surface. The data for both can be downloaded here.

This work originates from the paper “Why We Use Bad Color Maps and What You Can Do About It.” Details about this paper are given below. Another related publication is “Diverging Color Maps for Scientific Visualization,” which describes specifics about one particular type of color map. Details of this paper and the techniques used can be found on its companion page.