How to colour your heatmaps.

  • Top-left is not Tufte-compliant because primary colours occupy too much of the space (it’s distracting).
  • Top-left also uses colours that do not grade across our perceptual space. (Although hues do grade across wavelengths of light smoothly, we don’t perceive it that way.)
  • Topographical maps that use green, brown, and yellow likewise do not grade across perceptive colour space appropriately.
  • Top-right is fine but perhaps a little bland. A topographical map with a lot of hills and valleys would benefit more from this than one trying to show finer detail. (My intended application—overlaying two elliptical single-peaked utility functions—would have a hard time with such an approach.)

@hadley recommended this paper to me. I was asking how to select colours to represent level curves (isoclines / isoutility curves / etc) on a 2-D plot. (I.e., how to plot a ²→ℝ¹ function effectively with colours other than greyscale+red.)


Big-money quote from Zeileis, Hornik, and Murrell:

It has been hypothesised that human vision evolved in three stages:

  1. perception of light/dark contrasts;
  2. yellow/blue contrasts (usually associated with our notion of warm/cold);
  3. green/red contrasts (helpful for assessing the ripeness of fruit).

….. The subjective experience of [colour, however,] is less well understood.


Wikipedia pages to read:

  • RGB (old news)
  • HSV (old news)
  • HCL = Hue Chroma Lightness

Book to read:

About isomorphismes

Argonaut: someone engaged in a dangerous but potentially rewarding adventure.
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