human vision system

The light that falls onto the retina is processed by photoreceptors, better known as rods and cones. The rods respond to light of relatively low luminance levels, while
the less sensitive cones are more responsive to higher luminance levels.

There are three types of cones that together produce the sensation of color. Each cone has a different response curve

The cones are characterized by the peak value of the response curves: S, M and L, which respectively stand for short, middle and long wavelengths.

L, M and S cone responses to light

two colors will appear the same to us if they produce the same cone responses.

the number of S-cones on the retina is lower than the M- and L- cone numbers.

luminance is weighted by the human cone response curves. Luminance is often normalized according to a specified reference white. Lightness is the perceptual response to luminance.




expert-crafted, algorithmically-generated, and default order

Chroma indicates how bright, saturated, vivid or colorful a color is. Formally, for any given color, reducing chroma to zero produces a gray of the same value. The maximum chroma for the color will vary with the color and the medium (display vs. print, for example)

On a display, the high chroma colors are vivid and bright, and unfortunately, the easiest to select in many applications. Using colors that are darker and grayer, or more pastel (closer to white), has many benefits.

Interactive systems and algorithms to guide color choices also exist, but they do not consider semantic associations between data values and colors. Prior work has optimized color mappings based on spatial frequency [BRT95], perceptual visibility [LSS12], color harmony [WGM08], and display energy consumption [CWM09]. Rheingans and Tebbs [RT90] introduced a tool allowing users to manipulate color mappings to visually explore and filter data. Lastly, other work has focused on generating palettes for artistic rather than visualization applications [MSK04,OAH11].

Selecting Semantically-Resonant Colors for Data Visualization

Choosing Colors for Data Visualization 

Maureen Stone
January 17, 2006




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