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Color theory and design

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Abstract This article, first published online on February 4, 2011 in Wiley Online Library (http://www.wileyonlinelibrary.com), has been revised at the request of the Editors‐in‐Chief and the Publisher. References and links have been added to aid the reader interested in following up on any technique. Please follow the link to the Supporting Information to view the original version of this article. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/wics.146/suppinfo In this article, we discuss color theory and design with emphasis on use in statistical, scientific, and data visualization. Color theory is inextricably linked to the physiology of the human visual system, and color design is similarly inextricably linked to human perception. We discuss color perception in the human visual system. We then quantify color perception in terms of the Munsell System and the International Commission on Illumination (CIE) color space. We continue to discuss color design with a perspective on individuals with defective color perception and finally conclude with a discussion of design of color usage in presentations. WIREs Comp Stat 2011 3 104–117 DOI: 10.1002/wics.146 This article is categorized under: Statistical and Graphical Methods of Data Analysis > Statistical Graphics and Visualization

Schematic diagram of the Human Eye. This image appeared in Wikipedia Eye, and was released by its originator into the public domain.

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HSV color wheel based on RGB primaries. The left image shows primary, secondary, and tertiary hues. The left image is available at http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=File%RBG_color_wheel.svg. The right image shows a more continuous version of the hues. The right image is available at http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Triangulo_HSV.png#filehistory. These images are used under GNU Free Documentation License.

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The RYB Color Wheel. The left image is available at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Color_star‐en.svg. The right image is available at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:BYR_color_wheel.svg. These images are used under the GNU Free Documentation License.

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Foreground–background separation. The idea of this illustration was inspired by a somewhat similar illustration in Green.4

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Screen shot of CrystalVision parallel coordinate display illustrating the grouping and linking effects. The color bars on the upper left‐hand side are the six default brushing colors. Notice that the axes are colored red while the axes labels are cyan. These are complementary colors which are in some sense maximally different, and which add to white.

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The figure on the left is composed of all blue tones, whereas the same pattern on the right has bright (primary) contrasting colors. It is considerable easier to distinguish the two groups on the right‐hand side because of the color contrast. This figure is based on a similar figure in Green.4

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The word, VISUALIZATION, when rendered all in green is much easier to read compared with the same word in multiple colors. The all green word is naturally grouped because of the common color, whereas that effect is not found in the multicolored word. This figure is based on a similar figure in Green.4

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Illustration of the effect of gamma adjustments. Notice that the whites remain white (T‐shirt) and the blacks remain black (shadow). The middle image was what came from the digital camera. The left image is with gamma adjusted down, the right with gamma adjusted up. This illustration is courtesy of Edward Wegman.

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A typical gamma curve for a CRT. In order to correct for the nonlinearity in the display device, a complementary gamma correction curve must be introduced. Note that near one and near zero the gamma curve is close to the idea linear response. This means respectively whites are white and blacks are black. This image is available at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Gamma06_600.png, it appears in the Wikipedia article on Gamma Correction, and is used under the GNU Free Documentation License.

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CIE xyY Chromaticity Diagram as a function of x and y. The range 380–700 nm represents the range of perception of visible light for humans. Saturation (chroma) as well as hue is represented in this diagram. This image appears in the Wikipedia article on CIE 1931 color space and the copyright holder has released this image into the public domain without any restrictions.

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CIE 1931 XYZ Color matching functions as described in the text. This image appears in the Wikipedia article on CIE 1931 color space and is used under the GNU Free Documentation License.

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Illustration of the Munsell Color System. The vertical direction represents value or lightness. The radial direction represents chroma or saturation. The angular direction represents Hue. This image appears in the Wikipedia article on the Munsell color system and is used under the GNU Free Documentation License.

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Professor Sam Wilks illustrating additive complementary colors. This photo is used with permission of the Army Conference on Applied Statistics. Professor Wilks proposed the Army Design of Experiments Conference. The first such conference was held in October 1955 and was chaired by Professor Wilks.

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Image at high level of illumination in open air market. Cones would dominate. Photo by Edward Wegman.

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Image at low level of illumination so that it is less colorful. Rods would dominate. Photo by Yasmin Said.

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