I am preparing figures that will be displayed on screen but also printed in black & white. These figures contain several 3d cube shapes that need to be distinguished from one another. Here is one example:

five cubes

There are too many cubes (5-6 in general) to be able to choose colors that will stay different enough when converted to black & white, or for color-blind people. I want to make sure that one can distinguish the different cubes when they are printed in black and white. With 2d figures, I have had some success using patterns:

color version

B&W version

How can I achieve something similar with 3d shapes? Diagonal stripes will be garbled by the perspective and won't stay consistent between different faces of a cube.

  • Do all cubes need to be transparent? Part of the problem would be solved if the smaller cubes were solid, less faces to garble - it's already quite tricky as it is since each cube's face has multiple colors
    – Luciano
    Apr 6, 2022 at 14:37
  • @Luciano It's not really necessary, no. The cubes can be opaque.
    – N. I.
    Apr 6, 2022 at 14:47
  • This is indeed a challenging problem. So i would try with wireframe only with clean line priorities. Then i would attempt adding separation between cubes to make their interfaces clearer. If all else fails i would make an exploded image.
    – joojaa
    Apr 6, 2022 at 20:02

1 Answer 1


You could perhaps simplify it using black solid strokes for the visible edges and use thinner dashed strokes to show the hidden inside of the cube, with no coloured fills at all. Something like this perhaps

enter image description here

  • Thanks. I guess it is a matter of taste, but I find your figure very hard to "parse", even though I know what it's supposed to be. It's a little messy in the middle, for example.
    – N. I.
    Apr 6, 2022 at 17:41
  • 2
    @N.I. i think its easier to parse than the original. But then i tend to look at 3D models day in day out. Though what i would do is offst the inner cubes inwards a bit so that each cube can be seen separately and given different dashes
    – joojaa
    Apr 6, 2022 at 18:44
  • @joojaa Can you tell what's going on in this image? i.postimg.cc/j5Qh3hKF/image.png Now, can you tell what's going on in this one? i.postimg.cc/90gZs8kJ/image.png I'm sorry, but I don't buy that the "wireframe"-style image is easier to understand.
    – N. I.
    Apr 6, 2022 at 19:27
  • 3
    @N.I. your wifeframes are just bad. Your line priorities are all over the place. Make use of 2 kinds of lines solids for front and dashed thinner ones for back.
    – joojaa
    Apr 6, 2022 at 19:35
  • @N.I. also consider a 15 degree or so isometric rotation thisway the last cube is not as obscured. This applies both to colored and dashed images.
    – joojaa
    Apr 6, 2022 at 19:39

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