I have data in six series: A2, A1, B1, B2, B3, B4.

Two of these belong in one group, and four in another group.

Within these, there is a progression in the series: A2 > A1, B4 > B3 > B2 > B1.

In addition, A1 and B1 are somewhat similar (they are both "zero points").

I need a color scheme for a graph of data that will display data from all these series. As some of the resulting lines will be close together, using line markers is out of the question. Line styles are already used to express another aspect of the data.

The color scheme needs to be printer-safe as some users like to print and annotate this diagram.

How would I go about creating such a color scheme? My main problem is that there are different amounts of elemenets on the "left" and "right" side of this scheme.

  • I would appreciate a real world connection. What are these data sets, what is the relation between them, what is the progression, what are the line styles used for?
    – Larivact
    Commented Sep 22, 2015 at 15:48
  • OK, so this is for a dashboard that displays performance data for our software. There are different algorithms (i.e. line styles), different platforms (the A or B) and different optimization levels (1, 2, 3, 4). We have two platforms, and there are fewer optimization levels on A than are on B. The x axis is the "block size" of the algorithms, and the y axis is runtime. It is important to see all this data to evaluate the algorithms with respect to their strength regarding optimization level, platform and block size.
    – marc
    Commented Sep 22, 2015 at 15:58
  • Two well separated hues and SIX intensities. Safe for color blind. Easy to distinguish and printer safe. Commented Sep 22, 2015 at 16:35
  • My gut reaction is that you may be trying to communicate too much in one visual--or the visual isn't perhaps the right one to communicate all this information. A visual is meant to make the data easier to digest and trying to communicate too much at once can actually do just the opposite.
    – DA01
    Commented Sep 22, 2015 at 19:46

1 Answer 1


I think that more than color you should use a mix of color, patterns and labels. This way, you make sure your form bars are identified in any condition, including color blindness and monochrome printing.

I made a quick mockup using a pure white and also a light blue and yellow combination, then added 25% black to each square. The 3rd set is the blue and yellow version converted to grayscale (for monochrome printing). All options use a different pattern, so it's very easy to see the sets are really different. Of course you can use any color and any pattern, just doing this to illustrate what I mean:

enter image description here

  • 1
    To add onto this, if you're concerned about color blindness at all, check out Color Oracle. It's a nifty little tool to help you determine what a color blind user might see
    – BDD
    Commented Sep 22, 2015 at 19:48

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