The colors to use for great science visuals

As a scientist, part of your job description includes presenting your science to others (in talks, posters, videos, and many other ways). You’ll almost certainly be creating visuals, no matter the method of presentation. Here’s the question though: what colors should you use for those visuals? There are lots of ways to go, but it is hard to go wrong with a monochromatic color palette.

Monochromatic color palettes consist of mostly one color or a few colors that are very near in hue but could have a wide range in saturation (more on hue and saturation in a second). Take a look at the following great example of a monochromatic design built around three colors: red, orange and yellow.


Designed by Ron Guyatt, the colors in this illustration have very similar hues (a measure of color). However, the colors in the design vary widely in their saturation, which is a measure of their intensity (as saturation declines, a color gets more grey and less intense).

A big advantage of using a monochromatic color palette is that it is friendly for those who are totally or partially color-blind (a much bigger population than you might imagine).

SciFund Challenge has a lot more to say about picking the right colors for your science visuals in our Academic Posters class. Here’s the relevant section of the class material.