Color Schemes

Break down the fundamentals of color schemes for data storytelling.

The use of color in our visualizations can play an important role in the way messages are conveyed to our audience. In this lesson, we'll describe two foundational ways color influences data storytelling.

Create associations intentionally

Colors can be used intentionally to help increase the effectiveness of a data storytelling project by:

  • Representing common expectations and increasing user convenience.

  • Reducing the amount of time it takes users to reach the right conclusions from a plot.

A popular example of color association is the use of red to indicate an event that is a loss or is wrong and green to indicate growth or a good possibility.

Note: Colors may have cultural associations with a region or society or company (e.g., the color of a company logo), so it is recommended to be cautious of any radical differences or assumptions depending on the context of your narrative.


Given that color holds meaning and can effectively convey concepts such as contrast and similarity, the way that color is defined in data visualization is also key. Many data storytellers consider reducing the saturation or intensity of their data visualizations as a stylistic decision for professional-quality plots to reduce the brightness and make viewing the presentation easier on the viewer's eyes. High saturation can confuse or overwhelm viewers and make it challenging to leverage colors to distinguish between data points.

For example, consider the following bar plot leveraging the default colors provided by Matplotlib.

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