Data Visualization Toolkit: Color General Resources

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Color is critical in displaying data. It can be used to grab the viewer’s attention, and strategic use of color ensures the viewer concentrates on key information. Color also helps in retention because it evokes emotions and links the viewer to memories. Therefore, color choices should always be intentional.

Color General Resources

  • Practical Rules for Using Color in Charts and How to Analyze Data: 6 Useful Ways to Use Color in Graphs are two resources that provide simple guidelines for using color to display data.
  • Choosing Colors for Data Visualization provides additional information on the principles of color design.
    • Applying Colors and Themes in Excel, Word, and PowerPoint


      Microsoft Office and many other products use the RGB (red-green-blue) color model to create a vast array of colors across the spectrum. RGB is an additive color model; that is, the three colors are added together in different proportions to produce different colors. The tools detailed below provide you with RGB codes that have three numbers: The first is the amount of red in the color, the second is the amount of green, and the third is the amount of blue.

      See CMYK or cyan, magenta, yellow, and key (black) color schemes

      Some programs use the CMYK or cyan, magenta, yellow, and key (black) color schemes or HEX numbers (HEX is short for hexadecimal and refers to the six-digit number schemes to name colors). Is one better than the other? No. For all intents and purposes, the different numbers represent the same hue using different color models. In most cases numbers (i.e., colors) from one model are interchangeable with those from another. To quickly convert between HEX and RGB, use the HEX to RGB Converter tool.


      Microsoft has several sets of themes, or sets, of formatting choices. It offers themes for colors, fonts (including heading and body text fonts), and effects (including lines and fill effects). Themes allow you set a style for your document.