The use of color in the scientific visualization of acoustical phenomena

Victor W. Sparrow, Judith L. Rochat, Benjamin A. Bard

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Color is commonly used in representing scientific data, especially as color output devices have become widely available. The misuse of color can lead to confusing or even misleading representations of data. The purpose of this paper is to provide a review of guidelines for using color effectively, specifically aimed at the computational acoustics community. The question of whether or not to use color at all is initially raised, and gray-scale is suggested for appropriate cases. Human color deficiencies in technical audiences are then described, and the consequential choices of equally-accessible color schemes are discussed. The topics of human color perception models, hypsometric tints, contoured plots, and histogram equalization are introduced. Color palettes specifically suited for acoustical phenomena, such as linear and dB magnitudes, scales for positive and negative data, circular palettes for phase, and methods for illustrating different classes of phenomena (e.g., wave types) on a single plot, are discussed in detail. Color examples and Mathematica code are provided, and final recommendations are made for choosing effective color schemes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)203-223
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Computational Acoustics
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1996

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Acoustics and Ultrasonics
  • Applied Mathematics


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