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Provides qualitative, diverging and sequential colour schemes.


colour(palette, reverse = FALSE, names = TRUE, lang = "en", force = FALSE, ...)

color(palette, reverse = FALSE, names = TRUE, lang = "en", force = FALSE, ...)



A character string giving the name of the palette to be used (see below).


A logical scalar: should the resulting vector of colours should be reversed?


A logical scalar: should the names of the colours should be kept in the resulting vector?


A character string specifying the language for the colour names. It must be one of "en" (English, the default) or "fr" (French).


A logical scalar. If TRUE, forces the colour scheme to be interpolated. It should not be used routinely with qualitative colour schemes, as they are designed to be used as is to remain colour-blind safe.


Further arguments passed to colorRampPalette.


A palette function with the following attributes, that when called with a single integer argument (the number of levels) returns a (named) vector of colours.


A character string giving the name of the color scheme.


A character string giving the corresponding data type. One of "qualitative", "diverging" or "sequential".


A logical scalar: can the color palette be interpolated?


A character string giving the the hexadecimal representation of the colour that should be used for NA values.


An integer giving the maximum number of colour values. Only relevant for non-interpolated colour schemes.

For colour schemes that can be interpolated (diverging and sequential data), the colour range can be limited with an additional argument. range allows to remove a fraction of the colour domain (before being interpolated; see examples).

Paul Tol's Colour Schemes

The following palettes are available. The maximum number of supported colours is in brackets, this value is only relevant for the qualitative colour schemes (divergent and sequential schemes are linearly interpolated).

Qualitative data

bright (7), high contrast (3), vibrant (7), muted (9), medium contrast (6), pale (6), dark (6), light (9).

Diverging data

sunset (11), BuRd (9), PRGn (9).

Sequential data

YlOrBr (9), iridescent (23), discrete rainbow (23), smooth rainbow (34).

Qualitative colour schemes

According to Paul Tol's technical note, the bright, highcontrast, vibrant and muted colour schemes are colour-blind safe. The mediumcontrast colour scheme is designed for situations needing colour pairs.

The light colour scheme is reasonably distinct for both normal or colourblind vision and is intended to fill labeled cells.

The pale and dark schemes are not very distinct in either normal or colourblind vision and should be used as a text background or to highlight a cell in a table.

Refer to the original document for details about the recommended uses (see references).

Rainbow colour scheme

As a general rule, ordered data should not be represented using a rainbow scheme. There are three main arguments against such use (Tol 2018):

  • The spectral order of visible light carries no inherent magnitude message.

  • Some bands of almost constant hue with sharp transitions between them, can be perceived as jumps in the data.

  • Colour-blind people have difficulty distinguishing some colours of the rainbow.

If such use cannot be avoided, Paul Tol's technical note provides two colour schemes that are reasonably clear in colour-blind vision. To remain colour-blind safe, these two schemes must comply with the following conditions:


This scheme must not be interpolated.


This scheme does not have to be used over the full range.

Okabe and Ito Colour Scheme

The following (qualitative) colour scheme is available:


Up to 8 colours.

Scientific Colour Schemes

The following (qualitative) color schemes are available:


International Chronostratigraphic Chart (175 colours).


AVHRR Global Land Cover Classification (14 colours).


FAO Reference Soil Groups (24 colours).


Jones, A., Montanarella, L. & Jones, R. (Ed.) (2005). Soil atlas of Europe. Luxembourg: European Commission, Office for Official Publications of the European Communities. 128 pp. ISBN: 92-894-8120-X.

Okabe, M. & Ito, K. (2008). Color Universal Design (CUD): How to Make Figures and Presentations That Are Friendly to Colorblind People. URL:

Tol, P. (2021). Colour Schemes. SRON. Technical Note No. SRON/EPS/TN/09-002, issue 3.2. URL:

Commission for the Geological Map of the World

See also

Other colour palettes: info(), ramp(), scale_picker


N. Frerebeau


## Okabe and Ito colour scheme
colour("okabe ito")(8)
#>          black         orange       sky blue   bluish green         yellow 
#>      "#000000"      "#E69F00"      "#56B4E9"      "#009E73"      "#F0E442" 
#>           blue      vermilion reddish purple 
#>      "#0072B2"      "#D55E00"      "#CC79A7" 
#> attr(,"missing")
#> [1] NA
plot_scheme(colour("okabe ito")(8))

## Paul Tol's colour schemes
### Qualitative data

plot_scheme(colour("high contrast")(3))



plot_scheme(colour("medium contrast")(6))




### Diverging data



### Sequential data


plot_scheme(colour("discrete rainbow")(14))

plot_scheme(colour("discrete rainbow")(23))

plot_scheme(colour("smooth rainbow")(34))

## Scientific colour schemes
### Geologic timescale

### AVHRR global land cover classification

### FAO soil reference groups

## Adjust colour levels
PRGn <- colour("PRGn")
plot_scheme(PRGn(9, range = c(0.5, 1)))