Sequential Color Schemes

Sequential data classes are logically arranged from high to low, and this stepped sequence of categories should be represented by sequential lightness steps. Low data values are usually represented by light colors and high values represented by dark colors. Transitions between hues may be used in a sequential scheme, but the light-to-dark progression should dominate the scheme. Terrain slope categories or population densities, for example, are well represented by sequental color schemes.

Sequential Color Example




Spectral (rainbow) schemes are not suitable for seqential data.

Spectral schemes are suitable as diverging schemes (see other examples of diverging schemes). For example, if mean employment was 27.5 percent, the scheme above would appropriately emphasize differences from the middle class.

Sequential Color Schemes: Munsell Charts


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Dr. Cynthia Brewer / Department of Geography / The Pennsylvania State University