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Documenting the matplotlib colormaps
# https://github.com/matplotlib/matplotlib/issues/881
# Several of the ColorBrewer maps are "qualitative", meaning
# they are just a group of colors that can be used together
# for categories of data. So I remapped Accent to segments
# instead of continuous:
# Actually, these should be used with ListedColormap, and
# the number of colors should depend on the number of
# categories in the data, with colors removed from the
# list in a certain order?
_Accent_data = {
'blue': [
(0.0, 0.0, 0.49803921580314636),
(0.125, 0.49803921580314636, 0.83137255907058716),
(0.25, 0.83137255907058716, 0.52549022436141968),
(0.375, 0.52549022436141968, 0.60000002384185791),
(0.5, 0.60000002384185791, 0.69019609689712524),
(0.625, 0.69019609689712524, 0.49803921580314636),
(0.75, 0.49803921580314636, 0.090196080505847931),
(0.875, 0.090196080505847931, 0.40000000596046448),
(1.0, 0.40000000596046448, 0.0),
],
'green': [
(0.0, 0.0, 0.78823530673980713),
(0.125, 0.78823530673980713, 0.68235296010971069),
(0.25, 0.68235296010971069, 0.75294119119644165),
(0.375, 0.75294119119644165, 1.0),
(0.5, 1.0, 0.42352941632270813),
(0.625, 0.42352941632270813, 0.0078431377187371254),
(0.75, 0.0078431377187371254, 0.35686275362968445),
(0.875, 0.35686275362968445, 0.40000000596046448),
(1.0, 0.40000000596046448, 0.0),
],
'red': [
(0.0, 0.0, 0.49803921580314636),
(0.125, 0.49803921580314636, 0.7450980544090271),
(0.25, 0.7450980544090271, 0.99215686321258545),
(0.375, 0.99215686321258545, 1.0),
(0.5, 1.0, 0.21960784494876862),
(0.625, 0.21960784494876862, 0.94117647409439087),
(0.75, 0.94117647409439087, 0.74901962280273438),
(0.875, 0.74901962280273438, 0.40000000596046448),
(1.0, 0.40000000596046448, 0.0),
],
}

matplotlib provides a number of colormaps, a complete list of which can be found in cm._cmapnames.

You can set the colormap for an image, pcolor, scatter, etc, using a keyword argument:

imshow(X, cmap=cm.hot)

Additionally, for the "base" colormaps below, you can set the colormap post-hoc using the corresponding pylab interface function:

imshow(X)
hot()
jet()

In interactive mode, this will update the colormap allowing you to see which one works best for your data.

All colormaps can be reversed by appending _r: For instance, gray_r is the reverse of gray.

There are 3 common color schemes used in visualization:

  1. Sequential schemes, for unipolar data that progresses from low to high
  2. Diverging schemes, for bipolar data that emphasizes positive or negative deviations from a central value
  3. Qualitative schemes, which don't have a relationship to magnitude

The base colormaps are:

Colormap Description
autumn sequential increasing shades of red-orange-yellow
bone sequential black-white color map with a tinge of blue, to emulate X-ray film
cool sequential decreasing shades of cyan-magenta
copper sequential increasing shades of black-copper
flag repeating red-white-blue-black pattern
gray simple sequential linearly-increasing black-to-white grayscale
hot sequential black-red-yellow-white, to emulate blackbody radiation from an object at increasing temperatures
hsv red-yellow-green-cyan-blue-pink-magenta, formed by changing the hue component in the HSV color space; meant to be used in plotting periodic data (that is, in which the maximum magnitude and the minimum magnitude are equivalent)
jet blue-cyan-yellow-red, a variant of hsv; based on a fluid-jet simulation by NCSA [1]
pink sequential increasing pastel black-pink-white, meant for sepia tone colorization of photographs
prism repeating red-yellow-green-blue-purple-...-green pattern
spring shades of magenta-yellow
summer shades of green-yellow
winter shades of blue-green
spectral black-purple-blue-green-yellow-red-white spectrum

The next 7 palettes are from the Yorick scientific visualisation package, an evolution of the GIST package, both by David H. Munro:

Colormap Description
gist_earth mapmaker's colors from dark blue deep ocean to green lowlands to brown highlands to white mountains
gist_gray (identical to gray)
gist_heat sequential red-orange-yellow-white, to emulate blackbody radiation from an iron bar as it grows hotter
gist_ncar pseudo-spectral colormap from National Center for Atmospheric Research [2]
gist_rainbow runs through the colors in spectral order at nearly constant intensity
gist_stern "Stern special" color table from Interactive Data Language software
gist_yarg (identical to gray_r)

The following 34 colormaps are based on the ColorBrewer color specifications and designs developed by Cynthia Brewer:

Diverging:

  • BrBG
  • PiYG
  • PRGn
  • PuOr
  • RdBu
  • RdGy
  • RdYlBu
  • RdYlGn
  • Spectral

Sequential:

  • Blues
  • BuGn
  • BuPu
  • GnBu
  • Greens
  • Greys
  • Oranges
  • OrRd
  • PuBu
  • PuBuGn
  • PuRd
  • Purples
  • RdPu
  • Reds
  • YlGn
  • YlGnBu
  • YlOrBr
  • YlOrRd

Qualitative:

  • Accent
  • Dark2
  • Paired
  • Pastel1
  • Pastel2
  • Set1
  • Set2
  • Set3

Other miscellaneous schemes:

Colormap Description
afmhot sequential black-orange-yellow-white blackbody spectrum, commonly used in atomic force microscopy
binary (identical to gray_r)
brg blue-red-green
bwr diverging blue-white-red
coolwarm diverging blue-gray-red, meant to avoid issues with 3D shading, color blindness, and ordering of colors [3]
CMRmap "Default colormaps on color images often reproduce to confusing grayscale images. The proposed colormap maintains an aesthetically pleasing color image that automatically reproduces to a monotonic grayscale with discrete, quantifiable saturation levels." [4]
cubehelix Unlike most other color schemes cubehelix was designed by D.A. Green to be monotonically increasing in terms of perceived brightness. Also, when printed on a black and white postscript printer, the scheme results in a greyscale with monotonically increasing brightness. This color scheme is named cubehelix because the r,g,b values produced can be visualised as a squashed helix around the diagonal in the r,g,b color cube.
gnuplot gnuplot's traditional pm3d scheme (black-blue-red-yellow)
gnuplot2 sequential color printable as gray (black-blue-violet-yellow-white)
ocean green-blue-white
rainbow purple-blue-green-yellow-orange-red
seismic diverging blue-white-red
terrain mapmaker's colors, blue-green-yellow-brown-white, originally from IGOR Pro

Footnotes

[1]Rainbow colormaps, jet in particular, are considered a poor choice for scientific visualization by many researchers: Rainbow Color Map (Still) Considered Harmful
[2]Resembles "BkBlAqGrYeOrReViWh200" from Color Table Gallery
[3]See Diverging Color Maps for Scientific Visualization by Kenneth Moreland.
[4]See A Color Map for Effective Black-and-White Rendering of Color-Scale Images by Carey Rappaport
From cm._cmapnames
Copied from MATLAB:
autumn
bone
cool
copper
flag
gray
hot
hsv
jet
pink
prism
spring
summer
winter
(Not copied from MATLAB: colorcube, lines, white)
These were all added here https://github.com/matplotlib/matplotlib/commit/26ffb47e95d7d694a94bb101d17ebcd0622d15f7
spectral (Spectral is not the same! rename to nipy_spectral?)
"Tim Leslie's spectral patch"
https://github.com/matplotlib/matplotlib/commit/b64652d335d4318d1b1a332843837a0c17a4a202
added after "Spectral"
from nipy
http://sourceforge.net/mailarchive/message.php?msg_id=8931272
Only non-MATLAB colormap to have a post-hoc function
Related to http://www.math.mcgill.ca/keith/surfstat/doc/SurfStat/spectral.html and http://www.mathworks.com/matlabcentral/fileexchange/4706-mia-2-4/content/mia24/Tools/spectralmni.m but none of these have the same endpoints
"black-purple-blue-green-yellow-red-white"
Copied from GIST/Yorick:
# The next 7 palettes are from the Yorick scientific visalisation package,
# an evolution of the GIST package, both by David H. Munro.
descriptions here http://dhmunro.github.com/yorick-doc/manual/yorick_70.html http://projects.scipy.org/scipy/browser/trunk/Lib/xplt/gistdata?rev=685
These palettes tend to start with dark colors and progress toward lighter colors, except yarg and rainbow
gist_earth "is loosely based on mapmaker's colors from dark blue deep ocean to green lowlands to brown highlands to white mountains" "dk blue - lt blue - dk green - yellow green - lt brown - white sort of like mapmakers colors from deep ocean to snow capped peak"
gist_gray (identical to gray)
gist_heat "a red-orange scale resembling the colors of an iron bar as it grows hotter" "dk red - red - orange - yellow - white color temperatures of hot iron bar"
gist_ncar - resembles BkBlAqGrYeOrReViWh200 from National Center for Atmospheric Research
http://www.ncl.ucar.edu/Document/Graphics/color_table_gallery.shtml
gist_rainbow "runs through the colors in spectral order at nearly constant intensity" "colors in spectral order"
gist_stern # red - dk blue - lt blue - gray green - white "Stern special" color table from IDL (c) Research Systems, Inc.
gist_yarg (identical to gray_r and binary)
sources here: https://github.com/dhmunro/yorick/tree/master/g
no explanation of what ncar or stern are for
'Earlier versions of SkyView used the "Stern Special" color table by default, but we now default to more realistic if less colorful black and white images.'
'In appearance the most significant change is that by default images are now black and white. Users can select any of the old and many new color tables if desired but we feel that the black and white images most accurately reflect the intensity scaling. Some novice users were confused about the meaning of the colors in the old versions. The old system used the Stern Special color table.'
In [4]: array_equal(cm.cmap_d['gist_gray'](arange(256)), cm.cmap_d['gray'](arange(256)))
Out[4]: True
ColorBrewer
# 34 colormaps based on color specifications and designs
# developed by Cynthia Brewer (http://colorbrewer.org).
# The ColorBrewer palettes have been included under the terms
# of an Apache-stype license (for details, see the file
# LICENSE_COLORBREWER in the license directory of the matplotlib
# source distribution).
Added here https://github.com/matplotlib/matplotlib/commit/31c07815140e97becf2f2e037b8a214e263290b2
Categorizations here http://rgm2.lab.nig.ac.jp/RGM2/func.php?rd_id=RColorBrewer:ColorBrewer
maxcolors category
Diverging
BrBG 11 div
PiYG 11 div
PRGn 11 div
PuOr 11 div
RdBu 11 div
RdGy 11 div
RdYlBu 11 div
RdYlGn 11 div
Spectral 11 div (not the same as spectral)
Qualitative (these aren't supposed to be continuous! bug report?)
Accent 8 qual
Dark2 8 qual
Paired 12 qual
Pastel1 9 qual
Pastel2 8 qual
Set1 9 qual
Set2 8 qual
Set3 12 qual
Sequential
Blues 9 seq
BuGn 9 seq
BuPu 9 seq
GnBu 9 seq
Greens 9 seq
Greys 9 seq
Oranges 9 seq
OrRd 9 seq
PuBu 9 seq
PuBuGn 9 seq
PuRd 9 seq
Purples 9 seq
RdPu 9 seq
Reds 9 seq
YlGn 9 seq
YlGnBu 9 seq
YlOrBr 9 seq
YlOrRd 9 seq
cubehelix
Unlike most other color schemes cubehelix was designed by D.A. Green to
be monotonically increasing in terms of perceived brightness.
Also, when printed on a black and white postscript printer, the scheme
results in a greyscale with monotonically increasing brightness.
This color scheme is named cubehelix because the r,g,b values produced
can be visualised as a squashed helix around the diagonal in the
r,g,b color cube.
discussion http://sourceforge.net/mailarchive/message.php?msg_id=28065739
paper http://arxiv.org/abs/1108.5083
see cm.cubehelix() (no way to view the docstring?)
coolwarm
# This bipolar color map was generated from
# "Diverging Color Maps for Scientific Visualization" by Kenneth Moreland.
# <http://www.cs.unm.edu/~kmorel/documents/ColorMaps/>
Discussion about patch:
http://sourceforge.net/mailarchive/message.php?msg_id=27816391
– The map yields images that are aesthetically pleasing.
– The map has a maximal perceptual resolution.
– Interference with the shading of 3D surfaces is minimal.
– The map is not sensitive to vision deficiencies.
– The order of the colors should be intuitively the same for all people.
– The perceptual interpolation matches the underlying scalars of the map.
http://www.cs.unm.edu/~kmorel/documents/ColorMaps/index.html
CMRmap
Default colormaps on color images often reproduce to confusing grayscale images. The proposed colormap maintains an aesthetically pleasing color image that automatically reproduces to a monotonic grayscale with discrete, quantifiable saturation levels.
# Implementation of Carey Rappaport's CMRmap.
# See `A Color Map for Effective Black-and-White Rendering of Color-Scale Images' by Carey Rappaport
# http://www.mathworks.com/matlabcentral/fileexchange/2662-cmrmap-m
misc others added at the same time
afmhot - Used in atomic force microscopy?
brg
bwr
gnuplot
gnuplot2
ocean
rainbow
seismic
terrain - from "a measurement program called 'Igor'" http://www.wavemetrics.com/products/igorpro/creatinggraphs/colortab.htm
all added here: http://sourceforge.net/mailarchive/message.php?msg_id=23330302
seismic from here? http://soliton.vm.bytemark.co.uk/pub/cpt-city/gery/index.html http://www.mathworks.com/matlabcentral/fileexchange/30585-large-data-in-matlab-a-seismic-data-processing-case-study/content/migration/seismic.m
afmhot, ocean, rainbow from here? http://gnuplot.sourceforge.net/docs_4.2/node216.html
apparently AFM because heat is a common palette for atomic force microscopy? https://www.google.com/search?q=atomic+force+microscopy&tbm=isch "The color selection uses the HSB-color model where the color (H) is set in ° value. The color is selected by entering a number or by clicking a color in the color bar."
binary
identical to gray_r and gist_yarg
In [8]: array_equal(cm.cmap_d['binary'](arange(256)), cm.cmap_d['gray_r'](arange(256)))
Out[8]: True
added here: https://github.com/matplotlib/matplotlib/commit/47af03d985d9729f3eedc41354fe11a22eff35c4
meant for barcodes?
identify which are isoluminant/monotonic, sequential/diverging/cyclic/spectral, etc
"sequential (quantitative) variables, discrete (qualitative) variables, and bipolar (diverging) variables"

From http://ab-initio.mit.edu/wiki/index.php/Color_tables_in_h5topng

autumn
red-orange-yellow color map; based on colormap of the same name in Matlab
bluered
blue-white-red colorbar, useful for signed data in conjunction with -Z option to make white=0
bone
nearly grayscale (blackish to whitish) color map with a tinge of blue; based on colormap of the same name in Matlab, which suggests using it to add an "electronic" look to grayscale images
colorcube
enhanced color-cube color map; based on colormap of the same name in Matlab, basically designed to fill the RGB color space with an emphasis on a few pure colors
cool
cyan-magenta color map; based on colormap of the same name in Matlab
copper
black-copper color map; based on colormap of the same name in Matlab
dkbluered
dark blue-white-red colorbar, useful for signed data in conjunction with -Z option to make white=0; similar to bluered but shows a bit more dynamic range for the maxima/minima by darkening at the ends
flag
alternating red/white/blue/black color map; based on colormap of the same name in Matlab
gray
simple black-to-white grayscale color bar
green
white-green color map; useful for translucent overlays with -A
hot
black-red-yellow-white color map, useful for nonnegative "intensity" data — based on colormap of the same name in Matlab, loosely resembling the color of heated object at increasing temperatures
hsv
red-yellow-green-cyan-blue-pink-magenta color map formed by changing the hue component in the HSV color space; based on colormap of the same name in Matlab, who recommend it for used in plotting periodic data (that is, in which the maximum magnitude and the minimum magnitude are equivalent)
jet
blue-cyan-yellow-red color map (a variant of hsv; based on colormap of the same name in Matlab, who based it on a fluid-jet simulation by NCSA
lines
oscillating color map; based on colormap of the same name in Matlab (based on the Matlab plot-line colors)
pink
pastel black-pink-white color map; based on colormap of the same name in Matlab, used for Sepia tone colorization
prism
repeating red-yellow-green-blue-purple-...-green color map; based on colormap of the same name in Matlab
spring
magenta-yellow color map; based on colormap of the same name in Matlab
summer
green-yellow color map; based on colormap of the same name in Matlab
vga
Windows 4-bit color map; based on colormap of the same name in Matlab
winter
blue-green color map; based on colormap of the same name in Matlab
yarg
simple white-to-black grayscale color bar (the reverse of gray, and almost equivalent to using -gray or gray with -r); this is useful to make contour-like overlays with the -A option because its transparency scale (black is transparent) is the opposite of gray (white is transparent)
yellow
white-yellow color map; useful for translucent overlays with -A

From http://www.mathworks.com/help/techdoc/ref/colormap.html

autumn
varies smoothly from red, through orange, to yellow.
bone
is a grayscale colormap with a higher value for the blue component. This colormap is useful for adding an "electronic" look to grayscale images.
colorcube
contains as many regularly spaced colors in RGB color space as possible, while attempting to provide more steps of gray, pure red, pure green, and pure blue.
cool
consists of colors that are shades of cyan and magenta. It varies smoothly from cyan to magenta.
copper
varies smoothly from black to bright copper.
flag
consists of the colors red, white, blue, and black. This colormap completely changes color with each index increment.
gray
returns a linear grayscale colormap.
hot
varies smoothly from black through shades of red, orange, and yellow, to white.
hsv
varies the hue component of the hue-saturation-value color model. The colors begin with red, pass through yellow, green, cyan, blue, magenta, and return to red. The colormap is particularly appropriate for displaying periodic functions. hsv(m) is the same as hsv2rgb([h ones(m,2)]) where h is the linear ramp, h = (0:m–1)'/m.
jet
ranges from blue to red, and passes through the colors cyan, yellow, and orange. It is a variation of the hsv colormap. The jet colormap is associated with an astrophysical fluid jet simulation from the National Center for Supercomputer Applications. See Examples.
lines
produces a colormap of colors specified by the axes ColorOrder property and a shade of gray.
pink
contains pastel shades of pink. The pink colormap provides sepia tone colorization of grayscale photographs.
prism
repeats the six colors red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and violet.
spring
consists of colors that are shades of magenta and yellow.
summer
consists of colors that are shades of green and yellow.
white
is an all white monochrome colormap.
winter
consists of colors that are shades of blue and green.
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