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Choosing Text Colors for Data Visualizations

By Mico Yuk, Stephanie Diamond

In your data visualizations, you should choose a font color that’s easy to read, such as black, gray, or dark blue. You should use this consistent color scheme throughout your data visualizations. The last thing you want is a bunch of color-rich visuals that are accompanied by colorful text; users would have a hard time deciphering what’s important!

Consider a few guidelines when choosing text colors:

  • Consistency is king. Maintaining consistency of font color for specific label types is an absolute must. If you choose to put all descriptions in a dark gray color, then it’s important that all descriptions receive this same treatment. Beginners often get the urge to change the color of particular text in an effort to bring more attention to it. They don’t take into consideration how the change affects the entire data visualization. Avoid falling into the trap of using too many colors.

  • RAG colors are sacred. The use of red, amber, and green in all data visualizations is sacred, especially in the financial world. When it comes to data visualizations, these colors are automatically interpreted as meaning that something has gone wrong (red), something is about to go wrong (yellow), and everything is fine (green). These alert colors are used in data visualizations to provide notification when a measurement is heading to a good or bad status. When it comes to text, you should use only RAG colors to indicate alerts.

  • Bright colors are hard to read. What happens when you see a neon-colored sign? It definitely captures your attention at first. But imagine having to look at the same sign every day! After a short period, you find that the sign isn’t as easy to look at as it was when it first caught your attention. For this reason, avoid using bright-colored text in your data visualizations. Over time, muted colors will prove to be much easier for your users to read.