A rainbow color map is based on the order of colors in the spectrum of visible light—the same colors that appear in a rainbow. Rainbow color maps commonly appear in data visualizations in many different scientific and engineering communities, and technical computing software often provides a rainbow color map as the default choice. Although rainbow color maps remain popular, they have a number of weaknesses when used for scientific visualization, and have been widely criticized.
This paper summarizes the criticisms of the rainbow color map and presents an annotated bibliography of sources. It provides background for understanding why the MATLAB® default color map was changed in R2014b.