Beautiful and distinguishable line colors + colormap

Plot lots of lines with very distinguishable and aesthetically pleasing colors. Works for 'N' colors
Updated 16 Sep 2015

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The default Matlab default line spec and colormaps are astoundingly crude. This function creates distinguishable colors by spacing them out ~equally in *perceptive* space, not in RGB space. It is based off the research of professor Cynthia Brewer (colorbrewer!) but amazingly easy to use.
This function creates an Nx3 array of N [R B G] colors
These can be used to plot lots of lines with distinguishable and nice looking colors.
lineStyles = linspecer(N); makes N colors for you to use: lineStyles(ii,:)
colormap(linspecer); set your colormap to have easily distinguishable colors and a pleasing aesthetic
lineStyles = linspecer(N,'qualitative'); forces the colors to all be distinguishable (up to 12)
lineStyles = linspecer(N,'sequential'); forces the colors to vary along a spectrum


Examples demonstrating the colors.

X = linspace(0,pi*3,1000);
Y = bsxfun(@(x,n)sin(x+2*n*pi/N), X.', 1:N);
C = linspecer(N);
axes('NextPlot','replacechildren', 'ColorOrder',C);
ylim([-1.1 1.1]);

N = 6; X = linspace(0,pi*3,1000);
C = linspecer(N)
hold off;
for ii=1:N
Y = sin(X+2*ii*pi/N);
hold on;

A = rand(15);
figure; imagesc(A); % default colormap
figure; imagesc(A); colormap(linspecer); % linspecer colormap


Credits and where the function came from:

The colors are largely taken from: and Cynthia Brewer, Mark Harrower and The Pennsylvania State University
She studied this from a phsychometric perspective and crafted the colors

I made choices from the many there to decide the nicest once for plotting lines in Matlab. I also made a small change to one of the colors I thought was a bit too bright. In addition some interpolation is going on for the sequential line styles. An Apache-Style Software License is included in the file.

Cite As

Jonathan C. Lansey (2024). Beautiful and distinguishable line colors + colormap (, MATLAB Central File Exchange. Retrieved .

MATLAB Release Compatibility
Created with R2010b
Compatible with any release
Platform Compatibility
Windows macOS Linux
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Version Published Release Notes

small change to sequential output
Rudimentary Colorblind support for up to 4 colors. Use the parameter "colorblind"

Adjusted the function based on the excellent suggestions of Stephen Cobeldick.

I made the colors for higher 'N' a bit darker. Also made the demo a little cleaner.