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Choosing background color to enchance map

September 25 2008 | 0 comments
Categories: Cartographic Design

I'm having trouble finding a good background color for my city bikeways map that will make the map pop but still enhance and give good contrast to the other data on the map. The colors I pick are either too dull or too bright. Light green looks good but confuses the other greens used for parks and lines. Are there any rules to help make color choices? (trying to avoid white)


Mapping Center Answer:

First, white isn't a bad color for the background since all your other colors will look true relative to white.  Many people like using light yellow.  What's interesting is that over time tastes have change--12 years ago the lightest yellow in ArcMap's palette was a little too light for most people's tastes, and now it's too bright.  What I do is pick the color in the ArcMap palette that I like and then edit it using the HSV sliders, usually taking the saturation down to 12-15% (much lighter and it won't print well).  Lately I've found that using a very subtle gradient works well too; we did a blog entry on that last year:

If the dangerous bit about a gradient is having solid polygons drawn on top of it--make those polygons a slightly more subtle gradient will often fix that.

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