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ColorBrewer: Attractive and Distinctive Colormaps

version 3.1.0 (16.9 KB) by Stephen Cobeldick
The complete palette of ColorBrewer colormaps. Simple selection by scheme name and map length.


Updated 26 Jul 2020

From GitHub

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BREWERMAP provides all ColorBrewer colorschemes for MATLAB, with simple selection by colormap length and scheme name. Alternatively the scheme name can be preselected, after which only the colormap length is required to define an output colormap.

BREWERMAP is compatible with all MATLAB functions that require a colormap. The function consists of just one M-file that provides all of the ColorBrewer colorschemes (no mat file, no third party files, no file-clutter!). Downsampling or interpolation or repetition of the nodes occurs automatically, if required. Interpolation uses the Lab colorspace.

### Examples ###

% Plot a scheme's RGB values:
rgbplot(brewermap(9, 'Blues')) % standard
rgbplot(brewermap(9,'*Blues')) % reversed

% View information about a colorscheme:
[~,num,typ] = brewermap(NaN,'Paired')
num = 12
typ = 'Qualitative'

% Multiline plot using matrices:
N = 6;
X = linspace(0,pi*3,1000);
Y = bsxfun(@(x,n)n*sin(x+2*n*pi/N), X.', 1:N);
plot(X,Y, 'linewidth',4)

% Multiline plot in a loop:
N = 6;
X = linspace(0,pi*3,1000);
Y = bsxfun(@(x,n)n*sin(x+2*n*pi/N), X.', 1:N);
for n = 1:N
plot(X(:),Y(:,n), 'linewidth',4);
hold all

% New colors for the COLORMAP example:
S = load('spine.mat');

% New colors for the SURF example:
[X,Y,Z] = peaks(30);

% New colors for the CONTOURCMAP example:
brewermap('PuOr'); % preselect the colorscheme.
load topo
load coast
worldmap(topo, topolegend)
contourfm(topo, topolegend);
contourcmap('brewermap', 'Colorbar','on', 'Location','horizontal',...
'TitleString','Contour Intervals in Meters');
plotm(lat, long, 'k')

### Bonus Function ###

BREWERMAP_PLOT creates a figure which shows the nodes of all ColorBrewer colorschemes.

### Bonus Function ###

BREWERMAP_VIEW creates an interactive figure that allows selection of the colorscheme, and that contains two colorbars showing colors of the colormap and the grayscale equivalent.

R2014b or later: BREWERMAP_VIEW can also update other axes' or figures' colormaps in real time, for example:

S = load('spine');

### Notes ###

The function BREWERMAP:
* Consists of just one convenient M-file (no .mat files or file clutter).
* Has no third-party file dependencies.
* Interpolates in the Lab colorspace.
* Requires just the standard ColorBrewer scheme name to select the colorscheme.
* Supports all ColorBrewer colorschemes.
* Outputs a MATLAB standard N-by-3 numeric RGB array.
* Uses a default length the same as MATLAB's colormaps (i.e. the length of the current colormap).
* Is compatible with all MATLAB functions that use colormaps (eg: CONTOURCMAP).
* Includes the option to reverse the colormap color sequence.
* Does not break ColorBrewer's Apache license conditions (unlike many on MATLAB File Exchange).

This product includes color specifications and designs developed by Cynthia Brewer ( See the ColorBrewer website for further information about each colorscheme, colorblind suitability, licensing, and citations.

Cite As

Stephen Cobeldick (2021). ColorBrewer: Attractive and Distinctive Colormaps (, GitHub. Retrieved .

Comments and Ratings (63)

Ondrej Kucera

Esmaeil Seraj

Super-Duper, Stephen, Super-Duper!! You ma man, saved me an hour...

Howard Labido

A very nice submission to upgrade your figures for good viewing by all viewers.
It helps to choose my company VI:

Liang Zhou

Patrick Reisinger

Oskar Tofeldt

Thank you for this wonderful contribution.

Andrea Zorro

Stephen Cobeldick

@Ashutosh Goel: did something not work as documented? Please give some **written** feedback so that I can fix any errors or bugs that you might have found.

Ashutosh Goel


Hongyang Zhou

Shan Qin


Xiaohu Zhao

Ruoyu Lan

Benjamin Cotts

Clair Stark

Ajey Venkataraman

Owen Morgan



My legend colours and lines do not match in the figure. I used brewermap(9, 'BuPu').
Thanks for your help!

Edwin Khoo

Abdullah Abdulslam

Emmanuel Rivera Diaz

¡Hermoso! , muchas gracias. Excellent feature that makes every plot attractive!, Thank you again.

Shane L


Victoria Gabriele

Melvin Varughese

Edwin Khoo

Hao Guo

Krzysztof Pilczynski



Wow this tool is fantastic, thanks so much!


Great job! Thanks a lot!

Ali mehdizadehrahimi


Super great!!!

Philip Kirk

Incredibly nice bit of code, does exactly what I was looking for and very easily. The GUI to pick a colormap is also great!

Yicheng SHEN

fantastic! that is what I am look for! RdYlBu is prefect! It is friendly to colorblind(red/green) people and also show things very clear

Shan Qin

Awesome! Having used the colorbrewer in R for a while, this really improves the graphics quality a lot, many thanks!


Mathieu Corus

Excellent! I've been looking for nice colormaps for so long! Many many thanks!

Luis Mendo


sunke fang

PERFECT!!!!! Thank you very much~

Phillip M. Gilley

Thank you!

Jeff Mackey

I thought I had a good color selection method. Nah. This blows it away!

Matej Varga

Thank you! Great work!


F**cing beautiful. Great job!!!


Jonathan Sakkos

David E. Horsley

Eric Dauenhauer

Very intuitive, great preset color schemes, and easy to scale to any size data set.

E. Cheynet


cheng joylin

Rong Yu

Chad Greene

This function is excellent, easy to use, and works perfectly, right out of the box. Thanks for sharing, Stephen.

Stephen Cobeldick

M S : Thank you for your feedback. I am glad that you found my submission easy to use, as the convoluted usage of other ColorBrewer submissions on MATLAB File Exchange was one of the main motivators to write this. I intended that usage of this function should be as much like the standard colormap functions as was reasonable and feasible.

Your suggestions and observations about the unsuitability of the ColorBrewer schemes for colorblind users are very true. As you point out, the white middle color is unclear in many situations, and not just for readers with vision deficiencies.

However I did not create the ColorBrewer schemes (credit goes to Cynthia Brewer for this), nor do I make any claims about their suitability for a particular purpose, other than to say that they are "attractive, distinguishable colors". Any claims about the suitability for any particular purpose are solely those of Cynthia Brewer, for whom I am not responsible. The sole purpose of this submission is to provide the best access to the ColorBrewer colorschemes for MATLAB File Exchange users.

You might like to consider using the colormapeditor:

Writing a colorblind-friendly maximally distant colormap generator would be quite interesting, but this is a clearly a very different task to this simple porting of Cynthia Brewer's existing colorscheme data. For a start, each of protanopia, deuteranopia, tritanopia, protanomaly, deuteranomaly, and tritanomaly would require a completely different set of permitted colors. If you are interested, contact me and we could develop this together.


Pros: supports colorblind palette, which is desperately needed for matlab visualization. Easy to use.

Cons: poor for any plotting purpose; it is not designed for any visualization where there's a background color. For example, for a 'divergent', 'colorblind friendly' scheme, the middle color is always white or off white, which is obviously terrible for plots with a white background.

I wish there were a way to combine another FEX submission, distinguishable_colors--which not only arranges maximally distant colors, but takes into account background color--with colorblind friendly implementation.

Stephen Cobeldick

You are completely correct that it is possible to redistribute the ColorBrewer colorschemes: in fact this is explicitly permitted by the Apache license that they are released under.

Note though the very first license condition for redistributing ColorBrewer says that "Redistributions as source code must retain the above copyright notice, this list of conditions and the following disclaimer". So when someone redistributes it, it must be accompanied by the same Apache license*. However MATLAB File Exchange does not permit any license to be used other than the BSD license:
"For consistency, the BSD license will be the standard for the File Exchange".

So we reach a minor impasse: to redistribute ColorBrewer requires an Apache license, to submit to MATLAB FEX requires a BSD license. Snap. I could distribute a complete version of this function under an Apache license, but not on MATLAB FEX.

Several other submissions have simply ignored ColorBrewer's Apache license, but hopefully FEX does not turn into an exchange of any licensed code that happens to take peoples fancy.

* For an example of this, scroll down to the bottom of the excel spreadsheets that are available from


Nice job, but not sure why you state you cannot redistribute the colormaps since the website suggests that you can, assuming you meet the requirements. It does, however, specifically state you cannot call the software "ColorBrewer"...


Michael Chan

Beautiful work, Stephen.

John D'Errico

A very nice submission to upgrade your figures for good viewing by all viewers.

Excellent help and examples for use. I found the web site interesting too.

MATLAB Release Compatibility
Created with R2010b
Compatible with R2009a and later releases
Platform Compatibility
Windows macOS Linux

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