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I'm looking for a 5 color color-scheme that also useful when printed in black and white, respectively gray scale.

The colors should be easily distinguishable from each other.

How can i do that?

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Note you can specify a different Style Sheet for print which works better for Black and White – Ben Brocka Jul 23 '12 at 10:50

A short but sweet answer:

Check out this tool.


It allows you to feed in your requirements and get color schemes that work for printing, photocopying, color blindness, and appropriate visual differentiation.

It should give you what you need.

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Thanks, this is very useful. However, it seems to be difficult to find such a color scheme for 5 colors. – RoflcoptrException Jul 23 '12 at 9:18
True, I have used this one:… However if you select photocopy, printer, and colour blind check-boxes no options are given. Perhaps that is saying you need to choose the priorities. :) – Jay Jul 23 '12 at 9:50

To create a palette that works when printed in black and white, you really need colours that differ in brightness/lightness, as that’s the only aspect colour that is conserved in greyscale.

You can of course use a simple greyscale palette of various shades of grey, from white to black:

Simple greyscale palette

But that looks boring when viewed on a colour display. One solution is to select colours that convert to appropriate levels of grey when printed on a B&W printer. You might for example choose various shades of (a warm) red:

Simple yellow–red palette

But a better solution – perhaps not for you, but if you need many more colours than five – is to use colours of different hues that naturally differ in their brightness. For example, yellow is a light colour, and blue is a dark colour. I would recommend the blue–pink–yellow colour scheme that you can find in the bpy.colors() function in the R software package sp (source code):

enter image description here

Using various hues, you effectively increase the colour resolution; e.g., it is easier to detect a difference between a pink and a purple colour (as they differ in both hue and lightness) than between one orange colour and a slight darker or lighter one. In other words, the colours in the blue–pink–yellow palette looks much more different to each other than the colours in the one-hue-of-red palette.

Note that all the palettes shown here are sequential colour palettes, so they are very well suited to showing data the encodes absolutely or relatively ordered values (e.g., light colour = low birth rate, dark colour = high birth rate). But they can also be used as a simple qualitative colour palette, without any implied ordering.

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IMHO, the best answer is already here fore almost two years now:

Note you can specify a different Style Sheet for print which works better for Black and White – Ben Brocka♦ Jul 23 '12 at 10:50

Trying to find a 5-color scheme that'll work well in monochrome is far from ideal. You could make it work, but you'd probably end up with a palette that looks okayish in color or goodish in greyscale. Do you want to settle for -ish?

Assuming you are designing for web, you should not worry too much about the monochrome rendering of your color scheme, but design for full-color screens. You might want to take color blindness into consideration, but it's up to you to decide if that is worth the effort.

Once done, take a separate look at how a print of you site should look. This considers far more than color rendering alone:

  • Is the font (size) okay for reading on paper?
  • Does every image need to be printed?
  • Are there some elements (e.g. ads) that should be omitted in print?
  • Do you show hyperlinks like on screen or with the URL written out?
  • Do you keep the same site width or are you goin to use the whole page width?
  • Do you need the header and footer?

These are only a few things you should think about. Basically, print is a different medium on which you want to convey the same information. This asks for its own design. Whether that design is just an altered color palette or a total rearrangement of your content.

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