Color by data: Introducing CARTOColors


This post may describe functionality for an old version of CARTO. Find out about the latest and cloud-native version here.
Color by data: Introducing CARTOColors

Today we are excited to introduce CARTOColors.

CARTOColors is a collection of intelligent color schemes that allow you to transform your raw data into actionable insights. Insights that help with decision making foster exploration and highlight the important stories in your data.


Color use on maps has been researched by cartographers for decades and is one of the most important forms of map communication. Choosing the right colors based on your data aids storytelling engages your map reader and visually guides people to uncover interesting patterns that could otherwise be missed.

Well-known standards like ColorBrewer have defined best practices for color use on thematic maps. Using these foundational pieces as building blocks we created a set of custom color schemes that are optimized for the web CARTO basemaps and thematic maps made with Builder.

To explore each color scheme in more detail check out our CARTOColors landing page.

CARTOColors in Action

CARTOColors are available to use right now in Builder. Based on the type of map you are making we apply a default CARTOColor scheme. The schemes are broken into three categories: sequential and diverging for numeric data and qualitative for non-numeric data.

Below are some examples of CARTOColor schemes on a variety of maps made with Builder.

Tree Types at Sloans Lake

The map below colors each tree at Sloans Lake in Denver Colorado based on its type and sized by its diameter. Because we are displaying categories (type of tree) we are using a CARTOColor qualitative scheme to assign a unique color to each tree based on its type.

Qualitative Schemes
Qualitative Schemes

County-to-County Commuter Flow

This map shows the county-to-county flow of commuters in New York state. Because we are showing amounts (number of commuters) the map uses a CARTOColor multi-hue sequential scheme. The scheme has been flipped for use on Dark Matter to increase contrast. These decisions help distinguish commute patterns in the state. Light colors indicate flows with a large number of people while flows with less people are pushed to the background using darker colors.

Sequential Schemes
Sequential Schemes

Ocean Temperatures

This map visualizes ocean temperatures using a CARTOColor diverging scheme. Cool colors indicate where temperatures are low transitioning to warm colors for higher temperatures. The subdued yellow is used to provide a generalized view of where shifts in ocean temperatures begin to happen.

Diverging Schemes
Diverging Schemes

Car Crashes in 2015

The map below shows the density of car crashes that occured in 2015 using Builder’s Hexbin aggregation method. The coloring is based on density and uses a CARTOColor aggregation scheme. Aggregation schemes are a type of modified sequential scheme. These schemes are multi-hue and use colors with more saturation. With aggregation schemes light colors represent high density and dark colors low density.

More to Come

As demonstrated in the maps above CARTOColors used in conjunction with Builder provide users with intelligent color schemes with best practices built-in. This in turn helps reveal patterns more quickly in your data leading to faster insights.

In the coming weeks we will take a deeper dive into how to best use CARTOColors the design methodology of the schemes themselves and more interesting tidbits that might not be noticeable at first glance!

Happy Map Designing!