If you’re ever trying to choose a nice-looking color palette for figures, you may want to try ColorBrewer, a tool developed by Penn State geography professor Cynthia Brewer. (Several of you are likely already using this). The color schemes are designed for maps, but will look equally good on other types of plots too. You can choose between sequential, diverging, or quantitative colors depending on your application. When you have your colors chosen, you can click the little tab that says “Export your Colors” near the bottom of the map, then copy and paste the RGB values into whatever application you’re using.
But wait, you say, I would rather have an automatic way to import these color schemes without going to a website every time. Fortunately there is a package on the Matlab file exchange that can do exactly that. Just include the “cbrewer” directory on your path, and grab a colormap of your choice by calling the function “cbrewer”. The nice thing about this is that you’re not limited to 8 colors like the web interface–in theory, you can make a nearly continuous color scale by requesting, say, 256 colors. Happy designing!