Color Palettes Based on the Works of Sanzo Wada

An R package by JRMA Maasch (2019).

Table of contents

  1. About: Origins and inspirations.
  2. Usage:   Install.   |   Docs.   |   Demo.   |   Base R.   |   ggplot2.   |   Gradient.   |   Metadata.   |   Customize.
  3. ggplot2 gallery:   Scatter plots.   |   Bar plots.   |   Violin plots.   |   2D Density plots.  
  4. View full suite:   Duo palettes.   |   Trio palettes.   |   Quad palettes.


Inspired by the art and color research of Sanzo Wada, his Dictionary Of Color Combinations, and the incredible interactive site by Dain M. Blodorn Kim, this package brings Wada’s color combinations to R for easy use in data visualizations. This package honors 60 of Wada’s color combinations: 20 duos, 20 trios, and 20 quads.

Sanzo Wada (1883-1967) was an artist, teacher, costume and kimono designer during a turbulent time in avant-garde Japanese art and cinema. Wada was ahead of his time in developing traditional and Western influenced color combinations, helping to lay the foundations for contemporary color research. Based on his original 6-volume work from the 1930s, this book offers 348 color combinations with CMYK and Pantone numbers, as attractive and sensuous as the book’s own design. – A Dictionary Of Color Combinations

This package is licensed under the GNU General Public License v3.0 (GPL-3).

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# Install package. Prior, the package devtools must be installed but need not be loaded.

# Load package.

View documentation.

View this vignette for additional package documentation, or precede any function by a question mark to access description, arguments, return value, and usage suggestions.

# Access function documentation.

View palette demos using sanzo.demo functions.

Each color combination can be demo’d via base R scatter and bar plots. To view the output of these functions, see Full suite: Duo palettes. | Trio palettes. | Quad palettes.

# Print demo plots for duos.

# Print demo plots for trios.

# Print demo plots for quads.

# Print demo plots for all palettes.

Optional: for easier viewing, try gridding up prior to running sanzo.demo functions. NOTE: This will alter par settings.

# Set up gridded layout, if desired:
graphics::layout(matrix(1:4, nrow = 2))
graphics::par(mar = c(2, 2, 2, 2))

Use with base R.

All examples use data from the datasets package and should be replicable.

# Assign palette to a name if desired.
my_duo <- sanzo.duo("c229")
my_trio <- sanzo.trio("c223")
my_quad <- sanzo.quad("c252")

# Use palette that has been assigned to a name.
plot(iris$Sepal.Length, iris$Sepal.Width, col = my_quad)

# Use directly.
plot(iris$Sepal.Length, iris$Sepal.Width, col = sanzo.duo("c085"))

Use with ggplot2.

Use with scale_fill_manual or scale_color_manual. All examples use data from the datasets package and should be replicable.

ggplot(iris, aes(fill = Species, y = Sepal.Width, x = Sepal.Length)) + 
  geom_bar(stat = "identity") +
  scale_fill_manual(values = sanzo.trio("c223"))

Use as a continuous color palette.

By default, sanzo palettes are discrete. There are multiple ways to achieve a gradient. For example, using scale_fill_gradientn or scale_color_gradientn in ggplot2 allows you to use any sanzo palette as a continuous gradient. See example visualizations here.

ggplot(faithfuld, aes(waiting, eruptions)) +
   geom_raster(aes(fill = density), interpolate = TRUE) +
   scale_fill_gradientn(colors = sanzo.duo("c102")) 

Access palette metadata with functions.

These functions return a data frame containing long-form names, short-form IDs, hexadecimal values, and links to Dain M. Blodorn Kim’s for further information.

duo_info_df <- sanzo.info2()

trio_info_df <- sanzo.info3()

quad_info_df <- sanzo.info4()

info_df <-

# Two ways to print a data frame.

Duo, trio, and quad data are stored in exported lists. To quickly access palette names only:



Concatenate multiple palettes to make a custom palette or cherry-pick individual colors. All hexadecimals are provided by the sanzo.demo functions and functions.

c033 <- sanzo.duo("c033")
c095 <- sanzo.duo("c095")
custom_quad <- c(c033, c095)

For a more muted color palette, select an alpha less than 1. In the plot at right, alpha = 5/6.

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Many of the plots in this gallery additionally use the ggthemes and cowplot packages.

Scatter plots.

Combination 205, alpha = 3/4. Combination 194, alpha = 3/4.
scatter1 scatter2
Combination 121, alpha = 3/4. Combination 172, alpha = 3/4.
scatter3 scatter4

Violin plots.

Bar plots.

bar1 bar2


See how to use sanzo color combinations as continuous palettes here.

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View full suite

Duo palettes.

demo1 demo2
demo3 demo4
demo5 demo6
demo7 demo8
demo9 demo10

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Trio palettes.

demo1 demo2
demo3 demo4
demo5 demo6
demo7 demo8
demo9 demo10

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Quad palettes.

demo1 demo2
demo3 demo4
demo5 demo6
demo7 demo8
demo9 demo10

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