The Effect of Colour and Transparency on the Perception of Overlaid Grids

IEEE Transactions on Visualization and Computer Graphics, 17 (12 ), 2011, pp 1942 – 1948.

Overlaid reference elements need to be sufficiently visible to effectively relate to the underlying information, but not so obtrusive that they clutter the presentation. We seek to create guidelines for presenting such structures through experimental studies to define boundary conditions for visual intrusiveness. We base our work on the practice of designers, who use transparency to integrate overlaid grids with their underlying imagery. Previous work discovered a useful range of alpha values for black or white grids overlayed on scatterplot images rendered in shades of gray over gray backgrounds of different lightness values. This work compares black grids to blue and red ones on different image types of scatterplots and maps. We expected that the coloured grids over grayscale images would be more visually salient than black ones, resulting in lower alpha values. Instead, we found that there was no significant difference between the boundaries set for red and black grids, but that the boundaries for blue grids were set consistently higher (more opaque). As in our previous study, alpha values are affected by image density rather than image type, and are consistently lower than many default settings. These results have implications for the design of subtle reference structures.


Lyn Bartram, Billy Cheung

Tableau Author(s)

Maureen Stone