The color of your financial reports


Here at Reach Reporting, we love pie, line, and any other chart out there that brings data to life. We love them so much we have made them our business.

Charts should make data more simple to understand and consume. If you love your spreadsheets, you should love the imagery that makes understanding those spreadsheets quicker and less stressful. When charts are made well, your clients will understand more of their financials at a glance and want to take on more of your complex spreadsheet. But when made poorly, reports can drive your clients crazy.

That’s why proper layout and color selection are vital when creating charts and graphs. Well-chosen colors will make charts visually pleasing and understandable.

Here are some things to consider when selecting colors.

Use colors that won’t distract.

Your chart should be easier to understand based on your color selection. One of the most important things to remember is to select colors that are pleasing to the eyes and don’t distract from your story. Avoid using both loud colors that are hard to look at and muted colors that are hard to see.

Also, keep your color selection to minimal colors. Using too many colors will confuse your readers and distract them from the financial story you are trying to tell.

Don’t use opposing colors.

When you use too much contrast between colors, your readers don’t know what color is more important. The color now competes with the data and does not move the information forward. Readers have sensory overload. Instead, pick either a cool or warm color palette that complements your client’s brand colors. 

Use colors to reflect the meaning.

While avoid using colors that contrast too greatly, there are times that colors should be used due to their ability to depict what you mean quickly. For example, numbers that show growth should be green, colors showing decline should be red, and data that a reader should be cautious about should be yellow. 

Since the above colors have widely known meanings, readers can look at them and immediately understand what those numbers mean for their business.

Use shades of the same color.

When creating charts, try to keep them simple but visually stimulating to the mind. By using different shades of the same color, readers won’t be distracted by the overuse of color and instead focus on the data. Be shuttle with the shading scale, and don’t abruptly change from shade to shade. Use the color process of gradients.

Keep colors consistent

A fundamental principle, but for some color enthusiasts, this is hard to keep in mind. Make sure you select a color palette and use it throughout the entire report.

For instance, don’t color one chart orange and then color the other chart purple. By keeping the same color palette, you make your report cohesive, making it easier to read the data you are presenting. If readers understand what color represents, they won’t have to reeducate themselves every time they turn the page or look at another metric.

Use bright colors to highlight necessary data.

Having a consistent bright color to distinguish essential data from the rest will help clients focus on the information you want to bring to their attention. I usually use their brand color to do this. 

Avoid relying on color alone for legends.

Even with the best color selections, people have difficulty reading legends based on color. Ensuring your legend is based on more than color will improve readability, comprehension and ensure that your charts are readable for the color-blind.

Use black text unless the background is dark.

Black text always reads the best unless the background is dark. In those cases, use a contrasting color. For light backgrounds, use black for dark backgrounds use light font colors. If you can not read black or white text on your background, change your color.

Test your color contrast in greyscale

If you want to make sure your colors have enough contrast save your report as greyscale to help you decide if you have enough contrast between the colors you have selected.

We hope this helps! Happy reporting.



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