Why Is the Periodic Table Color Coded?

Color Coded Periodic Table
A color coded periodic table shows element groups and trends at a glance.

A color coded periodic table displays key information about element properties at a glance. Of course, black and white table also exist and are handy when you want to color the table yourself or use a black and white printer. Take a look at why color coded tables are popular and what the coloring means.

Why Is the Periodic Table Color Coded?

The reason most periodic tables are color coded is because the colors offer an additional dimension of information. It’s easy to see trends in element properties. In contrast, sometimes numbers and letters are difficult to read because their font is so small.

The most popular periodic tables are color coded by element groups. These are elements which share similar chemical and physical properties. Some element groups, such as the alkali metals and halogens, are columns on the periodic table. However, other groups are not as clearly defined, such as the metalloids and nonmetals.

Other colored periodic tables highlight element abundance or trends in properties. For example, a colored electronegativity table makes it easy to see, at a glance, whether atoms have similar or different electronegativity values. So, rather than looking at numbers, you use colors to predict whether atoms form covalent or ionic bonds. An element abundance table uses color to show how common elements are in nature, a valence table shows valences, and so on.

Does It Matter Which Colors Are Used?

If you build a molecule using a kit, the color of the atoms matters. But, periodic table colors are about aesthetics and printer capabilities. There isn’t any rule or convention that says alkali metals are purple and nonmetals are blue, for example. Some tables use rainbow colors so that it’s easier to tell different groups apart. Others go monochrome. It’s all a matter of personal preference.

Print a Color Coded Periodic Table

Do you need a color coded periodic table? Download or print the table in this article with either the white background or a black and white background. If you don’t like the color scheme or want different properties highlighted, choose a different periodic table.