Adding color to a plot is helpful in many situations for visualizing an additional dimension of the data. Again, I wrote the below function "val2col" in R after having coded this manually over and over in the past. It uses similar arguments as the image function in that one defines the colors to be used as well as optional break points or z-limits by which the data is binned into those colors. The typical situation where I use the function is with the mapping of climate data, yet the addition of color to an XY plot can often be easier on the eyes than adding an additional z-axis spatial dimension. In combination with the image.scale function, that I previously posted, the data can be quickly interpretted.
As an example, gridded sea level pressure is plotted above as projected polygons using the packages maps and mapproj. Values were converted to colors with the val2col function and the image.scale function plotted a corresponding scale. For those interested in using netcdf files, the example also uses the ncdf package for reading the data files into R.