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Q&A: In a webpage, colors are often indicated with a string of numbers and letters. What do these numbers and letters mean?

Originally published in MOREnetworking Vol. 1 No. 11, Aug. 2003

In a webpage, colors are often indicated with a string of numbers and letters. What do these numbers and letters mean?
Sandra M.

Colors on a webpage are represented by a six-character code that is in hexadecimal, or base-16, notation. A hexadecimal number can have a value ranging from 0 to 15; the numbers 10 through 15 are represented by the letters A through F.

To create a color, your computer’s monitor displays some combination of red, green and blue, which is known as RGB color. Your computer can show up to 256 shades of red, 256 shades of green and 256 shades of blue. As it happens, 16 multiplied by itself equals 256.

The first two characters of a webpage color code represent the specific shade of red the monitor needs to display, the second two characters the specific shade of green and the last two characters the specific shade of blue. The combination of these three shades creates 1 in 16,777,216 possible colors.

In this system, the value of 0 is equal to black, and the value of F is equal to white, so the lower the digit, the darker the color, and vice versa.

If the two digits for each color are the same and are a multiple of 3 — 3366FF, for example — the color is a member of the Web-safe color palette.

hendersonl | Friday, August 1, 2003 | |

 

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