Color Hex Code

What Does Color Hex Code Mean?

A color hex code is a hexadecimal way to represent a color in RGB format by combining three values – the amounts of red, green and blue in a particular shade of color.


These color hex codes have been an integral part of HTML for web design, and remain a key way of representing color formats digitally.

Techopedia Explains Color Hex Code

One way to show a color’s composition would be to list all three of the red, green and blue values.

Because red-green-blue values each range from 0 to 255, the resulting code would be nine characters long.

By contrast, the hexadecimal format is only six characters long. In that sense, it compresses the individual RGB values into one six-digit value that uses a combination of alphanumeric characters including letters and numbers to identify a color.

It’s also possible to expand that six-digit value back to its individual RGB value.

Another reason that hexadecimal color values took off is that many machines used 8-bit operational codes. In that sense the octet was a reasonable way to represent these types of values.

It’s worth pointing out that with possible permutations of 0-256 ranges for each of the three color values, red, green and blue, the system yields 16,777,216 results, which is more colors than the human eye can actually distinguish. Also, new technologies often abstract both the binary and the hexadecimal value by using a color name based on those values, for example, in cascading style sheets to universalize themes and styles on the web.

Other Color Systems

It’s important to note that the RGB color system is not the only color system used in the world of technology. A different color system known as CYMK or cyan, yellow, magenta and black, is used for managing color printing.

However, the RGB system predominates in purely digital image representation.

Using Hex Color Codes

Modern technologies use RGB color values and may or may not use hex values to represent them. In general, new users are less familiar with hex color codes than they were in the early days of HTML. However, the newest technologies that work with digital color still acknowledge the representations of colors and hex values.

One of the most interesting applications of this is in a TechCrunch description of a Berkeley computer scientist’s color program that is said to “hallucinate” colors into black and white imagery. In general, various kinds of “retro tech” programs can seek to “inject” color into previously grayscale systems or images.

Convolutional neural networks work with pixelated images in detailed ways. Their evaluation can utilize hex color codes as part of image processing and computer vision. With its many layers and functions the CNN learns to put together concepts like edges and features to learn how to identify objects, people or animals in images.

In general, using a base 16 system instead of a base 10 system makes hex color codes a bit more compressed or efficient then writing out RGB values and that has been the primary utility of this hexadecimal format system.


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Margaret Rouse

Margaret is an award-winning technical writer and teacher known for her ability to explain complex technical subjects to a non-technical business audience. Over the past twenty years, her IT definitions have been published by Que in an encyclopedia of technology terms and cited in articles by the New York Times, Time Magazine, USA Today, ZDNet, PC Magazine, and Discovery Magazine. She joined Techopedia in 2011. Margaret's idea of a fun day is helping IT and business professionals learn to speak each other’s highly specialized languages.