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HTML Hexadecimal Color Codes

If you've ever wondered exactly what those HTML color codes mean, this is for you. Even if you've never been curious, understanding HTML colors and their codes may help you as you sort through the vast array of colors to find the ones you want.

Color codes are six digits and represent values of red, green and blue. The first two digits are for red, the middle two are for green, and the last two are for blue. These codes are hexadecimal, or base 16, as opposed to decimal, base 10.

In the decimal or base 10 system, there are 10 possible values for each digit - 0 through 9. In the hexadecimal system, each digit has 16 possible values.

Those values are 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, A, B, C, D, E, and F.

"A" has a value of 10; "B" is equivalent to 11; "C" represents 12, and so on through "F" which is equal to 15.

The hexadecimal code is basically three pairs of digits, each pair representing one color. Each color - red, green and blue - has 256 possible values. (Each digit has 16 possible values - 16 multiplied by 16 for two digits for a total of 256.)

From those three main colors, over 16 million color combinations can be formed. For the color red, there are 256 values multiplied by 256 values for green multiplied by 256 values for blue. That's a total of 16,777,216 colors.

For any of the main three colors represented in the code, the value ranges from "00" to "255", with 255 yielding the maximum brightness level.

If a color is totally absent from the color, it will read "00" which is zero, or zero brightness. Zero brightness is the same as black. So, a code of "#000000" is black.

On the other end of the spectrum, if red, green and blue all have maximum brightness levels, you get the color white. That code is "#FFFFFF".

If you look at a color chart of browser-safe, or web-safe, colors, you'll see codes with only pairs of 00, 33, 66, 99, CC and FF.

For red, green or blue, that gives you a brightness value of 0 (00), 51 (33), 102 (66), 153 (99), 204 (CC) and 255 (FF).

It may seem confusing to think of "33" as 51, or "99" as 153. The hexadecimal system isn't difficult, though; it's just different. Instead of counting to nine with each digit, you count to 15 with A as 10 through F as 15.

So, here's how you count to 51 in the hexadecimal system:

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, A, B, C, D, E, F,
10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 1A, 1B, 1C, 1D, 1E, 1F,
20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 2A, 2B, 2C, 2D, 2E, 2F,
30, 31, 32, 33
  • In the base 10 decimal system, you might think of 33 as 10 multiplied by 3, plus three more.
  • In the base 16 hexadecimal system, "33" is 16 multiplied by 3, plus three more which is 51.

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