A Brief Introduction

  The number of colors available to us as designers and developers is truly an overwhelming figure. There are literally millions of different and hues that we can combine to make an unending number of colors to use in our projects. Today, we’ll see how to add some color to those plain old HTML pages, and learn a bit about how we can keep track of so many different colors.

What’s in a color?

In HTML, colors are defined by using what is called hexadecimal notation. The 6 “pieces” of the notation are actually 3 sets of 2 characters, representing the red, green, and blue values of a color. In hexadecimal notation, the lowest value you can use is 00, or black, whereas the highest value you can use is FF, or, white. All hex values are, again, 3 sets of 2 characters beginning with a pound sign (#). Here’s a nice table of some hex value colors:

Color Color HEX Color RGB
  #000000 rgb(0,0,0)
  #FF0000 rgb(255,0,0)
  #00FF00 rgb(0,255,0)
  #0000FF rgb(0,0,255)
  #FFFF00 rgb(255,255,0)
  #00FFFF rgb(0,255,255)
  #FF00FF rgb(255,0,255)
  #C0C0C0 rgb(192,192,192)
  #FFFFFF rgb(255,255,255)

 As you can see, the lowest value is black and it’s hexadecimal notation is #000000. There is no value passed in at all, leaving us with no color.
Moving down a step, you’ll see that we’ve used #FF0000 as the second value. What’s happening here is we’re passing the highest possible value, FF, into the red portion of the notation. Recall that FF produces a value of 255, which is what you see in the Color RGB column. Because we’ve passed the highest possible value into the red portion, we end up with the bright red color you see in the second row.
We’ve done the same thing with green, except this time we are passing the FF into the green portion of the notation (#00FF00). This gives us the RGB value of rgb(0,255,0) meaning that only green is given a value. Therefore, we end up with green as the color of that row. 
Can you figure out how we get the blue color that you see in the fourth row? Simple! We pass in only a value to the blue segment of the hexadecimal notation. What we’ll end up with is #0000FF, which gives us no value in the red, no value in the green, and a value of 255 in the blue. This translates into RGB as rgb(0,0,255). 
There’s certainly no reason to remember every single notation for every color, as there are plenty of tools and reference guides available to help you. The hexadecimal notation standard gives us roughly 16 million possible combinations of color. That’s a whole lot to choose from when designing your site! Of course, we do have the option to use plain old color names like “red” or “yellow”. This works just as well, but provides far less flexibility than hexadecimal notation. For kicks, though, here’s a list of the web safe color names:

Color Name HEX Color
AliceBlue  #F0F8FF  
AntiqueWhite  #FAEBD7  
Aqua  #00FFFF  
Aquamarine  #7FFFD4  
Azure  #F0FFFF  
Beige  #F5F5DC  
Bisque  #FFE4C4  
Black  #000000  
BlanchedAlmond  #FFEBCD  
Blue  #0000FF  
BlueViolet  #8A2BE2  
Brown  #A52A2A  
BurlyWood  #DEB887  
CadetBlue  #5F9EA0  
Chartreuse  #7FFF00  
Chocolate  #D2691E  
Coral  #FF7F50  
CornflowerBlue  #6495ED  
Cornsilk  #FFF8DC  
Crimson  #DC143C  
Cyan  #00FFFF  
DarkBlue  #00008B  
DarkCyan  #008B8B  
DarkGoldenRod  #B8860B  
DarkGray  #A9A9A9  
DarkGreen  #006400  
DarkKhaki  #BDB76B  
DarkMagenta  #8B008B  
DarkOliveGreen  #556B2F  
Darkorange  #FF8C00  
DarkOrchid  #9932CC  
DarkRed  #8B0000  
DarkSalmon  #E9967A  
DarkSeaGreen  #8FBC8F  
DarkSlateBlue  #483D8B  
DarkSlateGray  #2F4F4F  
DarkTurquoise  #00CED1  
DarkViolet  #9400D3  
DeepPink  #FF1493  
DeepSkyBlue  #00BFFF  
DimGray  #696969  
DodgerBlue  #1E90FF  
FireBrick  #B22222  
FloralWhite  #FFFAF0  
ForestGreen  #228B22  
Fuchsia  #FF00FF  
Gainsboro  #DCDCDC  
GhostWhite  #F8F8FF  
Gold  #FFD700  
GoldenRod  #DAA520  
Gray  #808080  
Green  #008000  
GreenYellow  #ADFF2F  
HoneyDew  #F0FFF0  
HotPink  #FF69B4  
IndianRed   #CD5C5C  
Indigo   #4B0082  
Ivory  #FFFFF0  
Khaki  #F0E68C  
Lavender  #E6E6FA  
LavenderBlush  #FFF0F5  
LawnGreen  #7CFC00  
LemonChiffon  #FFFACD  
LightBlue  #ADD8E6  
LightCoral  #F08080  
LightCyan  #E0FFFF  
LightGoldenRodYellow  #FAFAD2  
LightGrey  #D3D3D3  
LightGreen  #90EE90  
LightPink  #FFB6C1  
LightSalmon  #FFA07A  
LightSeaGreen  #20B2AA  
LightSkyBlue  #87CEFA  
LightSlateGray  #778899  
LightSteelBlue  #B0C4DE  
LightYellow  #FFFFE0  
Lime  #00FF00  
LimeGreen  #32CD32  
Linen  #FAF0E6  
Magenta  #FF00FF  
Maroon  #800000  
MediumAquaMarine  #66CDAA  
MediumBlue  #0000CD  
MediumOrchid  #BA55D3  
MediumPurple  #9370D8  
MediumSeaGreen  #3CB371  
MediumSlateBlue  #7B68EE  
MediumSpringGreen  #00FA9A  
MediumTurquoise  #48D1CC  
MediumVioletRed  #C71585  
MidnightBlue  #191970  
MintCream  #F5FFFA  
MistyRose  #FFE4E1  
Moccasin  #FFE4B5  
NavajoWhite  #FFDEAD  
Navy  #000080  
OldLace  #FDF5E6  
Olive  #808000  
OliveDrab  #6B8E23  
Orange  #FFA500  
OrangeRed  #FF4500  
Orchid  #DA70D6  
PaleGoldenRod  #EEE8AA  
PaleGreen  #98FB98  
PaleTurquoise  #AFEEEE  
PaleVioletRed  #D87093  
PapayaWhip  #FFEFD5  
PeachPuff  #FFDAB9  
Peru  #CD853F  
Pink  #FFC0CB  
Plum  #DDA0DD  
PowderBlue  #B0E0E6  
Purple  #800080  
Red  #FF0000  
RosyBrown  #BC8F8F  
RoyalBlue  #4169E1  
SaddleBrown  #8B4513  
Salmon  #FA8072  
SandyBrown  #F4A460  
SeaGreen  #2E8B57  
SeaShell  #FFF5EE  
Sienna  #A0522D  
Silver  #C0C0C0  
SkyBlue  #87CEEB  
SlateBlue  #6A5ACD  
SlateGray  #708090  
Snow  #FFFAFA  
SpringGreen  #00FF7F  
SteelBlue  #4682B4  
Tan  #D2B48C  
Teal  #008080  
Thistle  #D8BFD8  
Tomato  #FF6347  
Turquoise  #40E0D0  
Violet  #EE82EE  
Wheat  #F5DEB3  
White  #FFFFFF  
WhiteSmoke  #F5F5F5  
Yellow  #FFFF00  
YellowGreen  #9ACD32  

You can use any of the above color names in place of the hexadecimal values if you’d prefer, however the hexadecimal versions are recommended.

A Few Last Words

Again, it’s not so important that you memorize all of the hexadecimal notations, just that you understand how they work. Using hex is far more flexible than using plain old color names, and that flexibility is exactly what you need when developing sites and applications. In our next tutorial, we’ll talk about HTML entities and how to add special characters to your pages. See you next time!