How Are Hex Color Codes Determined? [A Simple Explanation]

There are a lot of colors out there, with RGB having access to an astounding array of them as long as the screen can handle it. Light blends together and tricks the eye into seeing different colors with only three simple colors: red, green, and blue. However, a digital device needs to be told how to do this. This is done by using hex color codes.

A hex color code is formatted as #RRGGBB with hexadecimal values between 00 and FF on a scale between 0-255 divided by 16 determining how much red, green, and blue is found within that color.

This is a standard system that is accepted in all browsers and most graphical programs. At first it can look overwhelming, but it is really a simple system. Keep reading to learn more about hex color codes and how they are determined.

What are Hex Color Codes?

Hex color codes are also known as hexadecimal color codes or hex codes. These are a string of values from 00 to FF to denote how much red, green, and blue are in a specific color swatch. It is a method of denoting very specific colors, as RGB is capable of a vast range of them.

There are six integers, with the first two being the red value, second being the green value, and third being the blue value. This is because all colors on a screen are made up of red, green, and blue light in varying values to make the eye perceive different colors.

How are Hex Color Codes Determined?

There is a scale between 0-255 that is used to denote how much red, green, and blue is in a specific color. Hex color codes take this value and divides it by the number 16 to come up with the specific value. If this value is only a single digit, it is placed directly into the code. However, if the value has two digits, they are given the values between A and F to denote that number instead.

The number to letter conversion is as such:


This opens up the ability to make complicated strings of code in a highly condensed format that is also extremely precise.

How Does the Hexadecimal System Work?

As previously stated, there is a scale from 0 to 255 that the hexadecimal system uses per color. This means that there are actually 256 possible values for each color respectively. The hexadecimal system makes it possible for these triple digit numbers to be denoted in only two integers. Hexadecimal means that it uses sixteen distinct symbols and does so by taking the value and dividing it by 16. Should the value be two digits, it denotes that with a letter instead. That tells the program or browser how much of a specific value to show in order to get exactly the same color every time.

How are Hex Color Codes Used?

The most common place that hex color codes are used is in coding as that stays completely digital. It is also completely supported in all browsers, making it perfect for web design. However, it is also commonly used in design to help use exactly the same color time and time again. Placing the string of six integers after a pound (#) sign tells a program how to display exact combinations of RGB light to trick the brain into seeing a specific color.

Here are some areas that specifically use hex color codes:

  • Web design
  • Coding
  • Programming
  • Graphic design

While it is best for digital work as RGB is made up of light and printed work is not, hex color codes can also be used in print-intended design in order to perfectly color match. Just note that RGB will always look brighter and more vibrant on screen than it will look on the page!

Can Hex Color Codes be Abbreviated?

Hex color codes are wonderful for their wide range of denotation of very specific colors and is designed to be simple, easy to use, and compact. However, that doesn’t mean that it can’t get shorter. They can be abbreviated down to one integer per color value instead of two and be perceived as the same color, but only if the integers are repeated in each color value.

In doing so, it reduces the total number of colors down to approximately 4,000. That is still quite a lot of colors though, so it is still a nice function to have. Therefore, pure red can be denoted as either #FF0000 or #F00 and still be pure red; green can be denoted as #00FF00 or #0F0; blue can be denoted as #0000FF or #00F. This slightly abbreviated code can help improve performance as there’s fewer things to process, which does make it appealing for some large projects.

How to Find the Hex Color Code for Any Color

If it isn’t already known, there are a few ways to find the specific hex color code for any color. If the color is already there, simply using a color picker on a graphical program can list the value. Be sure to zoom in and get a solid pixel if it is a raster image, as the aliasing can adjust the values in order to make it look smoother.

There are also plenty of websites and services that can help pick out the exact color. Some of these involve uploading a file and clicking on different areas for it to generate the color code in a box, just like would happen using a color picker tool in a graphical software.

Some websites also have the option to select specific colors like in a calculator, options to move sliders, or to select from various swatches. This is also often how graphical suites allow specific colors to be chosen. Additionally, these sorts of things usually have space to input exact values into the R, G, and B sections if those values are known.


Hex color codes are a compact system of denoting color values using the RGB color mode. It is done by splitting up a string of six integers into values for each color to mean anything between 0 and 255, for a total of 256 values. It then divides this by 16. Anything between 10 and 15 is given a number instead, in order to keep it succinct. This can be further abbreviated down to one integer per color if both integers are the same. It’s a fabulous method for ensuring the same color happens every time, and its integration with most needs makes it exceptionally useful.