How Do RGB Values Determine Pixel Color?

Something that is a mix of light wavelengths around us that forms into what we know as a specific color. A computer, or digital tool, cannot see such things. Everything has to be converted over to numerical “color coding” for them to be able to create and save the colors we see. So, how do RGB values determine pixel color?

The RGB values, which are simply the red, green, and blue colors in the spectrum, are the only three colors used by the digital world. The RGB values are mixed together to form the color seen in the real world and are turned into a digital image that matches that color.

The simple explanation of RGB values work is that the digital platform will take a specific shade of the three primary colors and combine them in numerical order. This recreates the color in digital form, which is nothing but a series of codes. A series of numbers that combine together. Let’s dig into this a little deeper to better grasp the concept.

RGB Values and Pixel Color

The most common way digital platforms convert colors to numerical code is through RGB values. The red, green, and blue color spectrums can create any shade and color combination you can see with your naked eye. Have you ever played around with any color settings in a program?

If you have, you will see how many color combinations you can come up with by simply adjusting one of the three colored bars. To clear up any confusion on the numbers, you will need to know which number represents the color you are after:

  • Setting 0 – This is the darkest setting for the specific color.
  • Setting 255 – This is the lightest setting for the specific color.

The lower the number is adjusted to, the darker the shade of the color will be. This is how the digital platform creates replicas of the photos or images you are saving. The program will adjust the numbers to the settings that they need to be, creating a numerical copy of the original.

The digital platform you are working on will adjust the colors automatically to the numbers you input into the RGB value boxes. It is not as simple as just plugging some random numbers into the equation and hoping you get the color needed. First, you will need to understand what the numbers mean.

How RGB Values Work

Now that you understand the basics of RGB values, it is time to check out what they really mean.

It may seem a little complicated if you are unfamiliar with all the technical aspects of the process, but if you step back and look outside the box, you will see how easy it actually is to comprehend:

  • The higher the number is, up to 255, which is the highest value, the lighter the color will be on the screen.
  • The color will be neutral when all three numerical colors are the same, such as 100100100. That means it will be black, gray, or white.
  • When adjusting one of the components of the RGB values, the overall color will become closer to that color.

 That means if you move the red up to 150 from 50, the color you see will have more red tints, but since you are going up, the color will be lighter. So when adjusting to match a color, you may have to adjust one aspect to darker, while the other two may need to go lighter.

It is a complicated system, and adjusting to the perfect color will be challenging. It is just another second out of their day for a computer or digital platform, though, so it is suggested that you use a program to help you get the needed colors.

How To Understand Written RGB Values

Looking at a set of written RGB values can be as confusing as a sentence written in a foreign language. If you are unsure what is displayed in front of you, it will be next to impossible to follow along with the color scheme you want.

  • 255255255
  • 100233050
  • 000000000

Take a good hard look at these numbers and see if you can figure out what they mean. If you can, that’s great. If not, you are about to learn an easy lesson.

You will start by taking the first three numbers of the grouping above. Let’s use the middle example so it will be 100. This is the red numerical value (R). The second number, 233, will be the green color (G) value. The third number, 050, is the blue numerical value (B).

To break this down more straightforwardly for you, follow along below:

  • The red numerical value is set at 100
  • The green numerical value is set at 233
  • The blue numerical value is set at 50

Go to one of your programs in which you can adjust the RGB values and give these numbers a try. The color you come up with is equivalent to the numerical RGB value of 100233050. Sometimes this is written with spaces in between, such as 100 233 050, but they will give you the same color.


The RGB values used on digital platforms may seem complicated unless you have grown up around computers and gaming systems. These values do not make much sense for those who grew up using rotary phones and a DOS computer system. If you take the time to sit down and think about what is discussed above, it will make much more sense.

The best way to figure out how RGB values determine pixel colors is to sit in front of a computer, get onto a program such as PhotoShop that will let you play around with numbers, and get to know the different color bands that can be used.

You will quickly see how easy it is to understand how one affects the other and how you can adjust those numerical values to manipulate the program to view any color you want.