Colors, colors, colors… there are so many colors to use and make designs out of. Of course, since computers are well, machines- they must use specific color codes to output or input the specific colors that our eyes see and comprehend correctly. While some colors may look correct on screen, they may look completely different printed, and that’s the very sad problem when printing from digital. Along with this, there’s very specific colors that computers can comprehend, or things like web safe colors, spot colors, hex-code colors, RGB and CMYK. In this article, I will cover every bit of information about these various color codes.

Web Safe Colors

Web safe colors are from the time when most computer displays could only display 256 colors and thus they needed to make color tables that could be used. This was determined by a computers “color table” and if the computer had a color that didn’t match with the color used, the computer would either pick the most closest color or begin dithering. Dithering is applying noise, many random pixels to a color that couldn’t be displayed can be visualized properly or at least closer. Unfortunately, dithering isn’t easy for large images. Web-safe colors use very specific colors and codes, they are not named and are labelled by their RGB components.

A massive image of the websafe colors. From DesignbyNur.

Spot Colors

Spot color is for printing and is the “sibling” of CMYK, a.k.a. process color. Spot colors are more complex than CMYK, and they add orange and green into the mix. Things with this color scheme can be done by various Adobe products but due to its complexity and the fact that every spot color needs its own lithographic film, it is not commonly used. Due to the complexity, spot colors tend to be used to prevent forgeries and are used in money, passports, bonds, and other incredibly important documents. Some of the spot colors used on these things can be seen by the naked eye and some need to be viewed under specific lighting or when specific chemicals are applied.


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CMYK is commonly used for printing and is the simple version of spot colors. CMYK is when puny dots of cyan, magenta, yellow, and black (key) are used to display various other colors using only those 3 colors and black. They are varied and are printed on newspapers, printed documents, and other various things. CMYK when all together becomes black, as compared to RGB, which when fused becomes white.

As you can see the colors fuse together to create other colors and hues that are needed for printing and sometimes CMYK cannot be even told apart from a fully colored non-cmyk image.


RGB on the other hand, utilizes red, green, and blue light, and is used primarily for web design and anything that is digital. RGB has beaten web-safe colors in this department, as web-safe is barely used since most computers use a 24-bit RBG color table that allows everything to seem seamless and vibrant. It is commonly used with computers, but TVs, cameras, and most technology uses it too. Even before the conception of it digitally, it has a sound background, and is based on the normal human perception of light and color. Unlike web-safe though, RGB is device-dependent and may change per device. Some colors may look different per screen, and this is impossible to avoid, sadly.

Converting CMYK to RGB can be a little tough and tends to be time consuming, sometimes you have to play by eye and hope for the best. Creating colorsheets between the two sometimes helps the transition, but can be extremely hard to manage. Some programs automate the conversion, making it easier and quicker, but of course, machines aren’t human and sometimes it may require a human touch and manual fixing afterwards.

Hex Codes

HEX, otherwise known as the hex triplet, is a 6-digit hexadecimal number used in HTML, CSS, SVG, and other systems of color that require color codes. It uses 24-bit colors and RGB, also known as True Color. The digits, called bytes, represent different amounts of red, green, and blue, and they are separated like this:

  • Byte #1: red value
  • Byte #2: green value
  • Byte #3: blue value

These decimal numbers are then converted into hexadecimal numbers allowing specific colors to displayed depending upon what type of values each number, and the colors can be used by applying the codes into whatever you are using them for.

Featured Photo by Daniele Levis Pelusi on Unsplash.