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What Are HEX Colors and How They Work in Design

What exactly is a HEX color? Learn the definition of HEX colors, how many there really are, and discover how to use them in your designs.

Hex colors are a way of representing colors from various color models through hexadecimal values. A hexadecimal color follows the format #RRGGBB, where RR is red, GG is green, and BB is blue. These hexadecimal integers can be in a range of 00 to FF to specify the intensity of the color.

A simple example of this is #FF0000. This color is pure red, because the red component is at its max value of FF and the green and blue components are at their lowest of 00.

Pink HEX colors
Image via 3rieart.

Why Use Hex Colors?

Using hex color codes to represent different colors is an easy way to differentiate between colors. Once you understand how they work, you can easily change the red, blue, or green values to create a different shade. This is particularly convenient given that you have such a range of color options with hex color codes, which guarantees color exactness.

How Many Hex Colors Are There?

In standard #RRGGBB notation, there are 256^3 color combinations available, or 16,777,216. This is because each color value RR, GG, BB can contain 256 different values, ranging from 00 to FF. Therefore, the number of combinations is 256^3.

Orange HEX colors
Image via Look Studio.

An interesting side note is that many modern browsers will also support transparency. This means that an entirely new set of color codes exists in the form of #AARRGGBB. In this instance, there are 4,294,976,296 color codes, or 256^4. It’s important to keep in mind that the addition of the transparency does not indicate that there are extra colors, since solely adding transparency does not change the color. This merely adds more information and more available color codes depending on transparency, or the level of opacity.

How Do Hex Colors Work?

Hexadecimal colors use sixteen different values to represent a single shade of color, whether it be red, green, or blue. This is powerful because it gives you a broad range of shades for each color – specifically sixteen. Each color is broken down into a number or character, ranging from 0-9 and A-F, where 0 is the minimum value and F is the maximum. Next, the color format is separated into #RRGGBB, where RR is red, GG is green, and BB is blue.

This gives you an idea of just how many color combinations are possible with hex color codes, which is why they are used so often.

Cover image via Plasteed.

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