[thelist] color conversion: websafe, web-smart, unsafe

Barney Carroll barney at textmatters.com
Thu Nov 30 10:09:34 CST 2006

Julian Rickards wrote:
> It certainly is an interesting tool but I don't know that there is really
> any value to the websmart colours and I challenge the term webunsafe. If you
> move the mouse pointer around, you will notice that web smart uses triplet
> pairs for colour codes as in #112233 or #aabbcc. This simplifies CSS because
> you can reduce these colours to #123 or #abc but other than that, there is
> no significant value to websmart as I see it.

Actually the 'compressed reference' of three digits for hex values 
creates one after the other. It is commonly used for black and white, 
which are strings of identical characters, but the longhand for #abc is 

> The tool is similar to HSV colour selection tools but is missing one of the
> components. HSV is Hue Saturation Value (also described as HSL, Hue
> Saturation Lightness/Luminance). Hue is the circle of colours, Saturation is
> the purity of the colour, a colour with no saturation is grey.
> Lightness/luminance is the amount of black or white added to the colour. In
> order to display all three components independent, you need three dimensions
> or at least three tools. Moving around the wheel allows you to select the
> Hue, moving from the outer edge to the centre of the wheel allows you to
> select Saturation and generally, a slider allows you to select
> Lightness/Luminance. This tool does not allow all three and attempts to plot
> all three in one wheel but that is not possible because moving from white on
> the outside to black in the centre allows you to choose Luminance but not
> Saturation.

The hex reference is mapped the same way (or similar) - the string is 
divided into 2-character codes for red green and blue. I initially 
understood the colour wheel to be intentionally closing of the ambiguity 
between browns and greys (in different colour theory models, there is a 
very grey area - hahaha - between brown and grey because rgb understands 
black to be the combination of all colours and white their absence - but 
brown is, chromatically speaking, an equal combination of all primary 
colours. So the difference between grey, brown and black are hard to 

In my experience, browns and greys are notoriously difficult to get 
displaying similarly accross renderers - I've had experiences of clients 
asking me to tone down the pink when what I have on my screen is an 
almost monochrome cream tone.

As far as I know HSV is a long way off from consistent cross-browser 
implementation... It'd be cool if we could get our current colour 
systems sorted before then!


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