What Are 'Web-Safe' Colors?

Back in the early days of Internet computing, since computers were 8-bit machines, many could only display 256 colors on the screen at one time (256 is 28). When several programs all tried to get their unique colors displayed and the total number of colors on the screen would be more than 256, there was no method for the computer to handle this. As a result, colors would be ridiculously distorted.

To 'fix' this problem, in 1994 Netscape defined a set of 216 colors that would have priority over all others (six levels of Red, Green, and Blue).

Web-safe colors are the set of 216 colors that appear solid, non-dithered, and consistent on any computer monitor that can display at least 256 colors. Although 8-bit computers can display up to 256 different colors , only 216 of them will appear identical on all machines.

Web safe colors are defined in terms of RGB (Red, Green, Blue) values of 0, 51, 102, 153, 204, 255. These numbers, while they appear to be 'random', are all based on multiples of 20% of 255 (the starting number is 0, so the 256 values range from 0 to 255). For example, 51 is 20% of 255, 102 is 40%, 153 is 60%, etc.

For a color to be website safe, the choices must come from the color palette common and compatible to all types of machines. Web-safe colors are really web-consistent colors.

Why Should You Use Website-Safe Colors?

If your website developer chooses colors that are not supported by all computer systems, then your colors will be inconsistent across different users. If you choose a great shade of red for display on your home computer, it may look completely different on another user's machine with a different monitor.

Sometimes, this may be more than aesthetic. Unpredictable colors may hide website content. What you see may not be what others get. Why take the chance?

Checking Website-Safe Colors

The 216 color palette supported across all platfroms and systems is the color palette that website developers should use. The easiest way to recognize them is by their hexadecimal (0 through 9 and A through F) RGB code.

Every color specification on the Internet is stated in the form: #RRGGBB. The pound symbol indicates hexadecimal data. Colors that are web safe consist of repeated pairs of three in the RGB positions. Examples include #33CC99 and #003366. These are not web-safe colors: #109833 and #CC33F0.

The colors in the web-safe color palette are available to all images, regardless of the user's display, operating system, or browser. Using these colors guarantees everyone will see your colors the same way.
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