My first computer had a screen with two colors: black and white. The next one also had two colors: blue and white. Then I got one with 256 colors, quite an improvement. But very soon I already had 16,777,216 colors on my screen. It can now show pictures with all the colors of the rainbow.
Actually, it is supposed to show me more than 16 millions colors. Well, I think I don't need any more than this until they first all have a proper name. Please help me find the correct names for all these colors.
How computers identify colors
Computers like to work with numbers. To identify screen colors they don't use names but they use numbers, which are of course stored as bits and bytes. The black-white monitors of long ago only needed 1 bit to identify the color of a pixel on the screen. One bit can be 0 or 1, which represents black and white, or blue and white.
To have a screen with 256 colors we need an entire byte to identify the color of a pixel on the screen. A byte has 8 bits, and therefore it can be used to show 2^8 = 256 numbers (i.e. from 0 to 255), which in turn can identify 256 distinct colors.
That was clearly not enough, so nowadays computers usually use 3 bytes (or more) to identify the color of one pixel. Three bytes is 24 bits, so we now use 2^24 = 16,777,216 numbers and the pixel can therefore be shown in just as many colors.
How computer screens show colors
Computer screens (and TVs) use a method called RGB, which means Red Green Blue. When these three colors are mixed together they can produce all the colors that are needed for images on the screen. For each of these 3 colors there are 256 possible variations or shades.
In the RGB method the 256 possible variations of each of the 3 colors are numbered from 0 to 255. We can fully describe each color by giving its RGB number, which is 3 numbers, always in the order: Red, Green, Blue. For example, 255,255,255 is the RGB value for white because white is the greatest possible amount of all three colors. The RGB value for black is 0,0,0. Pure red has RGB value 255,0,0 and so on.
It is now clear why we need 3 bytes to store information for each pixel on the screen, because for each of the three RGB colors we need 1 byte (8 bits).
How people identify colors
Normal people (not nerds) still like to identify colors by name. We all know the colors of the rainbow: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet. But we also know many other colors by name: turquoise, brown, beige, grey, pink, ocher, fire red, sea green, sky blue, azure, gold, cyan, olive green, ivory. If we think long enough we can probably think of 30, 40 or even more names of colors. But not 16 million. Let's see how far we can get.
Please help me give names to colors.
These are the easy ones:
For a longer list of colors please see the color names page.
If you have a good name for a yet unnamed RGB value, please send me a message.
Oh…. and who can give me the RGB value for the faded gray green color of cow dung?