Web-Safe Colors

Technology has really expanded and evolved in the past decade. Each time I research and write about it, I’m constantly reminded. And that’s something that can’t be ignored as it has grown so much that technology has woven itself into our daily lives. Because such an innovation has rapidly improved in many ways, the problems and limits that followed such tech are now long gone. For example, not being able to see every color on the monitor. Not because it was in monochrome (of course) but because the computer monitor couldn’t display every color. In this moment, we’ll dive into the technical problems of the late 18th century.


The Rise of Web Safe Colors

Photo by Domenico Loia on Unsplash

In 1977, home computers were created and became a common home appliance around the 1980s. As amazing as the new technology was, it was very confined in what it could’ve done, especially compared to today’s computers. In terms of colors, computer monitors could only project 256 colors. So, when there was an image or graphic was couldn’t be displayed on the monitor, the closest color to the original that the monitor could use would replace it. To make thing simpler, a color palette of 216 colors were chosen as ‘web-safe’. So, what were these colors and how did they work?

The Complex Color Palette

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

For starters, these web-safe colors didn’t come with names, but were identified by certain RGB values: 0, 51, 102, 153, 204, and 255. Since these numbers are multiples of 51, they are used via percentages to determine the reduction of red, green, and blue. Basically, starting with 255 each color loses its hue by each 51 reduced, leaving you with 36 colors in one palette and 6 groups of colors. If that sounds too complicated, it’s because it is complicated. But this carefully calculated formula allowed a variety of colors to be displayed through all monitors of different brands.

Do We Still Need It?

Photo by Daniel Korpai on Unsplash

With all this information, a question arises: should we still stick to web-safe colors when placing images and graphics into the Internet? As stated before, this was the solution to a problem involving monitors that could only show at most 256 colors. But today, that’s no longer a consideration with how much our technology has advanced. Most digital/ graphic designers wouldn’t ask themselves this question anymore. However, it’s still a valid question to wonder. And the answer varies on the uploader. Web-safe colors are still a color mode that can be used but isn’t necessary unless you want to allow more antique monitors see the graphics clearly. But overall, web-safe colors are still important, even if it’s not such a concern anymore.


With such a complicated topic and basic analyzation, it’s not wrong to still have questions. If you would like to further explore the history behind web-safe colors, here’s the website I used for its history and functionality. Enjoy!

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