CSS3 module: Color

W3C Working Draft, 5 March 2001

This version:
Latest version:
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Tantek Çelik (Microsoft Corporation) <tantekc@microsoft.com>
Chris Lilley (W3C) <chris@w3.org>
Brad Pettit (Microsoft Corporation) <bradp@microsoft.com>


CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) is a language for describing the rendering of HTML and XML documents on screen, on paper, in speech, etc. To color elements in a document, it uses color related properties and respective values. This draft describes the properties and values that are proposed for CSS level 3. It includes and extends them from properties and values of CSS level 2.

Status of this document

This document is a draft of one of the "modules" for the upcoming CSS3 specification. It not only describes the color related properties and values that already exist in CSS1 and CSS2, but also proposes new properties and values for CSS3 as well. The Working Group doesn't expect that all implementations of CSS3 will implement all properties or values. Instead, there will probably be a small number of variants of CSS3, so-called "profiles". For example, it may be that only the profile for 32-bit color user agents will include all of the proposed color related properties and values.

The current draft is the successor to "Color Profiles for CSS3" (22 June 1999) and is the result of merging with the relevant parts of the following Recommendations and Working Drafts:

This document is a working draft of the CSS & FP working group which is part of the style activity.

Comments on, and discussions of this draft can be sent to the (archived) public mailing list www-style@w3.org (see instructions). W3C Members can also send comments directly to the CSS & FP working group.

It is inappropriate to use W3C Working Drafts as reference material or to cite them as other than "work in progress." A list of current W3C Recommendations and other technical documents can be found at http://www.w3.org/TR.

Table of contents

1. Introduction

CSS3 is a set of modules, divided up and profiled in order to simplify the specification, and to allow implementors the flexibility of supporting the particular modules appropriate for their implementations.

This module describes CSS properties which allow authors to specify the foreground color and opacity of an element. Additional properties allow specification of the ICC color profile and rendering intent of image content.

2. Dependencies

This CSS3 module depends on the following other CSS3 modules:

The following CSS3 modules depend on this CSS3 module:

3. Color properties

3.1. Foreground color: the 'color' property

Name: color
Value: <color> | inherit | attr(X,color)
Initial: depends on user agent
Applies to: all elements
Inherited: yes
Percentages: N/A
Media: visual

This property describes the foreground color of an element's text content. There are different ways to specify red:


EM { color: red }              /* predefined color name */
EM { color: rgb(255,0,0) }     /* RGB range 0-255   */
Color units are defined in a following section.
This function returns as a color the value of attribute X for the subject of the selector. The attribute value is parsed by the CSS processor as a <color>. If the subject of the selector doesn't have an attribute X, or if the value of attribute X is not a valid <color>, the declaration is ignored. The case-sensitivity of attribute names depends on the document language. Note. In CSS3, it is not possible to refer to attribute values for other elements of the selector.

3.1.1. Gamma correction

For information about gamma issues, please consult the the Gamma Tutorial in the PNG specification ([PNG10]).

In the computation of gamma correction, UAs displaying on a CRT may assume an ideal CRT and ignore any effects on apparent gamma caused by dithering. That means the minimal handling they need to do on current platforms is:

PC using MS-Windows
Unix using X11
Mac using QuickDraw
apply gamma 1.45 [ICC32] (ColorSync-savvy applications may simply pass the sRGB ICC profile to ColorSync to perform correct color correction)
SGI using X
apply the gamma value from /etc/config/system.glGammaVal (the default value being 1.70; applications running on Irix 6.2 or above may simply pass the sRGB ICC profile to the color management system)
NeXT using NeXTStep
apply gamma 2.22

"Applying gamma" means that each of the three R, G and B must be converted to R'=Rgamma, G'=Ggamma, B'=Bgamma, before being handed to the OS.

This may rapidly be done by building a 256-element lookup table once per browser invocation thus:

for i := 0 to 255 do
  raw := i / 255.0;
  corr := pow (raw, gamma);
  table[i] := trunc (0.5 + corr * 255.0)

which then avoids any need to do transcendental math per color attribute, far less per pixel.

3.2. Transparency: the 'opacity' property

Opacity can be thought of conceptually as a postprocessing operation. Conceptually, after the element is rendered into an RGBA offscreen image, the opacity setting specifies how to blend the offscreen rendering into the current composite rendering.

Name: opacity
Value: <alphavalue> | inherit
Initial: 1
Applies to: all elements
Inherited: no
Percentages: N/A
Media: visual
The uniform opacity setting to be applied across an entire element including its outline, border and background if any. Any values outside the range 0.0 (fully transparent) to 1.0 (fully opaque) will be clipped to this range. If the element is a container element, then the effect is as if the contents of the element were blended against the current rendering composite using a mask where the value of each pixel of the mask is <alphavalue>.

3.3. ICC Color Profile: the 'color-profile' property

Name: color-profile
Value: auto | sRGB | <uri> | inherit
Initial: auto
Applies to: all elements
Inherited: yes
Percentages: N/A
Media: visual

This property permits the specification of a source color profile other than the default.

This is the default behavior. All colors are presumed to be defined in the sRGB color space unless a more precise embedded profile is specified within content data. For images that do have a profile built into their data, that profile is used. For images that do not have a profile, the sRGB profile is used so that the colors in these images can be kept "in synch" with the colors specified in CSS and HTML.
The source profile is assumed to be sRGB. This differs from auto in that it overrides an embedded profile inside an image.
The name or location of a standard ICC profile resource. Just like specifying sRGB, it overrides an embedded profile. Due to the size of profiles, the <uri> may specify a special name representing a standard profile. The name sRGB, being the standard WWW color space, is defined separately because of its significance, although the rules regarding application of any special profile should be identical.


/* use the specified profile, 
   even if the image contains an embedded profile */
IMG { color-profile: "http://www.colors.corp/images/profiles/mah314.icm" }

Note. SVG defines an '@color-profile' rule which permits the author to set both color-profile, and rendering-intent. The editor expects to include the '@color-profile' rule in a future draft of this document.

3.4. The 'rendering-intent' property

Name: rendering-intent
Value: auto | perceptual | relative-colorimetric | saturation | absolute-colorimetric | inherit
Initial: auto
Applies to: all elements
Inherited: yes
Percentages: N/A
Media: visual

This property permits the specification of a color profile rendering intent other than the default. The behavior of values other than auto and inherit are defined by the International Color Consortium standard.

This is the default behavior. The user-agent determines the best intent based on the content type. For image content containing an embedded profile, it should be assumed that the intent specified within the profile is the desired intent. Otherwise, the user agent should use the current profile (based on the color-profile style) and force the intent, overriding any intent that may be stored in the profile itself.

4. Color units

A <color> is either a keyword or a numerical RGB specification.

4.1. [HTML4] color keywords

The list of HTML4 keyword color names is: aqua, black, blue, fuchsia, gray, green, lime, maroon, navy, olive, purple, red, silver, teal, white, and yellow. The color names are case-insensitive.

Color names and sRGB values
   Black = #000000    Green = #008000
   Silver = #C0C0C0    Lime = #00FF00
   Gray = #808080    Olive = #808000
   White = #FFFFFF    Yellow = #FFFF00
   Maroon = #800000    Navy = #000080
   Red = #FF0000    Blue = #0000FF
   Purple = #800080    Teal = #008080
   Fuchsia = #FF00FF    Aqua = #00FFFF


BODY {color: black; background: white }
H1 { color: maroon }
H2 { color: olive }

4.2. Numerical RGB color values

The RGB color model is used in numerical color specifications. These examples all specify the same color:


EM { color: #f00 }              /* #rgb */
EM { color: #ff0000 }           /* #rrggbb */
EM { color: rgb(255,0,0) }      /* integer range 0 - 255 */
EM { color: rgb(100%, 0%, 0%) } /* float range 0.0% - 100.0% */

The format of an RGB value in hexadecimal notation is a '#' immediately followed by either three or six hexadecimal characters. The three-digit RGB notation (#rgb) is converted into six-digit form (#rrggbb) by replicating digits, not by adding zeros. For example, #fb0 expands to #ffbb00. This ensures that white (#ffffff) can be specified with the short notation (#fff) and removes any dependencies on the color depth of the display.

The format of an RGB value in the functional notation is 'rgb(' followed by a comma-separated list of three numerical values (either three integer values or three percentage values) followed by ')'. The integer value 255 corresponds to 100%, and to F or FF in the hexadecimal notation: rgb(255,255,255) = rgb(100%,100%,100%) = #FFF. Whitespace characters are allowed around the numerical values.

All RGB colors are specified in the sRGB color space (see [SRGB]). User agents may vary in the fidelity with which they represent these colors, but using sRGB provides an unambiguous and objectively measurable definition of what the color should be, which can be related to international standards (see [COLORIMETRY]).

Values outside the device gamut should be clipped: the red, green, and blue values must be changed to fall within the range supported by the device. For a typical CRT monitor, whose device gamut is the same as sRGB, the three rules below are equivalent:


EM { color: rgb(255,0,0) }       /* integer range 0 - 255 */
EM { color: rgb(300,0,0) }       /* clipped to rgb(255,0,0) */
EM { color: rgb(255,-10,0) }     /* clipped to rgb(255,0,0) */
EM { color: rgb(110%, 0%, 0%) }  /* clipped to rgb(100%,0%,0%) */

Other devices, such as printers, have different gamuts to sRGB; some colors outside the 0..255 sRGB range will be representable (inside the device gamut), while other colors inside the 0..255 sRGB range will be outside the device gamut and will thus be clipped.

4.3. X11 color keywords

The table below provides a list of the X11 colors supported by popular browsers. The two color swatches on the left illustrate setting the background color of a table cell in two ways: The first column uses the named color value, and the second column uses the numeric color value, which should be the same.

Named Numeric Color Name Hex RGB Decimal
    AliceBlue #F0F8FF 240,248,255
    AntiqueWhite #FAEBD7 250,235,215
    Aqua #00FFFF 0,255,255
    Aquamarine #7FFFD4 127,255,212
    Azure #F0FFFF 240,255,255
    Beige #F5F5DC 245,245,220
    Bisque #FFE4C4 255,228,196
    Black #000000 0,0,0
    BlanchedAlmond #FFEBCD 255,235,205
    Blue #0000FF 0,0,255
    BlueViolet #8A2BE2 138,43,226
    Brown #A52A2A 165,42,42
    BurlyWood #DEB887 222,184,135
    CadetBlue #5F9EA0 95,158,160
    Chartreuse #7FFF00 127,255,0
    Chocolate #D2691E 210,105,30
    Coral #FF7F50 255,127,80
    CornflowerBlue #6495ED 100,149,237
    Cornsilk #FFF8DC 255,248,220
    Crimson #DC143C 220,20,60
    Cyan #00FFFF 0,255,255
    DarkBlue #00008B 0,0,139
    DarkCyan #008B8B 0,139,139
    DarkGoldenrod #B8860B 184,134,11
    DarkGray #A9A9A9 169,169,169
    DarkGreen #006400 0,100,0
    DarkKhaki #BDB76B 189,183,107
    DarkMagenta #8B008B 139,0,139
    DarkOliveGreen #556B2F 85,107,47
    DarkOrange #FF8C00 255,140,0
    DarkOrchid #9932CC 153,50,204
    DarkRed #8B0000 139,0,0
    DarkSalmon #E9967A 233,150,122
    DarkSeaGreen #8FBC8F 143,188,143
    DarkSlateBlue #483D8B 72,61,139
    DarkSlateGray #2F4F4F 47,79,79
    DarkTurquoise #00CED1 0,206,209
    DarkViolet #9400D3 148,0,211
    DeepPink #FF1493 255,20,147
    DeepSkyBlue #00BFFF 0,191,255
    DimGray #696969 105,105,105
    DodgerBlue #1E90FF 30,144,255
    FireBrick #B22222 178,34,34
    FloralWhite #FFFAF0 255,250,240
    ForestGreen #228B22 34,139,34
    Fuchsia #FF00FF 255,0,255
    Gainsboro #DCDCDC 220,220,220
    GhostWhite #F8F8FF 248,248,255
    Gold #FFD700 255,215,0
    Goldenrod #DAA520 218,165,32
    Gray #808080 128,128,128
    Green #008000 0,128,0
    GreenYellow #ADFF2F 173,255,47
    Honeydew #F0FFF0 240,255,240
    HotPink #FF69B4 255,105,180
    IndianRed #CD5C5C 205,92,92
    Indigo #4B0082 75,0,130
    Ivory #FFFFF0 255,255,240
    Khaki #F0E68C 240,230,140
    Lavender #E6E6FA 230,230,250
    LavenderBlush #FFF0F5 255,240,245
    LawnGreen #7CFC00 124,252,0
    LemonChiffon #FFFACD 255,250,205
    LightBlue #ADD8E6 173,216,230
    LightCoral #F08080 240,128,128
    LightCyan #E0FFFF 224,255,255
    LightGoldenrodYellow #FAFAD2 250,250,210
    LightGreen #90EE90 144,238,144
    LightGrey #D3D3D3 211,211,211
    LightPink #FFB6C1 255,182,193
    LightSalmon #FFA07A 255,160,122
    LightSeaGreen #20B2AA 32,178,170
    LightSkyBlue #87CEFA 135,206,250
    LightSlateGray #778899 119,136,153
    LightSteelBlue #B0C4DE 176,196,222
    LightYellow #FFFFE0 255,255,224
    Lime #00FF00 0,255,0
    LimeGreen #32CD32 50,205,50
    Linen #FAF0E6 250,240,230
    Magenta #FF00FF 255,0,255
    Maroon #800000 128,0,0
    MediumAquamarine #66CDAA 102,205,170
    MediumBlue #0000CD 0,0,205
    MediumOrchid #BA55D3 186,85,211
    MediumPurple #9370DB 147,112,219
    MediumSeaGreen #3CB371 60,179,113
    MediumSlateBlue #7B68EE 123,104,238
    MediumSpringGreen #00FA9A 0,250,154
    MediumTurquoise #48D1CC 72,209,204
    MediumVioletRed #C71585 199,21,133
    MidnightBlue #191970 25,25,112
    MintCream #F5FFFA 245,255,250
    MistyRose #FFE4E1 255,228,225
    Moccasin #FFE4B5 255,228,181
    NavajoWhite #FFDEAD 255,222,173
    Navy #000080 0,0,128
    OldLace #FDF5E6 253,245,230
    Olive #808000 128,128,0
    OliveDrab #6B8E23 107,142,35
    Orange #FFA500 255,165,0
    OrangeRed #FF4500 255,69,0
    Orchid #DA70D6 218,112,214
    PaleGoldenrod #EEE8AA 238,232,170
    PaleGreen #98FB98 152,251,152
    PaleTurquoise #AFEEEE 175,238,238
    PaleVioletRed #DB7093 219,112,147
    PapayaWhip #FFEFD5 255,239,213
    PeachPuff #FFDAB9 255,218,185
    Peru #CD853F 205,133,63
    Pink #FFC0CB 255,192,203
    Plum #DDA0DD 221,160,221
    PowderBlue #B0E0E6 176,224,230
    Purple #800080 128,0,128
    Red #FF0000 255,0,0
    RosyBrown #BC8F8F 188,143,143
    RoyalBlue #4169E1 65,105,225
    SaddleBrown #8B4513 139,69,19
    Salmon #FA8072 250,128,114
    SandyBrown #F4A460 244,164,96
    SeaGreen #2E8B57 46,139,87
    Seashell #FFF5EE 255,245,238
    Sienna #A0522D 160,82,45
    Silver #C0C0C0 192,192,192
    SkyBlue #87CEEB 135,206,235
    SlateBlue #6A5ACD 106,90,205
    SlateGray #708090 112,128,144
    Snow #FFFAFA 255,250,250
    SpringGreen #00FF7F 0,255,127
    SteelBlue #4682B4 70,130,180
    Tan #D2B48C 210,180,140
    Teal #008080 0,128,128
    Thistle #D8BFD8 216,191,216
    Tomato #FF6347 255,99,71
    Turquoise #40E0D0 64,224,208
    Violet #EE82EE 238,130,238
    Wheat #F5DEB3 245,222,179
    White #FFFFFF 255,255,255
    WhiteSmoke #F5F5F5 245,245,245
    Yellow #FFFF00 255,255,0
    YellowGreen #9ACD32 154,205,50

4.4. CSS System Colors

4.4.1. CSS2 User preferences for colors

In addition to being able to assign pre-defined color values to text, backgrounds, etc., CSS3, like CSS2, allows authors to specify colors in a manner that integrates them into the user's graphic environment. Style rules that take into account user preferences thus offer the following advantages:

  1. They produce pages that fit the user's defined look and feel.
  2. They produce pages that may be more accessible as the current user settings may be related to a disability.

For systems that do not have a corresponding value, the specified value should be mapped to the nearest system attribute, or to a default color.

The following lists additional values for color-related CSS attributes and their general meaning. Any color property can take one of the following names. Although these are case-insensitive, it is recommended that the mixed capitalization shown below be used, to make the names more legible.

Active window border.
Active window caption.
Background color of multiple document interface.
Desktop background.
Face color for three-dimensional display elements.
Dark shadow for three-dimensional display elements (for edges facing away from the light source).
Shadow color for three-dimensional display elements.
Text on push buttons.
Text in caption, size box, and scrollbar arrow box.
Grayed (disabled) text. This color is set to #000 if the current display driver does not support a solid gray color.
Item(s) selected in a control.
Text of item(s) selected in a control.
Inactive window border.
Inactive window caption.
Color of text in an inactive caption.
Background color for tooltip controls.
Text color for tooltip controls.
Menu background.
Text in menus.
Scroll bar gray area.
Dark shadow for three-dimensional display elements.
Face color for three-dimensional display elements.
Highlight color for three-dimensional display elements.
Light color for three-dimensional display elements (for edges facing the light source).
Dark shadow for three-dimensional display elements.
Window background.
Window frame.
Text in windows.


For example, to set the foreground and background colors of a paragraph to the same foreground and background colors of the user's window, write the following:

P { color: WindowText; background-color: Window }

4.4.2. 'flavor' system color

The accent color (typically chosen by the user) to customize the user interface of the user agent itself. User agents may default the 'flavor' color to the dominant accent color used on the physical machine/mechanism that the user is interacting with (frequently a mouse, keyboard, monitor and computer case, often just a laptop), if the it is able to retrieve that information from the platform and machine.


:focus {outline: 1px solid flavor}
  /* puts an outline around the currently focused element that color
coordinates with the browser accent color if any */

Note. The computed value of a System Color keyword value is the keyword itself. In addition, in future CSS specifications, the color property may accept additional System Color values.

4.5. Notes on using colors

Although colors can add significant amounts of information to document and make them more readable, please consider the following guidelines when including color in your documents:

5. Sample style sheet for HTML 4.0

This appendix is informative, not normative.

	color: black;
	background: white;
	color-profile: sRGB;
	rendering-intent: auto 

:link    { color: blue; }
:visited { color: purple; }

 	color-profile: auto;
 	rendering-intent: auto


Thanks to Brad Pettit for both writing up color-profiles, and for implementing it. Thanks to feedback from Marc Attinasi, David Baron, Bert Bos, Ian Hickson, Steve Zilles. And thanks to Chris Lilley for being the resident CSS Color expert.



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