RGB-HEX-CMYK: Color Modes Primer

Why the Letters and Numbers?

Color Wheel
By Maycock, Mark M [No restrictions], via Wikimedia Commons
Have you ever wondered what the acronyms RGB, CMYK, and HEX stand for? Why these color models exist? And, what do those numbers mean? Likely the answer is, “not really.” But when it comes to preparing images for display or reproduction, a basic awareness of the differences can save time and frustration when the results are less than ideal.

A color model is a complex and abstract mathematical way to describe color values across a certain set of numerical components. A color space is the means by which the color is viewed (eg, a computer screen or printed page).

Which Goes Where?

RGB color model
By SharkD (Own work) [GFDL or CC BY-SA 4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0], via Wikimedia Commons
RGB stands for “red, green, blue” and is considered an additive color space. Additive color involves a light or projection source – as in a television screen or computer monitor – to make the color visible. RGB color is reserved for rendering color that will be viewed on a screen, from the smart phone to the movie theater. Color value (light to dark) is governed by how much light, or chroma, is added to the color mix. Each letter in the RGB model carries a range of numerical value that, when combined, render color within the spectrum in the photo shown here. A color such as a grassy green would be expressed as rgb (120,176,15) when used to style web pages with CSS.

HEX stands for “hexadecimal” or “hex triplet” in that HEX color is a series of 6 numbers. Closely related to RGB, HEX color is used exclusively in web application (HTML, CSS, and SVG). HEX color is divided into three sections of two digits and is always preceded by the “#” sign, like so: #nnnnnn. The grassy green we made with RGB above is expressed as #78b00f in HEX color.

The Academic Technology Resources Center (ATRC)


The purpose of the Academic Technology Resources Center is to facilitate and enhance teaching and learning in a supportive environment for students, faculty, and staff at Palomar College through the use of technology.”

A Campus Resource

laptopThe ATRC computer labs are located on the ground floor of the San Marcos campus library. They are for the use of current, actively registered students.

Just across the hall from ATRC technical staff, the faculty technology lab is located in room LL-111. This work area is for faculty members who need access to scanners, webcams, microphone headsets, and specialized software. ATRC technical staff are available to assist when needed.

Connect Quickly

Create a help ticket
Send an email from your palomar.edu address
Call by phone: (760) 744-1150 x2862

Branding: What is it and Why Does it Matter?

According to Ghodeswar and Lane

“A brand is defined as a toolbox of marketing and communication methods that help to distinguish a company from competitors and create a lasting impression in the minds of customers. The key components that form a brand’s toolbox include a brand’s identity, brand communication, brand awareness, brand loyalty and various branding strategies [2] Brand equity is the measurable totality of a brand’s worth and is validated by assessing the effectiveness of these branding components.[3]

Why it Matters

Quite simple. Brand cohesion – adherence to branding standards across all communication modes – increases both the brand’s value and effectiveness within its market. Conversely, when style guidelines are ignored, branding deliveries are confusing and disassociated, which can weaken or diminish a brand.

How to Learn About a Brand

Palomar College Logo
Palomar College Logo

One of the first things to do is locate the organization’s branding guidelines, if available. This valuable resource contains the toolbox mentioned above and usually spells out color and typeface usage, required practices for logo use, and other pertinent specifications.

Palomar College’s branding guide, Graphic Standards and Style Manual, can be found here. If you’re involved in any aspect of communicating on behalf of the College, this is a wealth of information for both graphic and written materials.