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FOTW colour guide

Last modified: 2006-05-06 by phil nelson
Keywords: fotw | color | palette | browser safe colors |
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About Pantone and RGB Colors

There is no one-to-one equivalency between RGB and Pantone (or any other system for that matter), because the techniques of gaining colours are so different and dependant on many things. How an RGB shade would look like on the screen depends on how your screen is adjusted - could be warmer or brighter or darker or whatever... If the image would then be printed it would involve another translation that shall distort it even further... So, one should understand the RGB shades are for screen purposes only and the relative consistency of these could be obtained only on calibrated monitors which as a rule are not to be found in general public.
Željko Heimer, 8 February 2006

The FOTW colour guide

Computer colours on monitors (in Windows on a PC) are made up of a mixture of Red, Green and Blue (RGB). On each of these three variables, there are 256 values, which means that we can make more than 16.7 million different colours. The Browser Safe Palette (BSP) is the 216 colours (that is 216 different combinations of Red, Green and Blue values) used by the World Wide Web browsers like Netscape and Explorer. For some reason, the manufacturers of these browsers have decided not to allow more colours used, even though, as we have seen, one can easily have millions of colours.

Difficulties appear when one tries to use a colour that is not in the BSP. The browser will then distort the colour and it will display the colours in the image as blurred, uneven, dotted or 'dirty'. Note that this effect will only appear in web browsers. The images display perfectly in other software such as paint program, viewers, etc.

The discussion led to a set of 32 Browser Safe colours. The RGB values of the FOTW standard colours are:

Color RGB Value FIAV code

Very light red 255-102-102 R--
Light red 255- 51- 51 R-
* Red 255- 0 - 0 R
* Dark red 204- 0 - 0 R+
Very dark red 153- 0 - 0 R++

Very light blue 51-204-255 B--
* Light blue 51-153-255 B-
* Blue 0 - 0 -255 B
* Dark blue 0 - 0 -204 B+
* Very dark blue 0 - 0 -153 B++

Very light green 102-255-102 V--
Light green 0 -255- 51 V-
* Green 0 -204- 0 V
* Dark green 0 -153- 0 V+
Very dark green 0 -102- 0 V++

Very light yellow 255-255-204 Y--
Light yellow 255-255-153 Y-
* Yellow 255-255- 0 Y
* Dark yellow 255-204- 0 Y+

Light orange 255-153- 0 O-
* Orange 255-102- 0 O

Gold 255-204- 51 Au

* Light grey 204-204-204 G-
Grey 153-153-153 G
Dark grey 102-102-102 G+
Very dark grey 51- 51- 51 G++

Light brown 153-102- 0 M-
* Brown 102- 51- 0 M
Dark brown 51- 0 - 0 M+

* Purple 102- 0 -153 P

* Black 0 - 0 - 0 N

* White 255-255-255 W

Those colours marked with * are the 16 most used colours. Using a 16-colour palette will reduce file size, so it should be applied if possible.

FIAV codes are international codes for shorthand colour description in vexillology.

If it is not used in the flag image, Light gray (G-) should be used for transparent color.

If you intend to start making GIFs and want to send them to the FOTW mailing list, you should consider using Browser Safe colours. If the colour is not in the 32 colour FOTW colour guide, look for it in the complete BSP.

Of course the FOTW colour guide is not meant as a rigid and universal new colour standard. It is meant as a guide to colour management for those FOTW mailing list members who want to send images to the list. Naturally, the ultimate authority concerning colours of flags is still the legal specification laid down by those who adopt flags. However, such specifications are usually intended for textiles or printing, and do not give much meaning for computer colours on screen.

Palettes for use with various software

Most of available drawing programs allows you to define color palettes used in your image. Here are several palettes ready for you. See your drawing programs reference how to use them.

Manufacturer Program Version OS 16 colours palette 32 colours palette Palette made by
Adobe PhotoShop any Win3x/95/NT/XP fotw16.act fotw32.act Uros Zizmund
Corel PhotoPaint ? Win3x/95/NT/XP N/A fotw32.clr David Kendall
(JASC before October 2004)
PaintShopPro any Win3x/95/NT/XP fotw16.pal fotw32.pal Željko Heimer
OSCS NeoPaint ? Win3x/95/NT fotw16np.pal* N/A David Kendall

32 colours palette example:

16 colours palette example:

* NeoPaint have no possibility of making BSP GIFs. The palette is as close to BSP as possible, but should be converted to BSP before posting to FOTW.