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Say I have a color like #7B0D40. Are there any tools out there to output the nearest human-understandable word for that color? (Like #7B0D40 ~= Magenta?)

I know there's ways to search the words used in CSS to describe explicit hex values for example, but I'd love to be able to take out an organically selected color and quickly get a descriptive name for the approximate color.

Do any tools exist to quickly estimate a specific, human readable term for a color given an explicit hex/other color value?

Quick human apraisals of what a color are usually result in uselessly vague terms like "blue" or "red" instead of "Azure" or "Magenta", so "just eyeball it" isn't enough IMO.

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6 Answers 6

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Lauren's answer is correct. Color names are mostly arbitrary, even without taking into account what marketing departments come up with (not to mention cultural and language differences).

In the art world, there are names for certain paint colors that are pretty much standard, because their formulas are centuries old and because painters need to know that if they buy Cobalt Blue from Amazon, it will be the same as the Cobalt Blue they used to buy at Honest Joe's Burgers and Art Supplies ("Feeding starving artists since 1927") before they went out of business.

There is also a subset of color names based on nature, but nature is notoriously fickle: "rose pink" covers a recognizable but very imprecise swath of hue, saturation and chroma.

So searching for precision outside of a color system such as Pantone or Munsell, or even W3C, is a lost cause. You're going to find the same names applied to different colors, and different names applied to the same colors, depending on where you look. Naming colors is subjective and imprecise. Worse, when it comes to the Internet, you have no control at all over the display settings of any given site visitor. Your "Pale Gold" becomes "Mustard" pretty easily.

There is an online tool that will give you a usable name (not the name) for any given RGB hex value. The names are accurate enough, and according to the site were picked by editing together various lists (including Crayola's). You can also download the javascript. Don't take this as some kind of absolute or "Standard"; it's one person's synthesis from several sources that were in conflict often enough that he mentions the fact specifically. And keep in mind that the actual on-screen rendering for a given hex value is a wild variable over which you have no control.

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That's a helpful little tool! That's closest to what I was looking for, very good to know the background of no standard color names however. –  Ben Brocka Dec 20 '11 at 14:35
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Ben are you asking about CSS color names or color names in general? If HTML color names, they are a standard. –  DA01 Dec 20 '11 at 15:31
    
Ben, a great case in point is "Azure." That tool serves up #315BA1, which I would call a French Blue, but French Blue is not on his list. By contrast, the W3C web color "azure" is #f0ffff, at 180 degrees on the HSB hue wheel. The Wikipedia entry for azure gives the hue as 210. –  Alan Gilbertson Dec 21 '11 at 1:00
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I think the problem is the "specific human term."

It's hard for two people to agree on what, say, "turquoise" is (as opposed to aqua, teal, or "turqua"). There are approximately 247 different colors which could be accurately labeled "beige." Language is simply too flexible.

You could establish a database which matches #7B0D40 to magenta. You could take your chip to Home Depot and wave it under the paint-matching machine and get it to spit back a paint color called "Fuschia Kiss, 100B-6." But when you get two degrees lighter, you're going to call it #eb70a9 and I'm going to call it "Blushing Pink" and my art director will call it "Soft Rose" and my sister-in-law will say "That's Revlon's new all-day lipstick, Crushed Peony Boogers."

This is why we have color-matching systems. Because if your corporate color is PMS214, you don't want it to show up on screen as #f8cfdf and come back printed as Crushed Peony Boogers.

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Well there are at least the CSS standard color names which map to color codes: w3schools.com/cssref/css_colornames.asp but it's a very limited list. I was hoping something like Wikipedia's color list could be used, but looking at that I note they're using domain specific words as well. I can't believe a good standard still doesn't exist... –  Ben Brocka Dec 19 '11 at 17:31
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Lauren, you just totally cracked me up to the point I almost fell off my chair. I want a Crushed Peony Boogers chip immediately! :-D –  Alan Gilbertson Dec 19 '11 at 23:06
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I keep making myself giggle every time I read it. It's a keeper. :) I think we should start a band called Crushed Peony Boogers. Or maybe open a shop: Crushed Peony Boogers Design. That would be some logo. –  Lauren Ipsum Dec 20 '11 at 1:16
    
I'll play bass... :-) –  Alan Gilbertson Dec 21 '11 at 0:43
    
And I will scream ) –  Vnovak Jun 11 at 5:41
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If we're talking colors, in general, both Alan and Laruen are correct...the names are vague and non-specific.

However, since you are asking about converting HEX colors, I assume you are referring to the CSS specifications and their named colors, which do, in fact, map to very specific colors:

http://www.w3.org/TR/css3-color/#html4

As for a specific tool, Google led me here:

http://shallowsky.com/colormatch/index.php

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If you convert it to HSV/HSL I think you can do something. In this color space you are playing with Hue, Saturation and Light, you can split Hue to specified domains and use a look-up table for Hue>ColorName.

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For mapping a given picked color (or hex coded) onto a closest standard web-safe color to be used on the web (as an extended CSS color name), you can also use this tool (for windows only):

http://www.codeproject.com/Articles/243610/The-Known-Colors-Palette-Tool-Revised

This one has the advantage over the one linked by DA01 (Find the Nearest Matching Color Name) in that it supports the extended color set, not only the basic one.

But as a disadvantage, it's a Windows-only GUI application, not a web app.

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http://chir.ag/projects/name-that-color/#899200

this website gives you the closest crayola-style name just type in the hex or rgb and there you go! adobe software and paint(10) also have this capability, but it's not quite as accurate for example my signature color that I use for EVERYTHING is #007282 adobe classifies it as "deep cyan" paint refers to it as "deep teal" which is admittedly closer to the mark,but name that color would refer to it a "blue lagoon"

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