LEAP!Tracy HolmesComment

Can the 270 colours in the BreakThroughColour system be translated into something virtual, defined by a digital language that has almost 17,000,000 variations? Maybe not exactly, but the RGB triplet and 6-digit Hex Code on every card will get you intimately close . . .


Q: Why is the #87CEEB?

A: Never mind the answer. If you understand the question, read on...

Most of the Code Side of every BTC Colour Card is a breakthrough breakdown of the 3 main Properties of Colour: Hue (explained in the Hue Matrix), Saturation (showing how the CMY ingredients add up into a Saturation Summary colour formula), and Value (showing the colour on a Value Slider, as a hueless mix of Black and White). Each of these infographics is an original component of the BTC system. But there's also a bonus bit of code near the bottom of every card...

During the debut run of BreakThroughColour on Kickstarter, some of my Backers asked if and how the BTC colours interfaced with industry standard digital colour systems, specifically RGB formulas and hexadecimal colour codes. At the time, I'll be honest, my first thought was, "Huh?" But I promised to try and find a way to translate the CMY of BTC into RGB via HEX, to extend the relevance of my system into practical digital applications.


Most traditional colour wheels feature 3 Primary colours, 3 Secondary colours, and 6 Tertiary colours. They then take those 12 pure Hues and repeat them as Tints (adding White), Shades (adding Black) and Tones (adding Grey). BreakThroughColour's Colour Basics deck has a similar set of colours, turning 3 element primaries (C, M, and Y) into 48 Hues, Tints, Shades and Tones, plus White, Black, 3 Hue Greys, and 9 True Greys.

BTC = 216

The BreakThroughColour deck has about 4 times as many cards and colours as the Colour Basics deck. As we have already learned, with a relatively simple scale of 0 to 5 for each of the 3 element primary colours, there are 6 different possible values for Cyan, 6 for Magenta, and 6 for Yellow. Apply the power of 3, and you end up with 6 x 6 x 6 = 216 different colours in the BreakThroughColour deck. As a resource for learning about colour, this collection of 30 pure Hues, 60 Tints, 60 Shades, 64 Tones, plus Black and White is a diverse but manageable and sortable set, grouped into 8 Colour families of 27 cards each.

RGB AND HEX = 16,777,216

In the virtual world of computer graphics and design, the RGB system and the Hex Code system are also based on 3 primary colours (Red, Green, and Blue, the primaries of light), but instead of 6 different values for each primary, there are 256 possible values. RGB uses a scale of 0 to 255, and Hex Codes are written with an alpha-numeric combination of the digits 0-9 and the letters A-F. Take 256 to the power of 3, and you get 256 x 256 x 256... uhhhmmm, wait for it... 16,777,216 different colours. Say it with me: "Sixteen million, seven hundred and seventy-seven thousand, two hundred and sixteen!" In the earlier days of computerized colour, there were 216 'web safe' colours (6 x 6 x 6), but that was then and this is now. Wow! An argument could be made that that many colours is really more than we need, right? "Hey team, what colour should we make our website header? We have almost 17K to choose from... pick your top 10 faves, okay?"

IMHO, even with 216 BTC Colour Cards, it's hard enough to see the difference between 555 (Black) and 554 (one of the almost Blacks), or discern which is which between 053 (in the Red family) and 052 (in the Magenta clan).

And how I see these colours may not be (actually safe to say, will not be) the same as how you see them. My desktop computer screen may show things in a certain way, versus my iPad, or my laptop. And browser to browser? That's another variable. And what about the context of my viewing? Early morning in natural light, or the same screen in the same room, but after dark?

Deciding to add RGB and Hex Codes was a no brainer, but with a ratio of more than 78,000 RGB/HEX colours for every 1 in BTC, which one was the one to choose? Well, disclaimer right here, right now: if you're using BTC Colour Cards (from the Colour Basics deck, or the bigger BTC deck) to pick a colour or plan a palette, and then you want to translate your choices into a digital platform, you'll find an RGB formula and a Hex Code on every card, right between the Value Slider and the Colour Band at the bottom. These bonus formulas and codes may not be the absolute definitive 'right' ones, but they will get you in the ball park, give or take a few thousand. If you know your RGBs as well as you know your ABCs, or you've got enough digital 'hexperience' to tweak things to where you want 'em, these little codes will certainly help. And I can say, there are 2 that I know are exactly right:


If you don't know anything about RGB formulas or Hex Codes, don't worry. These little codes may well be useful to some, but they can just as easily be ignored. Having said that, you never know when they might come in handy. Case in point for me, for many years, my graphics experience had been in the realm of print, and I designed the entire BTC system and its accompanying artwork using a CMYK colour mode. Truth be told, I really didn't know what the heck hex codes were, and I never had much use for them even using a computer. But then, when I started designing this very website? Yup. I needed them, I used them, and I've been hexed ever since.