CNS colors

Hakon Lie (
Fri, 2 Feb 1996 11:48:30 +0100

Chris Lilley has brought to attention a color naming scheme that fits
neatly into CSS. CNS is described in [1]. The basic components of CNS

hues: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, brown, white, gray, black

saturation: grayish, moderate, strong, vivid (vivid is default)

lightness: very dark, dark, medium, light, very light (medium is default)

Some sample combinations:

CNS syntax Comments

blue (medium vivid blue)
greenish blue (one-quarter of the way from blue to green)
blue-green (halfway between blue and green)
green-blue (ditto)
light blue (light vivid blue)
very dark green (very dark vivid green)
grayish green (medium grayish green)

etc. The CNS description includes a formal syntax.

Integrated into CSS, one could say:

BODY { background: light brown }
H1 { color: dark green }

CNS is almost compatible with the current color naming scheme of
CSS1. 4 of the colors in the current list of CSS colors would be
expressed differently:

CSS CNS (my best guess)

magenta light red-blue
cyan light blue-green
pink light red
violet purple

Using CNS, one can express 627 separate color names, and the authors of
the paper claim to a high degree of accuracy in user studies.

In order to incorporate CNS into CSS we need some sample code for
convert to RGB, and to resolve the 'magenta' conflict. Before we go
ahead with this, what are people's reactions?

[1] T Berk, L Brownston, A Kaufman: A New Color-Naming System for
Graphis Languages, IEE CG&A, May 1982


Hakon W Lie, W3C/INRIA, Sophia-Antipolis, France