Convert between RGB and several CIE color spaces for smarter color manipulation.



NOTE: If all you want is perceptually uniform colors, check out HSLuv instead.

A tiny JavaScript and Node.js library for manipulating colors. Works as a Stylus plugin!

RGB, the color space we use here on the web is based on display technology, not human color perception. Most meaningful color operations are performed on colors in other color spaces, such as CIEXYZ or CIELUV. Read more about color spaces in my blog post.


On the server, npm install colorspaces.

On the client, use the latest colorspaces.js or colorspaces.min.js.

Basic Use

colorspaces.make_color takes two arguments: the name of the color space and an array of values representing the color in the color space.

var red = $.colorspaces.make_color('sRGB', [1, 0, 0]);
var green = $.colorspaces.make_color('hex', '#00ff00');
var blue = $.colorspaces.make_color('CIEXYZ', [0.1805, 0.0722, 0.9505]);

The returned object has a method, as, that takes the name of a color space as its only argument and returns the coordinates of the color in that color space as an array.

[ 53.23288178584245, 175.05303573649485, 37.75050503266512 ]

These color objects also support two methods, both returning a boolean: is_displayable and is_visible. The first one determines whether the color is within the sRGB gamut and the second determines whether the color is within the CIE XYZ gamut. Note that both of these methods round the resulting values to three decimal spaces before checking whether they fit into their range; this is a useful policy because of rounding errors.

Lower Level

If you need to do many color conversions per second, you can optimize by using a low-level function converter that takes two color space names as arguments and returns a converter function.

> var conv = colorspaces.converter('CIELUV', 'hex')
> conv([53.233, 175.053, 37.75])

Stylus Support

You can use colorspaces.js in you Stylus stylesheets. Note that colorspaces does not have Stylus as a dependency, you must install both explicitly before proceeding.

From the command line, you have to run Stylus like this:

$ stylus -u colorspaces < in.styl

Or if you are using it programmatically:

var stylus = require('stylus');
var colorspaces = require('colorspaces');

function renderWithColorspaces(str) {
	return stylus(str).use(colorspaces()).render();

Now you have access to several functions that take numerical values and return a Stylus color. All color spaces below except for hex and sRGB are supported in the Stylus plugin. The Stylus function names match the color space names.

  color CIELCH(20.470, 74.265, 314.113)

You can still modify its opacity with Stylus' rgba function:

  color rgba(CIELCH(20.470, 74.265, 314.113), 0.5)

Supported Color Spaces

All color spaces below define colors via numeric components. Sometimes the ranges for these numbers are strictly defined, sometimes they are unknown (e.g. the upper limit on chroma is undefined in CIE color spaces). This can be a problem if you want to generate colors in a perceptually uniform color space. To get around this problem I created HSLuv, a version of CIELCHuv with a bounded chroma component.

  • sRGB: Standard RGB, the color space used on the web. All values range between 0 and 1. Be careful, rounding errors can result in values just outside this range.
  • CIEXYZ: One of the first mathematically defined color spaces. Values range between 0 and 0.95047, 1.0 and 1.08883 for X, Y and Z respectively. These three numbers together define the white point, which can be different depending on the chosen illuminant. The commonly used illuminant D65 was chosen for this project.
  • CIExyY: Normalized version of the above.
  • CIELAB: A color space made for perceptual uniformity. Recommended for characterization of color surfaces and dyes. L is lightness (0-100).
  • CIELCH: A cylindrical representation of CIELAB. L is lightness (0-100), C is chroma (think saturation) and H is hue (0-360).
  • CIELUV: Another color space made for perceptual uniformity. Recommended for characterization of color displays. L is lightness (0-100).
  • CIELCHuv: Same as CIELCH, but based on CIELUV.
  • hex: A string representation of sRGB.


Run npm install to install everything necessary to build and test the repo.

See Makefile.