How to use Lab colors in CSS

If you’ve been looking to expand your color-coding knowledge in CSS, then understanding LAB colors is your next step. LAB colors represent a range of colors that humans can see, and it is becoming increasingly useful in CSS for defining colors with more precision and greater range. In this article, we will explore what LAB colors are, how to use the lab() function in CSS, and the advantages they bring to web design. With LAB colors, you can adjust the lightness and the a (green/red) and b (blue/yellow) axes to pinpoint the exact color you want in your design. We’ll cover the syntax, provide examples, and talk about browser compatibility so that you can start implementing LAB colors in your projects today.

Before diving deeper, it is essential to understand the CIE Lab* color space, a color system developed by the International Commission on Illumination (CIE) as a model to represent all visible colors.

Now, let’s unlock the potential of colors with the lab() function in CSS!

Understanding the LAB Color Space

The LAB color space is based on human vision and is designed to be device-independent, which means that the colors are consistent across different devices and lighting conditions. It consists of three axes:

  • L for lightness: 0% represents black, and 100% represents white.
  • a-axis: Values on this axis range from green to red.
  • b-axis: This axis ranges from blue to yellow.

The lab() function in CSS allows you to express colors within this space. The syntax looks like this:

lab( <percentage> <number> <number> [/ <alpha-value>]? )

Here, <percentage> corresponds to the L component, while the <number>s correspond to the a and b axes. The optional alpha value controls the opacity of the color.

Using lab() in CSS

## How to Implement LAB Colors

To use LAB colors in CSS, start with the lab() function followed by the L, a, and b values. Here's an example of how you might write it: ```css background: lab(53.589% 80.233 67.222);

This code sets the background color of an element to a specific LAB color. You can adjust the values to fine-tune the color to your liking.

Adjusting Lightness

Increasing the lightness percentage makes the color brighter, while decreasing it makes the color darker. Here’s how to make a color lighter or darker:

/* Lighter */
element {
    background-color: lab(75% 0 0);

/* Darker */
element {
    background-color: lab(25% 0 0);

Changing Color Axes

Altering the a and b values will shift the color toward red or green, and blue or yellow, respectively. Play around with these values to explore the different hues you can achieve.

/* More red */
element {
    background-color: lab(50% 60 0);

/* More green */
element {
    background-color: lab(50% -60 0);

Adding Transparency

Just like rgba() and hsla(), the lab() function can take an optional fourth alpha parameter that specifies the opacity of the color:

/* 50% Opacity */
element {
    background-color: lab(50% 50 -50 / 0.5);

Browser Compatibility

Not all browsers currently support the lab() function. As you start incorporating LAB colors into your designs, ensure you provide fallbacks for browsers that do not understand this new feature. Here’s an example:

element {
    background-color: #6b717f; /* Fallback color */
    background-color: lab(50% 50 -50);

Use feature queries to detect whether ‘lab()’ is supported and provide enhanced styling for browsers that support it:

@supports (background-color: lab(0% 0 0)) {
    element {
        background-color: lab(50% 50 -50);

Checking compatibility before implementing LAB colors in production is a good practice. Sites like “Can I Use” offer up-to-date browser support tables.

Design Advantages of LAB Colors

With LAB colors in CSS, you benefit from the following:

  • Perceptual uniformity: Colors are spaced in a way that corresponds to how we perceive differences in color, making it easier for designers to predict how a color adjustment will be seen by the human eye.
  • Greater range: You can select from a wider palette of colors than RGB or HSL, many of which can be unattainable in these other color spaces.
  • Consistency across devices: Colors you choose are not dependent on the device or medium, meaning the integrity of your design is maintained.

Summary and Call to Action

The introduction of LAB colors to CSS is a significant step forward in web design, allowing for more intuitive and consistent color selection. With the lab() function’s syntax, it’s straightforward to adjust the lightness and color values, offering vast creative freedom to designers. Remember to always provide fallbacks for better browser support and user experience.

As web technologies continue developing, it’s essential to stay updated on the capabilities and best practices for using advanced features like LAB colors. Try incorporating LAB colors into your next project to see the difference they can make. Experiment with different values, and see how this device-independent color space can improve the visual quality of your work.

Are you ready to take your CSS color coding to the next level? Start practicing with LAB colors and harness a more vibrant and varied palette for your web designs!