How to use LCH colors in CSS

Colors play a crucial role in web design, affecting both aesthetics and usability. With recent advancements in display technology and web standards, a new way of defining colors in CSS has emerged: LCH colors. This guide will walk you through what LCH colors are, why they’re a game-changer for designers and developers, and how to use them in your CSS code to create vibrant, perceptually uniform designs.

What is LCH Color?

Before diving into the technicalities, let’s briefly discuss the LCH color model. LCH stands for Lightness, Chroma, and Hue. It provides a more accurate representation of perceptual color space, meaning that small numerical changes correspond to color differences that we can actually see. This makes LCH a powerful tool for web designers who want precise control over their color schemes. You can learn more about color spaces and CSS from Mozilla Developer Network (MDN).

Why Use LCH Colors in CSS?

Enhanced Color Range

LCH colors offer a significantly wider color range than traditional RGB or HSL color models. With the ability to access about 50% more colors, LCH is well-suited for modern displays that feature larger gamuts like P3, which many websites and devices now support.

Perceptual Uniformity

One of the biggest draws of LCH is its perceptual uniformity. Unlike HSL or RGB, where a change in value can have an uneven impact on the perceived color, LCH maintains consistency. A small change results in a uniform color difference, making it easier for designers to predict how color adjustments will appear to the eye.

How to Use LCH Colors in CSS

Basic Syntax

The syntax for using LCH in CSS is straightforward. It looks something like this:

element {
  color: lch(50% 40 270);

Here, 50% represents the lightness, 40 the chroma (color intensity), and 270 the hue angle (position on the color wheel). With this syntax, you can precisely pinpoint almost any color you can imagine.

Adjusting Lightness, Chroma, and Hue

To adjust lightness in LCH, you increase or decrease the percentage. Chroma is adjusted by changing the second number, which can theoretically range from 0 (completely desaturated) to approximately 230 (hyper-saturated, though most displays can’t show such intense colors). The hue is controlled by the third number, representing an angle from 0 to 360 degrees on the color wheel.

Dealing with Browser Compatibility

While not all browsers currently support LCH, it’s future-proofing your design work to start using this notation. You can provide fallbacks in more traditional color values (like hex, RGB, or HSL) to ensure colors render correctly in all browsers. An example might look like this:

element {
  color: #7f7f7f; /* Fallback for browsers that don't support LCH */
  color: lch(50% 40 270); /* The desired LCH color */

Many design and development tools are beginning to include support for LCH, allowing you to get comfortable with these new hues and adapt them to your work seamlessly.

Examples of LCH Colors in Practice

Here are a few examples of how LCH can be used in CSS to control color:

/* Soft pastel pink */
.background-pastel-pink {
  background-color: lch(90% 30 340);

/* Vibrant green */
.text-vibrant-green {
  color: lch(70% 80 140);

/* Deep blue */
.border-deep-blue {
  border-color: lch(20% 50 240);

By playing with these values, you’ll notice that color adjustments feel a lot more natural and intuitive, and results are more predictable.

The Future of LCH in CSS

The potential for LCH colors in web design is vast. Proposals for future CSS specifications include more advanced color manipulation functions, which will harness the power of LCH. Picture a scenario where setting color contrast, mixtures, and gradients is as easy as adjusting a few numbers. This dream is becoming increasingly attainable as browser compatibility widens and community enthusiasm grows.

Conclusion and Call to Action

By embracing LCH colors in CSS, developers and designers can access a broader color spectrum, work with perceptually uniform color values, and prepare for future advancements in web design. Although browser support is still emerging, using LCH colors with fallbacks is a practice that can enhance your website’s design today and future-proof it for tomorrow’s displays.

Start experimenting with LCH in your stylesheets and see the difference for yourself. And remember, the best way to learn is by doing, so go ahead and incorporate LCH into your next project, ensuring a bright and colorful future for your designs.