How to use Oklab colors in CSS

When it comes to web development, a colorful user interface can make or break the user experience. Understanding how to use a broad spectrum of colors effectively is essential for creating attractive and accessible designs. Enter Oklab, a perceptual color space that’s transforming the way we define colors in CSS. In this article, we’ll dive into how to use Oklab colors in CSS, offering you a complete guide to this innovative approach.

Throughout this read, you’ll be equipped with all the practical knowledge you need to enhance your designs with Oklab colors. From syntax and examples to tips on creating the perfect palettes – we’ve got you covered.

Understanding Oklab Color Space

Oklab is a color space that aligns closely with human vision, making colors feel more natural and consistent across various applications and devices. To use Oklab in CSS, you’ll need to get acquainted with its functional notation, the oklab() function, which allows you to specify color values precisely as you would like them to appear.

In Oklab, colors are represented using a set of coordinates. The “L” value stands for lightness, while “a” and “b” indicate green-red and blue-yellow chromaticity axes, respectively. Adding the optional “A” (alpha) value controls transparency.

The brilliance behind Oklab is that it lets designers adjust colors in a way that maps more accurately to human color perception. This means that tweaking values will lead to more predictable changes, allowing for fine-tuned adjustments to shade and saturation without unintended shifts in hue or lightness.

Syntax and Values of Oklab

To successfully use the oklab() function in CSS, it’s crucial to understand its syntax and acceptable value ranges. Here’s a breakdown:

  • L (Lightness): Ranges from 0 to 1 (or 0% to 100%), where 0 is black and 1 is white.
  • a (Green-Red Axis): Values span from -0.4 to 0.4 (or -100% to 100%), with negative values trending towards green and positive towards red.
  • b (Blue-Yellow Axis): Similar to “a”, these values also range from -0.4 to 0.4 (or -100% to 100%), with negative leaning towards blue and positive towards yellow.
  • A (Alpha): An optional component for transparency, ranging from 0 (completely transparent) to 1 (fully opaque).

Using these values, you can write the oklab() function like this:

.element {
    background-color: oklab(0.8 0 0.1 / 0.5);

This example sets a semi-transparent background color with high lightness, neutral green-red balance, and a hint of yellow.

Crafting Color Palettes with Oklab

One of the joys of using Oklab is the ease of creating harmonious color palettes. When you tweak the “a” and “b” values, the relative perceived brightness of the colors tends to remain consistent, helping you maintain accessibility standards for contrast without constant adjustments.

For instance, to create a series of grays with varying lightness but consistent chroma, you can adjust the “L” value while keeping “a” and “b” steady:

.light-gray {
    background-color: oklab(0.8 0 0);

.medium-gray {
    background-color: oklab(0.5 0 0);

.dark-gray {
    background-color: oklab(0.2 0 0);

Similarly, adjusting “a” and “b” while keeping “L” fixed can yield a variety of hues with a consistent sense of brightness, ideal for UI elements like buttons or alerts that need to stand out without overshadowing other content.

Browser Compatibility and Fallbacks

It’s essential to account for browser compatibility when using Oklab in CSS. While newer browsers may support oklab(), you should ensure that your designs still look good in browsers that do not. This can mean providing fallbacks using more widely supported color functions like rgb(), hex, or hsl().

For example:

.element {
    background-color: #ff6347; /* Fallback for older browsers */
    background-color: oklab(0.5324 0.2100 0.1333); /* Oklab color for supported browsers */

Conclusion and Practical Application

Oklab is an exciting advancement in CSS, offering web developers a tool to create more natural and harmonious color experiences. By utilizing the oklab() function’s unique approach to lightness and color axes, you can craft color palettes that are both beautiful and accessible.

As you integrate Oklab into your work, remember to keep browser compatibility in mind and use fallbacks when necessary. Embrace the opportunity to revamp your designs with this new, human-centric approach to color in CSS!

Whether you’re just starting out or are a seasoned web developer, experimenting with Oklab colors can be an enriching addition to your design toolkit. So go ahead, play with lightness and chroma, and watch your interfaces come alive with depth and vibrancy that mirrors the complexities of human vision.

Ready to take your color game to the next level? Start incorporating Oklab into your CSS today and unlock a realm of perceptual harmony for your web projects!