What is RGB

The term RGB accompanies us more and more frequently, since this type of lighting is everywhere. Keyboards, mice, motherboards, SSDs, graphics and other components have integrated this element. RGB lighting has entered the world of hardware and especially gaming for the big brands. Today we are going to explain what this is.

What is RGB


It comes from the acronym in English 'red, green and blue', or 'red, green and blue', in Spanish. The RAE, on the other hand, prefers to use the abbreviation RVA, which are the Castilian acronym. We could define RGB as the composition of colors, in terms of intensity, of the primary colors of light.

By combining these three primary colors, we can represent different colors. Note that in addition to RGB, there are other primary colors according to other chromatic models.

This model is based on the additive synthesis of lighting in three fundamental colors. By applying the addition of colors and using a certain brightness in one of the three, we can represent other different colors and increase the chromatic variety.

There is a problem with RGB rendering and it is that the three colors are not always the same for each manufacturer. This means that each one applies different shades, generating slightly different colors.


Mixed colors

The combination of two of these primary colors generates a third color. This is due to how our eyes work and how light signals are sent to our brain.

The human eye is made up of cells that are photosensitive to the light received, which allows the distinction of colors. These cells are made up of rods and cones. The cones are also divided into three types, allowing us to generate information about the color we see.


Each of the three types of cone works at a different frequency and precisely has a sensitivity to each of the RGB color spectra. By combining the colors, new frequencies are generated that allow the color sensitivity curve to be varied. This allows you to appreciate different colors with just the combination of three basic colors.

How RGB works on computer monitors

Currently RGB is the chromatic representation used in computer screens. In addition to computer screens, smartphones, tablets, televisions and other data display screens use the RGB system. Even the old CRT monitors already used RGB, although by electronic gun, a very different operation from the current one.

Within a video signal, each of the colors is treated separately in order to obtain the best possible color representation. To properly appreciate a dynamic image, the three signals that make up the color must be properly synchronized.


Today's monitors are based on a mesh of millions of light-emitting diodes, also known as LEDs. The LED diode is nothing more than a semiconductor that, when passing a certain current, can emit a beam of light of a certain color. In the end, the pixels on our screens are nothing more than little LEDs.

Each of these little pixels are divided into three RGB parts. The variation of the luminosity will generate a certain color in a specific moment. If all three areas of the pixel are off, we get black and if they are all on and shine with the same intensity, we get white. The other colors are obtained in brightness combinations within the RGB spectrum.

For a monitor to give a correct color and shape, two types of signals are used:

  • Luminance signal: It is the amount of light that an object can emit, or what is the same, the brightness of an object that reaches our eyes. Monitors adjust this signal for each pixel, giving the impression that they all shine equally, regardless of color. Specifically, PAL, NTSC and SECAM systems are used, which transmit luminance together with extra information to illuminate correctly.
  • Synchronism signal: Image 'stabilization' technology so that we do not see flickering or variation between areas of the screen. A sync signal is required for all pixels. Currently the synchronization systems are: RGBHV, RGBS and RGsB.

In programming and design

It is all very well to understand how colors are represented on the screen, but how does the software do it? Here we have different ways of representing a color, depending on the programming language or the tool. Under HTML and other tools, each of the primary colors has a numerical representation.

The numerical representation of RGB colors is based on a 24-bit binary format. Each of the colors has an 8-bit format and graphically they are numbers. Red, green, and blue range from 0 to 255 in a setting: (xxx), (xxx), (xxx). Depending on the number that we enter in each of the boxes, the luminance of each color will be higher or lower.


Using this number system, we are really representing a three-dimensional system, in this case, of colors. Its representation is the so-called RGB cube that goes from 0,0,0 to 255,255,255. This cube with the improvement of the panels and their increase in the ability to reproduce colors, has been increasing. Modern monitors are 24-bit, and can represent up to 16.7 million colors.

Another possible representation of the colors is in hexadecimal basis by means of a 6-character alphanumeric code. Here we move from black (000000) to white (FFFFFF). Languages ​​like CSS or software like Photoshop allow you to use this type of representation.

RGB LEDs in gaming

Both the components and the gaming peripherals currently arrive equipped mostly with RGB LEDs. These follow the same principle of three basic colors and on these they can generate other colors. The difference between a conventional LED diode and RGB, is that the conventional diode can only emit one color and the RGB millions of combinations.

Currently we find 3 RGB lighting systems:

  • 3 bit: Most basic lighting system that allows to represent 7 colors
  • 8 bit: More complete lighting system that can represent 256 colors
  • 24 bit: Complete lighting system offering 16.7 million colors. For the management of the latter, each manufacturer offers a control software that allows to represent the colors.

It should be noted that these diodes have a big problem and that is that there are colors they do not reach. They especially have a hard time reaching colors that are 'outside' the RGB triangle. Also, pigments like brown and pink are very difficult to represent with an RGB LED.

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Robert Sole

Director of Contents and Writing of this same website, technician in renewable energy generation systems and low voltage electrical technician. I work in front of a PC, in my free time I am in front of a PC and when I leave the house I am glued to the screen of my smartphone. Every morning when I wake up I walk across the Stargate to make some coffee and start watching YouTube videos. I once saw a dragon ... or was it a Dragonite?

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