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Nine different shades of gray with 90 to 10 percent brightness

As a gray one is color stimulus refers to the darker than white and brighter than black but no or only a small colored impression ( color stimulus generated). So gray has no chromaticity, it is an achromatic color. The gradations between pure white and pure black (black-and-white scale) are called gray levels . While gray also includes slightly colored nuances in everyday language , the technical terms neutral gray and pure gray emphasize that there is no color cast.

Color spaces

Gray arises in the additive and in the subtractive color mixture when the proportions of the respective basic colors are the same, but the brightness is neither maximum (white) nor minimum (black).

  • R = G = B (additive color mixing); see grayscale table
  • C = M = Y (subtractive color mixing)

In the HSV color space , gray is unsaturated and achromatic; accordingly, zero saturation is referred to as the gray value . A value for the color tone is therefore not defined, since only the brightness determines the gray tone.

Color constancy

In photography , gray tones are often referred to as halftones . However, the perception of (neutral) gray is influenced by neighboring surfaces.

A true color graphics system (24 bit color depth ) can display 256 pure gray tones. The gamut , i.e. the technical limitations of the playback system, limits this number. For example, even with good calibration , a standard monitor gives the color values ​​below the RGB value {16, 16, 16} as maximum black (mathematically, the maximum black would only be {0, 0, 0}) and all values ​​above {235, 235 , 235} as pure white (mathematically only at {255, 255, 255}). Since dark gray is subjectively perceived as black and light gray subjectively as white, only the displayed gray values ​​between about 10–95% would be called “gray”. This restriction also applies to the technical possibility of other display systems, such as art prints.

Color names

Everyday language

Payne's gray
color code: # 293C42

In everyday language , a distinction is often made between three shades of gray: light , medium and dark gray . Less saturated colors close to gray are indicated with additions such as pale , light , whitish , pale , dull or dark , blackish . For different shades of gray with different color casts there are well-known, everyday names that identify the colors by comparing them. Some commonly used terms are:

Ash gray
color code: # B2BEB5
  • Ash gray , the very whitish cold gray of wood ash.
  • Concrete gray , also cement gray, a clearly yellowish, medium-light shade of gray.
  • Field gray , different shades of gray-green, color designation of the uniforms of the German army from the early 20th century to 1945.
  • Dove gray, a bluish medium gray.
  • Mouse gray , a visually neutral medium gray , from the sensation it is the "non-color gray" par excellence.
  • Smoke gray , darker, slightly bluish nuances.
  • Slate gray , named after the shade of slate .
  • Silver gray , implies the iridescent metallic sheen of silver in its tone.

Neutral gray - cool gray - warm gray

Neutral gray is a gray without any color cast . In the RGB color space , this means the same additive proportions of the primary colors red, green and blue (r = g = b). Most people perceive neutral gray as a warm color . A shade that is perceived as neutral in color perception is slightly bluish. The painter calls gray nuances with a clear bluish cast as cooling gray , such as the artist's color Payne's gray . This is the ideal color to represent translucent shadows.


Low irritation color

In general, the color gray is considered boring , sad and meaningless. Gray is inconspicuous and stands for something insignificant or uninteresting. The proverbial term for an inconspicuous (“colorless”) or shy person is a gray mouse .

The hazy gray of a cloudy sky signals bad weather and a negative, depressing mood. Gray stands symbolically for monotony and gloom . In expressions such as “gray everyday life” or “see everything gray in gray”, gray is set in this sense in contrast to the positively charged bright, “radiant” colors.

The "sinking in a gray mass" describes the disappearance of individuality in a no longer differentiable, uniform monotony. In the background here is the experience that a “chaotic mixture of color pixels” almost always appears gray when viewed from a distance.

Inconspicuousness is also in the foreground when choosing gray as a clothing color. Such was Feldgrau the eve of the First World War introduced the first camouflage of the uniforms of the German army and solved in Germany, the traditional 19th century brightly colored uniform colors of the military from. On the other hand, gray also stands for elegance : gray clothing is sometimes seen as elegant, precisely because its color does not attract much attention and signals "elegant restraint".

Gray also stands for objectivity and a certain lack of liveliness and esprit , which can be tiring. The color is therefore often associated with bureaucracy and generally associated with dry, dreary, monotonous, bland, unoriginal, unimaginative, moody, tension-free and irritating materials, properties or forms of appearance.

Intermediate tone

Gray is neither white nor black and is therefore used for compound words in the sense of intermediate tone and intermediate value.

  • In the gray area is the undefined, which is neither bad (black) nor good (white).
  • In this sense, gray also stands for neutrality and impartiality.
  • The gray market (Engl. Gray market ) is a market which, however, is not completely legal not illegal.
  • The gray market is between the legal trade and the (illegal) smuggling.
  • Gray literature is literature that is not available in bookshops.
  • Gray bread is the mixed bread made from “white” wheat and “black” rye flour.
  • The dawn is the transition from the dark night into bright day.
  • Gray ware is the gray and coarse utility ceramics of the Middle Ages and early modern times in contrast to fine porcelain and light faience .


Fog figures such as ghosts or the restless dead have the color gray in many artistic representations. You are in a state between life ( white ) and death ( black ). The gray fog covers the clear colors of the sunny day and supports a mystical, “remote” view.


The hair becomes lighter and lighter due to the decreasing proportion of the pigment melanin and gray hair is a sign of advanced age. An effect on many mammals and birds. Although the term "gray hair" is common, the individual hair turns white rather than gray. As long as the colors of the other hairs shine through, the "white hair" appears in a shade of gray. Only when all hair, depending on the original color, is white, is the main hair snow white .

Gray hair stands for dominance through experience, as with " gray eminence " or "gray wolf", on the other hand for the elimination from the struggle for reproduction . This ambivalence between threat and harmlessness expresses the phrase “grayed in honor”, ​​where age is coupled with the meaning of awe . This transferred meaning can be found in the gray prehistory .

In the political color landscape , the color in this meaning was chosen by the party The Gray - Gray Panthers , and also by The Gray - Generations Party . So it is parties that represent the interests of the gray people.


Another application is the addition of gray for terms and things that “hardly” name colored things.

  • Gray cast iron is cast iron that can be recognized by its gray fracture surface.
  • Grauwacke is a rock from Paleozoic debris sediment of different gray.
  • Gray Sisters is another name for the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Elisabeth and refers to her gray religious clothing.
  • Gray matter is those parts of the brain and spinal cord that nerve cells make to look gray.
  • Gray wedge is a representation of various neutral shades of gray that is used as an aid in optical reproduction or as a calibration aid in color measurement.
  • In animals, the neutral shade can also appear as a characteristic in the name.


Gray is not a heraldic designation, even if it is used in depictions for silver (heraldic white) or iron color despite the lack of gloss . Grauwerk is the fur in heraldry.

Grayscale table

The value for XY is given in hexadecimal notation: XY => #XYXYXY.
The colors are monitor RGB, not the colors of the RGB color space , see also neutral gray
FF FE FD FC FB FA F9 F8 F7 F6 F5 F4 F3 F2 F1 F0
EF EE ED EC EB EA E9 E8 E7 E6 E5 E4 E3 E2 E1 E0
DF DE DD DC DB THERE D9 D8 D7 D6 D5 D4 D3 D2 D1 D0
CF CE CD CC CB CA C9 C8 C7 C6 C5 C4 C3 C2 C1 C0
BF BE BD BC BB BA B9 B8 B7 B6 B5 B4 B3 B2 B1 B0
AF AE AD AC FROM AA A9 A8 A7 A6 A5 A4 A3 A2 A1 A0
9F 9E 9D 9C 9B 9A 99 98 97 96 95 94 93 92 91 90
8F 8E 8D 8C 8B 8A 89 88 87 86 85 84 83 82 81 80
7F 7E 7D 7C 7B 7A 79 78 77 76 75 74 73 72 71 70
6F 6E 6D 6C 6B 6A 69 68 67 66 65 64 63 62 61 60
5F 5E 5D 5C 5B 5A 59 58 57 56 55 54 53 52 51 50
4F 4E 4D 4C 4B 4A 49 48 47 46 45 44 43 42 41 40
3F 3E 3D 3C 3B 3A 39 38 37 36 35 34 33 32 31 30th
2F 2E 2D 2C 2 B 2A 29 28 27 26th 25th 24 23 22nd 21st 20th
1F 1E 1D 1C 1B 1A 19th 18th 17th 16 15th 14th 13 12 11 10
0F 0E 0D 0C 0B 0A 09 08 07 06 05 04 03 02 01 00

Web links

Commons : Gray  - collection of images, videos, and audio files
Wiktionary: gray  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Wikiquote: Gray  - Quotes

Individual evidence

  1. Charles Poynton : Color FAQ (May 11, 2006)
  2. Color sample according to color 783 Schmincke Paynesgrau ( Memento from February 14, 2008 in the Internet Archive ), H. Schmincke & Co. GmbH & Co. KG (May 11, 2006)
  3. German vocabulary. In: University of Leipzig, Institute for Computer Science, Language Processing Department, 2016, accessed on October 25, 2016 .
  4. color sample according to - printing inks ( memento of the original of December 3, 2010 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link has been inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. , accessed May 26, 2011. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /