Andrew Carter

Electrical Engineer

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How to Read Resistor Color Coding Scheme

The values or ratings of electronic components are indicated by the electronic color code that was developed in the early 1920s. It is not only seen in resistors, but also in capacitors, inductors, and others. To decrease construction costs, color bands were commonly used because they were easily printed on tiny components using advanced printing technology.



The actual resistor needs to have some form of resistive or resistance value in order to be effectively used in both electrical and electronic circuits for controlling the flow of current or voltage in several ways. It would be impractical to have available resistors of every possible value, because resistors are available in a range of different resistance values from fractions of an Ohm to millions of Ohms. Resistors are manufactured in their preferred values with the resistance values printed on each body in colored ink, because hundreds of thousands of different resistors would need to exist to cover all the possible values.

The resistance value, tolerance, and wattage rating are generally printed onto the body of the resistors in some manner that would be readable even for small resistors. The small resistors use colored painted bands to indicate both their resistive value and their tolerance with the physical size of the resistor including its wattage rating.

To create a simple and quick way of identifying a resistor value no matter what its size and condition, an international and universally accepted resistor color coding scheme was developed many years ago. There are three types of color coding with different numbers of color bands including 4, 5, and 6 bands. Because of this, different information is being provided.

The resistor color code table is shown in Figure 2 for reference. The resistor color code is always read one band at a time starting from left to the right, with the larger width tolerance band oriented to the right side indicating its tolerance. By matching the color of the first band with its associated number in the digit column of the color chart below, the first digit is identified and this represents the first digit of the resistive value. The second digit of the resistance is obtained by matching again the color of the second band with its associated number in the digit column of the color chart.

Resistor Color Code Table

Resistor Color Code Table

It is sometimes easy to remember the resistor color code by using mnemonics or phrases that have a separate word in the phrase to represent each of the Ten + Two colors in the code. They are very effective for remembering the colors although these mnemonics are often very crude. Black is also easy to remember as zero because of the nothingness common to both.

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The tolerance band is usually gold or silver but some may have none. Because resistors are not the exact value as indicated by the color bands, manufacturers have included a tolerance color band to indicate the accuracy of the resistor.

You can calculate the resistance of a 4 band, 5 band or 6 band resistor by using EEWeb’s powerful tool.

Tags: resistor color coding, color bands

Comments on this post:

Ralph Pruitt

3 years ago:  Thanks...A great review...It is a shame that as we are going more into SMD devices this wonderful system is being dropped for more obscure markings. If there are any at all...

Colin Warwick

3 years ago:  Typo: powerful tool not powerfull tool

Ravi Patel
By Ravi Patel (0) 0Score: 

3 years ago:  thank you for this blog

Anu Kumpatla
By Anu Kumpatla (0) 0Score: 

2 years ago:  for remembering color coding B B ROY of Great Britan had Very Good Wife

John Danson
By John Danson (0) 0Score: 

2 years ago:  There are also 3 band resistors, which have a tolerance of 20%. Although they are not very common anymore. They are like 4 band resistors, but without a tolerance band color:'none' ref:

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