Electronic color code

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RMA (Radio Manufacturers Association) Resistor Color Code Guide, ca. 1945–1955.
A 100 kΩ, 5% axial-lead resistor

The electronic color code is used to indicate the values or ratings of electronic components, usually for resistors, but also for capacitors, inductors, diodes and others. A separate code, the 25-pair color code, is used to identify wires in some telecommunications cables.

The electronic color code was developed in the early 1920s by the Radio Manufacturers Association (RMA), later the Radio Electronics Television Manufacturers' Association (RETMA), now part of the Electronic Industries Alliance (EIA)[1] Therefore, the code was known as RMA, RTMA, RETMA or EIA color code. In 1952, it was standardized in IEC 62:1952 by the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) and since 1963 also published as EIA RS-279.[2] Originally only meant to be used for fixed resistors, the color code was extended to also cover capacitors with IEC 62:1968. The code was adopted by many national standards like DIN 40825 (1973), BS 1852 (1974) and IS 8186 (1976). The current international standard defining marking codes for resistors and capacitors is IEC 60062:2016[3] and EN 60062:2016.

(In addition to the color code, these standards also define a letter and digit code for resistors and capacitors.)

Colorbands were used because they were easily and cheaply printed on tiny components. However, there were drawbacks, especially for color blind people. Overheating of a component or dirt accumulation, may make it impossible to distinguish brown from red or orange. Advances in printing technology have now made printed numbers practical on small components. Where passive components come in surface mount packages, their values are identified with printed alphanumeric codes instead of a color code.

Resistor color-coding[edit]

A 2260 Ω, 1% precision resistor with 5 color bands (E96 series), from top 2-2-6-1-1; the last two brown bands indicate the multiplier (×10), and the 1% tolerance. The larger gap before the tolerance band is somewhat difficult to distinguish.

A diagram of a resistor, with four color bands A, B, C, D from left to right A diagram of a 2.7 MΩ color-coded resistor.

To distinguish left from right there is a gap between the C and D bands.

  • band A is the first significant figure of component value (left side)
  • band B is the second significant figure (some precision resistors have a third significant figure, and thus five bands).
  • band C is the decimal multiplier
  • band D if present, indicates tolerance of value in percent (no band means 20%)

For example, a resistor with bands of yellow, violet, red, and gold has first digit 4 (yellow in table below), second digit 7 (violet), followed by 2 (red) zeros: 4700 ohms. Gold signifies that the tolerance is ±5%, so the real resistance could lie anywhere between 4465 and 4935 ohms.

Resistors manufactured for military use may also include a fifth band which indicates component failure rate (reliability); refer to MIL-HDBK-199[4] for further details.

Tight tolerance resistors may have three bands for significant figures rather than two, or an additional band indicating temperature coefficient, in units of ppm/K.

All coded components have at least two value bands and a multiplier; other bands are optional.

The standard color code per IEC 60062:2016 is as follows:

Ring color Significant figures Multiplier Tolerance Temperature coefficient
Name Code RAL Percent Letter ppm/K Letter
None ±20% M
Pink PK 3015 ×10−3[5] ×0.001
Silver SR ×10−2 ×0.01 ±10% K
Gold GD ×10−1 ×0.1 ±5% J
Black BK 9005 0 ×100 ×1 250 U
Brown BN 8003 1 ×101 ×10 ±1% F 100 S
Red RD 3000 2 ×102 ×100 ±2% G 50 R
Orange OG 2003 3 ×103 ×1000 15 P
Yellow YE 1021 4 ×104 ×10000 (±5%[nb 1][6]) 25 Q
Green GN 6018 5 ×105 ×100000 ±0.5% D 20 Z[nb 2]
Blue BU 5015 6 ×106 ×1000000 ±0.25% C 10 Z[nb 2]
Violet VT 4005 7 ×107 ×10000000 ±0.1% B 5 M
Gray GY 7000 8 ×108 ×100000000 ±0.05% (±10%[nb 1][6]) A 1 K
White WH 1013 9 ×109 ×1000000000
One decade of the E12 series (there are twelve preferred values per decade of values) shown with their electronic color codes on resistors
A 0 Ω resistor, marked with a single black band

Resistors use preferred numbers for their specific values, which are determined by their tolerance. These values repeat for every decade of magnitude: 6.8, 68, 680, and so forth. In the E24 series the values are related by the 24th root of 10, while E12 series are related by the 12th root of 10, and E6 series by the sixth root of 10. The tolerance of device values is arranged so that every value corresponds to a preferred number, within the required tolerance.

Zero ohm resistors are made as lengths of wire wrapped in a resistor-shaped body which can be substituted for another resistor value in automatic insertion equipment. They are marked with a single black band.[7]

The 'body-end-dot' or 'body-tip-spot' system was used for radial-lead (and other cylindrical) composition resistors sometimes still found in very old equipment; the first band was given by the body color, the second band by the color of the end of the resistor, and the multiplier by a dot or band around the middle of the resistor. The other end of the resistor was colored gold or silver to give the tolerance, otherwise it was 20%.[8][9][10][11]

Capacitor color-coding[edit]

Capacitors may be marked with 4 or more colored bands or dots. The colors encode the first and second most significant digits of the value, and the third color the decimal multiplier in picofarads. Additional bands have meanings which may vary from one type to another. Low-tolerance capacitors may begin with the first 3 (rather than 2) digits of the value. It is usually, but not always, possible to work out what scheme is used by the particular colors used. Cylindrical capacitors marked with bands may look like resistors.

Color Significant digits Multiplier Capacitance tolerance Characteristic DC working voltage Operating temperature EIA/vibration
  Black 0 1 −55 °C to +70 °C 10 to 55 Hz
Brown 1 10 ±1% B 100
Red 2 100 ±2% C −55 °C to +85 °C
Orange 3 1000 D 300
Yellow 4 10000 E −55 °C to +125 °C 10 to 2000 Hz
Green 5 100000 ±0.5% F 500
Blue 6 1000000 −55 °C to +150 °C
Violet 7 10000000
Grey 8
White 9 EIA
Gold ±5%[nb 3] 1000
Silver ±10%

Extra bands on ceramic capacitors identify the voltage rating class and temperature coefficient characteristics.[8] A broad black band was applied to some tubular paper capacitors to indicate the end that had the outer electrode; this allowed this end to be connected to chassis ground to provide some shielding against hum and noise pickup.

Polyester film and "gum drop" tantalum electrolytic capacitors are also color-coded to give the value, working voltage and tolerance.

Inductor color-coding[edit]

IEC 60062 / EN 60062 don't define a color code for inductances, but various manufacturers of inductors utilize the resistor color code for this purpose.[12] A white tolerance ring may indicate custom specifications.[12]

Diode part number[edit]

The part number for diodes is sometimes also encoded as colored rings around the diode, using the same numerals as for other parts. The JEDEC "1N" prefix was assumed, and the balance of the part number was given by three or four rings. The 1N4148 would then be color coded as yellow (4), brown (1), yellow (4), grey (8).

Postage stamp capacitors and war standard coding[edit]

Postage-stamp mica capacitors marked with the EIA 3-dot and 6-dot color codes, giving capacitance value, tolerance, working voltage, and temperature characteristic. This style of capacitor was used in vacuum-tube equipment.

Capacitors of the rectangular "postage stamp" form made for military use during World War II used American War Standard (AWS) or Joint Army Navy (JAN) coding in six dots stamped on the capacitor. An arrow on the top row of dots pointed to the right, indicating the reading order. From left to right the top dots were: either black, indicating JAN mica, or silver, indicating AWS paper; first significant digit; and second significant digit. The bottom three dots indicated temperature characteristic, tolerance, and decimal multiplier. The characteristic was black for ±1000 ppm/°C, brown for ±500, red for ±200, orange for ±100, yellow for −20 to +100 ppm/°C, and green for 0 to +70 ppm/°C.

A similar six-dot code by EIA had the top row as first, second and third significant digits and the bottom row as voltage rating (in hundreds of volts; no color indicated 500 volts), tolerance, and multiplier. A three-dot EIA code was used for 500 volt 20% tolerance capacitors, and the dots signified first and second significant digits and the multiplier. Such capacitors were common in vacuum tube equipment and in surplus for a generation after the war but are unavailable now.[13]


A useful mnemonic matches the first letter of the color code, by order of increasing magnitude. Here are two that includes tolerance codes gold, silver, and none:

  • Bad beer rots our young guts but vodka goes well – get some now.[14]
  • Black Brown ROY of Great Britain had a Very Good Wife who wore Gold and Silver Necklace.

The colors are sorted in the order of the visible light spectrum: red (2), orange (3), yellow (4), green (5), blue (6), violet (7). Black (0) has no energy, brown (1) has a little more, white (9) has everything and grey (8) is like white, but less intense.[15]


Example color-coded resistors

From top to bottom:

  • Green-Blue-Black-Black-Brown
    • 560 ohms ±1%
  • Red-Red-Orange-Gold
    • 22000 ohms ±5%
  • Yellow-Violet-Brown-Gold
    • 470 ohms ±5%
  • Blue-Gray-Black-Gold
    • 68 ohms ±5%

The physical size of a resistor is indicative of the power it can dissipate, not of its resistance.

Transformer wiring color codes[edit]

Power transformers used in North American vacuum-tube equipment were often color-coded to identify the leads. Black was the primary connection, red secondary for the B+ (plate voltage), red with a yellow tracer was the center tap for the B+ full-wave rectifier winding, green or brown was the heater voltage for all tubes, yellow was the filament voltage for the rectifier tube (often a different voltage than other tube heaters). Two wires of each color were provided for each circuit, and phasing was not identified by the color code.

Audio transformers for vacuum tube equipment were coded blue for the finishing lead of the primary, red for the B+ lead of the primary, brown for a primary center tap, green for the finishing lead of the secondary, black for grid lead of the secondary, and yellow for a tapped secondary. Each lead had a different color since relative polarity or phase was more important for these transformers. Intermediate-frequency tuned transformers were coded blue and red for the primary and green and black for the secondary.[13]

Other wiring codes[edit]

Wires may be color-coded to identify their function, voltage class, polarity, phase or to identify the circuit in which they are used. The insulation of the wire may be solidly colored, or where more combinations are needed, one or two tracer stripes may be added. Some wiring color codes are set by national regulations, but often a color code is specific to a manufacturer or industry.

Building wiring under the US National Electrical Code and the Canadian Electrical Code is identified by colors to show energized and neutral conductors, grounding conductors and to identify phases. Other color codes are used in the UK and other areas to identify building wiring or flexible cable wiring.

Thermocouple wires and extension cables are identified by color code for the type of thermocouple; interchanging thermocouples with unsuitable extension wires destroys the accuracy of the measurement.

Automotive wiring is color-coded but standards vary by manufacturer; differing SAE and DIN standards exist.

Modern personal computer peripheral cables and connectors are color-coded to simplify connection of speakers, microphones, mice, keyboards and other peripherals, usually according to the PC99 scheme.

A common convention for wiring systems in industrial buildings is; black jacket – AC less than 1000 volts, blue jacket – DC or communications, orange jacket – medium voltage 2300 or 4160 V, red jacket 13800 V or higher. Red-jacketed cable is also used for fire alarm wiring, but has a much different appearance, since it operates at relatively low voltages.

Local area network cables may also have jacket colors identifying, for example, process control network vs. office automation networks, or to identify redundant network connections, but these codes vary by organization and facility.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Yellow and Gray are used in high-voltage resistors to avoid metal particles in the lacquer.
  2. ^ a b Any temperature coefficient not assigned its own letter shall be marked "Z", and the coefficient found in other documentation.
  3. ^ Or ±0.5 pF, whichever is greater.


  1. ^ EIA
  2. ^ EIA RS-279: Color code for film resistors. Electronic Industries Alliance. 1963-08-01. 
  3. ^ IEC 60062:2016 Title: "Marking codes for resistors and capacitors" (IEC Webstore)
  4. ^ https://tomwwolf.files.wordpress.com/2013/12/mil-hdbk-199c.pdf
  5. ^ "IEC 60062:2016". 2016. 
  6. ^ a b VR37 High ohmic/high voltage resistors (PDF). Vishay datasheet, VR37 High ohmic/high voltage resistors
  7. ^ NIC Components Corp. NZO series zero-ohm resistors.
  8. ^ a b Reference Data for Radio Engineers, Federal Telephone and Radio Corporation, 2nd edition, 1946 page 52
  9. ^ "How To Read Old Style Resistors" (PDF). 2006-10-03. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2016-12-19. Retrieved 2016-12-19. 
  10. ^ "RMA Resistor and Flexible Resistor Color Codes". Archived from the original on 2016-12-19. Retrieved 2016-12-19. 
  11. ^ "The Antique Resistor Color Code" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 2016-12-19. Retrieved 2016-12-19. 
  12. ^ a b https://en.tdk.eu/download/531410/59a5850434250d35b39a06d5c80bf362/pdf-rfgeneral.pdf
  13. ^ a b Tony Dorbuck (ed),The Radio Amateur's Handbook Fifty Fifth (1978 edition), The American Radio Relay League, Connecticut 1977, no ISBN, Library of congress card no. 41-3345, pages 553–554
  14. ^ The Mnemonics Page – Dean Campbell, Bradley University Chemistry Department
  15. ^ Preston R. Clement and Walter Curtis Johnson (1960). Electrical Engineering Science. McGraw-Hill. p. 115. 

External links[edit]