CSS relative colour syntax

Relative colour syntax in CSS allows seamless colour manipulation, enabling developers to perform various actions such as lightening, darkening, saturating, desaturating, adjusting opacity, and inverting to name just a few.

Example 1: Lightening a brand colour

Here the from function has an input which is the colour you want to convert and then outputs the channels of your choice. Here we are converting hue, saturation, lightness (hsl) channels because we’re setting the from function to work on our hsl() input.

Each channel can then be edited as can be seen below a multiplier has been added to the lightness channel of hsl.

:root {
  --brand-color: hsl(300deg 75% 50%);
.brand-color-light-1 {
  background: hsl(from var(--brand-color) h s calc(l * 1.25));

Breaking it down:

If we replace the variable var(--brand-color) with blue it will make it clearer to read:

  1. hsl(from blue h s calc(l * 1.25)) the full thing
  2. from blue h s calc(l * 1.25) the from function, e.g. without calc: from blue h s l
  3. blue the inputted colour
  4. h s are the unmodified h and s channels, there values have effectively come straight through
  5. calc(l * 1.25) the modified l channel where the value of l is being multiplied by 1.25

Running example

Example 2: Changing opacity

Before relative colour syntax, to change the opacity of a colour, the rgb equivalent of a colour would have to be stored. A typical example, when using CSS variables, might be:

:root {
  --brand-color: #ffcc00;
  --brand-color-rgb: rgb(255, 204, 0);
.brand-opacity-50: {
  color: rgba(var(--brand-color-rgb), 0.5);

With CSS relative colour syntax the following is possible:

.decrease-opacity-by-25 {
  background: rgb(from var(--brand-color) r g b / calc(alpha / 2));

Cutting out the need for repetitive rgb colour space conversions of existing variables.

Read more

You can see a lot more examples at https://developer.chrome.com/blog/css-relative-color-syntax#adjust_opacity_a_color