Understanding Resistor Color Codes: A Beginner’s Guide

resistor color code guide
Mar 4, 2024 Reading time : 6 min

In the electronics industry, resistors are one of the most basic electronic components you can find on any device.

From your TVs to your microwaves, all have resistors embedded within them, and yes even your smartphones have some.

But, What Exactly Are Resistors in the First Place?

resistor color

They are a type of small passive component found in many electronic devices used to control the flow of current in them.

The main use of a resistor is to reduce the flow of current and lower the voltage for a specific portion of a circuit.

You can see many different types of resistors with many different color bands on them.

Each color band on a resistor denotes a different capacity of resistance in a circuit.

In this article, we will learn what these color codes mean and how you can calculate the resistance of a resistor with a practical example.

What are Resistor Color Codes?

Resistor color codes are the visual representation of resistance values. It is indicated by color bands on the surface of resistors. 

These bands provide information about resistance digits, multipliers, and tolerance. 

There are usually three to six color bands on resistors, and we can see the resistor with four color codes. 

All the resistors used in electronic components up to one watt are color-coded with different bands. The first two bands provide the resistance value, while the third band is the multiplier for the two bands.

The oldest and most basic type of resistor is the carbon composition resistor. And military-specified resistors often include an extra band on four-band resistors to indicate reliability.

Resistor Color Code Calculation

To understand the color band codes of the resistor, we can study the color band table as illustrated below:


To interpret the resistor color codes effectively, position the resistor such that the tolerance band, silver or gold, is placed on the right side. The tolerance band is slightly separated from other bands. At the same time, there is a multiplier band which is next to the tolerance band. 

Example #1

Let a resistor whose first digit color band is red, the second digit color band is orange, the multiplier color is orange, and the tolerance color is gold.

First Digit Color: Here, the resistor’s first digit color is red, so the accepted value is 2 from the table

Second Digit Color: The resistor’s second digit color is orange, so the accepted value is 3 from the table.

Third Digit Color: The resistor’s third/multiplier digit color is orange, which has a value of 1000 ohm from the table

Fourth Digit Color: The resistor’s fourth/tolerance digit color is gold, so the accepted value is ±5% from the table.

The maximum resistance value of the resistor is:

23 x 1000 ±5% = 23000 ±5%

The tolerance can be calculated as:

Tolerance = Value of Resistor x Value of Tolerance Band

       = 23000 x 5 % = 1150 ohm

Therefore, it says the resistor value of 23000 ohm with a tolerance of 1150 ohm could range the actual value of the resistor from 22850 ohm to 24150 ohm

So, to determine the resistance value of the resistor from its color band, follow these steps:

  1. Identify the First Two Bands: Determine the colors of the first two bands on the resistor.
  2. Find the Digits: Look up the corresponding digits for each color in the chart. The first two bands represent the significant digits of the resistance value.
  3. Determine the Multiplier: Identify the color of the third band and find its corresponding multiplier in the chart.
  4. Calculate Resistance: Combine the digits obtained from the first two bands and multiply them by the multiplier obtained from the third band.

Tips for Reading Resistor Codes

Some of the general tips for reading the resistor’s color code include:

  • Orient the resistor so the tolerance band, usually gold or silver, is on the right side.
  • Pay attention to the color bands, reading them from left to right.
  • Memorize the color code chart for quick reference.
  • Use a magnifying glass if the bands are small or hard to distinguish.
  • Double-check your reading to ensure accuracy, as mistaking colors can lead to errors.
  • Practice regularly to improve your proficiency in decoding resistor color codes.
market size

The global resistor market size accounted for USD 9,651.26 million in 2023 and is projected to hit around USD 13,383.84 million by 2032, registering a CAGR of 3.70% during the forecast period from 2023 to 2032.

Common Mistakes and Troubleshooting

For precise circuit design and connection, reading the color codes of the resistor accurately is necessary. Common mistakes can lead to the failure of the whole system design. 

The most common issue while reading resistor color code is color recognition error in which similar types of colors are misinterpreted. This error can be mitigated by the use of adequate lighting and careful inspection. Also, we can use a magnifying glass to see the color. 

Another common mistake relates to reading band color in the wrong order. To avoid this mistake, we should always start the first digit band closest to the lead of the resistor. Also, the incorrect value of the multiplier and neglecting tolerance value can lead to the error of resistance value. This issue can be solved by accurate color identification and verifying the color value against the resistor color band table.

 Not enough practice and guessing the standard value without verification can lead to these common mistakes that can be avoided with regular practice and through verification of resistor values.

Frequently Asked Questions
How do you read resistor color codes?

To read resistor color codes, you have to match the color bands on the resistor to a color chart that determines the resistance value and tolerance.

What is the reason for color-coding on the resistor?

Resistors are tiny electronic components and it’s a challenging task to point the resistance on them. Thus, the resistance is differentiated using various color bands. 

What color is a 2.2k ohm resistor?

The color code “Red-Red-Red-Gold” indicates the resistor has a resistance value of 2.2 k ohms with a tolerance of 5%. It is based on the color code chart, where “Red” represents the digit 2 and “Gold” represents a tolerance of 5%. Besides, the presence of three red bands suggests a multiplier of 100, resulting in a total resistance of 2.2 kilohms.

What is a tolerance band?

The tolerance band is the error percentage in the resistance of the resistor.  It also shows the maximum permissible deviation from the specified resistance value.

It ensures that manufactured resistors fall within a certain range of values.

Can I determine the power rating of a resistor from its color code?

No, you can’t determine the power rating of a resistor through its color code. Instead, the power rating is usually printed as a numeric value on the resistor itself.