Vectors and Gradients

01 Jan 2015

Applying linear algebra to life

So, I was playing around with canvas and randomly generated colors were just not cutting it for me. I wanted a gradient maker.

Here's the problem I had:

  • Arguments: color 1, color2 n(integer),
  • Returns: an array(n) of colors between those provided

If you look at an rgb value like: rgb(255,255,255) there are 3 numbers that are between 0-255 that represent how much red, blue or green value is in the color. If you substitute x,y,z for r,g,b, wait a second, that's vector.

This is what color space looks like on a 3D axis.

3D color

Finding the color between 2 colors is easy. You take the average each R, G, And B value.

rgb( Math.round((color1.r + color2.r)/2), Math.round((color1.g + color2.g)/2), Math.round((color1.b + color2.b)/2))

i.e. - rgb(0, 0, 255) [blue] and rgb(255, 0, 0) [red] will make rgb(128, 0, 128) [ purple ]

For my function what I want is n colors between color1 and color2 aka I want linearly spaced vectors between color1 & color2.

The formula for that is:

function linspace(a,b,n) {
  if(typeof n === "undefined") n = Math.max(Math.round(b-a)+1,1);
  if(n<2) { return n===1?[a]:[]; }
  var i,vectors = Array(n);
  for(i=n;i>=0;i--) {
    vectors[i] = (i*b+(n-i)*a)/n;
  return vectors;

I made this which applies the logic of the linspace function to getting rgb values:

function _convertObjToRGB (obj){
    return 'rgb('+obj.r+','+obj.g+','+obj.b+')';

  function _convertRGBtoObj (color){
    var digits = color.match(/^rgba?[\s+]?\([\s+]?(\d+)[\s+]?,[\s+]?(\d+)[\s+]?,[\s+]?(\d+)[\s+]?/i);
    return {
      r: parseInt(digits[1]),
      g: parseInt(digits[2]),
      b: parseInt(digits[3])

  function Gradient (color1, color2, steps){
    var rgb1 = _convertRGBtoObj(color1);
    var rgb2 = _convertRGBtoObj(color2);
    var i, colorArray = new Array(steps);
    var n = steps || 5;
    if (steps == 1){
      return [];
    for(i=n; i>=0; i--){
      colorArray[i]= _convertObjToRGB ({
    return colorArray;

Play with the code here:

JS Bin

And now I can get my gradient colors to make pretty things.

Next todo: calculating analogous colors, complementary colors, & color harmony.

Published on 01 Jan 2015 Find me on Twitter!