Diversion: Generating a random color from JavaScript

Raymond Chen


A colleague posed a little puzzle for a fun little app he was
writing in HTML:
He wanted to generate a random color.

If you search around the intertubes,
you can find several possible attempts at a solution,

this collection

an interesting example that has trouble with the pigeonhole principle

The original function to generate a random color went like this:

// Pad a string of up to two characters with a leading zero
// so the result is always exactly two characters long.
function padZero(v) {
 return (v.length == 1) ? '0' + v : v;
function randomColor() {
 return "#" + padZero(Math.floor(Math.random() * 256)).toString(16) +
              padZero(Math.floor(Math.random() * 256)).toString(16) +
              padZero(Math.floor(Math.random() * 256)).toString(16);

Can you do better?
(My solution after the jump.)

That was a short jump.

My first simplification was recognizing that three random 8-bit values
is the same as one random 24-bit value.

function padZeros6(v) {
 while (v.length < 6) v = "0" + v;
 return v;
function randomColor() {
 return "#" +
    padZeros6(Math.floor(Math.random() * 16777216).toString(16));

Next, I got rid of the padZeros6 function by
simply setting bit 25 to force a 7-digit result, then removing
the leading 1.

function randomColor() {
 return "#" +
    (Math.floor(Math.random() * 16777216) +

Finally, I did some factoring.

function randomColor() {
 return "#" +
    Math.floor((1 + Math.random()) * 16777216).toString(16).substr(1);

That last bit was a bit dodgy due to the wonders of floating point
arithmetic, but hey, it’s a puzzle now.

Finally, I realized that CSS supports #rgb as shorthand
for #rrggbb, so if you don’t mind that your color
palette is reduced to 4096 colors (and in the case of my colleague’s
little app, that was not an issue),
you can shorten it a bit more:

function randomColor() {
 return "#" +
    Math.floor((1 + Math.random()) * 4096).toString(16).substr(1);
Raymond Chen
Raymond Chen

Follow Raymond