Skip to Content
CSS Color
Opacity and Alpha

All of the colors we’ve seen so far have been opaque, or non-transparent. When we overlap two opaque elements, nothing from the bottom element shows through the top element. In this exercise, we’ll change the opacity, or the amount of transparency, of some colors so that some or all of the bottom elements are visible through a covering element.

To use opacity in the HSL color scheme, use hsla instead of hsl, and four values instead of three. For example:

color: hsla(34, 100%, 50%, 0.1);

The first three values work the same as hsl. The fourth value (which we have not seen before) is the alpha. This last value is sometimes called the opacity.

Alpha is a decimal number from zero to one. If alpha is zero, the color will be completely transparent. If alpha is one, the color will be opaque. The value for half transparent would be 0.5.

You can think of the alpha value as, “the amount of the background to mix with the foreground”. When a color’s alpha is below one, any color behind it will be blended in. The blending happens for each pixel; no blurring occurs.

The RGB color scheme has a similar syntax for opacity, rgba. Again, the first three values work the same as rgb and the last value is the alpha. Here’s an example:

color: rgba(234, 45, 98, 0.33);

Alpha can only be used with HSL and RGB colors; we cannot add the alpha value to color: green color: #FFFFF.

There is, however, a named color keyword for zero opacity, transparent. It’s equivalent to rgba(0, 0, 0, 0). It’s used like any other color keyword:

color: transparent;



Give the element with class .foreground an alpha value of 0.6. Remember to change hsl to hsla.


Give the element with class .midground an alpha value of 0.4 using hsla.

Run the code, and notice how all the colors blend depending on how they overlap.


Modify the body selector’s background color to have a value of rgba(0, 255, 0, 0.5).


Now, set the alpha of the document body to 0.1. How does opacity change the background?

Folder Icon

Take this course for free

Already have an account?