Naming Sass color variables

My approach to name color variables

Author: Krzysztof Grziwok

Fri Nov 09 2018


Sass is a great tool, besides many great features, it gives us the ability to declare custom variables and use it across the project. One of the basic use of variables in stylesheets are the colors in our application. There are many ways to implement this, however not all stand the test of time. In this short post, I will show you my personal approach which I used in a few projects and it worked pretty well.


When we start a new project, we tend to start small and we usually forget about the scalability of our variables or maps. The most common use case which I spot in projects is that we name colors as they are represented visually by the name of a primary color.

$blue: #2B42E9;
$grey: #D6D7E1;
$dark: #010105;

Above implementation is fine, but only in projects where the style guide contains only a few variations of colors and style guide is defined since the beginning. What about rapidly growing projects with literally tons of color variants? We don’t even know when things can turn into something like this:

$blue: #2B42E9;
$blue-dark: #10174C;
$grey: #D6D7E1;
$grey-light: #EFF0F5;
$grey-lightest: #EAECF5;
$dark: #010105;

I bet we all know this situation when graphic designer uses a new color and we don’t really know how to name it because we can’t think of new name for it. Should it be named as light variant? What when we already have a light variant defined?


Some time ago I started to name colors as they are originally named. It will give us a unique name for each variable, which will organize all the colors in our application and what is the most important, easy to find and replace. We don’t need to know all the names, because we can use a tool like to initialize name and then our IDE usually displays a hint of color. After all, it sounds better than blue-darkest or blue2.

$royal-blue: #2B42E9;
$blue-zodiac: #10174C;
$mischka: #D6D7E1;
$athens-gray: #EFF0F5;
$whisper: #EAECF5;
$black-pearl: #010105;

This approach works also with styles in javascript or other preprocessors. We can modify our final solution to transform it into the map of colors and brand colors which we will use for our application’s palette.

$colors: (
  royal-blue: #2B42E9,
  blue-zodiac: #10174C,
  mischka: #D6D7E1,
  athens-gray: #EFF0F5,
  whisper: #EAECF5,
  black-pearl: #010105,
  red-ribbon: #F0192E,

$brand-colors: (
  primary: map-get($colors, royal-blue),
  danger: map-get($colors, red-ribbon),

Personally it’s one of my favourite ways to keep clean color variables and it works really great when you have many of them. What is your approach? Feel free to share it in the comments!