Working With Hex Colors in Swift 3

One of the best features of Swift is how easy it is to create extensions to existing classes.

For example, to extend the functionality of UIColor to support hex strings (such as strings used in HTML and CSS), you can create two new functions:

  1. Convert an existing UIColor into a hex string
  2. Convert a hex string into a UIColor

Firstly, to convert an existing color into a hex:

extension UIColor {
    var toHexString: String {
        var r: CGFloat = 0
        var g: CGFloat = 0
        var b: CGFloat = 0
        var a: CGFloat = 0
        self.getRed(&r, green: &g, blue: &b, alpha: &a)
        return String(
            format: "%02X%02X%02X",
            Int(r * 0xff),
            Int(g * 0xff),
            Int(b * 0xff)

let color =

let hex = color.toHexString
// hex = "FF0000"

The call to getRed(:green:blue:alpha:) is a built-in call that returns values between 0 and 1 for each of those channels.

These are then normalised into a value between 0 and 255, and subsequently converted into three hex strings (using %02X, which means to display an integer in upper-case base 16, with 0-padding up to 2 digits).

Secondly, to convert an existing hex string into a UIColor object:

extension UIColor {
    convenience init(hex: String) {
        let scanner = Scanner(string: hex)
        scanner.scanLocation = 0
        var rgbValue: UInt64 = 0
        let r = (rgbValue & 0xff0000) >> 16
        let g = (rgbValue & 0xff00) >> 8
        let b = rgbValue & 0xff
            red: CGFloat(r) / 0xff,
            green: CGFloat(g) / 0xff,
            blue: CGFloat(b) / 0xff, alpha: 1

let color = UIColor(hex: "ff0000")

This function is a bit more complex. It begins by using Scanner to convert the hex string (assumed to be 6 digits long) into an integer.

Using bitmasks and bit shifting, the red, green and blue values are extracted and normalised into values between 0 and 255.

These values are divided by 255 (0x55) to turn them back into a value between 0 and 1, which is then compatible with the existing UIColor.init(red:green:blue:) function.

Note that this code assumes an alpha channel value of 1.0 at all times.