A method for selecting a 6-bit color using chance operations.

64 hexagrams

1. Toss three coins.
2. Cast line:

  • 2 heads + 1 tail, or 3 tails = solid line [–––]
  • 2 tails + 1 head, or 3 heads = broken line [–  –]

3. Repeat coin toss six times, building a hexagram from the bottom up.
4. Use chart to look up hexagram and corresponding 6-bit color.


  1. Wonderful to see this as our recent conversations all come together here; really love how the “I Ching” heritage marries so well with this modern artifact.

  2. Hi Paul – This looks like a wonderful exercise. Do you mind elaborating on how the gnerated form (hexagram) corresponds to the 6-bit color? How is that color chosen? I’ve reviewed the chart and I think I might be missing something.


  3. Hi Justin; I’ll attempt to answer 😉 the 6-bit color palette originated from early computer programming where a stepped range of colors was each defined by 6 ‘bits’ of info. Each bit I believe could be presented in one of two ‘binary’ states: “0” or “1” (or “On” or “Off”) – giving you 64 possible permutations. I believe Paul has correlated these hexagrammatic representations to the actual ‘formulas’. For example, color 57, in binary, is “110110”. Apologies if I’m complicating the discussion!

  4. Thanks for the explanation Eric. It does help quite a bit. I figured the pattern was binary. I believe where I am getting lost is finding the chart that would give the binary construction its color. So, if color 57 is “110110” from the top down, how did it get assigned that color? How did Paul know to assign that particular color to that hexagrammatic representation?

  5. Yes I started with 6-bit color because it’s a set of 64 colors and these are the 64 hexagrams of the I Ching. Easy to map one set onto the other.

    I assigned the colors to the hexagrams without intention — I just went one-by-one through the palette and numbered the colors 1 through 64. Since the randomness happens in generating the number with the coin toss, how the colors are assigned has no impact. You could assign the colors however you like and it will have no impact on the random results.

    Right now, I’m trying to figure out a way to do this with 24-bit color (16+ million colors), using the 0 to 255 RGB values, and will post, hopefully tonight!

    The book “Conversing with Cage” http://amzn.com/B000OT8EC8 is great if you want more information; interviews with Cage where he goes into great detail about how he used the coin toss method to compose and write.

  6. thanks for the education!

  7. Hi,

    I recently engaged into similar exercise and just found your post about this. I have also assigned values of colour to I Ching, but also some shapes – to create compositions. If interested they’re on my blog http://whycgi.com/Ricardas


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