Starting Electronics needs your help! Please make a donation to help cover our hosting and other costs. Click the donate button to send a donation of any amount.

Basic information on resistors for beginners in electronics is found on this page, including the symbol for a resistor used in circuit diagrams.

There are two schematic symbols for a resistor that are used in circuit diagrams as shown below. The symbol shown on the left is the American symbol for a resistor, while the resistor symbol on the right is the European symbol for a resistor.

When beginning electronics, we usually use quarter Watt five percent tolerance resistors (1/4W, 5%). These resistors look like this:

Resistance

Resistors have a resistance that is given in Ohms (symbol Ω), e.g. 470 ohms (or 470Ω). The resistor above has a value of 1 kilo ohms which is written as 1kΩ or just 1k.

Power

Resistors have a power rating - the above resistor is rated at 1/4W (or 250mW). The higher the power rating a resistor has, the bigger its physical size will be.

Tolerance

Resistors have a tolerance rating given as a percentage. The above resistor has a tolerance of 5%. This means that its ohm value could be 5% greater or 5% less than its quoted value. The above resistor has a value of 1k (1000 ohms) and a tolerance of 5% - this means that its value could be between 950 ohms and 1050 ohms (1000 - 5% to 1000 + 5%).

The colored bands that you see on the resistor tell us what its value is in ohms and what its tolerance is. The gold band tells us that its tolerance is 5%.

Finding the Resistor Value

A resistor's value in ohms is worked out from the first three colored bands using the table below. Using the resistor above, its bands are brown, black and red. The first color, brown, has a value of 1. The second color, black, has a value of 0 (zero). The third color tells us how many zeros the value has - red = 2 zeros. Putting it all together we get: 1, 0, and two zeros (00) = 1000 ohms or 1k.

More examples:

Resistor colors - Yellow, Violet, Brown = 4, 7, 1 (number of zeros is 1) = 47 and one zero = 470 ohms

Resistor colors - Red, Red, Red = 2, 2, 2 = 22 and 2 zeros = 2200 ohms = 2.2k, usually written as 2k2