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How to identify tablets & capsules by color & printing

Updated February 21, 2017

With the ever increasing number of capsules and pills on the market it is inevitable that some of them will look alike. In addition, many people take multiple pills and can get them confused. If you have found either tablets or capsules but are unsure what they are, there are some ways you can identify them. Each pill has special markings that when combined with other physical identifiers can be looked up in a medication reference chart.

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  1. Lay the pill on a brightly lit surface so that you can easily see it and write down as much identifying information as you can, such as the colour and the shape. Be as specific as possible. For example, if a capsule is half blue and half orange, note that. If there is a score line in the centre for splitting note that as well.

  2. Look at the front and back of the tablet or capsule until you locate an imprint which consists of numbers and letters. On capsules the imprint is printed on it, while on tablets it is often etched into it. You may need a magnifying glass to properly read the small imprint.

  3. Locate the manufacturer's logo on the tablet or capsule. The logo is not on all pills, but if available, it helps to narrow down the possibilities.

  4. Search for a single or double digit number that is separate from the imprint, which is the dosage.

  5. Go to an online medication identifier site, such as the one listed in the resources section, and enter all of the information that you wrote down about the pill.

  6. Tip

    If you do not have access to a computer, visit a local library and check out the most recent years' edition of a medical reference book. These books identify pills by the same markings and colours as the online versions.

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Things You'll Need

  • Magnifying glass (optional)

About the Author

Kimberly Johnson is a freelance writer whose articles have appeared in various online publications including eHow, Suite101 and Examiner. She has a degree in journalism from the University of Georgia and began writing professionally in 2001.

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