"You can't eat your pudding if you don't eat your meat." —
Your reward for reading all that boring talk about graphics and the
Web is... even more boring talk about graphics and the Web!
The Web-Safe Palette
Lynda Weinman, often credited as the inventor of the web-safe
palette, has an excellent
article on the history
and technology of the web-safe palette at lynda.com, and we
won't repeat much of it here, except to say that:
- The web-safe palette contains the colors that the early
web browsers (Mosaic, Netscape Navigator, and Microsoft Internet
Explorer) used themselves for 8-bit colors.
- When you have an 8-bit (256-color) graphics card and the
color the browser is supposed to display is one of the colors on
the default palette, that's the color they'll display.
- When you have an 8-bit graphics card and the browser is
supposed to display a color that isn't on that palette, the
browser will dither the color. That means it will tile the
space with pixels having colors that it does have in its
default pallete that are a little bit lighter and a little
bit darker than the color you want. So over an area of pixels
— if you stand back far enough — the pixels will
average out pretty close to the color you asked for.
- Here's an example. We picked a color that wasn't on
the default palette and simulated the way a browser would
render it on a PC that had an 8-bit graphics card.
As you can see, it looks pretty bad blown up. Even at normal
size, it doesn't look very good.
- As Weinman points out in her article, if you've got big areas
of solid color and you expect a lot of visitors to have 8-bit
graphics cards, your page will look better if you pick one of the
colors on the default palette.
- That palette has been published, and lots of graphics
programs will let you specify that palette automatically. But
there's one more gotcha: of the 256 available colors in the
palette, PCs and Macs render 40 of them differently, leaving 216
colors that are "safe": browsers won't dither them for 8-bit
graphics cards, and they look the same on the Mac and the PC.
Those 216 colors are called the web-safe palette.
- When your visitors have graphics cards with more than 8-bit
color (and most of them do nowadays, even if they don't have a
graphics card at all and they're using the built-in graphics
chips on their motherboard) the web-safe palette doesn't
- This is a good thing, since from the standpoint of design,
the web-safe colors are mostly pretty awful looking.
Graphics programs often come with the web-safe palette, or you can
download it from lynda.com.
Is the web-safe palette dead? Probably.
Coming soon: the rest of this article
The Web-Smart Palette
Gamma (what big eyes you have)