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8-bit color is a color depth that can allow for up to 256 grays, or 256 colors assigned by a color lookup table (CLUT). This is referred to as "256 colors" on Macintosh systems, and the VGA standard by PC users.

Color palettes[]

When the cost of video RAM was high, early computers used color palettes to improve the appearance of 24-bit color graphics through the 256 color limitation.

Apple Computer[]

Apple Computer implemented a "System palette" which included 6 levels of red, green, and blue in increments of 51 (on a scale of 0 to 255), that defined 216 uniform RGB colors. The remaining 40 colors were assigned to red, green, blue, and gray values that defined 4 gradients of 10 color values, and when combined with existing values from the 216, formed 4 smooth gradients of 15 values in increments of 17 (on a scale of 0 to 255).[1]


Microsoft later implemented its own 256-color palette which assigned the first and last 8 values from its original 16-color palette, with the first 8 being lower-luminosity values of the last 8.[1]


Netscape took the base 216 colors from Apple's System Palette, which closely approximated a subset of colors from Microsoft's palette to define the "web-safe" palette.[1]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Color Palettes (PDF) by Marc Johnson, Columbia University School of the Arts. 2020.

See also[]

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