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Difference between 8-Bit and 16-Bit Color

Difference between 8-Bit and 16-Bit Color

When it comes to color, there are two main types: 8-bit and 16-bit. 8-bit color is made up of 256 colors, while 16-bit color contains over 65 thousand colors. So what’s the difference? The main difference is that 16-bit color can create a more accurate and seamless image. This is because 8-bit color can only represent a limited number of tones, resulting in images that may look grainy or pixelated. If you’re looking for the highest quality images, then you’ll want to use 16 bit color.

What is 8-Bit Color?

  • 8-Bit Color is a term used to describe the color depth of an image. When an image is 8-Bit, it means that each pixel is represented by 8 bits of information.
  • This gives a total pigment palette of 256 colors. 8-Bit Color is sometimes also referred to as High Color, due to the fact that it is a significant improvement over the 4-Bit Color Depth (16 colors) that was commonly used in early computer graphics.
  • 8-Bit Color images are ideal for web use, as they can be displayed on the screen with a wide range of colors and still load quickly. However, for print applications or when editing images, higher bit depths (such as 16-Bit or 32-Bit) are often necessary in order to maintain the quality of the image.

What is 16-Bit Color?

16-bit color is a type of color depth that refers to the number of bits per pixel used to represent a digital image. 16-bit color uses two bytes (16 bits) for each pixel, which results in a total of 65,536 possible colors.

  • This is compared to 8-bit color, which uses one byte (8 bits) for each pixel, resulting in a total of 256 possible colors. 16-bit color is sometimes also referred to as high color or true color.
  • While 16-bit color provides a significantly larger palette of colors than 8-bit color, it is still considered to be limited due to the fact that it can only represent a fraction of the colors that the human eye can see.
  • For this reason, 24-bit color, which uses three bytes (24 bits) per pixel, is now more commonly used to represent digital images. However, 16-bit color is still widely used in applications where a large color palette is not required, such as on websites or in documents.

Difference between 8-Bit and 16-Bit Color

8-bit color uses 8 bits each for the red, green, and blue components of the color. This makes for a total of 24 bits used. 16-bit color uses 16 bits for each red, green, and blue component of the color.

  • This makes for a total of 48 bits used. The 8-bit color has 2^8=256 shades per channel while the 16-bit color has 2^16=65,536 shades per channel. 8-bit color is thus sometimes called “High Color” while 16-bit color is called “True Color”.
  • However, 8-bit is more than sufficient for most display purposes because the human eye cannot see the difference between more than a few thousand colors. One common reason to use 16 bit color is for images that will be edited and then converted back to 8-bit.
  • By using 16 bits originally, no important image data is lost in the 8->16->8 conversion process. For example, scanning old photos often works best if done at 16 bits/pixel. Editing them can then be done without fear of losing detail, and they can later be saved in 8-bit format with minimal quality loss.


8-bit color is made up of 256 colors. 16-bit color is made up of 65,536 colors. The difference may not be noticeable to the human eye, but it can make a big impact when it comes to graphics and design. When you’re working on digital projects, always choose a 16-bit color for the best results.

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