Un-safe web color palette:

Web color palettes - the 216 supposedly safe colors, come as standard features on almost every web authoring and image editing program out there. But they were developed when most computers displayed 256 colors, and Netscape was the dominant browser.

216 web palette 216 Netscape palette

For a more complete history, see some of the links at the bottom of the page. To jump to the current situation, about 3-4% of people surfing the net are looking at 256 colors, 52% are looking at high color (16,000 colors) and 45% are seeing true color (24 or 32 bit, 16.7 million colors). Most reasonably recent computers can display true color easily, some come new with the default set at high color, for some odd reason.

There is a noticeable difference between high color and true color, and all web design work should be done in true color, only going back to high color to check for color shift.

High Color, and True color do not, in fact share any common colors, a matter of the math involved. Also PC's and Mac's render color differently, and in fact, different programs on the same computer can show differences for a stated color.

Taking it all in account, there are actually, someone figured out, only 22 safe colors, most of them remarkably ugly shades of green. So, for the web designer, the only safe course is to test a color scheme in different environments.

So why are many still using the 216 color palette? Part of it, I suspect is the tool at hand. It is easy. But the following will show you how to add different palettes to your image editor, etc.

Un-Safe color -approach #1

Make a gif image, showing a bunch of non-safe colors, like so:

In fact, if so inclined, use this one (right click and save). I'll use Fireworks for an example, but you can do the same in Photoshop, etc. They will save the color palette information in a palette file type, .act or .pal, but will import colors from gifs. The limitation is that you can only import up to 256 colors at a time, which is about as much as you would want in a palette anyway.

For Fireworks, go to window>color table and open the swatches tab, then the arrow to the right of the tabs will give you options, click save swatches, and save your current swatch, just to be safe. click add swatches - a dialog box will open to find the file - first change the file type from color table .act to .gif, locate you gif color image, and voila, your colors are added to the current swatch. (click replace swatches instead of add if you would rather have it as a separate palette, rather than added on to the 216 color). save your new swatch. You now have 450 or so colors to play with.

When you need to use your new color in Dreamweaver, etc, either wite down the hex code, and plug it in, or in fireworks, make a gif image with some simple boxes of your chosen colors. insert it into an extra document in Dreamweaver, and use the color picker to make some text or table cells your colors, Dreamweaver will remember them in the Assets panel.

On to 'Un-safe' color two >>


Webreference "Which Color Palette"

WebMonkey, Death of the color Palette

Digital-Web, Web-Safe Color Palette discussion, and web color resources

Oregon web site design and promotion guide

July 12, 2002

ML WEBB, web site design and promotion, Eugene, Oregon

"To some extent, sanity is a form of conformity" John Nash

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