GameBoy Color

List of color palettes

This article is a list of the color palettes for notable computer graphics, terminals and video game consoles hardware.

Only a sample and the palette's name are given here. More specific articles are linked from the name of each palette, for the test charts, samples, simulated images, and further technical details (including references).

Along years, manufacturers had developed many different display systems in a competitive, non-collaborative basis (with a few exceptions, as the VESA consortium), creating many proprietary, non-standard different display hardware. Often, as with early personal and home computers, a given machine employed its unique display subsystem, with its also unique color palette. Also, software developers had been made use of the color abilities of distinct display systems in many different ways. The result is that there is no single common standard nomenclature or classification taxonomy which can encompass every computer color palette.

In order to organize the material, color palettes has been grouped following arbitrary but rational criteria. First, generic monochrome and full RGB repertories common to various computer display systems. Second, usual color repertories used for display systems that employ indexed color techniques. And finally, specific manufacturer's color palettes implemented in many representative early personal computers and videogame consoles of various brands.

The list for personal computer palettes is split into two categories: 8-bit and 16-bit machines. This is not intended as a true strict categorization of such machines, due to mixed architectures also exists (16-bit processors with 8-bit data bus or 32-bit processors with 16-bit data bus, among others). The distinction is more related with broad 8-bit and 16-bit computer ages or generations (around 1975-1985 and 1985-1995, respectively) and their associated state of the art in color display capabilities.

Here is the common color test chart and sample image used to render every unique palette in this series of articles:

See further details in the summary paragraph of the corresponding article.

List of monochrome and RGB palettes

Main article: List of monochrome and RGB palettes.

For the purpose of this article, the term monochrome palette means a set of intensities for a monochrome display, and the term RGB palette is defined as the complete set of combinations a given RGB display can offer by mixing all the possible intensities of the red, green, and blue primaries available in its hardware.

These are generic complete repertories of colors to produce black and white and RGB color pictures by the display hardware, not necessarily the total number of such colors that can be simultaneously displayed in a given text or graphic mode of any machine. RGB is the most common method to produce colors for displays; so these complete RGB color repertories have every possible combination of R-G-B triplets within any given maximum number of levels per component.

For specific hardware and different methods to produce colors than RGB, see the List of computer hardware palettes and the List of videogame consoles sections.

For various software arrangements and sorts of colors, including other possible full RGB arrangements within 8-bit depth displays, see the List of software palettes section.

Monochrome palettes

These palettes only have some shades of gray.

Monochrome (1-bit)
black and white
2-bit Grayscale
22 = 4 levels of gray
4-bit Grayscale
24 = 16 levels of gray
8-bit Grayscale
28 = 256 levels of gray

Regular RGB palettes

These full RGB palettes employ the same number of bits to store the relative intensity for the red, green and blue components of every image's pixel color. Thus, they have the same number of levels per channel and the total number of possible colors is always the cube of a power of two.

3-bit RGB
23 = 8 colors
6-bit RGB
43 = 64 colors
9-bit RGB
83 = 512 colors
12-bit RGB
163 = 4096 colors
15-bit RGB
323 = 32,768 colors (HighColor)
18-bit RGB
643 = 262,144 colors
24-bit RGB
2563 = 16,777,216 colors (TrueColor)

Non-regular RGB palettes

These are also RGB palettes, in the sense defined above (except for the 4-bit RGBI, which has an intensity bit that affects all channels at once), but either they do not have the same number of levels for each primary channel, or the numbers are not powers of two, so are not represented as separate bit fields. All of these have been used in popular personal computers.

4-bit RGBI
23×2 = 16 colors
3-level RGB
33 = 27 colors
3-3-2 bit RGB
8×8×4 = 256 colors
16-bit RGB
32×64×32 = 65,536 colors (HighColor)

List of software palettes

Main article: List of software palettes

Systems that use a 4-bit or 8-bit pixel depth can display up to 16 or 256 colors simultaneously. Many personal computers in the later 1980s and early 1990s displayed at most 256 different colors, freely selected by software (either by the user or by a program) from their wider hardware's color palette.

Usual selections of colors in limited subsets (generally 16 or 256) of the full palette includes some RGB level arrangements commomly used with the 8 bpp palettes as master palettes or universal palettes (i.e., palettes for multipursose uses).

These are some representative software palettes, but any selection can be made in such types of systems.

System specifics

These are selections of colors officially employed as system palettes in some popular operating systems for personal computers that features 8-bit displays.

Microsoft Windows default 16-color palette
16 colors
Microsoft Windows default 20-color palette
20 colors
RiscOS default 16-color palette
16 colors

RGB arrangements

These are selections of colors based on evenly ordered RGB levels, mainly used as master palettes to display any kind of image within the limitations of the 8-bit pixel depth.

6 level RGB
63 = 216 colors
6-7-6 levels RGB
6×7×6 = 252 colors
6-8-5 levels RGB
6×8×5 = 240 colors
8-8-4 levels RGB
8×8×4 = 256 colors

Other common uses of software palettes

Grayscale palettes
up to 256 levels of gray
Color gradient palettes
up to 256 levels of any arbitrary hue
Adaptive palettes
up to 256 picked colors
False color palettes
up to 256 continuous-tone colors

List of computer hardware palettes

Main articles: List of 8-bit computer hardware palettes and List of 16-bit computer hardware palettes

The color palettes of some of the most popular early personal computers and terminals. They may be based on RGB palettes, but also common are specific hardware-implemented 4, 16 or more colors palettes: not bit nor level combinations of RGB primaries, but fixed ROM/circuitry colors selected by the manufacturer.

Many of early models output composite video YPbPr colors. When seen on TV devices, the perception of the colors may be not corresponding with the value levels for the YPbPr values employed (most noticeable with NTSC TV color system).

For current RGB display systems for PC's (Super VGA, etc.), see the 16-bit RGB and 24-bit RGB for HighColor (thousands) and TrueColor (millions of colors) modes.

For video game consoles, see the List of videogame consoles section.

For every model, their main different graphical color modes are listed based exclusively in the way they handle colors on screen, not all their different screen modes.

The list is ordered roughly historical by video hardware, not grouped by branch. They are listed the original model of every system, which implies that enhanced versions, clones and compatibles also supports the original's one palette.

Terminals and 8-bit machines

Teletext (1976)
Graphic block characters, 8-color
Apple II (1977)
Low 16- and high resolution 4-color graphic modes
Commodore VIC-20 (1981)
200 definable characters of 8×16 bits each, 8- or 10-color modes
CGA for IBM-PC (1981)
16-colors text mode, 4-color and monochrome graphic modes
Commodore 64 (1982)
Multicolor and High resolution 16-color graphic modes
ZX Spectrum (1982)
16-colors by attributes
MSX systems (1983)
"Screen 2" and "Screen 3" 15-color graphic modes
Commodore Plus/4 (1984)
Multicolor and High resolution 16-color graphic modes
Amstrad CPC (1984)
Low 16-, medium 4- and high resolution 2-color graphic modes
MSX2 systems (1985)
"Screen 5" 16- and "Screen 8" 256-color graphic modes
MSX2+ systems (1988)
"Screen 10&11" 12,499- YJK+YAE and "Screen 12" 19,268-color YJK graphic modes

16-bit machines

EGA for IBM-AT (1984)
Medium and high resolution 16-color graphic modes
Atari ST (1985)
Low 16-, medium 4-color and high resolution monochrome modes
Commodore Amiga OCS (1985)
2-, 4-, 8-, 16- and 32-color standard graphic modes, EHB 64- and HAM 4096-color enhanced modes
Apple IIgs (1986)
Super High Res 4-, 8-, 16- and 256-color graphic modes
MCGA and VGA for IBM-AT (1987)
Medium 256- and high resolution 16-color graphic modes

List of videogame consoles palettes

Main article: List of videogame consoles palettes

Color palettes of some of the most popular videogame consoles. The criteria are the same that of the List of computer hardware palettes section.

Atari 2600
? out of 128 colors
24 out of 56 colors
256 out of 32,768 colors
Nintendo Gameboy
4 shades of green
Nintendo Gameboy Color
Type 1 cartridges tricky 10-color startup palettes and Type 3 32-color cartridges
Nintendo Gameboy Advance/SP/Micro
Type 3 32-color and Type 4 32,768-color cartridges
SEGA Master System
32-color out of 64
SEGA Game Gear
32-color out of 4,096
(No simulation available)

SEGA Mega Drive/Genesis
62-color out of 512
(No simulation available)

NEC PC-Engine/TurboGrafx 16
482-color out of 512

See also

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