What is color depth?

What is color depth?

Color depth, also known as bit depth or pixel depth, refers to the number of bits per pixel on a computer monitor and used to represent a specific color. The more bits per pixel, the higher the color variety and by extension the quality of the monitor. While initial monitors and graphics cards only supported 1 bit or black and white colors, most computer offerings on the current market offer at least 32 bit or 16.7 million colors. With higher color depth, more visually and aesthetically appealing options such as shadows, transparency, and gradients are made available to users. Moreover, many people have reported a less strenuous viewing experience when looking at photos that had a higher color depth as opposed to a lower one.

What is a pixel?

In digital imaging, the word pixel is short for picture element. It is the smallest possible element in all points within an image on a display device. In so many words, it is the smallest element of a picture displayed on a screen that is controllable. If you blow up an image, you can see individual pixels or small squares of color.

How to calculate pixels?

Knowing how to calculate the number of pixels in a display is essential for a variety of reasons. One reason is to understand your display resolution. Video editors often take note of the display resolution. Finding display resolution for images and video is the same way to calculate the display resolution the next time you are in the market for a big screen tv.

The number of pixels on any given screen depends on the size of the display. For instance, the display on a device may read 1080X1920. This equation means that the display or monitor is a grid that is 1080 pixels tall and 1920 pixels wide. If you are trying to calculate the number of pixels on a given device, you simply multiply height times width. If you consider the above 1080X1920 display resolution, this means that there is a total of 2,073,600 pixels on the screen.

How do square pixels create seamless color?

Due to the fact that many people conceptualize a digital image as being made up of a collection of small squares, one would assume that pixels would be represented with a block-like appearance. There are two primary reasons as to why this does not occur. One of these reasons is your vision. Our eyes have a fantastic ability to blend colors for us because pixels are so small. The second reason is that the way pixels work is that each individual point blends with those around it to help create the illusion of a smooth transition of color.

Why bits matter?

Even when shopping for new monitors and big-screen TVs, consumers often look for the clarity of the picture. It is easy to determine how many colors can be individually displayed on a single screen. The number of bits indicates the resolution, while the bits determine how many colors the screen can display.

Some of the labels for your screens will indicate the number of colors that can be displayed. This standard holds true for most devices, whether a monitor, television, or mobile phone. If the display is indicated for 8-bit pixels, then we know that the screen will only display 256 colors. In comparison, a 24-bit screen will display 16,777,216 colors. Imagine the difference!

How do pixels impact display resolution?

Pixels do have an impact on the display resolution. The denser the pixels in a given screen, the clearer and more colorful the image. Resolution is measured in pixels per inchor PPI. The higher the PPI number, the higher the resolution.

What is color depth?

Color depth is equivalent to bit depth or pixel depth and these terms are often used interchangeably. Color depth refers to the amount of color that each pixel can display. It is measured by the number of colors each pixel in an image can show. The higher the color depth, the more colors an image can display. Pixels store color information in a specific number of computer bits, ranging from one bit to 48 bits. A pixel with one bit can display only one of two colors – either black or white. As bit depth increases, so does the number of colors available to display.

For optimal color depth, it is recommended that you use a high-end digital camera and save the image in RAW format. Doing this also will require more hard drive space. If you intend to edit them, it will take more system memory to display or to edit. Many photo editing programs offer these colors:

  • 1 bit – 2 colors
  • 4 bits – 16 colors
  • 8 bits – 256 colors
  • 8 bit per channel RGB – Having 8bit RGB means that you have 8 bits for each color channel (Red, Green, and Blue).
  • 8 bits has the ability to encode 256 different states; this means you can have 256 different shades of each color or 256^3 = 16.777. 216 colors overall.

8-bit per channel Gray – Within this, you have black and white and all the various shades of gray in between. With this, there are 256 shades of intensity values or colors that are available. If we look at a grayscale 8-bit image, even though there are no other colors but black and white again, there are 28 = 256 possible shades of gray, in other words, 256 different intensity values of each of these colors, that can be used in the image.

16-bit per channel RGB – Using 16 bits per color channel produces 48 bits, 281,474,976,710,656 colors.
16-bit per channel Grey – Similar to the above, this allows for 281,474,976,710,656 shades of black to white.

Why is color depth important?

Color depth is essential to the quality of your image. Specific file formats will limit the number of supported colors. GIF images, for example, support an 8-bit depth or 256 colors. You cannot get a better quality image in a gif format. Specific display monitors have a color depth that is predetermined by the monitor’s capabilities. Your photo may be of high quality and in 16-bit per channel RGB color format, but the mobile screen that it is being viewed on may only display at an 8-bit level.

These are all things that must be considered when formatting your images for web applications. Another problem that image and video editors may encounter is that many effect and correction commands available in applications like photoshop only work on higher color depth images. After you finish making your changes, it is possible to save the image in another format.

Color depth is significant because it describes the amount of data that can be stored in an individual square or pixel. The information, in a number of bits, represents how many colors the pixel can display. The higher the number of colors a pixel has the ability to display, the better the tone and clarity of the photo. It will appear more vibrant and lifelike with higher numbers. A quality image is not just determined by color depth, as the number of pixels in the picture are also a major factor. True Color is known as 24-bit color. This is the level required for photorealistic images and video. Many modern graphics cards have the ability to support this bit depth.

How do these factors impact video resolution?

As the human eye picks up a wide spectrum and array of colors when looking at a video or image, having a photo with the highest level of color depth or a video with a maximum bit level are highly desirable. While these factors play a massive role in putting out the most vibrant and eye catching visual media as possible, there are many others. Our articles covering bit rate, video resolution, and frame rate will provide you with the additional information you need to gain a deeper and more nuanced understanding of video and image quality.