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Understanding Computer Graphics Formats
By David Manson

Computer graphics can add life to any project but using the wrong format can mean that you could end up with a poor quality image or large file. Computer store images in different ways, as a bitmap where image information are stored in pixels or as a vector format where image information is stored in the form complex mathematical formula.

So let's first look at pixel format, a picture in this format can be broken down into thousands of tiny blocks called pixel. Each pixel stores information like color and brightness, when you open a image file thousands of these pixel align themselves to give you the final picture. Most common pixel formats are JPG, GIF, BMP, TIFF etc.

In pixel formats, if you want a highly detailed image which directly increases the image file size - also when you zoom into pixel graphics you will notice jagged edges (pixels) which affects the appearance of the image.

Vector graphics on the other hand do not face these issues. In a vector format, an image is created mathematically by describing the position, length, direction and color of all lines, which collectively form the final image. The advantage of vector graphics is that it offers superior image quality. some of the popular vector formats in CDR (CorelDraw), AI (Adobe Illustrator), WMF (Windows Meta File) etc. One of the biggest drawbacks of vector images is that they are not photo realistic, pixel format are preferred for photo realistic images.

Color depth of an image determines quality and richness of the image. Color depth are coded at 8-bit (256 colors), 16-bit (65,536 colors) and 24-bit (16.7 million colors). 24 bit images offer true to life quality on the images as it supports and displays millions of colors. Although would need a good graphics card to view at 24-bit which most computers today are easily able to display.

What are web safe colors? In simple terms, a web safe color can defined as a color that appears the same in all web browsers on both Windows and Mac computers. In HTML, colors are expressed either as hexadecimal values (for example, #FF0000) or as name of color (red, green, blue etc). During advent of Internet – computers and web browsers would display in 8-bit mode (256 colors supported) , but today all computers are able to display at 16-bit or 32-bit colors which is millions of colors. It is not critical anymore to use a browser safe color palette especially if you are targeted today’s computers as your audience. However do not forget that there are other ways to access internet through devices such as PDA’s and Cell phones which still continue to display at 8-bit mode.

So if you have a website or plan on a website where appearance of colors are critical you should play safe by using web safe color palette – there are 216 common colors that are web safe.

Images play a very important role in the look and feel of a web page or website. Good use of colors & images can boost the performance of your website, establish credibility and comfort for the user, but more importantly convey message of your product or services but here are few web design tips.

  • Internet Speed - Faster the Internet connection faster the users will be able to see your website. It is always a good practice to design for dial-up users.
  • Relevance - Faster is better! People start getting impatient if it takes longer than 30 seconds to download your page and its graphics.
  • Simple - Keep web page interface simple and easy to navigate and read text. Avoid flashy animations and bright colors
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