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Netscapes 216 Colors


613x103 pixel GIF image of the 216 Netscape colors

216 colors. That's all you're going to get from Netscape when your monitors color depth is set to 8 bits. And yuck, what ugly colors they are! I suppose there's a certain mathmatical consistency to the sequence of colors, but it seems that out of 16 million+ colors to choose from, they could have chosen a few more subtle tones. Really now, how many shades of flourescent green do we really need?
Well, my point was not to rag on Netscapes choice of colors, but to help those designers who've got to work with them. For the most part, I tend to rely on 24 bit JPEGs, or adaptive pallette GIFs. However, for some clients you must work to the specs of *their* machines. If your target audience is using Windows or Unix boxes with 256 color graphics cards, these are the only colors their Netscape browsers are capable of.


The purpose of this page is not to explain *why* these colors were chosen, but to help you use them in your own graphics. I'm approaching this mainly from the Photoshop users viewpoint, but their's some good information here for everybody.
The 216 Netscape colors come from a 6x6 color cube, equally spaced out. In RGB terms, it uses *only* the values of 0, 51, 102, 153, 204, or 255. In hex notation, this would be 00, 33, 66, 99, CC, or FF. For instance, when specifying a <BGCOLOR> attribute, "#FF0033" will *not* dither, while "#FF0032" will. To all intents and purposes they are the same color, so choose accordingly.


When working in Photoshop, there are two ways you can use this color pallette. First off, you need the CLUT file itself. Here it is, in BinHex format, and as a ZIP archive.
Here's how you use it. First, you can go down to your colors pallette, and select 'Swatches". Click on the arrow in the upper right, and select "Load Swatches". Navigate to the "216color.act" file, and you can now paint with the 216 colors of Netscape.
The other way you can use it is when dropping from RGB mode down to indexed color. When the options menu comes up, select "custom" for your pallette, and "diffusion" for your dithering. You'll have a color table displayed, and you'll notice another button for loading a pallette. Choose the "216color.act" file again, and now your image will be dithered using only those colors.


You may notice that your images are dithering down rather coarsely, especially if there are a lot of subtle gradations involved. This is unavoidable, unfortunately. The colors you have to choose from are geared more towards icons than photographic style images. On the plus side, they'll frequently be quite small, as Photoshop may only find 30-40 colors out of the table that it can actually use! However it turns out, you can rest assured that the image will appear the same to lower end machines, as well as the high-end workstations. You have to decide for yourself which market to gear your efforts towards. Good luck!

Your pal, -doc-




Here's something handy. I created this file for a friend who needed the 216 colors of Netscape in an Adobe Illustrator file. Here it is, in BinHex format, and as a ZIP archive.

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