Web Safe Colors


Today’s Question: I was using the technique you described in the “Color Tinting in Photoshop” article in Pixology magazine. When choosing a color in the Color Picker, I noticed the “Only Web Colors” checkbox. When I turned it on, the number of colors available was dramatically reduced. Do I need to use this option if I will share my photo on the web?

Tim’s Quick Answer: No, there’s no need to reduce the number of available colors using the “Only Web Colors” option. This setting is very much outdated, and would cause you to unnecessarily reduce the available colors in your photo to only 216 colors rather than the more than 16.7 million possible colors you could otherwise use for a photo you’ll share online.

More Detail: The “Only Web Colors” option in the Color Picker dialog in Photoshop relates to the notion of “web safe colors”. In the early days of the Internet, many computer displays were limited to around 256 possible color values. The list of web safe colors was created as a way to make sure that any color you used in a graphic or web page could be accurately displayed by (hopefully) all website visitors.

Today’s computer displays are far more capable, able to reproduce a full range of 8-bit per channel colors (more than 16.7 million color values), and in some cases many more than that. Therefore, the notion of limiting yourself to the web safe colors is an antiquated concept today, and one that you can completely ignore.

So, whether you’re applying a color tinting effect to a photo, adding text, or otherwise selecting a specific color in Photoshop, feel free to use any available color even if you’ll be sharing that image on the web.